In the wake of the Free Gaza flotilla incident, National Public Radio’s off-keel coverage on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the fallout in Israeli-Turkish relations is consistent with an old trend of tilted coverage.
Schorr: ‘Blockade of Hate’
And what of the flotilla itself? Consider the sixth ship, the Mavi Marmara, whose passenger list included senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood, a former employee of Hezbollah’s Al Manar (designated by the United States as a terrorist entity), and Kuwaiti Salafists who support violence in Iraq, among others. Passengers on this ship, the only one that suffered any casualties (nine fighters killed), started out their journey with a rousing rendition of the Islamic battle cry invoking the killing of Jews — “[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!”
When the Israeli navy gave the flotilla repeated warnings to change course and bring the cargo to Ashdod for inspection and delivery to Gaza, flotilla participants responded with a call to “go back to Auschwitz” and “we’re helping Arabs going against the US, don’t forget 9-11 guys.” Yet, in the view of NPR’s news analyst, the week’s maritime turbulence was due to “a hate blockade of Mediterreanean shores,” but not a “hate flotilla.”
As Vice President Joe Biden has made clear:
“Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest,” Biden said in an interview on PBS’s “Charlie Rose” show, while reiterating the Obama administration’s support for a transparent, impartial investigation of what happened. . . .
Thus, Biden, unlike Schorr, sees the blockade for what it is – an expression of self-defense, and not of hate.
Schorr: Obama Never Took a Position Against Israel
But Schorr is clearly unhappy with the Obama administration’s decision not to join the international community in condemning Israel for enforcing the blockade. Consider this exchange between host Scott Simon and Schorr:
Simon: The Obama administration has so far expressed only regret for the loss of life in the attack earlier this week on that ship that was bound for Gaza. Do you see this incident as leading the president to sharpen or downplay some of the differences he’s had with the Israeli government?
Schorr: Yes, But apparently he’ll do it most reluctantly. I mean, he has never really yet taken a position against Israel. And so he expresses a great regret over lives lost. He hopes for the best and so on. He is stuck there in the middle, in a position where he clearly does not like this blockade; on the other hand, doesn’t like taking a position against Israel. (Emphasis added.)
Obama has never taken a position against Israel? Let’s back up just two months to the widely reported U.S.-American tensions over east Jerusalem construction. As Schorr’s colleague Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported on March 26, 2010:
The Israeli official said that prime minister’s position on Jerusalem, so far, hasn’t changed. Israel considers the city the undivided capital of the Jewish state and will not restrict building there, a key American demand.
Israeli press reports said that Netanyahu was unprepared for the chilly reception he got at the White House. He was hoping to mend ties that have been strained in recent weeks by a series of announcements of new Jewish building in East Jerusalem . But instead, the Israeli press said, Netanyahu was ambushed, detailing how, at one point, the president cut the first meeting with Netanyahu short and left to go have dinner without inviting the Israeli premier.
There were uncharacteristically, for a visit of a key ally, no photo opportunities and no statements to the press at the White House. One commentator described the Obama administration as treating the Israeli leader with swinish contempt.
Ehud Ya’ari is an international fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He told reporters, in a conference call yesterday, that the Israeli team was shocked by its treatment at the White House.
Mr. EHUD YA’ARI (Senior Fellow, Institute for Near East Policy): The general sense in Israel, right now, is that the prime minister was sorely humiliated by President Obama . There is quite a degree of amazement at the way he was treated.
Frenkel: Ignores Erdogan’s Pro-Hamas Comments
When it comes to the latest developments in Turkish-Israeli relations, correspondent Sheera Frenkel’s coverage is just as objectionable as Schorr’s. In her report Friday, June 4 on “Morning Edition,” Frenkel ignores the most important news of the day – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s endorsement of Hamas, listed as a terrorist organization both by the United States and the European Union, as “resistance fighters.”
Thus, as widely reported, including in Al Arabiya:
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday he did not view radical Palestinian group Hamas, Israel’s arch-foe, as a terrorist organization.
“Hamas are resistance fighters who are struggling to defend their land. They have won an election,” Erdogan said in a public speech in the central city of Konya, broadcast live on television, as up to 10,000 people rallied in Istanbul, shouting anti-Israeli slogans.
“I have told this to U.S. officials… I do not accept Hamas as a terrorist organization. I think the same today. They are defending their land,” he said.
To ignore this statement is nothing less than a whitewash of the causes leading to the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations, the continuation of a NPR trend first noted in October 2009.
Kenyon: Missing the Causes of Gaza Hardships
NPR correspondent Peter Kenyon, reporting from the Gaza Strip, also misses the boat in two stories covering the situation in Gaza and the blockade restricting aid. In his June 4 “Morning Edition” broadcast Kenyon stresses the hardships facing Gaza civilians – a failing sewage system, chronic power outages, lack of reconstruction materials. He states, for instance, “The U.N. says they urgently need to build 100 schools, for example, but so far there’s nothing to build them with.” In the second story, June 5 on “Weekend Edition,” he discusses the activists’ efforts to get aid delivered directly to Gaza. In neither broadcast, does Kenyon report the following key facts:
2) In negotiations with passengers of the Rachel Corrie, which arrived in Ashdod yesterday after naval commandos peaceably boarded the ship, Israel authorities extended an unprecedented offer to the Israeli activists – that they would be allowed to witness the delivery of all of their aid, including cement, to the Gaza Strip if they would permit their boat to be escorted to Ashdod. The activists rejected the offer.
While both of Kenyon’s reports do acknowledge the Israeli concern that allowing in pipes and concrete would provide Hamas with more raw material to construct rockets aimed at Israel, Kenyon ignores the Israeli flexibility on the cement brought by the Rachel Corrie ship.
Likewise, while Kenyon does refer to the aid as “the thing that keeps the plot moving,” he does not explicitly address Hamas manipulation of that aid: that Hamas has refused the available flotilla goods, and that Hamas controls the aid’s distribution – favoring its activists over others, and directing the thousands of tons of concrete that do come in to the projects of its choosing – ie military purposes, as opposed to civilian ones.
As Spiegel Online reports:
“People who are not in with Hamas don’t see any of the relief goods or the gifts of money,” [Fatah supporter Zaed] Khadar says. On the sand dune where his house once perched, there is now an emergency shelter. The shelter is made of concrete blocks that Khadar dug from the rubble, and the roof is the canvas of a tent that provided the family with shelter for the first summer after the war. “Hamas supporters get prefabricated housing, furnishings and paid work. We get nothing,” Khadar complains.
While Kenyon does report that Hamas manages to smuggle concrete into the Gaza Strip for its own purposes (according to PalTrade, the figure is 600 tons a month), he does not draw the logical conclusion— that the unfettered delivery of cement to Hamas would continue to fall into Hamas’ selective hands. Kenyon reports:
The steel and cement has been and probably would be used again for military type uses here, but critics point out that’s happening right now. There’s hundreds of tunnels snaking from Egypt. Hamas controls many of those. They’re getting a little bit of what they need, at least, and rockets continue to fly into southern Israel. It proves Hamas’ point. Also proves Israel’s point about Hamas’ hostile intent, by the way.
The flotilla crisis raises the question whether NPR may be sliding back to old ways, giving short — and distorted — shrift to the assault on Israel.