If you listen to National Public Radio (NPR), chances are you’ve heard of Rami Khouri. An editor-at-large of the Daily Star, a Lebanese newspaper, Khouri has made no fewer than 76 appearances on NPR since the fall of 2000, commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as Lebanon, Iraq, and other developments in the Middle East. (He’s also been heard dozens of additional times on local public radio affiliates.) Khouri turns up on commercial networks too, but not nearly as frequently: Since the fall of 2000, he has made just 12 appearances on CNN and 14 on ABC.
None of that would be remarkable, except for one thing: Khouri, who is Palestinian, presents a sharply distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Events under discussion may vary, but Khouri’s analysis is almost always the same: Whatever is going wrong in the Middle East, chances are the fault lies with Israel and often America as well. What’s more, NPR frequently fails to balance Khouri’s commentary with competing viewpoints. During 39 of his 76 NPR appearances over the last six years, Khouri was the sole interviewee. Only eight times was an Israeli voice included opposite his, even though in many other segments he took swipes at Israel. Nor does NPR have any counterpart to Khouri–that is, an Israeli who comments regularly, often by himself, and twists key facts about the region to the detriment of the Palestinians.
Consider a July 16 program on the Lebanon crisis in which Khouri was the sole interviewee. He described Hezbollah as a “resistance” movement that gets things done–mainly inflicting pain on Israel. “You have for the first time in Israel now, in Haifa and other places, Tiberius, civilian fear on a large scale,” he said. “The Israelis are feeling the same kind of fear and angst that the Palestinians and Lebanese and other Arabs have felt for many years.” Khouri evidently missed the last six years, during which hundreds of Israeli civilians were killed in an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks that most certainly inflicted “fear and angst” on Israelis.
Or take this June 10 exchange, where Khouri was interviewed, on his own, by NPR’s Scott Simon about the killing of Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, responsible for beheadings and other mayhem in Iraq. Asked what Jordanian intelligence officials thought of Zarqawi’s death, Khouri quickly segued into a discussion of Israel:
[T]hey feel that the threat posed by groups like his is one of the most significant ones in the region. But the other thing that the Jordanian intelligence people say, which I think is very significant, especially for Americans, is that their other problem is the policies being pursued in Palestine by the Israelis with American acquiescence. Because they see both Iraq further east and Palestine to their west being broken up and broken down into small entities with the violence and insecurity and ethnic tribalism and religious extremism.
Or a January segment (this time, Khouri did not appear alone) produced by Boston’s NPR affiliate, WBUR, in which he discussed Ariel Sharon’s legacy, leveling the charge that the Israeli leader sired Islamism in the region:
[T]he results of his policies are bringing to power Islamist groups all over the Middle East, and remember Hamas and Hezbollah are grandchildrens–grandchildren of Sharon’s policies in Lebanon and the West Bank. You would not have had Hamas and Hezbollah if it wasn’t for people like Ariel Sharon. So we need to be honest and detached, I think, and complete in assessing his legacy.
Honest and detached? Might not there have been other factors in the emergence of Hamas and Hezbollah–such as, say, the Muslim Brotherhood (founded the same year Sharon was born) in the case of Hamas and the Iranian mullahs in the case of Hezbollah? Or is Israel to blame for every problem that crops up in the Middle East?
Khouri has described Hamas’s bloody agenda as “armed resistance” against “the occupation.” On January 28, when he made these statements in yet another of his solo interviews, neither he nor host Scott Simon explained to listeners that “armed resistance” includes blowing up elderly Holocaust survivors at a Passover seder. Nor did either mention that “the occupation” in Hamas-speak refers to Jewish presence in any part of the State of Israel. During the same interview, Khouri called Hamas leaders “serious people” and cautioned against “immediately pressuring” them. A month later–this time during a solo interview with NPR’s Steve Inskeep–Khouri fiercely denounced Condoleezza Rice’s efforts to convince U.S. allies not to support Hamas. “I think she’s doing as bad as she possibly could,” he said, before terming Rice’s approach “imbecilical.”
Khouri’s distortions often go unchallenged–even when he appears with other guests. “The majority of Palestinians wants to negotiate a fair, legitimate peace with the State of Israel that accepts keeping Israel as it is now, a majority Jewish state,” he declared on February 9. Unfortunately for Khouri–and for those Israelis and Palestinians who would like to someday live in peace–that claim isn’t borne out by the facts. A December 2005 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) asked what kind of state respondents preferred. While 31 percent wanted a two-state solution and 5.8 percent wanted a single, binational state, fully 61 percent favored the following statement: “I do not support either solution; instead, I support return of all Palestine to Palestinians.” Additionally, a March 2006 PSR poll taken after the ascendance of Hamas found that 60.8 percent of Palestinians said Hamas should not recognize Israel. On air, no one bothered to confront Khouri with this evidence. How honest and detached.