NPR Coddles Hamas

One obvious power of an influential radio network such as National Public Radio is the ability to choose who speaks and what opinions are conveyed. Although NPR receives tax dollars from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is constrained by Federal statute to give funds only to those providing “objectivity and balance,” the influential radio network has long flouted such standards. Instead of balance, listeners get a steady diet of lopsided programming promoting the views of Israel’s detractors, often with no voices at all presenting Israel’s mainstream perspective.

A May 9, 2006 Morning Edition segment about U.S. policy towards Hamas was typical. In it, NPR interviewer Mike Shuster and his guests uniformly sanitize the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority and fault the U.S. and Israel, while falsely equating Israeli and Hamas attitudes toward peace.

Program host Renee Montaigne first sets the stage, making clear the program will run counter to Israeli and American positions. She says:

The U.S. and Israel say they will not engage with Hamas, until it renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel’s right to exist. Some experts say that policy could do more harm than good.

Interviewer Mike Shuster underscores the segment’s aim to focus on

a small handful of Middle East experts who are critical of the current U.S. stance toward Hamas. Whether U.S. policy is meant to force Hamas to moderate its views, or to cause it to fail, the critics say this policy is counter-productive, and will ultimately hurt both Israel and the United States.

All three “experts” — Robert Malley, Henry Siegman and Aaron Miller —  go on to advocate indulgent policies toward Hamas. They condemn as irrational and misguided the current U.S. position aimed at isolating the Hamas-led government, while offering no perspective on the rationale behind it.

Robert Malley, a frequent guest on National Public Radio, claims Hamas “wants to put law and order back and restore some kind of credible government.” He equates the positions of the Israeli government and Hamas, claiming that “neither side wants to talk to the other. Neither side wants to negotiate with the other. And neither side believes in a comprehensive agreement.”

In fact, the current Israeli prime minister and his predecessor have repeatedly affirmed their desire to negotiate a final peace agreement with a credible Palestinian partner (AFP, May 10, 2006). This is in stark contrast to the intransigent statements of Hamas leaders who view negotiations merely as a temporary tactic and reject any long-term peace agreement. They remain loyal to their founding charter  which explicitly calls for the obliteration of Israel.

Malley and the other participants, however, entirely avoid mention of the Hamas charter.

Proceeding from his false equation, Malley opines that Israel, Hamas and the United States could find an area of agreement if they would “subordinate their ideological principles toward more pragmatic interests.” Malley’s distinction between “ideological” and “pragmatic” interests is unexplained. Israel’s current policy of unilateral disengagement was, in fact, devised as a pragmatic response to the failure of two ideological approaches — land for peace as put forth in the Oslo Accords, and the retention of historic Israel as advocated by the Israeli right.

Malley also voices concern that the current U.S. and Israeli policy of shunning Hamas might empower people who are more radical. He is never asked for examples of what might be more radical than suicide bombers or a covenant that explicitly threatens to murder Jews. Malley’s concern is shared by all the participants in the segment and is the basis of their opposition to current policy.

Henry Siegman ridicules U.S. and Israeli attempts to undermine the Hamas government as “irrational” and “off-base,” without suggesting why. Having advocated a conciliatory approach toward the Palestinians during the reign of Fatah, Siegman consistently hectored Israel to take risks while ignoring the lack of Palestinian reciprocity. Now that Fatah leaders have been replaced by even more extreme leadership, Siegman welcomes Hamas in its new role, absurdly suggesting—despite declarations by Hamas leaders to the contrary—that the terror organization “presents possibilities for a peace agreement that were simply impossible with a Palestinian authority that was run by Fatah.”

Siegman is apparently unconcerned about statements by Hamas leaders such as Khaled Meshaal, who remarked on Al-Jazeera that “before Israel dies, it must be humiliated and degraded.”(Slate Magazine, February 8, 2006)

Similarly, Aaron David Miller is critical of any policy “hostile” to Hamas because, he claims, it won’t produce results. Characteristically, Shuster is silent, evidently agreeing Israel ought to avoid being unfriendly toward an organization responsible for scores of suicide bombings against civilians and one that continues to endorse such attacks.

Miller asserts that the American attempt to push the Palestinian population to reject Hamas will fail because “Palestinians will always be angrier at the Israelis and at the international community, including the United States, than they will be at their own leadership.” There is no discussion about why or whether Palestinian anger should be the determining factor in deciding America’s anti-terrorist policies. Nor is there mention of news stories suggesting there has been growing dissatisfaction among Palestinians with regard to their international isolation caused by the emergence of Hamas.

Mike Shuster, known for his biased multi-part NPR history series on the Arab-Israeli conflict, offers no challenge to the obvious inconsistencies in the participants’ analysis of the terrorist organization.

NPR’s habit of inviting like-minded speakers critical of Israel is, once more, an abuse of tax dollars as well as journalistic ethics requiring accurate and fair coverage. As local affiliates reach out for public support, listeners who care about getting the full story should take note of segments like this one.

Concerned listeners should also contact the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Ombudsmen to urge a review of this and other one-sided programming.

Read the entire transcript here.

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