NPR Fails to Challenge Hamas Apologist

In a recent National Public Radio (NPR) report, listeners were told that while ISIS is a terrorist organization, Palestinian Hamas is not, and were misled about the “occupation.”

The Jan. 15, 2018, All Things Considered report consisted of a interview about “What Effect ISIS’ Declaration Of War Against Hamas Could Have In The Middle East.” Kelly McEvers interviewed Tareq Baconi, described as a “visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and the author of the forthcoming book, Hamas Contained.”

Baconi falsely described Hamas as a “national liberation movement that is tethered to a very specific geographic context and that is focused on a very clear political goal, which is ending an occupation that’s deemed illegal by international law.” Although his description of Hamas clearly misinforms listeners, NPR failed to challenge or scrutinize it in any way. Host McEvers’ response was limited to uttering “right” in approval.

McEvers’ acquiescence
Given McEvers’ job experience, shouldn’t she be capable of distinguishing fact from fiction about the Middle East? NPR states that “Prior to co-hosting All Things Considered, Kelly McEvers was a correspondent for NPR’s National Desk. She previously reported from the Middle East as an international correspondent and ran NPR’s Beirut bureau, where she earned multiple awards for her coverage of the Syrian conflict.” But nowhere in the report did McEvers question Baconi’s false description.
There’s no indication that either Baconi or NPR is concerned about the wretched living conditions of the people ruled by Hamas. If Gaza’s rulers had invested the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on military and terror infrastructure instead on water and health systems, its people could have much improved lives.

Ironically, a substantial amount of this misspent money apparently came from U.S. aid intended to improve the lives of Gaza Strip residents.

Hamas is a “global terrorist” group not a “national liberation movement”

Baconi’s benign characterization ignores Hamas stated aim of killing Jews: “The hour of judgment shall not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them …” (Hamas’ governing charter). Baconi is sort of saying that Hamas is not so bad since it’s only Jews that it aims to kill.

Baconi’s description of Hamas is contradicted by the facts. As CAMERA has noted, and as documented in numerous news stories quoting Hamas leaders, the Islamist terrorist group has consistently made it clear, not only in its charter but in repeated subsequent proclamations by the group’s leaders, that it is committed to Israel’s destruction and the killing of Jews. Hamas’ vows are backed up by actions. The group has repeatedly launched rocket attacks aimed at inflicting casualties in Israeli Jewish communities and has constructed numerous secret underground tunnels into Israel to facilitate the killing of Jews.
The U.S. Dept. of State, not known as a friend of Israel, would reject Baconi’s characterization of Hamas. It places Hamas in the “global terrorists” category. On Jan. 31, 2018 the Department announced online that it had designated Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas, as a “global terrorist”: “Ismail Haniyeh is the leader and President of the Political Bureau of Hamas, which was designated in 1997 as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and in 2001 as an SDGT [Specially Designated Global Terrorist].”
Baconi’s book, Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, (to be released May 2018) is promoted by its publisher Stanford University Press with this propaganda: “Hamas rules Gaza and the lives of the two million Palestinians who live there. Demonized in media and policy debates, various accusations and critical assumptions have been used to justify extreme military action against Hamas. The reality of Hamas is, of course, far more complex. Neither a democratic political party nor a terrorist group, Hamas is a multifaceted liberation organization, one rooted in the nationalist claims of the Palestinian people… Hamas’s reliance on armed struggle as a means of liberation has failed in the face of a relentless occupation designed to fragment the Palestinian people.”

The promotional wording fails to mention that Israel’s administration of the Gaza Strip ended in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the region, forcibly removed Jewish residents and turned over working businesses that were then destroyed by the Palestinian Arabs. Likewise, the wording fails to mention the thousands of rocket and terrorist attacks that have targeted Israel since the withdrawal.

Occupation myth

Baconi’s claim that the [Israeli] “occupation” is “deemed illegal by international law” is misleading. The claim is disputed by numerous sources.

For example, George P. Fletcher, the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia University School of Law, writing in The New York Times, asserted that “it is not illegal for victorious powers to occupy hostile territory seized in the course of war until they are able to negotiate a successful peace treaty with their former enemies. The Palestinians have failed to recognize this fact.” (March 21, 2002).

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, a critic of Israel, commented thusly on the “illegal occupation” myth: “Likewise, many international legal scholars suggest that Israel’s occupation of the territories is not itself illegal, even if Israel is in profound breach of its obligations as an occupying power.” (Feb. 25, 2004).

Likewise, Noam Lubell, formerly of the dovish NGO B’tselem and currently a professor and Head of School at the University Essex School of Law, has criticized the media references to the occupation being “illegal.”

Note that The New York Times, after initially claiming that most of the world considers the Golan Heights and West Bank “illegally occupied,” subsequently removed the inaccurate claim in response to information provided by CAMERA, and published a correction (Oct. 15, 2015).

In fact, Israel is the obligatory and legal military authority of the West Bank, having taken the territory from Jordanian occupation in self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War. The land is not “Palestinian.” It is disputed. Hence the need for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations according to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973), and the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement.

Furthermore, the reality is that Jews have continuously lived in their ancestral home in the Holy Land including Jerusalem. In 1948, the re-establishment of the Jewish nation of Israel, with the capacity of caring for Jewish refugees, was supported by the United Nations. Israel sought to accommodate the Arabs but was immediately rebuffed by Arab Armies that attempted to annihilate the Jewish state. And thereafter Arab forces attacked, or gathered to attack, Israel several times in order to destroy it. Jews cannot be deemed to occupy their own rightful country including the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

Moreover, Jewish presence in the Holy Land predates Arab presence by thousands of years. Jewish presence in Israel’s capital of Jerusalem has been almost continuous for thousands of years and for most of that time it was concentrated in east Jerusalem (now claimed by the Palestinian Arabs). Since the mid-1800’s, Jews constituted the largest single group of residents in the city until the 1948 ethnic cleansing of all east Jerusalem Jews by Jordan when it gained control of east Jerusalem. This lasted until the 1967 war.

Baconi’s background

Baconi has been a policy fellow for Al-Shabaka (Palestinian Policy Network) which is an anti-Israel propaganda group issuing the usual false accusations against the Jewish state such as “ethnic cleansing,” “apartheid,” “genocide,” “collective punishment,” and “war crimes.”

Baconi’s association with Columbia University’s MEI should not be surprising. MEI has been tainted with funding from Saudi Arabia for MEI’s “outreach” programs training public-school teachers in how to teach students about Middle East politics.

This was done in collaboration with the Center for Palestine Studies, an anti-Israel propaganda group. Furthermore, Columbia’s MEI has had a close association with Professor Rashid Khalidi, an experienced anti-Israel propagandist who apparently had been a spokesman for Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian press agency.

The CAMERA report, After Ignoring Extremist Language by Palestinian President, NPR Focuses on Netanyahu’s Wife, documents a recent instance of NPR’s journalistic malpractice regarding Israel. NPR still has a real and serious bias problem when it comes to factual, balanced coverage of events involving Arabs, Muslims and Jews.

NPR says about itself, “NPR’s rigorous reporting and unsurpassed storytelling connect with millions of Americans everyday—on the air, online, and in person. NPR strives to create a more informed public—one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and cultures.”

Regarding Israel (at least), this claim is clearly misleading.

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