NPR Misleads Three Times on Hamas Arson Attacks

June 24 Update:

NPR Corrects

As a result of CAMERA's correspondence with editors, NPR corrected one of the three issues detailed in this piece. See below for a detailed update.


NPR's story about Palestinian arson attacks and Israel's retaliatory air strikes today misleads readers three times over. 

The piece, by Jaclyn Diaz and Deborah Amos and titled “Israel Hits Hamas Targets with the 1st Airstrikes Since Cease-Fire Deal,” buries news of Hamas's arson attacks; casts doubt on the fact that the Israeli airstrikes were a response to those attacks; and blatantly errs on the chronology of events to suggest that the Hamas attacks followed an Israeli parade in Jerusalem. 

The headline itself is misleading and partial, ignoring the Palestinian attacks that set fire to fields in Israel, violating the ceasefire and prompting Israel’s counterstrikes.

A fair-minded headline isn't difficult to write. The BBC managed one (“Israel strikes in Gaza after fire balloons launched”), as did the Washington Post (“Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza in retaliation for incendiary balloons”), CNN (“Israeli military launches airstrikes in Gaza in response to incendiary balloons launched from the coastal enclave”), and many others

Not only does the headline fail to mention the incendiary balloons, but the story itself doesn’t bother to acknowledge them in the lede, nor in any of the first four paragraphs.

When the piece finally mentions those attacks in paragraphs five and six, NPR errs on the chronology, claiming: 

The IDF launched this attack evidently in retaliation for a series of incendiary balloons launched by Hamas hours earlier. The balloons caused at least 20 fires on Israel's southern border.

Those balloons were in response to a flag march in Jerusalem earlier Tuesday during which Israeli nationalists marched through Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem waving flags, with some yelling, "Death to Arabs."

The arson balloons were not in response to any march earlier that day, because the balloons in fact preceded the march, as Avi Meyer documented on Twitter. 

In another peculiar choice of words by Diaz and Amos, the NPR authors state as fact that the Hamas balloons were in response to something that hadn’t yet happened, and yet they couch their description of Israel’s retaliatory strikes as being “evidently” a response to the balloons. A day before the NPR piece was published, the Israeli army clearly announced that the airstrikes were a response to the arson balloons. 

CAMERA has called on NPR to amend the passage suggesting uncertainty about the purpose of the Israeli strikes, to acknowledge Hamas’s attacks in the headline, and to correct the straightforward chronological error, which materially misinforms readers by claiming that the balloons were a response to the march.

Update: NPR Corrects

As a result of CAMERA's correspondence with editors, NPR amended the passage that claimed Hamas's arson balloons followed Israel's flag parade and published the following correction:

A previous version of this story incorrectly said militants launched incendiary balloons before an Israeli nationalist march. The balloons were launched ahead of the march, which had been planned for days.

The skewed headline, which ignores the Hamas violence that prompted Israelis retaliatory strikes, remains unchanged, as does NPR's use of the word "evidently" to cast doubt on the reason for Israel's retaliation. 

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