NPR Promotes Palestinian Myths to Delegitimize the Jewish State

NPR’s affiliates appear ever-more desperate for support, as they beg their audiences to compensate for the “more than 40% drop in annual sponsorship support” they admit they’re experiencing.  Their explanation is that “the old economics of their business will no longer sustain them” as underwriting dollars go to digital platforms instead of to public radio stations.

But what they don’t admit is that support might be dwindling because their self-vaunted journalistic integrity and credibility have been destroyed by partisan and extremist producers, editors, hosts and the guests they choose to interview and cite, as CAMERA has demonstrated in recent exposés.  (See NPR’S Pro-Hamas, Anti-IsraeL Narrative  Part I and  Part II,) 

Nowhere is this more evident than in the campaign to demonize the Jewish state of Israel and cast its establishment and existence as illegitimate.

The apogee of NPR’s involvement in this campaign came in a recent segment broadcast on Here & Now, a program produced with Boston’s WBUR affiliate.  

That segment, aired on May 15, seemed more like the propaganda of Voice of Al Aqsa, a Hamas radio station, than a report from a U.S. public radio network that claims to adhere to journalistic norms. It was entirely dedicated to presenting the establishment of the modern Jewish state of Israel in 1948 as a “Nakba”—  “catastrophe”— as Palestinians refer to it.

Here & Now did not air a parallel segment about Israel’s Independence  Day – the celebration of the establishment of the modern Israeli state.  They chose to expose audiences to only one opinion on the topic.

And that opinion was delivered by Brown University Professor of Palestinian Studies Beshara Doumani – someone who is far from an objective scholar.

The Interviewee

From 2021-23, Doumani served as president of Birzeit University, during which time the student faction of Hamas won landslide victories in student elections; terrorist bombings and the murder of Israeli civilians were celebrated and encouraged on campus; and students involved in terrorist attacks were glorified at university events. The radicalism at that university only increased under Doumani’s tenure.

At Brown University, Doumani’s career has been devoted to “shap[ing] the agenda of knowledge production on Palestine and Palestinians” and to building “an international community of scholars dedicated to decolonizing and globalizing” the field of Palestinian studies (as explained on the website of the program Doumani established at the university).  As CAMERA demonstrated in a study on Brown University, “Anti-Israel Extremism and Corrupt Scholarship at Brown University: How Middle East and Palestinian Studies Fuel Antisemitism,” Doumani, who holds an endowed professorship funded by donations from the Palestinian territories, is dedicated to convincing the public that the Jews are settler-colonialists who took over native Palestinian land. He and the scholars he invites discredit the entire concept of a Jewish homeland and indeed the very notion of a Jewish people, which they relegate to “myth” and “legend” or depict as a “militant” and racist concept. 

The Host

It wasn’t merely that Here & Now producers chose this anti-Israel extremist as the only person to frame the anniversary of Israel’s establishment.  Host Deepa Fernandes presented him as the ultimate authority on the subject.  

In her introduction to the segment, the NPR host herself distorted history  by declaring that “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians either fled for their lives or were forcibly expelled from their homes in order to make way for the creation of the State of Israel.”

In fact, in the wake of rejecting the UN Partition plan, five Arab armies and Palestinian militias sought to eliminate the nascent State of Israel by launching a war against it, in violation of the UN Charter. The vast majority of Arabs who became refugees fled the area at the urging of their leaders, or following the example of Arab elites, or out of concern for their own safety, often despite exhortations from the Palestinian Jewish leadership for them to stay. In a small minority of cases, Arab residents were expelled from their homes and this was in instances in which Arabs had attacked Jews or blocked vital throughways,  in the context of the war initiated by their leaders.

By falsely suggesting to audiences that it was Israel that waged war to expel Palestinians from their homes so that Jews could move in ( i.e. “make way for the creation of the State of Israel,” in Fernandes’ parlance), the NPR host paved the way for Doumani to continue with his own historical distortions while deferring to him as the arbiter of truth:

Fernandes: “There are two narratives, one Israeli and one Palestinian. What do historical facts actually tell us about what happened?”

Historical Revisionism

Historical facts are not part of Doumani’s agenda, as the NPR host must have surely known. Instead, he expanded on the NPR host’s misinformation with his own false narrative of Jewish settler-colonialism of indigenous Palestinians:

Doumani: “1948 is not an event but a process of colonization that began in the 1880’s and continues until today which has three features:
1) Demographic displacement, that is to say, replacing the people of Palestine—the native population—with Jewish immigrants;
2) Expropriation of their land to build more Jewish-only settlements;
3) Denial of their right to have rights as a people with self-determination.”

This false narrative erases the history of the Jewish homeland from biblical times until 1948.  It is based on erasing the millennia of Jewish habitation in the Land of Israel, including the period when Jews were national sovereigns of the land – the only examples of  autonomy in the long history of that land.  It erases the fact that Jews continued to live there throughout the various attempts to subjugate and expel them from their homeland.  It erases the fact that the Jewish people always returned to restore their communities even during periods of exile. 

It replaces this well-documented history, verified by contemporaneous historical accounts and archeological evidence, with a fabricated narrative. As University of Haifa Middle East Studies Professor David Bukay noted:

“Palestinian Arabs, as opposed to Arabic-speaking residents, have not been in the area west of the Jordan River from the Islamic occupation, from the Ottoman Empire, or even from British rule since 1917. No Palestinian state has ever existed, and so, no Palestinian people has ever been robbed of its land. There is no language or dialect known as Palestinian; there is no Palestinian culture distinct from that of surrounding Arab ones; and there has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians at any time in history. For these reasons, Palestinians have been driven to fabricate a past by denying and expropriating that of Jews and Israel.”

Nor is it true that Palestinians have been denied their right to self-determination. Palestinians have been offered self-determination repeatedly, including in 1947, 2000 and 2008. Each time they rejected the opportunity, refusing to share the land with a neighboring Jewish state. 

Anti-Israel Propaganda Presented as Uncontested Truth

To promote the theme that Israel was born in original sin, the host urged Doumani to expound on the anti-Israel allegations of massacres and forcible expulsion, which she accepted and presented as uncontested truth:

Fernandes: “As part of the displacement of Palestinians in 1948, but even prior to that, there were villages like Deir Yassin and Tantura. Tell us about those, or villages of Palestinians that were just expelled or displaced en masse.”

Doumani: “Tantura and Deir Yassin are two of hundreds of villages and towns whose populations were expelled and these villages or towns for the most part were dynamited or destroyed or bulldozed so people could not come back.”

Fernandes: “And who expelled them?”

Doumani: “So military forces of what would become the Israeli military after 1948. What was significant about Deir Yassin and Tantura are that they are two of the most famous of at least 30 massacres of Palestinians that took place in 1948 that were critical to the flight and expulsion of the Palestinians from their homeland.”

Beyond the fabrication of “at least 30 massacres of Palestinians,” and dynamiting and bulldozing of “hundreds of villages,”  the claims of Deir Yassin and Tantura massacres have been repudiated by Arab eyewitnesses or entirely retracted, although they remain part and parcel of the anti-Israel propaganda mill.  

For example, Ayish Zeidan, an Arab teenager who lived in Deir Yassin at the time and was eyewitness to the fighting, suggested that those killed were primarily combatants (as CAMERA previously reported). He stated:

“The Arab radio talked of women being killed and raped, but this is not true… I believe that most of those who were killed were among the fighters and the women and children who helped the fighters. The Arab leaders committed a big mistake. By exaggerating the atrocities they thought they would encourage people to fight back harder. Instead they created panic and people ran away.” (Daily Telegraph, April 8, 1998)

And quoted from a BBC television series, “Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Year Conflict,” was Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic who recounted his own discussion with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders (as reported in the Jerusalem Report, April 2, 1998):

In a BBC television series, “Israel and the Arabs: the 50 Year Conflict,” Hazem Nusseibeh, an editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service’s Arabic news in 1948, describes an encounter at the Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City with Deir Yassin survivors and Palestinian leaders, including Hussein Khalidi, the secretary of the Arab Higher Committee (the representative body of the Arabs of British Palestine).

“I asked Dr. Khalidi how we should cover the story,” recalled Nusseibeh, now living in Amman. “He said, ‘We must make the most of this.’ So we wrote a press release stating that at Deir Yassin children were murdered, pregnant women were raped. All sorts of atrocities.”

A Deir Yassin survivor identified as Abu Mahmud, said the villagers protested at the time. “We said, ‘There was no rape.’ [Khalidi] said, ‘We have to say this, so the Arab armies will come to liberate Palestine from the Jews.’”

Professor Eliezer Tauber, founder of the Middle East Studies department at Bar Ilan University, wrote a book based on his research of the Deir Yassin battle, entitled “The Massacre That Never Was: The Myth of Deir Yassin and the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem.”  In a review of the book, historian Gil Troy explained:

“…[The book] details how the anti-Israel propaganda armada was first launched, revealing just how rooted modern anti-Zionism is in traditional antisemitism. It exposes how the Palestinian national movement hasn’t come to terms with some legitimate grievances about its history of exaggeration and demonization. And, most significantly, it refutes the foundational myth of that movement, which continues to convince millions of people that it is the only one in the world that should never be criticized.”

The myth of a massacre in the Arab village of Tantura originated with a Master’s thesis submitted in 1998 to the University of Haifa by kibbutznik Teddy Katz. It alleged that a previously unknown, unreported massacre by Israel’s army had taken place in the Arab fishing village of Tantura during the1948 war. Purportedly based on testimonies he had gathered from 60 Tantura residents, Katz claimed that over 200 Arab villagers had been lined up and slaughtered by the IDF’s 33rd battalion after surrendering on May 22-23, 1948. The student contacted journalists and television crews to try to publicize his story across the country, but his tactic backfired when the Israeli brigade veterans accused of war crimes his thesis brought a libel suit against Katz. They contended that the student had lied about a massacre, that, in fact, the battle for Tantura was an attempt to stop the maritime smuggling of arms and food and to prevent the Haifa-Tel Aviv road from being cut off. They insisted that throughout the fight for survival in a bloody war launched by the Arabs, they had maintained the strictest ethical standards. Katz’s evidence for his thesis was discredited when it was shown that witnesses he quoted accusing the soldiers of deliberate murder had said nothing of the sort. Katz retracted his thesis and disavowed the massacre claim in court before retracting his retraction.  Meanwhile, the University committee tasked with re-examining the thesis, disqualified the thesis due to its many fabrications and distortions and it was removed from the university’s bookshelves.  Nonetheless, the “massacre at Tantura” has become another one of the foundational myths of anti-Israel propagandists.

Amplifying Settler-Colonial Propaganda

With overtly biased questioning, the NPR host further attempted to amplify the settler-colonialist propaganda. For example:

“Some might also say there’s a mass forced displacement that’s happening now to 1.7 million Palestinians in Gaza, this fear of further displacement.  Is this thought of as a possible ongoing Nakba, so to speak?”

“Watching the Israelis celebrate on land that was theirs must be painful for Palestinians. How do you reconcile the two realities?”

“It kind of brings to mind other stories of colonialism, other stories of partition, mass migration, forced displacement of the last century. One thinks of India and Pakistan, Greece and Turkey. But tell us what makes the Palestinian story unique?”

Doumani responded  as expected from one who has devoted his career to propagating an ahistorical narrative to demonize the Jewish State:

“Yes, there’s a real concern that this process which happens every day sometimes enters into a stage of intense displacement. This happened in 1948, 1967 and now in 2024. So Gaza itself is a majority population of refugees from 1948 and 1967, so this is not the first time that they’ve been displaced. Half the Palestinians in the world are actually outside of Palestine because of 1948 and 1967 and possibly now more because of 2024. So the Right of Return is something that’s enshrined in the United Nations Resolution 194 which says the Palestinians have a right to return to their homeland…”

By daily ”process” Doumani is not referring  to the terrorist attacks on Israel and Jews that elicits a defensive reaction. And by the shorthand 1948, 1967 and 2024, he is not referring to the Arab wars launched on Israel to eliminate the Jewish state.   Rather, he is turning truth on its head to depict Israel’s defensive actions as part of an ongoing, planned expulsion of Palestinians by Jews –  and miscasting a “Right of Return” as “enshrined” in international law. It is all part of his deceptive Nakba narrative, the type of narrative that CAMERA’s Alex Safian in the following articles: “The Palestinian Claim to  a Right of Return” and “The Nakba Narrative is Nonsense”.

On the same day this piece of anti-Israel propaganda was aired, NPR’s Senior Vice President, Editor in Chief and acting Chief Content Officer Edith Chapin sent a note to the content division staff announcing upgrades to its Standards and Practices division and establishing a new process called “The Backstop“ that engages a group of senior-level editors “to ensure that all coverage receives final editorial review before air/publication.” Public radio editors should be held accountable for this and other such programs that peddle in falsehoods to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state.

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