Is it back to the bad old days at NPR?
National Public Radio’s May 30, 2013 Morning Edition segment reported by Emily Harris displays all the hallmarks of anti-Israel bias that once characterized daily coverage on the network. Heavily skewed toward the Palestinian perspective, the piece romanticizes perpetrators of violence and violates the most basic ethics of fairplay in reporting on a contentious issue – giving more than twice as much air-time to Palestinian perspectives and including three Palestinian speakers to just one Israeli.
Indicative of the sharp bias is the story’s focus. On the occasion of the release from intensive care of a Jewish child severely injured in a stone-throwing attack by Palestinians, NPR turns not to the dangers faced by Jews under threat from such lethal violence but to extensive, sympathetic treatment of the grievances of the Palestinian perpetrator, Tareq Hammed, and his mother. A brief introductory reference to the child, Adele Bitton, is followed by lengthy commentary devoted to the complaints of the Palestinians, to such things as Hammed being arrested late at night, soldiers shouting at, handcuffing and blindfolding him – and his not having time to change clothes. Hammed’s mother is given a platform to lament that she’d also been witness to her husband’s arrest by Israeli soldiers, the implication being not that father and son were two of a kind, assaulting the innocent, but that they were a family of courageous resistance fighters.
When Adele’s mother describes the rock-throwing attack and says the intent of the attackers is to kill, Harris interjects that: “An Israeli journalist caused an outcry among Israeli settlers when she recently wrote that throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule.” NPR failed to identify the “Israeli journalist” as far-left Ha’aretz commentator, Amira Hass, and deceptively implied she was denounced only by “Israeli settlers.” In fact, Israelis across the political spectrum, including left-leaning Yossi Beilin, deplored her statement. Beilin’s column, entitled “Violence Is Never Legitimate,” appeared in Israel Hayom and included the following:
Hass was wrong to claim that those who are under occupation have a “birthright and a duty” to engage in rock-throwing attacks. Throwing stones is a violent act that may kill or maim….A moral person cannot come out with such statements…
The invoked reference to “foreign rule” is echoed elsewhere in the segment, with Harris saying Hammed finds it “unbearable” to have “Israeli soldiers on their land.” He is also heard declaring “this is our country” and “we have to do something.”
The NPR message is that Palestinians are understandably and reasonably seeking to eject Israelis by any means from territory that is theirs. Needless to say, there’s not a hint of comment on the context of contending legal rights to the land or the fact that disposition of the area is to be addressed in negotiations as stipulated in, among other international accords, United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the Oslo agreements.
Harris not only provides a platform for the Hammeds to promote Palestinian grievances but also interviews a representative of Adameer who deplores Israeli military actions to counter violence. Adameer is identified as a “Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization” with no indication that, according to NGO Monitor, the organization “engages in anti-Israel demonization while referring to terrorists as ‘martyrs.’” Israel is given no opportunity to respond to the allegations by the Adameer speaker.
Note that the NPR Web site has erroneously headlined the May 30 Morning Edition segment concerning Bitton and Hammed. The headline (“Palestinian Girls Look For Ways To Protest, Without Stones”) refers to an article posted on the Morning Edition site about the sister of Tareq Hammed who seeks to express her opposition to Israel through art – not stone-throwing. The headline does not refer to the segment broadcast. Click on “Listen to the Story” to hear the broadcast about Adele Bitton and Tareq Hammed. (The article about Tareq Hammed’s sister is also skewed, romanticizing Palestinian irredentism and obscuring the facts.)
NPR has a history of strident anti-Israel bias that had seemingly abated in recent years, with greater attention to balanced and fair coverage, although distorted programs continued from time to time. The Emily Harris segment is a troubling sign that NPR may be returning to its distorted and propagandistic story-line.
Morning Edition, May 30, 2013
David Greene: And now let’s turn to Israel. A three-year-old girl, Adel Biton, is just getting out of the hospital after spending two months in intensive care. She was severely injured when rocks thrown at her family car caused her mother to crash. The family was driving to their home in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank. Earlier this month, Israeli prosecutors charged five Palestinian teenagers. They said they threw the stones and they charged them with attempted murder, according to a defense lawyer in the case. NPR’s Emily Harris has that story.
Emily Harris: Suhaila Hammed describes the night Israeli soldiers came to her home.
Suhaila Hammed: They came around 2:00. We were sleeping. They started to knock the door – very hard, you know.
Harris: About 15 soldiers came in, she says. More waited outside. The soldiers asked for her 17-year-old son, Tareq.
Hammad: They went to his room and they took all his clothes on the floor. Everything the floor, and they start, you know, shouting. And he wanted to use the bathroom and change his clothes, they started shouting no, just go out and that’s it.
Harris: Tareq was accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers in his village, Silwad, in the occupied West Bank. Suhail
a says it was very hard to watch soldiers handcuff him, blindfold him and take him away.
a says it was very hard to watch soldiers handcuff him, blindfold him and take him away.
Hammad: You know, I have seen that scene before. Because my husband, they took him many times from the house, tied his hands, same view, you know. But I don’t know, maybe my son, is harder. Yeah, I feel bad, really.
Harris: Over the next couple of weeks, she saw him only briefly at court hearings. Tareq told her that soldiers hit him with their fists and rifle butts, and poured hot coffee on his leg. Randa Wahbe, with the Palestinian prisoners rights organization Adameer, says it’s common for Palestinian minors in Israeli military courts to be questioned without parents or lawyers, and held for weeks without charges.
Rande Wahbe: This is a huge problem in the West Bank for these children. We’re seeing a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder and a lot of further implications in the society. For example, a lot of children who are arrested don’t go back to school. They’re traumatized. Harris: People targeted by stones can also be traumatized.
Harris: Doctors in a children’s hospital near Tel Aviv are gathered at the bedside of two-year-old Adele Haya Bitton. She was critically injured when a rock hit her family’s car two months ago, causing her mother Adva Beaton to swerve into a truck.
Adva Bitton: I just remember the boom, the boom behind me. After that I don’t remember anything. I just found myself under the truck. I see Adele Haya next to me with a lot of blood and hearing the screaming and the yelling behind me. Harris: Adva repeats a phrase Israeli officials often say: Stones kill. Bitton: We need all the time to remember that the Palestinian terrorists who came and threw us the stones wants to kill us. Wants to murder us. This is the fact.
Harris: An Israeli journalist caused an outcry among Israeli settlers when she recently wrote that throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Right now, Israeli soldiers are permitted to use live ammunition against stone-throwers only as a last resort, when their lives are in danger. Adva Beaton says that should change.
Bitton: Not all the Palestinians are bad and want to throw stones. But we need to remember that if we will all the time look them throwing stones or blocks, and we don’t do anything, just standing there, it will be not influence all this situation.
Harris: Suhaila Hammed says her son Tareq and his friends also want to do something to influence a situation they find unbearable – Israeli soldiers on their land. Hammad: I told him, I want you just to study and look after your future. Go to college like everyone. He said yes, but this is our country. We have to do something. We can’t just keep watching them.
Harris: Tareq was released from prison after 17 days. He’s out on a plea bargain and a four year parole deal. He’s home with his family now, but he says he’s not afraid to be arrested again.
Tareq Hammed: I don’t care. I have my friends in the jail and I don’t care. Harris: Still, when there was a big clash with soldiers in his village the week he got out of prison, Tareq told his mother he did not join other Palestinian boys throwing rocks.
Emily Harris, NPR News.