In a softball interview with Gazan political scientist Mkhaimer Abu Sada, National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel fails to challenge the professor’s multiple falsehoods. In addition, at no point in the interview does Siegel or his guest provide listeners with basic information about Hamas — that it is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, fatal shootings, stabbings and rocket attacks which have claimed the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians, and that the United States, the European Union and Israel have all designated it a terrorist organization.
In a July 2 interview with the Al-Azhar University professor on “All Things Considered,” Siegel starts off relatively capably, giving an accurate and fair depiction of recent events when he begins with the first questions:
Gaza is controlled by Hamas. The Israelis hold Hamas accountable for the abduction and murders of the three teenagers as well as for rocket attacks which have led to Israeli airstrikes. Are Palestinians in Gaza now fearful of a new war?
From here, however, the NPR host’s performance falters as he fails to contradict Abu Sada’s misinformation. In his response, the Palestinian professor incorporates two falsehoods, stating:
As a result of the kidnapping and the killing of the three Israeli settlers we have been subjected to aerial Israeli bombing for the past two weeks, and to be honest with you, we are very exhausted.
First, as Siegel initially indicated, the airstrikes on Gaza are a response to ongoing rocket fire originating from Gaza and targeting southern Israel. As the Associated Press reported on July 1:
Early Tuesday, Israel carried out an especially intense series of airstrikes in Gaza, saying it had struck 34 targets across the Hamas-controlled territory. The military said the airstrikes were a response to a barrage of 18 rockets fired into Israel since late Sunday.
The Huffington Post UK commendably corrected the identical error and amended an article last week to make clear that the strikes on Gaza were a response to rocket fire, and not related to the teens’ murders.
In contrast, Siegel does not correct Abu Sada when he claims that the airstrikes on Gaza are a response to the kidnapping and murder of Naphtali Frankel, Eyal Yifrach and Gil-Ad Shaar. Nor does Siegel raise the ongoing rocket bombardment of southern Israel for the rest of his interview as he continues to question, for instance, “about the fears of war, that Palestinians in Gaza hope that somebody might do some thing to prevent.” He does not ask Abu Sada, for example, what intentions Hamas has or does not have to contain the fire, thereby diminishing the chances of war.
As for the second falsehood, Abu Sada refers to the three murdered Israeli teens as “the Israeli settlers.” He repeats the apparently deliberate misidentification three more times later in the interview. In fact, only one of the three teens lived across the Green Line. As reported in Times of Israel:
The three — Shaar (16) from the settlement of Talmon, Frenkel (16) a dual Israeli-American citizen from Nof Ayalon near Modi’in, and Yifrach (19) from Elad near Petah Tikva — were reportedly last spotted at a hitchhiking post in the vicinity of Hebron on Thursday night.
To their credit, The Guardian and The Independent have both previously corrected this very same error. Siegel, however, allows the falsehood to pass four times without any comment.
Siegel again gives Abu Sada a pass when the Al-Azhar professor ignores the fact that Hamas applauded the kidnapping-murder of the three Israeli teens. Siegel asks:
I want to ask who about what you understand to be the attitude of Hamas towards these recent events. The Israelis say Hamas was behind the kidnappings. There are reports that one Palestinian clan based near Hebron on the West Bank, the Qawasmeh clan, were the ones who did it and that while they’re linked to Hamas, they are notoriously independent of the leadership. What is Hamas’s view of this? Is it an action that they approved of — that they sympathize with? How would you describe it?
Abu Sada’s response ignores the fact that the Hamas leadership has praised the kidnapping, a fact which was widely reported including on NPR’s Web site:
Well, Khaled Mashal, the top Hamas leader, contacted the Turkish government and gave them assurances that Hamas has nothing to do with the kidnapping and the killing of the three Israeli settlers [sic], and he asked the Turks to deliver this message to the Israeli government. But basically, there are some security sources speaking of the disappearance of Marwan Qawasmeh, who belonged to a Qawasmeh tribe in the Hebron area in West Bank, and that might be an indication that Marwan Qawasmeh is responsible for the kidnapping and, later, the killing of the three Israeli settlers [sic]. Now, al-Qawasmeh family is supposedly — many of its members belong to Hamas. But at the end of the day, it will be not be justified to basically collectively make this family and this clan responsible for the kidnapping and the killing of the Israeli settlers [sic].
Siegel is content to not press Abu Sada on Hamas praise for the abductions and murders, including that by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal:
Blessed be the hands that captured them. This is a Palestinian duty, the responsibility of the Palestinian people. Our prisoners must be freed; not Hamas’s prisoners — the prisoners of the Palestinian people.
In a final misrepresentation that Siegel allows his interviewee to make, Abu Sada intones: “The Palestinians in Gaza have been subjected to a severe Israeli siege for almost seven years. . . “
This is not the first time that NPR has grossly dissembled about the blockade of Gaza. Siegel does his readers a disservice by not clarifying that nearly all restrictions had been lifted in 2010, and that even construction materials for the commercial sector had been permitted in recent years, until the discovery of Hamas-built tunnels leading into Israel from Gaza put a halt to that allowance.
And, finally, while Abu Sada points out the “geographical relationship between the Gaza Strip and Egypt” as he calls for Egyptian intervention in the conflict with Israel, neither man fails to note that the Egyptians have been the primary enforcers of a blockade. Egypt, like Israel, shares a border with Gaza. But unlike Israel, Egypt does not have a crossing point for goods into Gaza, and has taken extensive action recently to close down and destroy smuggling tunnels from Gaza to Egypt.