National Public Radio has done it again! A series ostensibly about the Six-Day War was, instead, a line-up of broadcasts largely denouncing Israel for occupation, settlements and allegedly wrongful house demolition and land seizure in the West Bank. It ran Monday, June 4, through Friday, June 8, on Morning Edition, “the most widely heard radio news program in the United States,” according to NPR. The message of the series is that a powerful Israel vanquished its adversaries and went on to become an abusive occupier and exploiter of indigenous Palestinians.
(Several other NPR programs ran individual stories related to the 40th anniversary of the war, including on All Things Considered, Day to Day and Weekend Edition Saturday.)
Day One — June 4, 2007 “Shaping the Modern Middle East”
This is the only series segment that actually presented any substantial formal history of the war. Those parts of the segment featuring Michael Oren, author of Six Days of War; June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East, provided useful information about the war with Egypt, Syria and Jordan. However, the segment was framed – beginning and end – with editorial comment that contradicted Oren’s own thesis about the “core issues” of the war and its aftermath.
NPR’s Eric Westervelt says at the outset:
Israel no longer occupies the Sinai or Gaza, but its continued hold over other territories has stymied efforts to bring comprehensive peace to the Middle East.
This is the NPR thesis reiterated during the week in one form or another – that Israeli “occupation” and its alleged abuses have “stymied efforts to bring comprehensive peace.”
There is, of course, another view of what has “stymied efforts” to achieve peace and it is one Oren spelled out explicitly in a symposium just days earlier on May 28 at Jerusalem’s Shalem Center. Listing issues of significance related to the war, he said:
But above all, [there is] that core issue: The refusal of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of this region to accept a permanent and legitimate Jewish state here. It is with a sense of both deja vu and horror that I see demonstrations in the streets of Amman, of Cairo and in Lebanon against Israel, calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Nowhere in NPR’s one-dimensional, blame-Israel series is there a single reference to the idea of “deja vu and horror” with regard to the Six-Day War- the idea that the Arabs continue, as in 1967, to call for Israel’s destruction.
Day One of the series concludes with Dror Etkes, director of “Settlement Watch” for Peace Now, saying:
It’s tragic more than anything else because it’s a story of waste of energy, of waste of life, waste of so much potential in both sides -Palestinian and Israeli. It’s a story which cannot end well. Occupation cannot last.
Again, nowhere in the entire week with its explicit and implicit focus on “the occupation” is there any mention of the fact that barely seven years ago Israel’s Ehud Barak offered to end the occupation-to cede all of Gaza and virtually all of the West Bank (with a land-swap making it 100%), to divide Jerusalem and so on.
Such information would undermine the message that Israel has been an obdurate occupier and the Palestinians blameless victims with no responsibility for their own difficulties.
Day Two — June 5, 2007 “The East Jerusalem Controversy”
This segment is another instance of the journalistically indefensible practice common on NPR of airing one-sided segments in which Israel stands accused but is given no right of response. Anecdotal charges are leveled by Arabs regarding land, housing, permits and house demolition, but not a single rejoinder to the charges is permitted by a mainstream Israeli spokesperson. The only Israeli heard is Gershom Gorenberg, a frequent critic of Israeli policy, who echos NPR’s accusations of Israeli wrongdoing.
The message of the segment in which an Arab man’s house is demolished by Israel because “the Daud’s hadn’t gotten the proper building permits” is that Israel ruthlessly destroys Arab housing. In fact, the opposite is true; Arab building in and around Jerusalem has boomed in recent years. Justus Reid Weiner, an International Human Rights Lawyer at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, authored a study on Arab building issues. Among his findings:
• Illegal construction has reached epidemic proportions. A senior Palestinian official boasted that they have built 6,000 homes without permits during the last 4 years, of which less than 200 were demolished by the city.
• This frantic pace of illegal construction continues despite the fact that the city has authorized more than 36,000 permits for new housing units in the Arab sector, more than enough to meet the needs of Arab residents through legal construction until 2020.
NPR listeners were prevented from hearing such essential information on the general construction issue, as well as specific counterpoint to the charges leveled against Israel.
Day Three — Wed June 6, 2007 “Jerusalem, United in Theory”
This segment is apparently supposed to be the counterpoint to the previous one – focusing on western Jerusalem. While it presents only Israelis – as Tuesday’s presented Palestinians – the difference is these speakers are not accusing the other side. In fact, the main Israeli voices are each critical of Israel in some way.
They recall the brief euphoric days after the war and hopes for openness and coexistence, but deplore that Jerusalem is still divided. One Israeli declares: “40 years of unification [of Jerusalem] is a joke” and also laments that: “It’s becoming more and more oppressive [because of the religious Jews].”
Another longtime resident says: “The gun is not the answer; we’ve tried it for a long time, so let’s start something else” as though, once more, Israel hadn’t tried in 2000-2001 at the Camp David/Taba talks and through all the years of the Oslo process to “start something else.”
Day Four — Thurs June 7, 2007 “Land Ownership Disputes Arise”
This NPR segment supposedly focused on the Six-Day War is actually just another NPR critique of settlements, advancing uncritically the positions of Peace Now that Jewish settlements are built in substantial amount on private Palestinian land. NPR’s Linda Gradstein interviews an Arab who claims his land was taken to build Shiloh. Once more, the segment relies on the anecdotal charges of an individual which are unanswered.
CAMERA exposed gross misinformation in the recent Peace Now study on this issue of private land versus state land. The group had claimed, for instance, that 86.4% of land in Maale Adumim, the largest West Bank settlement, was privately held Palestinian land. In fact, on ly .54% (that’s point 54, less than 1%) of the land of the settlement had been privately owned – Peace Now was off by 15,900%.
Gradstein is apparently untroubled by the possibility of other gross errors in Peace Now’s allegations.
Day Five, June 8, 2007 “Legality of Settlements Debated”
Amazingly, the fifth day of a series ostensibly devoted to the Six-Day War is yet another segment on settlements and the issue of building on private land. This time the emphasis is on settlement outposts. Once more Dror Etkes and Peace Now, along with Gershom Gorenberg, frame the issues for NPR’s Eric Westervelt.
NPR’s reprehensible bias has rarely been more on display than in this series supposedly about the Six-Day War but actually largely about the network’s obsession – settlements. While it would have been reasonable to devote some time to the subject as part of the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the network reveals a distorted fixation with the subject. Inexcusably, there is no reference at all in the series to the vast hate-mongering against Israel and the Jewish people in a region intolerant of any non-Arab, non-Muslim nation, nor to the current calls for Israel’s annihilation that, as Oren notes, echo 1967.