On NPR, Israel is Accused With No Defense Allowed

National Public Radio’s January 20 “Morning Edition” presented a segment entitled “Israeli Settlements Divide Palestinian Village” by Lourdes Garcia-Navarro. The totally one-sided report offers classic NPR bias: A human interest story focused entirely on Palestinian grievances and devoid of essential facts and context. Not a single Israeli is given the chance to respond to serious accusations leveled. Nor does the reporter herself interject any comment, explanation or caveat on Israel’s behalf. Apparently when it comes to Israel, NPR does not see itself as bound by its own statement of principles , which promises that “every possible effort is made to reach an individual (or a spokesperson for an entity) that is the subject of criticism, unfavorable allegations or other negative assertions in a story in order to allow them to respond to those assertions.”

In a favored NPR format, the reporter lends her microphone to an ostensibly blameless Arab victim facing a supposedly heartless Israel destroying normal life in a village. The topic is the town of Walaja near the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo in southern Jerusalem. Israel’s separation barrier, whose construction has largely been suspended, was slated to pass through the area, but this part of the route is now being challenged in the courts. Garcia-Navarro calls the proposed structure a “wall” using the preferred, harsh terminology of Israel’s detractors, although more than 95% of the barrier is a fence.

Not a single word is uttered about the purpose of the barrier as a deterrent to Palestinian terrorists who infiltrated from the West Bank and killed Israelis by the hundreds until it was built and Israeli forces quelled the violence.

1) The segment refers to Arab residents fleeing Walaja in 1948, during Israel’s War of Independence. It omits any context for their flight. Listeners are not told that there would have been no war, and thus no Arab flight, had Israel’s neighbors, including the Palestinian Arab leadership at the time, accepted the 1947 U.N. partition plan (as had the Jewish leadership of British Mandatory Palestine).

2) Garcia-Navarro’s piece notes the security barrier Israel is building between Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank (part of the overall West Bank security barrier). But it omits the reason Israel was forced to build it — countless Palestinian terrorist attacks during the 2000 – 2005 “second intifada” that murdered hundreds of Israelis, Arabs as well as Jews, and foreign visitors, let alone the barrier’s contribution to reducing dramatically such killings.

3) The report mentioned that the barrier has been halted while an Israeli court considers an appeal to change its route around Walaja. But it is silent on the fact that Israel has altered, and continues to alter, the exact route of the barrier in response to similar appeals, and that alignment changes by the Israeli military in response to Supreme Court decisions have reduced the amount of the West Bank on the Israeli side from approximately 12 percent to less than eight.

4) The segment mentions Jewish “settlements” that have “nearly surround[ed]” Walaja — said to be “half in, half out” of Jerusalem (is it a West Bank village then, or an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem? — including “the huge Gilo East Jerusalem settlement.” This error — Gilo is a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem, not a West Bank settlement, has been corrected by major news media including The Washington Post. Garcia-Navarro, and NPR by extension, appear to believe that Arabs can live anywhere in and around Jerusalem but that Jews should not.

5) NPR’s “report” provided no corroboration of, let alone challenge to, one villager’s implied accusation that Israel would desecrate Palestinian Arab graves. Allowing such a serious charge to be made without substantiation or challenge amounts to collaboration with blatant defamation.

Transcript – January 20, 2011

Steve Inskeep: The construction of Jewish housing has increased sharply in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Palestinians want both of those areas to be part of a future Palestinian state and so the building is complicated and still in peace talks. The construction comes after a building moratorium in some areas expired last year and it is affecting the lives of Palestinians.

NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro visited a tiny village on the edge of Jerusalem.

Lourdes Garcia Navarro:  In Walaja’s recent history, the village has been moved, its people scattered, its land eroded and now they’re facing isolation. Palestinians here say it’s a microcosm of the conflict. And it shows no signs of abating.

Ahmed Darash:  My name is Ahmed Darash. My village is al-Walaja.

Garcia Navarro: We are sitting near the village spring on a blustery winter day with one of the village elders.

Darash: Speaks in Arabic
Garcia Navarro:  Darash recounts how in 1948 when the state of Israel was created the village was captured and many residents fled to other countries. Those who remained moved across the valley and into caves. Slowly they began to rebuild the village on land located in what was then territory controlled by Jordan. Then after the 1967 war, Israel took over the area. Land was slowly expropriated Darash says. Houses were demolished. And then the settlements started to rise.
Darash:  Speaks in Arabic
Garcia Navarro: Now Walaja falls half in and half out of the boundaries of Jerusalem and it’s almost completely surrounded by the settlements. On the crest of the hill behind it is the settlement of Har Gilo. On another flank is the huge Gilo East Jerusalem settlement. And then, recently came the news that more land was going to be confiscated to finish building a wall that will completely fence the village in.

Darash: (Through translator) This wall will eat up more than 2,000 dunams of Walaja land.

Garcia Navarro: Land that has two important landmarks that are essential to village life. We walk down into the farmlands that nestle in a steep valley. Nadia Awadalah lives in al-Walaja.

Nadia Awadalah: (Through translator) All this area in front of you here is going to be confiscated by the Israelis. It includes graveyards, a graveyard here to your right and a graveyard here to your left. There’s also a spring of water from which the whole village gets its water. They want to include it in the area which they want to confiscate.

Garcia Navarro: Underneath a row of trees are several mounds built into the hillside. Among those buried here was a young man who was killed during the first Palestinian uprising in the late 1980s. His father just died this past month, but, says Nadia, they buried him in another part of the village.

Awadalah:  (Through translator) One reason why we did not bury his father here is because of the risk that we take in burying a new one here. Imagine burying him and then the Israelis coming and opening the grave and desecrating his grave. So we did not take a chance.

Garcia Navarro: The villagers have petitioned the court to stop construction of the wall near the graves and spring. And while the case is being reviewed, building in this area has halted. But nearby work is continuing on a new access road for settlers. It too is on land that was once part of Walaja. And above them in Har Gilo new homes are being built. Meanwhile, the villagers say any new home they try to build is under threat of demolition by Israel.

Darash: Speaks in Arabic
Garcia Navarro: Sitting in his plastic chair, elder Ahmed Darash tells a children’s fable to describe what is happening to his village. A cat was asked to equally distribute two pieces of cheese to two mice, he says. Each time he’d weigh one of the morsels he’d take a bite, eventually there was nothing. And then, he says, the cat ate the mice as well. We are he says, at Israel’s mercy.

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