The inaccurate, incomplete and distorted NPR reports described here are representative examples of a much larger body of flawed coverage of Israel on the tax-supported radio network. Moreover, it is significant that, far from being inconsequential errors, many of the distorted allegations are serious and defamatory, severely skewing the realities of history and of Israeli policies regarding law, housing, water, human rights and the search for peace. Pervasively minimized or omitted entirely are threats to Israel’s security and survival.
Although NPR has been provided detailed documentation regarding inaccuracy in numerous of its broadcasts, the network has neither addressed the substantive criticism nor issued corrections. This disregard for factual rigor and public accountability violate NPR’s own guidelines which state:
All errors of fact, bias, or omission must be corrected immediately.
Accuracy is a corollary of fairness, because providing accurate information keeps faith with our sources and our listeners. When we get it wrong, we undermine not only the credibility of own (sic) news organization but also the credibility of other journalists. (Independence and Integrity: A Guidebook for Public Radio Joumalism)
I. NPR distorts the facts about population and housing in Jerusalem.
NPR severely distorts the facts about conditions for Arabs in Jerusalem, whether concerning their population numbers or their housing. A March 12, 1998, segment reported by Mike Shuster suggested the Israeli municipality engages in “ethnic cleansing” of Arabs and that Arabs are prevented from building houses. NPR host Linda Wertheimer claimed incorrectly in the introduction that:
NPR: “with its Palestinian East Side and its Jewish West Side, Jerusalem remains a divided city, but in recent years Israeli authorities have pursued policies that have made the city less Arab and more Jewish.”
(All Things Considered, March 12, 1998)
The population of Jerusalem is today more Arab and less Jewish than it was in 1967. Then it was 26% Arab, while now it is 30% Arab. Put another way, in that period, Jerusalem’s Jewish population grew by 114%, its Arab-population by 163%.
A building boom is underway in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. This is corroborated in multiple sources, including a study commissioned by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) that examined aerial photographs, tax records and building permit records. The data showed that Arab building has proceeded at a faster pace than Jewish building since 1967. Mike Shuster was handed a copy of the study before he did his report. However, he neither used the information nor contacted the author, Israel Kimhi, a former city planner of Jerusalem for two decades.
NPR reporter Mike Shuster also claims that Israel has destroyed “thousands” of illegal Arab structures in the city.
This too is false. In 1998, for example, Israel’s Interior Ministry issued 201 demolition orders against illegal building in eastern Jerusalem, but implemented only 9. The Jerusalem Municipality cited 578 cases of illegal Arab building, but demolished just 12 structures.
NPR has repeatedly broadcast inflammatory, inaccurate programs on contentious issues such as water scarcity in the West Bank and Gaza. In a long March 13, 1998 segment focused on West Bank water problems, Sandy Tolan presented Israel as a callous exploiter of blameless, dependent Palestinians. He omitted any mention of Palestinian Authority responsibility to provide for its populace and he misrepresented the facts on virtually every aspect of the subject. He said:
NPR: “Beneath the [West Bank] there is a huge underground lake. It’s called the Mountain Aquifer …. Nearly all the aquifer lies beneath the West Bank, with a small tip extending below Israel. But during three decades of Israeli occupation, Palestinians have not been allowed to drill a well without permission from military authorities, and that’s rarely been granted. Under the Oslo Peace Accords, Israel has allowed a few new wells, but little has changed across the West Bank.”
Tolan is wrong in his allegations about Israel’s “three decades” of administration of the West Bank. During that time Israel drilled or permitted drilling of approximately fifty major wells for town and agricultural use and supplied hundreds of Arab villages with indoor, running water. Per capita water use by West Bank Arabs rose from a bare 5 cubic meters in 1966 before Israel’s administration to 20 CM by 1980 and 35 CM by 1990-all while the Arab population was growing dramatically.
Tolan misrepresents the facts about the aquifers Israel relies on for water. The “Mountain Aquifer” is made up of three aquifers, the largest being the Western Aquifer, most of whose water is stored under Israel proper, providing the country one third of its water. Contrary to Tolan, Israel is not seizing water from under the feet of West Bank Arabs. Even Israelis living in most West Bank settlements receive their water from Israel. The major exception are Jordan Valley settlers who rely on previously untapped water from the Eastern Aquifer. Far from depriving Arab towns of water, Israel transfers its own water to cities such as Ramallah.
Tolan completely distorts what the peace accords require and how they have been implemented. Annex III, Article 40 of Oslo II calls for an increase of 28.6 million cubic meters of water for the Palestinians, and of that amount fully two-thirds, or 19.1 MCM, is to be developed by the Palestinians. The agreements spell out in some detail how each side is to provide for the increased water. For example, to increase water for the Palestinian city of Jenin, it was agreed that Israel would provide a major new well there, making available an additional 1.4 million cubic meters of water. The Palestinians were to connect the well to consumers. Israel completed the well more than a year ago, but it has gone unused because the PA has failed to implement the connection. Whereas Israel has moved expeditiously to fulfill its responsibilities, the Palestinians have not. In Hebron, a focus of Tolan’s report, Israel was to provide licensing for additional major wells to be dug. This was done and a German company completed drilling of two large wells in March 1998. However, the PA has yet to install necessary piping to deliver the water. If the wells were functioning, they would provide water for an additional 70,000 people. In Bethlehem, Tekoa, Salfit and elsewhere Israel complied with its
Oslo commitments, but the PA did not, causing deprivation for Palestinian residents. NPR omitted all this.
On May 12, 1999 Mike O’Connor reported on water shortages in the West Bank, repeating many of the distorted charges leveled in the Sandy Tolan segments. Again, Israel alone is held responsible for the difficulties experienced by the Palestinians who are presented as entirely victimized and blameless. Like many NPR reports, his one relies heavily on anecdotal allegations by individual Arabs which are broadcast without corroboration of the facts and without permitting any Israeli response to the specific accusations. Among a number of misleading and distorted assertions by O’Connor is his statement that:
NPR: “Actually, there’s a lot of water under the West Bank, where most Palestinians live. It gushes up from wells in a few places like this village of 40 families near the city of Hebron. The problem for Palestinians, according to the local Palestinian government, is that Israel decides who gets most of the water from Palestinian areas. Israel occupied all the areas in 1967.” (Morning Edition, May 12,1999)
O’Connor’s implication that Israel is exploiting for itself water “under the West Bank,” depriving Palestinians of water and has been doing so since the country “occupied all the areas in 1967” is inaccurate. The Western Aquifer’s water is easily accessible only where the aquifer’s storage area approaches the surface and this accessible region is almost entirely within Israel. As a result, already by the 1950’s Israel was using about 95% of the aquifer’s water, the rest being used by Arab farmers in the West Bank towns of Qalqilya and Tulkarem, via springs and wells.
The failures of the Palestinian Authority to implement measures to increase water to their own population have been mentioned above.
III. NPR coverage regularly portrays Israel as the obstacle to peace in the Middle East, while characterizing Hamas as moderate and “conciliatory” and omitting or distorting incendiary comments by other Palestinian groups and leaders.
NPR coverage of the 1997 release of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from an Israeli prison inverted the facts. Hamas had been responsible for multiple suicide bombings in Israeli cities, killing hundreds of innocent civilians. Despite this bloody record and the organization’s pervasively inflammatory rhetoric, NPR reporter Eric Weiner saw moderation in statements by Yassin. He reported that:
NPR: “In public comments since he was released last week, Sheikh Yassin has struck a fairly conciliatory tone. Speaking to reporters in Jordan, he said Arabs and Jews can live together if Palestinian rights are respected.”
(All Things Considered, October 6,1997)
Yassin’s comments were in no way conciliatory. According to the BBC, Yassin stated that:
“[T]he rights … [he] wants from the Jews consist of an entire Palestine from the river to the ocean …. He stressed the need to pursue violence to liberate all of Palestine… In response to a question concerning his health, Sheikh Yassin said ‘Today I am like iron, and tomorrow I will be like an incendiary bomb in the face of the occupiers.’ ” (BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, October 8,1997)
In May, 1999, NPR again whitewashed militant statements of the Hamas leader. Correspondent Mike Shuster reported that:
NPR: “Sheik Ahmed Yassin made noticeably conciliatory remarks in a recent newspaper interview … . Yasin has concluded he would like to see the current generation of Palestinians living freely in what had been the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza. In essence, that is the real goal of the peace process.” (Morning Edition, May 21,1999)
What Yassin actually said in this newspaper interview (excerpted in USA Today, 5/17/99) was that Palestinians today were prepared to conclude a “temporary cease- fire” on the basis of the 1967 borders and, in a familiar allusion to Koranic teachings, to leave the rest to the future.
In Hamas ideology, a truce can be offered to the enemies of Islam only for tactical reasons – principally when the enemy is strong and the Muslims are weak. The truce period is to be used to change the balance of forces. When this is accomplished, and the stage has been set for Muslim victory, the truce must be broken. This strategy follows the practice and teachings of Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammed, who arranged a ten-year truce with the Quraysh tribe in 628, when his forces were not yet powerful enough to defeat the Quraysh. The truce has been known since then as the “Treaty of Hudaybiyah.” Less than two years later, when Muslim forces were sufficiently strong, they defeated the Quraysh.
Sheik Yassin has repeatedly made clear his views about temporary accommodation with the Jews. In an interview in 1995 he said:
“Reconciliation with the Jews is a crime …. If reconciliation means a truce and a cessation of fighting for a specified period of time, Islam allows the imam [leader] of the Muslims to undertake such a reconciliation if he believes that the enemy is strong and the Muslims are weak and need time to prepare and build up. I single out Palestine in particular, because it is a land of holy places and an Islamic religious endowment (waqf) that cannot be conceded by any ruler, president or king. Nor may any generation concede it, because it is the property of all generations of Muslims until the Day of Judgement… As for the permitted duration of the truce, many Islamic jurists are of the opinion that it must not exceed 10 years.” (Filastin al-Muslimah, March 1995)
Yassin had also made other incendiary statements around the same time as NPR’s May story claiming the Sheik was “conciliatory.” These were unreported by NPR. In April 1999, for example, he said:
“We are in the stage of liberating a land, resistance, and Jihad… ”
“There is only one way, namely to abandon the capitulationist road [of the Oslo negotiations] and move to the course of resistance and Jihad until the objective is reached. Anything else is impossible.” (Filastin al-Muslimah, April 1999)
Three days after the October 1994 Tel-Aviv bus bombing by Hamas in which 22 innocent people were murdered, NPR interviewed Professor John Esposito, Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Unde
rstanding. The professor, together with NPR host Daniel Zwerdling, passed quickly over Hamas’s terrorist record to emphasize positive attributes of the organization. Zwerdling stated:
NPR: “[T]here is another side of Hamas which few Americans and Israelis know about … I understand from talking with Middle East specialists that they run many youth clubs, they have gymnasiums…”
“[A]Iso I read in one report that Hamas supports small business projects like honey and cheese making, home based clothing manufacture…”
“So, John Esposito, basically what you’re saying, between the lines, is that Hamas-that these people are terrific community organizers, whether you support their ideas or not?” (All Things Considered, October 22,1994)
• That is, just three days after a suicide bus bombing, NPR was attempting to minimize the violent goals and deeds of Hamas and to rehabilitate its image.
• It should also be noted that NPR has never done an in-depth look at terrorism committed by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups, which from the signing of Oslo in September, 1993, to early 1996 killed more Israelis than fell to terrorism in any similar stretch of time in the country’s history. On the contrary, NPR has glossed over the terrorists’ agenda and its impact. For example, even though the spate of Hamas suicide bombings in February-March, 1996 led then Prime Minister Shimon Peres to halt the Oslo process, NPR has repeatedly obscured Hamas’s actions and reported that it was the election of former Prime Minister Netanyahu several months later that brought the process to a standstill.
Earlier in 1994 when Israel radio played a recording of Yasir Arafat’s notorious Johannesburg speech in which the PA leader threatened a Jihad, or “holy war,” for Jerusalem, NPR had also interviewed Professor Esposito. Then too he had downplayed the violence directed against Israel. He claimed Jihad does not really mean holy war at all:
NPR: “Most Muslims, when they use the word jihad, use it in a very generic sense. They mean the struggle to do God’s will, and so for example a Muslim will use the term the way Jews and Christians and other believers do, that one has to struggle to be good … People will talk about a jihad to clean up the town, a jihad for a literacy campaign, a jihad against AIDS.”
(All Things Considered, May 18,1994)
NPR has not addressed what Jihad means to Arafat as revealed in his speeches, or reported his extolling suicide bombers.
VI. NPR has systematically distorted or omitted the PA’s incitement against Israel.
The network has suppressed coverage of PA calls for violence and war against Israel, its denial of the Holocaust and its teaching of hatred to Palestinian school children via television and textbooks. When NPR does mention incitement, instead of reporting the facts directly, it disparages the issue, stating, for example, that Israel demands an end to what “Israel calls incitement” or what “it sees as Palestinian incitement.”
NPR: “Israeli officials still insist they will not withdraw from one more inch of West Bank land until the Palestinians meet at least a dozen Israeli demands, including the confiscation of illegal weapons, and putting an end to what Israel calls incitement and threats of violence.” (All Things Considered, December 15,1998)
NPR: “Israel wants an end to what it sees as Palestinian incitement to violence on the West Bank.” (Weekend Sunday, December 13,1998)
Examples of anti-Israel rhetoric and propaganda by the PA omitted from NPR’s coverage (according to a search of the Nexis news database):
• PA Chairman Yasir Arafat calls for violence, compares Israel to Satan
“Our rifles are ready and we are ready to raise them again if anyone tries to prevent us from praying in holy Jerusalem…” (November 15,1998)
“[T]he struggle against this Satan, the Satan of money, the Satan of influence, the Satan of discord, the Satan of the robbery which the Government of Israel is attempting to commit.” (June 28,1998)
“Intensify the revolution and the blessed Intifada…We must burn the ground under the feet of the invaders.” (April 16,1998)
(Note: These are but a few examples of many such statements made by Arafat and other PA officials and ignored by NPR.)
• The Palestinian Authority promotes Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial by the PA has prompted protests by Holocaust scholars and coverage in the New York Times (July 24, 1998), but NPR has ignored the story, including such statements as the following:
“[The Jews] invented the shocking story of the gas ovens, where Hitler allegedly burned them …. They focused on women, children and old people and have exploited this to arouse sympathy for themselves when demanding financial compensation, donations and grants from all over the world.” (July 2,1998, Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, official PA newspaper)
Moderator. “It is well-known that every year the Jews exaggerate what the Nazis did to them…”
Palestinian author Hassan al -Agha: “[The Jews] have profited materially, spiritually, politically and economically from the talk about the Nazi killings. This investment is favorable to them and they view it as a profitable activity so they inflate the number of victims all the time …. [A]s you know, when it comes to economics and investments, the Jews have been very experienced ever since the days of the Merchant of Venice.” (August 25,1997, official PA television)
• PA television and textbooks teach children to hate and urge violence and martyrdom
PA television programs for children in which young girls and boys sing songs extolling suicide bombers and promising to “drench the ground” with their blood have prompted coverage by other media. CAMERA representatives personally handed NPR Foreign Editor Loren Jenkins a video copy of the PA’s Children’s Club program containing clips of young children praising violence and martyrdom. But NPR ignored this story as well.
A non-government Israeli group, The Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, has surveyed 140 textbooks being used by children in PA-run schools and has documented a systematic demonizing of Israel and the Jewish people (see the survey
at the web address: www.edume.org). Throughout the PA curriculum, whether in history, geography or Islamic studies, the theme of Israel’s alleged wickedness is reiterated.
An eighth grade literary text asks: “What can we do to rescue Jerusalem and to liberate it from the thieving enemy?”
An Islamic Education text for seventh grades asks: “Why do Jews hate Muslim unity and want to cause division among them? Give an example of the evil attempts of Jews from events happening today.”
A section on Zionism in a tenth grade history book is headed “Zionist Greed.”
An Arabic language text for fifth graders instructs its readers: “Know my son that Palestine is your country …that its pure soil is drenched with the blood of Martyrs …Why must we fight the Jews and drive them out of our land?”
On the maps studied by Palestinian children Israel does not exist. In its place is the state of Palestine.
V. NPR often tries to deflect criticism of controversial Palestinian actions by leveling parallel – and incorrect – allegations against Israel.
In the summer of 1997, when Yasir Arafat was sharply criticized for sanctioning the murder of a number of Palestinians accused of the “crime” of selling land to Jews, NPR again engaged in damage control for the Palestinian cause. Daniel Zwerdling interviewed Professor William Quandt, who said that in Israel there was a parallel situation. He claimed Israeli Arabs were allowed no access to most of the country’s land, which was allegedly reserved exclusively for Jews. According to Quandt:
NPR: “Israel was established as a state for Jews … the Jewish agency purchases land on behalf of the Jewish people and then leases it out to its Jewish citizens. Arabs cannot have access to that land that’s owned by the Jewish agency… most land is held in trust for the Jewish people, so yes there is a legal basis for what we would flat out call discriminatory practices.” (All Things Considered, March 8, 1997)
Quandt’s charge is a variation of an old canard, and is without any foundation in fact. Most of the land in Israel is held by the Israel Land Authority, not the Jewish Agency (or what Quandt probably meant to say, the Jewish National Fund). This land is equally available to Israeli Jews and Arabs; indeed, half the land used by Israeli Arab farmers is leased from the Israeli government. After an extended correspondence, Quandt admitted he was wrong, and, at CAMERA’s insistence, wrote to NPR informing them of his mistake. NPR was notified of the error they had broadcast and messages were left on Zwerdling’s voice mail. Although NPR clearly considered Quandt to be a credible expert, when he told the network about his having misrepresented the facts and misinformed listeners, NPR refused to air a correction.
VI. NPR promotes an extremist, anti-Israel agenda in its choice and labeling of guest speakers.
NPR’s Ted Clark reported on May 3, 1998, that American interests are being damaged by friendship with Israel. He blamed Israel for America’s difficulty mustering allies in the February crisis with Iraq and said America is a target of terrorists because of Israel. As an example of the latter he noted the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 249 Marines. Clark did not explain why, then, terrorists also bombed a French compound the same day, killing 58 men. France has been emphatically pro-Arab in its policies.
Clark interviewed three speakers on the issue of “whether the United States has gained more than it’s lost as a result of its alliance with Israel.” They were Robert Pelletreau, Richard Curtiss and Howard Kohr.
• Kohr was identified as Executive Director of the “pro-Israel lobby known as AIPAC,” alerting the audience that his views on Israel would reflect partisan affiliations. In contrast, Pelletreau and Curtiss, both of whom have distinctly pro-Arab ties, were cast as neutral parties. Pelletreau was described simply as a lawyer and former State Department official in Near Eastern Affairs; there was no mention of his career as ambassador to numerous Arab countries or of his current law practice consisting largely of oil companies and Arab interests, including Exxon, Conoco, Mobil, Texaco, the Dubai Islamic Bank, and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Pelletreau called Israel a “mixed” benefit to America.
• Richard Curtiss was identified as simply the “executive editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.” In fact, he was formerly Secretary of the American-Arab Affairs Council, and his magazine is venomously anti-Israel. It characterizes Zionism as “fascism” and “Nazism” and claims Jews control the media, the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department and other departments of government. The magazine recently published an advertisement for a notorious Holocaust denial book. Clearly, Curtiss’s statement that Israel has “harmed American interests” and his denunciation of aid to Israel have to be viewed in the context of his being a purveyor of the bigotry and slander that fill his magazine. Such skewed labeling and mislabeling of guest speakers is commonplace on NPR.
VII. NPR coverage of controversial issues, including much-debated historical events such as Deir Yassin, tilts overwhelmingly toward Arab views, ignoring accuracy, balance and fact-checking.
Eric Weiner’s April 9, 1998 report on Deir Yassin was marred by severe anti-Israel bias, misinformation and strikingly unprofessional newsgathering procedures. The lengthy report about the 50th anniversary of a 1948 Israeli attack on the Arab town of Deir Yassin also omits key information about the event. In a common NPR practice, anecdotal, uncorroborated Arab charges were leveled against Israel with no opportunity for Israeli response. At least six speakers presented views hostile to Israel and only two presented a counterpoint.
Controversy has raged over whether Arab casualties occurred in the course of a military operation or as a deliberate massacre. Although many historical accounts record that Arab forces in Deir Yassin were attacking Jewish convoys trying to break the siege of Jerusalem, that the Jews counterattacked trying to dislodge those forces and that Arab civilians were killed in the course of the conflict, Weiner offers not a word about these issues. Instead, in an unabashedly one-sided presentation he promotes the views of the so-called “new historians” whom he cites sympathetically and at length.
He repeats the extremist assertions of Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, citing only one mainstream historian in response. Ilan Pappe’s outrageous charge that the Zionists had “a plan to forcibly expel or kill as many Arabs as possible” is quoted without making clear to listeners that he is a leader of Israel’s Communist (Hadash) party. Indicative of the radical positions of Hadash is the website of the party (www.gezernet.co.il/chadash) which includes links to “
Another View of Stalin,” a sympathetic portrait of the Soviet dictator, and to “The Che Guevara Page.”
Weiner, however, presents Pappe as a beleaguered champion of reform.
The NPR reporter even cites a Palestinian professor from Bir Zeit University who believes the new historians have not gone far enough. The professor claims that:
NPR: It is really similar to what happened to the Indians in the United States. And Israel now is like the United States — big and strong and can afford to admit its mistakes in the past…
Few comparisons are as false and invidious as equating Native Americans with Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish people with American colonists. Jews are indigenous people of Israel, having millennia old ties of history, religion and physical presence in the land. Moreover, Zionist development during the Mandate period between 1917 and 1948 attracted at least 100,000 Arabs from neighboring countries who came in search of better living conditions. Ben Gurion and early Israeli leaders envisioned coexistence with the Arabs, and those who remained within Israel are today citizens with full political rights.
Particularly reprehensible was an interview with Mohammed Radwan, said to be an eyewitness at Deir Yassin, who alleges the battle quickly “turned into a massacre.” Radwan further claims that Jewish forces prevented the Red Cross from treating a badly injured baby. Weiner offers neither corroboration for Radwan’s charges nor opportunity for Israeli rebuttal. No Jewish eyewitnesses to Deir Yassin were permitted to comment on the allegations against them. There are such witnesses available, and Eric Weiner evidently traversed the country to conduct interviews with numerous other individuals as part of this report. Nevertheless, he failed to present the views of any Jewish eyewitnesses.
Nor does Weiner mention the numerous Jewish and Arab reports that have significantly discredited the massacre claims. It is noteworthy in this regard that he was silent about news stories appearing at the time of his broadcast such as the Jerusalem Report’s of April 2, 1998. In that story journalist Eric Silver wrote:
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.’ ”
Nusseibeh, a member of one of Jerusalem’s leading Arab families, admitted that the propaganda boomeranged. “This was our biggest mistake,” he said. “We did not realize how our people would react. As soon as they heard that women had been raped at Deir Yassin, Palestinians fled in terror.” Like Hazem Nusseibeh, Palestinian scholars have begun to put the massacre in a more sober perspective. Standard accounts, fostered for different reasons by Jews and Arabs, put the Arab death toll at 240-250 (the victims were buried in haste by the mainstream Haganah Jewish force without keeping count). The true figure, it is now acknowledged was half that.
Weiner proceeds from irresponsible commentary on the Deir Yassin events to strikingly prejudicial and uninformed accusations about Israel’s education system. Introducing the piece, NPR’s Robert Siegel declares:
NPR: The story of Deir Yassin is kept alive among Palestinians, but not among Israelis. Now, as Israel prepares to celebrate half a century of statehood, citizens and scholars are taking a new look at such key events in the country’s history.
Pursuant to Siegel’s designating Deir Yassin a “key” event in Israel’s history – which it is not – Weiner, apparently believing he has exposed a sinister conspiracy by teachers to conceal the Deir Yassin story from Jewish children, then queries Jewish students on their knowledge of the occurrence. Met with “blank stares” he declares, “And this high school was considered one of the best in Israel.”
As though exposing a further wickedness in the Israeli system, he quotes an Israeli history teacher saying she does not teach the post-1948 period since the founding of the state. What Weiner fails to report is that Israel’s modern history is taught in civics courses and in history classes that supplement the nationally-mandated curriculum.
Moreover, if students do not recall events at Deir Yassin this is not the result of some nefarious plot, as Weiner would have it. According to Israeli teachers, students are equally likely not to hear about Arab massacres of Jews, such as that of more than 70 doctors, nurses and hospital personnel murdered in a convoy attempting to reach Hadassah Hospital on Mt. Scopus on April 13, 1948. The anniversary of that massacre passed without comment or coverage on NPR. Nor did the network query young Arab students about their awareness of the murders of these innocent Jews, or Arab teachers about exclusion of the convoy killings from school curricula.
VIII. NPR’s blacklisting of terrorism expert Steve Emerson underscores the network’s whitewashing of Islamic radicalism.
In a dramatic example of NPR’s sharp tilt toward Arab positions, the network caved in to an Arab-American group that opposed the appearance of terrorism expert Steven Emerson in a broadcast about U.S. missile strikes against terrorist targets. A representative of the Chicago-based Arab-American Action Network (AAAN), Ali Abunimah, extracted an August 21, 1998 apology from NPR and a pledge that it would be “NPR policy” to bar the well-known investigative journalist in the future. In an exchange of e-mails, Abunimah berated NPR program producer Ellen Silva after the terrorism expert was interviewed on August 20, claiming the network had promised him Emerson would be kept off the air.
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby exposed the blacklist policy in an August 31 column, and NPR quickly reversed course, claiming Ellen Silva “misspoke” when she wrote that it was “NPR policy” to bar Emerson. The network was silent about the a
pparent complicity of numerous other staffers in the blacklist policy, and about the multiple written assurances extended to Abunimah. Nor did NPR mention the fact that, in an apparent effort to further placate Abunimah, he had been invited on the air and interviewed the same day the network promised to bar Emerson from its airwaves. Abunimah used the interview to denounce American action in striking at suspected terrorist sites, and to blame Israel for regional tensions.
The swift and compliant reaction of NPR to Ali Abunimah’s criticism is especially notable in light of statements made by the network’s Foreign Editor, Loren Jenkins, at a conference of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in June 1997. At that meeting Jenkins told his listeners that “the propensity of letters of complaint that come into NPR over our Middle East coverage-I can tell you is about ninety percent claiming that we are pro-Arab … .” Given this appraisal, it is all the more striking that the network responded with such alacrity to the relatively rare criticism from “pro-Arab” listeners. In contrast, network response to overwhelming public sentiment that NPR coverage is severely and continuously biased against Israel has been to stonewall critics and refuse serious self-appraisal.
Steven Emerson, investigative journalist, author of several books, and documentary maker (his Jihad in America aired nationally on PBS), has been severely attacked by groups such as AAAN and CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) for his reports on links between self-portrayed “charities” in America and Middle East terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Leaders of CAIR, in particular, have attempted to smear Emerson as a racist for reporting on events and publications that call for war against America and Israel and which raise funds that are channeled to violent Middle East groups. CAIR has denounced Emerson for making a statement in the aftermath of the bombing of the Oklahoma federal building noting that the attack resembled Middle-East style terrorism. Although numerous commentators, including Mary Jane Deeb, editor of the pro-Arab Middle East Journal, made similar observations, CAIR has attempted to cast Emerson as “anti-Muslim.” (Deeb, a professor at American University, said the Oklahoma bombing “was set up to look like something coming straight out of the Middle East.”)