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December 13, 2001
NPR failing to report on Palestinian casualties

By Ali Abunimah


December 13, 2001

Dear NPR News,

Once again NPR demonstrated the different value it attaches to Israeli versus Palestinian lives. In her news spot in the 7 AM EST news bulletin, Linda Gradstein reported only on Israeli deaths and injuries from the past twenty four hours of violence. In a 7.30 AM news spot Peter Kenyon did the same, as did the 8 AM bulletin featuring a spot from the BBC.

All reported on Israeli airstrikes and incursions against Palestinian towns and cities, launched supposedly in "retaliation" for the well-reported attack which killed 10 Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday. But the reports ommitted any mention that at least two Palestinians were killed in overnight Israeli attacks, and more than forty injured. The F-16 attacks on Gaza City lasted more than four hours and caused widespread terror and panic amongst residents of the city.

Linda Gradstein's long report on Morning Edition was scarcely better. It contained a very detailed description of the attack on the Israeli bus, while mentioning Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the vaguest possible terms. Listeners could get no sense of the scale of the destruction from Gradstein's passing mention that Israeli tanks "entered" Palestinian towns, nor that airstrikes had "hit" some buildings. As for injuries she said without providing any detail that "Palestinians said forty people were injured in the Israeli attacks." Nor would listeners have had any sense at all, that as the Haaretz website reported, "In the Gaza Strip, IDF troops took up new positions, effectively cutting the strip into three separate sectors and curtailing movement from sector to sector."

This antiseptic and minimalist language Gradstein reserves for describing Israeli violence against Palestinians disguised what was another night of terror for people under Israel's military occupation.

Mouawiya Abu Hassaneyn, a 40-year old woman with a heart condition died of shock as a result of an Israeli F-16 attack, according to hospital officials in Gaza. At least 40 other people, most of them civilians were injured in the latest Israeli air attacks, as people were forced to flee from their homes and seek shelter from the Israeli bombs.

According to the French news agency, 26-year-old Ahmed al-Damissi, a Palestinian policemen (from the same forces that are supposed to do Israel's bidding), was killed by Israeli tank fire in al-Tira, on the western area of Ramallah.

The French news agency reported today that:

"An 11-year-old Palestinian boy was in critical condition Thursday after Israeli troops shot him and five other boys in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian hospital sources said. The 11-year-old was hit in the head when Israeli troops opened fire on civilians from a watchtower on the border with Egypt, the sources said. Two boys aged 13, two aged 14 and a 15-year-old were also hurt. All six were taken to the Rafah hospital." (Israel soldiers wound six Palestinian boys, one critically, in Rafah, AFP, December 13)

None of these Israeli attacks made it into NPR's report today, once again reinforcing that violence against Israelis is always important and newsworthy, while violence against Palestinians is regularly ignored.

Not content with merely ignoring the violence against Palestinians, Gradstein's long report featured a parade of Israeli officials and professional pro-Israel advocates denouncing Arafat and echoing the official Israeli line that he personally is to blame for the entire situation. These included Israeli government spokesman Raanan Gissin, analyst David Horowitz, and professional pro-Israeli advocate Dennis Ross. Apart from a brief paraphrase from Palestinian official Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian voice was totally absent. Why were there no Palestinian and international experts to explain that it is Israel's occupation that is the root cause of the continuing violence, and total US support and indulgence for Israel that perpetuates the occupation? This is obvious to the rest of the world, but it seems that since it is not on Israel's agenda it is not on NPR's. (Counterfactual: If tomorrow Israeli government spokesmen were by some miracle to come out and start saying Arafat is not the problem, but rather the occupation, I'm certain NPR would start reporting that.)

The nature of NPR's reporting is that the systematic and organized Israeli terror against the entire civilian population it occupies is sanitized, abstracted or omitted while violence against Israelis is rendered real and visceral and all issues not considered important by Israeli or the US were simply ignored.


Ali Abunimah