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January 18, 2002
NPR--Worthless Assurances?

By Ali Abunimah


From: Ali Abunimah
To: National Public Radio (atc@npr.org)
Cc: jdvorkin@npr.org
Subject: NPR--Worthless Assurances?

January 18, 2002

Dear NPR News,

Yesterday, Thursday January 17, I participated in a discussion about NPR's Palestine-Israel coverage with NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin, on NPR Baltimore affiliate WJHU.

In that discussion, Mr. Dvorkin publicly acknowledged that recent criticism I and others including FAIR have made against NPR was correct, specifically that NPR was wrong to refer to a period of several weeks in which dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israel as "one of relative calm," simply because only one Israeli had been killed in that time.

(see "For NPR, Violence Is Calm if Its Violence Against Palestinians " www.fair.org/activism/npr-israel-quiet.html)

Mr. Dvorkin said that he had brought this criticism--with which he wholeheartedly agreed--to the Foreign Desk, and that they had let NPR's correspondents and hosts know that they should make appropriate changes to reflect the reality of what has been happening.

Yet just a few hours after Mr. Dvorkin gave us this public assurance, the following exchange occurred during All Things Considered between host Melissa Block and reporter Linda Gradstein as they discussed that day's attack by a Palestinian on a wedding hall in Hadera who killed six Israelis.

BLOCK: Until early this week there'd been almost a month of relatively reduced violence there. What changed?

GRADSTEIN: Well, what changed was the death of a militant named Raed Karmi, who was 27 years old and the head of the Al Aksa Brigade in Tulkarm, which is actually pretty close to where today's attack was. He was from the same group of the gunman from today, and he was killed in an explosion. Israel did not officially take responsibility, but Palestinians said that it was an Israeli assassination and Israel had previously tried to assassinate him.

And after he was killed, immediately afterwards, an Israeli soldier was killed. And then two Jewish settlers and a third person were killed yesterday, as well as there was someone from (technical difficulties) sparked this was Israel's alleged assassination of this militant named Raed Karmi. END EXCERPT

As you can read, both the question and answer once again omitted any mention of the at least 26 Palestinians killed by Israel during the "calm" period, since Yasir Arafat announced a one-sided ceasefire on December 16, of whom six were children and the majority were unarmed civilians.

Am I to take it then that Ms. Gradstein is in flagrant defiance of instructions, or is it that Mr. Dvorkin's assurances have only as much weight as the air they are broadcast on?

On another note, I am pleased to say that Peter Kenyon's report, also on All Things Considered for January 17, about the aftermath of the Israeli demolition rampage in Rafah refugee camp was excellent. The fact that it took NPR a full seven days to get down to Gaza is hard to accept, however. If NPR would base at least one of its two reporters in the occupied territories--where the bulk of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is actually occurring--then it would of course be easier to report on it. Again for reasons that are incomprehensible, NPR prefers to report on the occupied territories mostly from the outside. What a waste of scarce resources.


Ali Abunimah
Amman, Jordan

Ali Abunimah