Ali Abunimah has been carefully monitoring NPR's coverage of the Palestinian independence uprising. He has, over the course of the last six months, advised NPR and its reporters of factual errors, lack of balance and a general lack of veracity. They have put his complaints aside. This might come as a surprise to members of the public who have come to depend on NPR as an independent source of news to balance the loaded dice that is marketed by the corporate media. But when a news organization, public or private, insists on reporting errors, it has an agenda.
We are left to speculate on NPR's agenda. So here are some possibilities for their slanted coverage. One, they don't want to tangle with the Jewish Lobby, lest their public funding come under further assault. Two, they get a lot of contributions from "liberal" Jews who insist on Israel's right to conduct business with any level of brutality that Israel sees fit. Three, they have become just another government bureaucracy worried more about their funding than the quality of their news. Four, they have swallowed whole the encyclopedia of Zionist mythology and don't know any better. Five, as Journalists they don't want to muck up their chances of getting a job in the corporate media, so they play it safe. Six, they are just bigots who are indifferent to Palestinian suffering. Seven, members of management and the press staff are themselves affiliated with Zionist groups. Eight, they have been intimidated into complicity. Nine, they wish they didn't have to do it, but they have a mortgage and tuition bills like every body else. Ten, they do it because they are just callous nasty SOBs who don't mind financing their organization with innocent Palestinian blood.
If you think my speculations are harsh; just sample some of the dirt that Ali Abunimah dug up on them in the course of one week. Or
March 30, 2001
Dear NPR News
Over the past week, NPR has carefully and consistently reported violence which is affecting Israelis, especially children. Violence against Palestinians has been given less attention, and today is being virtually ignored.
Other than hourly newscasts some of which carried brief 45 second reports by Eric Weiner, neither 'Morning Edition' nor 'All Things Considered' had any reports on the grave escalation of Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the wake of President Bush's green light to the occupation forces to treat all Palestinian resistance as "terrorism." This is all the more astonishing since today's protests occurred on Land Day, a commemoration of great significance to all Palestinians.
News spots were themselves cursory and extremely unbalanced, giving great detail about Palestinian stone throwing, flag-burning and threats by Hamas, while giving almost no details at all about the Palestinian deaths and the Israeli violence that caused them. The number of deaths, without other details, was given only in the newsreader's introduction.
For example, Weiner's spot during the 16.30 ET news bulletin:
"This was one of the bloodiest days of the six month long Palestinian uprising. Throughout the West Bank Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition at Palestinian stone-throwers. In the town of Nablus more than 10,000 people gathered to protest the Israeli air raids earlier this week. Some burned Israeli and U.S. flags as well as effigies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. At Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque more than one hundred Palestinians threw stones at Israeli police who responded with tear gas and rubber coated bullets. Police briefly evacuated Jewish worshippers from the nearby Western Wall. Meanwhile the Islamic group Hamas which claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings this week said it is preparing to carry out more attacks. Eric Weiner, NPR news, Ramallah."
Unmentioned in any of the news spots I heard was the fact that occupation troops used heavy machine guns against Palestinians in several locations including Ramallah, while in Hebron Israelis used tanks to fire at a neighborhood adjacent to a Jewish settlement. No Israelis were reported killed or injured today, which perhaps explains the short shrift given to the day's events.
Today's failure to adequately report on Israel's continued crackdown on Palestinian civilians follows a day after NPR once again granted an Israeli politician five minutes of free time in which to blame the Palestinians for Israel's brutal actions, with no Palestinian given an opportunity to respond.
It is now routine for Israelis to be granted one on one interviews by NPR, while not one single Palestinian or other Arab has had a similar opportunity. Here is a list of Israelis recent interviews by NPR:
*Amnon Rubinstein, Member of Knesset (ATC, March 29)
*Avner Cohen, Israeli author on nuclear weapons, (ATC, March 22)
*Hersch Goodman, Israeli analyst, (Morning Edition, March 20)
*Uzi Gafni, Israeli ministry of tourism, (ATC, March 19)
Together, with Daniel Schorr's virulently pro-Israeli commentaries, NPR's listeners are being given a completely one-sided set of perspectives, while Palestinian voices and experiences are silenced. Perhaps NPR believes that Palestinians have nothing to say. No wonder NPR is coming to stand for "No Palestinians Radio."
March 31, 2001
Dear NPR News
In his regular Saturday Q&A with Daniel Schorr, Scott Simon asked regarding the escalating violence in the Middle East, "Can President Bush afford to keep the U.S. on the sidelines?" (Weekend Edition Saturday, March 31, 2001)
Schorr answered. "If he can he will," and among other comments added "this is the kind of situation that inevitably drags America in."
Underlying this brief discussion is the assumption that the U.S. is on the "sidelines," or that the United States was tentatively "stepping back" from the conflict. Certainly the United States attempted to give this impression rhetorically, but nothing could be further from the truth.
The United States has been and is actively intervening in this conflict on the side of Israel and this is unchanged under Bush. The U.S. continues to ship to Israel the deadly weapons it uses to crush Palestinian popular resistance to the occupation, and the U.S. still provides total diplomatic cover to Israel, last week vetoing a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have provided a mechanism to enforce the protections to which the Palestinian people are entitled under the Geneva Conventions and which Israel is flagrantly violating,
Schorr is right that the United States is the only country with enough clout to make a difference by itself. So far, the United States has put all that clout behind Israel. It is a shame that Simon and Schorr attempt to cover this up and convey instead the illusion that the U.S. has been laying back and watching from a distance. If this were true, Israel would not be able to withstand international and internal revulsion and resistance at its brutality and lawlessness for very long.
March 30, 2001
Dear NPR News,
The 8 AM newscast twice referred to Israeli occupation forces and police firing "rubber bullets" at Palestinian demonstrators. This is incorrect. In fact, what the occupation army fires are steel ball-bearings with a thin coat of plastic on them. This ammunition is correctly termed "plastic-coated steel bullets" or "rubber-coated metal bullets," for instance.
The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem has documented many deaths from these bullets in recent years. In a 1998 report, B'Tselem stated that:
""Rubber bullets," used by the IDF to disperse demonstrations, are in fact steel with a thin rubber coating. Their use is based on the perception of security officials that "rubber" bullets are less lethal than live ammunition, and are, therefore, an appropriate weapon for non-life-threatening situations."
"However, from the beginning of the intifada until the end of October 1998, at least fifty-seven Palestinians have been killed by rubber-coated steel bullets. Hundreds have been wounded. The dead include twenty-eight children under seventeen, of whom thirteen were under the age of thirteen."
These numbers do not include any of the Palestinians killed in the present uprising which began September 29, 2000.
Please correct your terminology.
March 29, 2001
Dear NPR News
"Tonight's Israeli air raids did not come as a surprise," declared Eric Weiner about the Israeli air and naval artillery attacks on Ramallah and Gaza in his March 28 report on NPR's All Things Considered. If this is true, I wonder why Weiner preferred to remain in Israeli-controlled west Jerusalem and watch the events on Israeli television rather than to go to the occupied territories and report first hand on the experience of Palestinians under attack from the most technologically advanced and powerful army in Southwest Asia.
Two days before, when a suicide bomb exploded in a Jewish settlement just north of Jerusalem, Weiner was immediately there on the scene. His report as animated by actual police sirens and sounds from the aftermath, and the breathless testimony of a clearly terrified Israeli civilian who hd just had a close call with death. In that case, Weiner was reporting a human experience, which any listener could feel.
As for the massive Israeli attack last night, Weiner only described what he saw on TV. Terror and human suffering was converted into clinical statements. I could have done that from here. How different would it have been if Weiner were huddled down with a Palestinian family in Khan Yunis or Al-Bireh as Israeli high explosives crashed around? Terrifying, I'm sure, and possibly dangerous. But certainly a more accurate and fair report of the Palestinian experience.
Weiner was careful to mention in his report the deaths of two Israeli teenagers blown apart by a bomb, earlier in the day, and the deaths of three Israelis in previous days, including a ten month old baby in Hebron. But while he mentioned without much detail that at least one Palestinian civilian was killed and others wounded in the Israeli air attacks, he remained completely silent about the several other Palestinian deaths over the previous forty-eight hours. This double standard is inexcusable. The unreported deaths included:
*A Palestinian woman more than 60 years old who was gassed to death by "tear gas" fired into her home by Israel occupation forces who were apparently carrying out house-to-house searches near Jenin in the occupied West Bank. (Al-Jazira, wire reports)
*A nine year-old Palestinian boy who was killed and another four people injured when an unexploded shell fired by occupation forces earlier blew up in the Brazil refugee camp, southern occupied Gaza Strip. (Al-Jazira, wire reports)
*An 11 year-old Palestinian boy who was shot dead in the village of Dura near Hebron. He was apparently standing at the door of his house. (Al-Jazira, wire reports). The reporting of Palestinian experience from a distance, while Israeli experience is conveyed from close up, and the non-reporting of Palestinians killed by the occupation forces are serious and persistent flaws in NPR's coverage. It is very strange: Over the past six months the vast majority of the deaths and the violence has occurred in the occupied territories and has been experienced by Palestinians. And yet the thousand-odd foreign journalists in the country are not to be found living in the areas where the events are occurring, but rather to be found huddled within a few blocks of west Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Yes, the Israeli experience ought to be reported, but not at the expense of rendering the Palestinian experience distant, clinical and too often invisible.