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May 23, 2001
NPR--Dennis Ross and Israel

By Ali Abunimah


From: Ali Abunimah ahabunim@midway.uchicago.edu
To: morning@npr.org
Subject: NPR--Dennis Ross and Israel

May 22, 2001

In the opening to hour two of Morning Edition today, host Madeleine Brand declared that the United States is stepping up "pressure to stop the violence in Israel."

As you are aware, all but a minuscule amount of the violence is actually perpetrated by Israeli occupation forces, not "in Israel" but in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. This is needless to say a crucial distinction. Please be more precise.

Brand's later interview with Dennis Ross produced some of the most disingenuous and dishonest analysis ever broadcast on NPR.

Ross, who after his long stint as "Special Middle East Coordinator" has returned home to the pro-Israeli "Washington Institute for Near East Policy," attempts to portray himself as an impartial analyst. In fact his "analysis" is thinly disguised partisanship for Israel.

On the issue of settlements, Ross claimed that a "departure point" to the issue might be a freeze on "outward" expansion of settlements in the occupied territories, because according to him, "the real grievance that palestinians have is that the settlements expand outwards" and into areas the Palestinians "feel...should be theirs." What utter guff.

The objection to the settlements is that they are illegal, whether they expand outwards or upwards. They are a violation of international law, and of the human rights of Palestinians who already own the land they are built on. Whether upwards or outwards they disposess and disenfranchise Palestinians. They are connected by Jewish-only roads that crisscross Palestinian land and are protected by an occupation army whose brutality is well-known. This is clear now to most people, but Ross continues to parse and play with words. Ross tries to obscure all this by making the issue whether the settlements are taller or wider. These are the kinds of dreadful ideas that made Oslo such a disaster and make every Palestinian and every Israeli interested in a genuine peace breathe a sigh of relief that Ross is no longer involved.

I wonder, if an Israeli bulldozer came to destroy Ross' Washington home, If he would argue that they shouldn't do that merely because he "feels" that the home is his?

While pinning most of the responsibility for controlling violence on Yasir Arafat, Ross declared that Israel mostly only "responds" and "retaliates" for Palestinian-initiated violence. He also said that while Israel sometimes feeds the cycle of violence, "no country in the world would accept a situation where their neighbor provides a haven for attacks against them." All of this conveniently ignores that the Palestinians are not occupying Israel, but Israel is the belligerent occupier of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel is not "defending itself" against its neighbors, it is militarily occupying its neighbors. So with a straight face (I assume) Ross declares "Israel has a right to defend its citizens, Israel has a right to respond to those who carry out attacks against them."

What rights do the Palestinians have? Unfortunately Ross did not say. He did say they have some "aspirations," but as for rights, well, we are none the wiser.

Sadly Brand gave complete deference to Ross and failed to challenge any of his views. Since he poses as an "impartial" former official, rather than the ardent pro-Israel advocate that he is, this is a disservice to listeners.


Ali Abunimah