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Anniversary of '67 Brings Out the Worst in NPR

July 5, 2007 By:
Andrea Levin
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At times, National Public Radio makes gestures toward balancing its ideological tilt against Israel.

The Hamas takeover of Gaza prompted, for instance, an interview with Johns Hopkins Professor Fouad Ajami, who placed responsibility for the violence among Palestinian factions on Palestinians themselves. He enunciated reasons why a unity government between Fatah and Hamas is unworkable, and said that "Palestinian political culture has been poisoned by this turn to violence."

Likewise, Dennis Ross was heard in another segment cautioning against an embrace of Hamas.

But as the radical group seized power in Gaza, it was Robert Malley who was NPR's go-to commentator -- heard six times in 14 days. His theme was essentially the need to accept Hamas in an eventual unity government with Fatah. (Since 2001, when Malley made a name for himself as a leading defender of Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians in the failed Camp David/Taba negotiations, he's been a guest some 60 times on NPR.) The same notion of engagement with Hamas was echoed by Daniel Levy and Rashid Khalidi.

But, ironically, the network's bias is often most starkly in evidence when it produces in-depth features, programs the creators have ample time to consider. A weeklong series in early June supposedly commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day War was a reminder of how unabashed that bias is. It was a lineup of broadcasts largely denouncing Israel for occupation, settlements and allegedly wrongful house demolition and land seizure in the West Bank. The message of the series, which aired on "Morning Edition" for five consecutive days, was that a powerful Israel vanquished its adversaries, and went on to become an abusive occupier and exploiter of indigenous Palestinians.

NPR's Eric Westervelt declared at the outset: "Israel no longer occupies the Sinai or Gaza, but its continued hold over other territories has stymied efforts to bring comprehensive peace to the Middle East." And this was the NPR thesis reiterated during the week in one form or another -- that Israeli "occupation" and its alleged abuses have "stymied" peace efforts.

There is another view of what has "stymied" such efforts. It's one that historian Michael Oren, spelled out elsewhere in a symposium just days earlier at Jerusalem's Shalem Center. Listing issues of significance related to the war, he said: "Above all, [there is] that core issue: The refusal of the overwhelming majority of the peoples of this region to accept a permanent and legitimate Jewish state here. It is with a sense of both déjà vu and horror that I see demonstrations in the streets of Amman, of Cairo and in Lebanon against Israel, calling for the destruction of the Jewish state."

Though Oren is heard in the one NPR segment presenting extended historical background, nowhere in the skewed series is there a single reference to the idea of "déjà vu and horror" with regard to the Six-Day War -- the reality that many in the Arab world continue, as in 1967, to call for Israel's destruction.

Day two of its series about the war presented yet another instance of NPR's journalistically indefensible practice of airing one-sided segments in which Israel stands accused of serious offenses, but is given no right of response. Anecdotal charges were leveled by Arabs regarding land, housing, permits and home demolition, but not a single rejoinder to the charges was permitted by a mainstream Israeli spokesperson. The only Israeli heard was a frequent critic of Israeli policy.

Day three presented Jewish Jerusalemites recounting early hopes and current disenchantment with their city. The remaining segments returned to land and settlements and more comment from Dror Etkes, director of Peace Now's "Settlement Watch" project.

NPR's reprehensible bias has rarely been more on display than in this series ostensibly about the Six-Day War, but actually about a network obsession -- Israeli culpability, reflected in Jewish settlements.

Listeners, regularly urged to donate funds to NPR affiliates, should withhold support until the network actually lives up to its declared mission of providing "fair, accurate and comprehensive information."

Andrea Levin is executive director and president of CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.


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