National Public Radio’s (NPR) Pro-Israeli Bias – by Stephen Lendman
Since established in 1970, NPR ignored its public trust in favor of privilege, corporatism, militarism, imperial wars, and Israel’s vilest crimes, including collective punishment, illegal occupation, targeted killings, land theft, dispossessions, home demolitions, crop destruction, mass incarcerations, torture, violence, and the 2008 – 09 Gaza war inflicting mass deaths, permanent injuries, vast devastation, and human misery against defenseless civilians, imprisoned under siege since June 2007, and afflicted by a dire humanitarian crisis as a result – exacerbated by conflict and intermittent attacks, issues NPR ignores or understates.
It’s notorious for its biased, shoddy reporting, pseudo-journalism, creeping commercialism, distracting non-news, and deceiving listeners it’s public, non-profit, and impartial. Savvy media consumers know better and tune them out for delivering the same slanted coverage found on major networks and in broadsheets like The New York Times, Washington Post, and others – grossly favoring power, and when it comes to Israel it’s interests matter. Palestinian ones don’t, so news is carefully filtered to distort facts, and report lies that when repeated enough become truths.
In its May/June 2004 issue, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) asked “How Public Is Public Radio?” in examining its guest list choices – on all issues (including Israel), mostly government officials, corporate think tank representatives, professionals representing their interests, and other elite sources, the public comprising a tiny 7%.
“For a public radio service intended to provide an independent alternative to corporate-owned and commercially driven mainstream media,” it said, “NPR is surprisingly reliant on mainstream” sources, the public nearly entirely shut out, and when included they’re largely nameless “people in the street,” quoted in one-sentence sound bites with no impact.
In December 2001, FAIR’s Seth Ackerman discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “Illusion of Balance” along with a companion November/December 2001 “Study of NPR’s Coverage of Deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
It found an 81% likelihood that an Israeli death would be reported compared to 34% for a Palestinian. Among under age 18 Palestinians, only 20% were reported compared to 89% of Israelis, FAIR concluding that “being a minor makes your death more newsworthy to NPR if you are Israeli, but less” so, or not at all, if Palestinian.
The imbalance is far greater today with few if any Israeli deaths, many Palestinian ones, but few ever reported and when done, it’s dismissive, brief, and/or falsified as to the cause.
FAIR October – February 2002 Action Alerts “repeatedly criticized NPR for describing periods when only Palestinians were being killed….as times of ‘relative calm (or) comparative quiet,’ ” yet barely concealing outrage about Israeli deaths, only caused in response to unreported IDF or settler-initiated violence.
Mainstream US media, including NPR, suppress stories like the London Guardian Rory McMarthy’s on April 17, 2009 headlined, “Teargas canister shot kills Palestinian demonstrator,” saying “Bassem Abu Rahmeh is (the) 18th person to die since 2004 during demonstrations against (the) West Bank(‘s)” Separation Wall.
Before being killed, Abu Rahmed begged Israeli soldiers not to shoot lest they kill an Israeli, his last words in Hebrew being: “Officer, officer, officer, listen, you killed an Israeli, wait a moment, wait a moment!” Instead, a high-velocity gas canister hit him in the chest and killed him.
“The Israeli military said it was looking into the incident,” of course, meaning whitewash, cover-up, and exonerating soldiers to commit repeated atrocities and get away with it – but try finding that explained on NPR or any mainstream US news service where Palestinian suffering is a non-story.
On April 6, 2007, Felice Pace’s CounterPunch article discussed NPR’s Weekend Edition, Saturday saying host Scott Simon “managed to do yet another NPR (Middle East) News interview (March 31)….in which he completely ignores the central influence of the Palestinian People’s plight,” affecting the entire region, contributing to its instability.
From 1990 – 2009, Linda Gradstein was NPR’s Israel correspondent, at the same time accepting pro-Israeli organization honoraria, the Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah and Nigel Parry reported on February 19, 2002 in their article headlined, “Special report: NPR’s Linda Gradstein takes cash payments from pro-Israeli groups.”
Despite a clear conflict of interest, professional ethics, and NPR policy, she worked as a paid Israeli propagandist, EI writers concluding:
“for some reason or other, Gradstein (was) effectively exempt from NPR’s own regulations. These revelations only broaden existing concerns about the integrity of NPR’s Middle East reporting and honesty of Linda Gradstein….the sad truth is that (she) rarely (met the minimum) standards,” nor do other NPR reporters covering foreign or domestic policies. They like other major media reporters are paid liars.
NPR Misinformation on East Jerusalem
Jews claim all Jerusalem as its historic capital, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring, during a May 22, 2009 Jerusalem Day ceremony (commemorating the city’s 1967 reunification), that:
“United Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided.”
For Muslims, it’s Islam’s third holiest site, containing the 35-acre Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram al-Sharif), including the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as its capital, yet Israel is dispossessing them one settlement expansion and home demolition at a time, world leaders turning a blind eye, letting it happen, despite disingenuous opposition rhetoric often quoted in mainstream reports, including NPR.
On March 26, Mondoweiss.net published Henry Norr’s article headlined, “When it comes to E. Jerusalem, ‘NPR’ misleads and misinforms,” offering examples from 22 recent broadcasts.
NPR calls the city “Israel’s capital,” its “undivided (or) unified capital,” with a historic claim to it all. In contrast, Occupied East Jerusalem is dismissed as “disputed territory,” its final status “only (to) be determined through negotiations” that may or may not occur, but given how previous ones were structured it won’t matter.
In three accounts, NRP quoted Netanyahu saying “The Jewish people were building Jerusalem 3,000 years ago,” despite Judaic roots dating only from around 1,800 BC, the Old Testament calling Abraham the first Hebrew for refusing to worship the period’s common idols, and organized Judaism dates from Moses around 1,500 BC.
One “Talk of the Nation” report featured an Israeli analyst saying East Jerusalem settlement construction will continue because the entire city is “the heart and soul of the Jewish people.” Analyst James Fallows told listeners that Israelis consider East Jerusalem settlements “necessary for their survival.”
Other reports described expropriated areas as idyllic “neighborhood(s),” hilltop “communit(ies),” pious Jews there “focus(ing) on their religious studies and pay(ing) little attention to the outside world.” Their large families require settlement expansions to accommodate them, so Palestinians have to go, no matter that they and their ancestors lived there for centuries.
Yet Israelis say East Jerusalem’s 250,000 Palestinians have no historic claim to the city they “want” for their “future state” and “aspire” to be their capital – mindless that it already is and that no government, including America, recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or has an embassy there.
The November 1947 UN Partition Plan (Resolution 181) designated Jerusalem an international city under a UN Trusteeship Council, still binding today. The 1949 UN Resolution 273 gave Israel UN membership conditional on its implementing Resolutions 181 and 194 (December 1948) granting Palestinians their universally accepted “Right of Return – topics NPR never explains.
Though rarely discussed or reported, world governments and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) consider East Jerusalem occupied. Even the ICRC says so, calling Israeli actions there “illegal” under international law, specifically the 1907 Hague Regulations and Fourth Geneva’s Article 49 stating:
“Individual or mass transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of the motive.” Neither shall “The Occupying Power….deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
In addition, numerous UN resolutions established “no legal validity” for occupied land acquisitions or settlement building. When violations occur, no nation may recognize or support them or the responsible state.
Further, the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples condemned “colonialism in all its forms and manifestations,” including settlements deemed to be illegal.
International laws are clear and unequivocal. NPR never reports or explains them – that:
— all Israeli settlements are illegal;
— growing numbers of Jews oppose them;
— many support the global BDS movement (boycott, sanctions, and divestment);
— more now leave Israel than arrive; and
— Palestinians are systematically persecuted, terrorized, and denied rights afforded solely to Jews, and are being dispossessed of property they owned and did “most of the building (on for) over the last 1,500 years.”
Their voices are virtually shut out. Instead, feature interviews are presented like “All Things Considered” host Robert Siegel’s with Israel’s US ambassador Michael Oren, saying:
“….Jerusalem is sovereign Israeli territory, and it has the same status as Tel Aviv. And just as Israelis have a right to build anywhere in Tel Aviv, they have a right to build anywhere in the city of Jerusalem.”
Or another with Martin Indyk (former US Israeli ambassador and Netanyahu brother-in-law) hyping Iran as an “existential threat” when last September Reuters quoted Defense Minister Ehud Barak saying “Iran does not constitute an existential threat to Israel….Israel is strong. I don’t see anyone who could pose an existential threat,” though he called Iran a challenge to the whole world without being more specific.
NPR pro-Israeli propaganda persists in deference to the Israeli Lobby and its funding sources, much of it corporate, from special interest foundations, and wealthy donors strongly supportive of Israel as are virtually every member of Congress and all administrations, Republican and Democrat.
No matter, according to a FAIR May 17, 2005 Action Alert headlined, “CPB (the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) Turns to NPR as Latest ‘Bias’ Target.” It quoted a May 16 New York Times report about the CPB considering “a study on whether NPR’s Middle East coverage was more favorable to Arabs than to Israelis – further evidence that the agency intends to police public media for content it deems too ‘liberal.’ “
Past FAIR analyses clearly exposed NPR’s pro-Israeli coverage – recently more extreme, making it impossible for listeners to know truths NPR suppresses, much like The New York Times and rest of America’s print and broadcast media, in contrast to Haaretz writers Amira Hass and Gideon Levy who tell it heroically to Israeli and world readers.
A Final Comment
Among its 25 top 2005 censored stories, Project Censored’s No. 11 pick headlined, “The Media Can Legally Lie,” a CMW Report, Spring 2003 by Liane Casten titled, “Court Ruled that Media Can Legally lie.” It covered a unanimous February 2003 Florida Court of Appeals decision for Fox News, saying no rule prohibits distorting or falsifying news.
It pertained to 1996 Jane Akre/Steve Wilson Fox affiliate WTVT, Tampa reports on bovine growth hormone (BGH) dangers, Monsanto’s hazardous to human health genetically engineered milk additive. At first, the station loved them, but headquarters Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to admit falsifying evidence and produce bogus reports on BGH safety.
They refused, threatened to inform the FCC, were fired, and sued – a district court jury deciding on their behalf, awarding Acre alone $425,000 in damages. Fox appealed and won, the Appellate Court saying Acre wasn’t protected under Florida’s whistleblower statute, it loosely interpreted to mean employers must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation.” Fox simply followed “policy” entitling its stations to lie – whether on product safety or falsifying facts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
NPR and other US major media operations take full advantage, keeping their listeners and readers in the dark and uninformed, while Palestinians are systematically persecuted, out of sight and mind, except for people concerned enough to learn the truth and tell it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.