NPR Ombudsman: "We haven't moved beyond the simplistic view of a Third World liberation movement against oppressive Israelis."
NPR staffers have a history of speaking frankly in private meetings about their liberal anti-Israel bias. Until James O'Keefe's recent sting operation, videotaping a meeting between the NPR fundraising executive Ron Schiller with men he believed to be members of the Muslim Brotherhood, such admissions of bias were never made public. At the meeting, Schiller called white, Middle America Christians scary and racist, and assured the putative Muslim Brothers that there were no pro-Israel voices at NPR, not even among donors. It was a bad day for NPR.
Since then NPR has denied they are a liberal news outlet, self-righteously claiming they are a model of centrist reporting.
I was not surprised at Schiller's frank anti-Zionism and the subsequent claims that NPR is a paragon of fairness. Two months after 9/11, I was among a group of disgruntled listeners who met with the NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin to discuss NPR's anti-Israel bias. I asked him, "What is the story hook, the point of view, from which NPR covers Israel?"
In love with his own voice, the NPR ombudsman was more honest than he meant to be. He told us, "We haven't moved beyond the simplistic view of a Third World liberation movement against oppressive Israelis." The local news head chimed in, ‘One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
I was sitting next to Dvorkin and everyone in the small room watched me writing down his words.
I read back his quote verbatim and thanked him for being so honest. He immediately denied he'd said it. The woman on his other side was a tenured professor of journalism at Columbia. She cut off his bald-faced denial, with a ‘That's exactly what you said.' Dvorkin had to concede but countered, that was only "NPR on a bad day."
A former NPR foreign editor Loren Jenkins is on record calling an Israeli prison "a concentration camp. There is nothing else to call it," and saying, "Face it, those Jews are colonizers."
I stopped listening to NPR years ago. I was tired of screaming at the radio until my throat hurt. The last time I listened to them was by mistake, my attention momentarily caught as I turned the radio dial. It was when Sharon had decided to turn over Gaza to the Palestinians. NPR was covering the forcible ejection of Jews from their homes by the IDF, and I kid you not, they managed to find a leftwing Israeli to interview who called Israel an apartheid state.
More recently I was also caught when turning the dial and heard Terry Gross interviewing a fellow journalist about the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons. It was strange because he had not written a book, merely an article, so she obviously had chosen him for his point of view. His message: America shouldn't take action against Iran, but lead by example, by disarming ourselves. You gotta laugh -- except we now have a President who has made that American policy.
My personal favorite "NPR on a bad day" is more subtle and more fundamental.
When Yasser Arafat was installed over the Palestinians and began his terror campaign, he also instituted a campaign to delegitimize Israel. According to the Palestinians, not only is the Holocaust a lie, but there was never a Hebrew state in the land of Israel or a Jewish Temple on Temple Mount. Because the Koran speaks of the Exodus from Egypt, they accept that the Hebrews left Egypt and went ...somewhere. So the Palestinian Authority has decided that this somewhere was Yemen. Thus Jews have no claim to any part of Israel. Did NPR report on these absurd claims? Did they explore why the Palestinians were on a campaign to wipe out Jewish history? Has NPR reported that the Muslim authorities on Temple Mount have purposefully bulldozed and destroyed archeological evidence of the First and Second Temples? Au contraire. NPR began to adapt their news reporting to fit the Palestinian line: the existence of the Temple in Jerusalem was demoted to an opinion. NPR Jerusalem correspondent, Mike Shuster: "Jews believe there was a temple ... Jews say that the Temple Mount was the site of two ancient temples in the Jewish tradition ...."
Full disclosure: NPR was not alone, although they were the first, beginning this policy in 2000. The New York Times in 2002, and AP in 2003 also set an editorial policy that references to the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem must be qualified as a claim. Thus, the New York Times: "the Temple Mount, which Israel claims to have been the site of the First and Second Temples." The AP standard paragraph: "Jews believe the mosques sit on the ruins of the First and Second Jewish temples, and revere as their holiest site a nearby wall believed to have surrounded the sanctuaries. Muslims say nothing existed on the hill before the mosques." That ‘nearby wall' is none other than the Western Wall!
This is the legacy media's idea of balance. They present two things as if they are both opinions -- but one is a historic fact and the other a crude piece of hate propaganda.
Imagine if whenever the NPR mentions the Holocaust, its editors require the qualifier "which Jews claim to have taken place during World War II." Imagine if NPR added to each mention of the Holocaust: "Muslims say there was no murder of 6 million Jews." Would there be an outcry? Is the claim that in Biblical era Jews never set foot Israel or that the Temple never existed more benign? It is more dangerous. It is the expression of a genocidal dream of a Middle East without Jews.
The Islamic fascists' motives are transparent: the Israelis have no legitimate claims to their own country. The motives of NPR are also clear: they are advocates for the Palestinians. In their Middle East reporting, where the distortions are not so obvious to their American audience, NPR can get away with promoting Arab hate propaganda, and the murder of Jews which follows.
We have come to a new low, where respected America media are perfectly willing to balance a lie with a truth and call it fair reporting. The facts themselves are not open to doubt.
If you visit Jerusalem, you can see the remains of the ancient Temple. The foundation walls of the Temple Mount are the Western wall, where Jews have worshipped in a living tradition ever since the Temple was reduced to ruins. You can walk on the very stones that Jewish worshippers trod for almost one thousand years, from the time of King Solomon to the Roman Empire. You can walk the stairs to the Temple Mount, where Jesus walked, and see the baths where such Jewish pilgrims immersed themselves. The Moslem Dome of the Rock was purposely built on the site of the ruined Temple, and originally dedicated to Abraham. The Islamic conquerors of Israel believed the Jewish Temple had stood on the very spot where Abraham bound Isaac.
Because most Americans know little about Israel, NPR is free to disregard objective truth. Their liberal journalists and audience like competing narratives that are by definition equally valid. To politically correct journalists, it is better to manufacture equality than to face reality. All narratives are equal in order to buttress the idea that Jews and Palestinian Arabs have equal claim to Jerusalem.
NPR will never tell listeners that the Jews built a nation in Israel and Judea that lasted a thousand years with Jerusalem as their capital, while Arabs don't even have a name for this land. NPR listeners will never learn that Palestine is a Roman word, adopted by the League of Nations when they designated Palestine a Jewish national home in 1918. There is no Arabic name because Israel/Palestine never existed as a distinct place for Arabs: the area was a small province in Syria, governed through a tiny town called Ramle, never Jerusalem, which Arabs saw as the Jews' and Christians' city. Yet NPR balances the claims of Arabs and Jews to Jerusalem and to Temple Mount as if they were equal.
Was there ever a Temple in Jerusalem? Was the World Trade Center destroyed by Islamic fascists? Or by Jews, as the Arab press reports? When we will see that version of events provided for balance by NPR? Facts, lies - it is no longer, apparently, the job of NPR to respect one more than the other.
The question for those who rely on NPR: why are they kowtowing to Arab hate? Why are they balancing a fact (the Temple existed) with a lie (the Temple never existed)?
It will be a good day when taxpayers no longer have to pay for NPR's bad days.