NPR under fire

October 08, 2002

CONTENTS

1. NPR: "Supposed to be objective and balanced in its coverage of world affairs"
2. "The History of Zionism"
3. "NPR's series on Arab-Israeli conflict off to bad start" (Jewish Ledger, Oct. 4, 2002)
4. "NPR chief speaks out on Middle East coverage" (Jewish Ledger, Oct. 4, 2002)
5. "What is NPR's Israel problem all about?" (Jewish Ledger, Oct. 4, 2002)
6. "It has to do with accountability: Picking on Beethoven" (Jewish Ledger, Oct. 4, 2002)
7. "NPR Strikes Back: Public radio disdains critics while reaching out to Jewish donors" (By Jonathan S. Tobin, JewishWorldReview.com)
8. "Support and criticism for NPR's series on the history of the Palestine-Israel conflict" (Open Letter by Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Oct. 2, 2002)



NPR: “SUPPOSED TO BE OBJECTIVE AND BALANCED IN ITS COVERAGE OF WORLD AFFAIRS”

[Note by Tom Gross]

More than half the people on this list live outside the United States and may not be aware that in the U.S., "National Public Radio" is highly popular among teachers, professors and other opinion-formers. These include many liberal Jews, for whom NPR has been something of a national treasure. NPR is the source of most of the news and arts programming for the 680 nonprofit radio stations around America. Like its British equivalent the BBC, NPR relies to a large extent on taxpayer funds, and is supposed to be objective and balanced in its coverage of world affairs.

In the past, NPR has been much criticized by many conservative American Jews and Christians for its unfair coverage of Israel. In the last few months, liberal Jews too have become fed up with what they believe to be its distortions and are starting to cancel the private donations that many had made to help with NPR's additional funding.

“THE HISTORY OF ZIONISM”

The attacks on NPR in the Jewish media have reached a fever pitch in the last few days as NPR is not only now daily broadcasting what its critics believe to be often slanted news, but is currently in the middle of a seven part series, tilted "The History of Zionism," which it is running twice every morning. Critics of that series point out that most of the Israeli experts being used, while presented by NPR as representing the Israeli mainstream, in fact stem from the extreme fringes of Israeli thought, and in other writings have stated themselves opposed to the idea of a Jewish state at all.

As an indication of Jewish concerns, I attach four from a series of eight articles connected to NPR from one Jewish paper alone this week's Jewish Ledger and one from the Jewish World Review. (The Jewish Ledger is an independent Jewish newspaper founded in 1929 in Connecticut.)

1. "NPR's series on Arab-Israeli conflict off to bad start" (The Jewish Ledger, October 4, 2002)

2. "NPR chief speaks out on Middle East coverage." In an interview with The Jewish Ledger, NPR president and CEO Kevin Klose denies any bias against Israel.

3. "What is NPR's Israel problem all about?" The Jewish Ledger, reproducing a report by CAMERA, points out that in their belief NPR's systematic misinformation in covering Israel is not new. Citing one among many examples, on Oct. 9, 2000, NPR's Jennifer Ludden reported that Jewish settlers tortured, murdered, mutilated and burned a Palestinian. It was subsequently proven the victim was killed in a car accident and the incident was manufactured by Arafat's propaganda machine and absorbed by a willing NPR reporter. NPR never broadcast a correction.

4. "It has to do with accountability." In an editorial, The Jewish Ledger writes that in an attempt to be what they believe is neutral, NPR wants its listeners to "understand the psyche of the suicide bomber while ignoring the family of the victims. One never heard about militant Islam on NPR before Sept. 11 because it didn't fit their worldview."

5. "NPR strikes back: Public radio disdains critics while reaching out to Jewish donors" by Jonathan S. Tobin, editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, writing in the Jewish World Review.

The writer says: "In the view of a growing number of pro-Israel activists, what [NPR CEO Kevin] Klose is actually doing is serving as chief apologist for a biased radio network that is subsidized by our tax dollars and the tax-deductible donations of a great many American Jews."

6. "Support and criticism for NPR's series on the history of the Palestine-Israel conflict" (The Electronic Intifada, October 2, 2002). The leading pro-Palestinian website in the US prints letters praising NPR's new series on the history of Zionism.

The first begins: "Dear NPR News, I have so far found Mike Shuster's treatment of the history of the Palestine conflict to be a reasonable and serious overview, given the difficulty of summarizing one hundred years in what adds up to just a few minutes. And I applaud NPR for making this effort."

[Please note, for those of you who would like to read complaints about other media coverage of the Middle East from a pro-Palestinian perspective, you can do so at electronicintifada.com.]

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“A LINEUP OF ‘EXPERTS’ DOMINATED BY HARSH CRITICS OF ISRAEL”

NPR's series on Arab-Israeli conflict off to bad start
By Alex Safian
The Jewish Ledger
October 4, 2002

This week, National Public Radio has been airing a seven-part series on the history and origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict, featuring a lineup of "experts" dominated by harsh critics of Israel.

These include Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, Avi Shlaim, Phillip Mattar, Yezid Sayigh, Tom Segev, Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, and Benny Morris. And the host and researcher for the series, NPR diplomatic correspondent Mike Shuster, also has a history of false and inflammatory reporting on Israel.

Avi Shlaim of Oxford University is one of the so-called "new historians" whose stock in trade is blaming Israel for all the ills of the Middle East. Shlaim has argued that Jordan and Israel colluded to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

On Monday, NPR aired a segment entitled, "Theodor Herzl and the First Zionist Congress."

Host Mike Shuster said: "The idea of a modern state for the Jews emerged from the mind of Theodor Herzl, for whom Zionism was political and had nothing to do with Judaism, the religion, says Avi Shlaim, author of 'The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World.'"

Shlaim then stated: "Herzl was an assimilated Viennese Jew, a journalist and a playwright. He was completely secular and he had no particular attachment to the Jewish religion. As he conceived it, the idea of a Jewish state was a secular idea.

Shuster's statement, and Shlaim's answer, have a purpose, and that is to remake Israel as a non-Jewish state, supposedly as Herzl had planned.

As discussed by Yoram Hazony in his essay "Did Herzl Want a Jewish State," (Azure, Spring 2000), Herzl in fact had a deep attachment to the Jewish religion, and thought that such an attachment was crucial if Zionism was to succeed.

Herzl planned that the state would build synagogues in each town that would be "visible from afar, for the old faith is the only thing that has kept us together." (Herzl, "The Jewish State," p. 59).

Only in the looking glass world inhabited by NPR and "historians" like Avi Shlaim could Herzl and the Zionist movement be portrayed as "completely secular" with "no particular attachment to the Jewish religion."

A brief rundown of some of the other "experts:"

Rashid Khalidi, a professor at the University of Chicago, heads the American Committee on Jerusalem, a Washington-based non-profit that regularly engages in crude anti-Israel propaganda. Khalidi is regarded by PLO officials as a reliable propagandist.

Tom Segev, Israeli author and journalist, is yet another Israeli revisionist. Author of "The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust," Segev has rewritten the history of Israel's absorption of hundreds of thousands of immigrants after 1948.

Edward Said, a professor of comparative literature at Columbia, is a former member of the Palestine National Council and a prolific writer of anti-Israel opeds.

Prof. Yezid Sayigh has worked closely with the PLO. He was quoted in the Washington Post (Oct. 2, 2000) as calling Ariel Sharon a "butcher."

 

“WE DON’T CARRY WATER FOR ANYBODY”

NPR chief speaks out on Middle East coverage
By Mara Dresner
The Jewish Ledger
October 4, 2002

Under fire from Jewish groups for its coverage of the Middle East, NPR president and CEO Kevin Klose has been meeting with Jewish leaders around the country, including at a meeting held in Hartford this summer.

Klose took time to speak to the Ledger last week from the NPR offices in Washington.

Q: Does NPR have a bias against Israel?

A: No. If you listen to the reports we put on the air... it's balanced, and it's accurate, and we've been doing this for 20 years. And the same editorial judgements that opened it [NPR] 20 years ago, are intact today. Does it mean we do it better than 20 years ago? Yes.

Q: What would you say to critics who point to statistics about the number or type of Middle East stories to support their position that NPR does have such a bias?

A: I don't know what it's based on They're certainly not listening to what we put on the air. What we put on the air is very comprehensive reporting on lots of attitudes on a very complex story.

Let me say something very clearly we don't carry water for anybody.

Our aim is to tell all sides in a very difficult story and I think we do that. That doesn't mean we're infallible. I'm not proposing that and it doesn't mean we haven't gotten things wrong. Journalism is a place where when you make an error or an omission, it happens right out there in public and we accept that's part of what our responsibility is. The notion that there's a systemic interest in carrying water for one side or the other in a difficult story is not correct.

Q: Have you been making a specific effort to have meetings with Jewish leaders?

A: I've been at NPR for about four years. And I have been meeting since I walked in the door December 1998 with all kinds of groups, station supporters, contributors, station management all across America. This is simply part of what I do.

In the case of the meeting in Hartford, I was asked by the station manager would I meet with supporters who had questions they wanted to raise with me. And the meeting was very useful. It was useful from my point of view and useful for many of the participants...

I meet also with other voices in this. There are many voices with this very complicated story. There are so many fundamental issues of peace unresolved. I meet with people who have views other than those expressed by some members of the Jewish community.

For example, Arab American groups that have views about our coverage or questions about it, I would meet with them, as well.

People have all kinds of issues they want to hear more of in our reporting or less of, that's part of what we do.

When I came to NPR, I felt in general our engagement with the public part of National Public Radio could be more robust. One of the things I did is to create the post of ombudsman. I'd seen that at the Washington Post where I was for 25 years. I thought it was a very correct thing to do. We have 20 million listeners across the United States; they have a lot of questions and comments.

Q: Do you make a special effort to respond to concerns about Middle East coverage?

A: We make a special effort to respond because it's a very complicated story and a very emotional story. It's emotional for us. I have two correspondents in Jerusalem. They are deeply committed to telling what is happening there. A great deal of their reportage has to do with violence, attacks, military responses That is a very hard place to report from, reporting on a direct confrontation and it evokes people's emotions in very powerful ways, so it's important to say we respond, we are engaged in dialogue with listeners and supporters.

Q: And going forward?

A: As a principle, I think listeners are going to reach their own conclusions. The reportage on the air in our newsmagazines is accurate It doesn't mean we don't get things wrong.

Go to NPR.org and look at the Mideast portal. There are (reports) all available there day- by day. I think if you go through that and you want to keep track, if you want to form a conclusion about what we put on the air is there. I think a fair-minded person is going to say this is very extensive reporting, maybe the most extensive by any American broadcast news organization. You may not like everything you read, it may be painful, it may be difficult, you may disagree, but the results of that effort are there.

We're always working, always, to improve what we do, to make more comprehensive, to give it more continuity, to make it more in touch with complexities of the story. We don't expect we're going to get total unanimity on the view on what we do.

 

“IT AMPLIFIES PALESTINIAN GRIEVANCES AND DE-EMPHASIZES ISRAELI CONCERNS”

What is NPR's Israel problem all about?
The Jewish Ledger
October 4, 2002

For those who think NPR's bias against Israel is new, or somehow as a result of Ariel Sharon's election as Israel's prime minister in 2002, need only look at the many previous reports compiled on NPR.

The information that follows is from a CAMERA (The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) report on the period from Sept. 26-Nov. 26, 2000. To those who would say that CAMERA takes time periods out of context, the fact remains that this is one of a number of studies of NPR, and they all show the same result.

Qualitative and quantitative bias

* Between 9/26/2000 and 11/26/2000 there were 350 speakers on segments on Israel. There were far more Arab speakers than Israeli and the Arabs were afforded a disproportionate amount of time and words on the air.

* 41 segments aired in this period where there were only Arabs on the air versus only 24 where Israelis were heard exclusively.

* When referring to Ariel Sharon, the term 'right wing' or 'hard line' is used constantly, but Sheik Yasin, head of the murderous Hamas, was labeled a 'spiritual leader,' and Yasir Arafat was often introduced without qualification at all.

Factual errors

* On Oct. 9, 2000, NPR's Jennifer Ludden reported that Jewish settlers tortured, murdered, mutilated and burned a Palestinian. The facts were proved to be different. The victim was killed in an automobile accident and the incident was manufactured by Palestinians and absorbed by a willing NPR reporter. NPR never broadcast a correction.

* On Oct. 1, Jennifer Ludden again: "Helicopter gun ships fired on crowds in the Gaza Strip." It never happened. The casualty figures alone would have told a less biased reporter that helicopter gun ships would have resulted in large numbers of dead, which was not the case. NPR did not correct this error.

* NPR's Linda Gradstein on Oct. 2: "Palestinian official Faisal Husseini says it's up to Israel to fulfill agreements it has signed and that means withdrawing from almost all of the occupied West Bank." We won't comment on the acceptance of the Arab terminology "occupied," but point out that unbiased knowledgeable observers would note that Israel never signed a document requiring it to "withdraw from almost all of the...West Bank." NPR has never corrected that point either and repeats the error often.

* Kate Seelye on Oct. 9 said, "Israel refused to hand over the Chebaa Farms when it withdrew from Southern Lebanon" and "Lebanon insists the area is an integral part of its territory." The U.N., no friend of Israel, disagrees with this point and NPR never corrected the distortion. Only one example of many instances of moral equivalence commonly found on NPR.

* Coverage of the Oct. 12 lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah was marred by NPR's reluctance to lay blame squarely with the Palestinians. Reporter Linda Gradstein accused Israel of "increasing tensions" with its media coverage of the murders, and she termed Israel's missile strikes against empty buildings as harsh. NPR's Mike Shuster joined in saying that "clearly neither side is finished with this kind of violence or this kind of response-counter-response..."

Again, Israel's response in October 2000 was confined to the blowing up of empty buildings.

What's wrong with NPR? It relies on a disproportionate number of Arab/Palestinian sources for its information. It amplifies Palestinian grievances and de-emphasizes Israeli concerns. Constant factual errors portray Israel negatively and corrections are infrequent, or if done at all are on the NPR web site and rarely on the air. Much of its programming is structured in a one-sided way and its sins of omission include any mention of the war mongering and anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement from the Arab side. Reporters come across as partisans more often than not.

But most important is its lack of responsiveness. There is little or no response from NPR when these egregious errors and biases are pointed out. Arrogance is unbecoming of any institution, but is particularly unfitting for a taxpayer-supported institution like NPR.

 

“RITUALISTICALLY ANTI-ISRAEL AND UNTROUBLED BY ITS BIAS”

It has to do with accountability: Picking on Beethoven
Editorial
The Jewish Ledger
October 4, 2002

It's hard to speak ill of National Public Radio. NPR is Mozart and Beethoven, Brubeck and Basie, blues and folk, thoughtful features and in-depth news. NPR broadcasts many things on the air that we all like, but after winning our trust and loyalty, they give us news and reporting that is neither fair nor objective. It is our duty to speak out.

The Jewish community is particularly enmeshed in this dilemma because of the prominence of Israel in NPR's skewed coverage and also because our community routinely opens its wallets to support NPR. Jews, like others in our socio-economic group, are particularly in tune with much of NPR's programming, but the way NPR covers Israel and the Middle East has created a spontaneous unease between the Jewish community and public radio. But NPR's bias extends farther than just the Middle East. The whole public broadcasting network operates on a system that is more reflective of European than American values. While this globalist anti-western attitude permeates, it is the abusive treatment of Israel a country in mortal peril that has provided the flashpoint for the Jewish community on NPR. NPR joins much of the Arab and European world in being what one observer calls "ritualistically anti-Israel and untroubled by its bias."

In the United States, we hold our institutions accountable for their views, and there should be no exception for NPR. At the heart of the matter is that NPR is populated by people who believe that being what they call "neutral" is a virtue. But values aren't neutral, and reflexively siding with enemies of America is not okay. What NPR forgets is that concepts like right and wrong are not from a different age and that all morality is not equal. Their "neutrality" makes them ignore the values of the very citizens who pay their way and guarantee the freedoms they exercise so freely. America believes in fairness and objectivity, and we cherish things we believe are right over things that we know are wrong. We don't need to understand the psyche of the suicide bomber while ignoring the family of the victims. One never heard about militant Islam on NPR before Sept. 11 because it didn't fit their worldview.

In writing about NPR, as we have done in our cover story this week, we are taking on an icon. When the budget for public broadcasting was being debated in Congress a few years ago, proponents of reducing taxpayers' dollars for this program bemoaned being perceived as enemies of Big Bird. But NPR has to be judged not merely on programming we enjoy. The constant libeling of Israel is far too serious a matter to let stand.

We are not calling for NPR to be pro-Israel, nor does NPR have to take sides. But it does have to be scrupulous in its pursuit of truth and take pains to eliminate the blatant prejudice we've become so used to hearing on its stations.

The next time NPR asks for your support, tell them that.

 

NPR STRIKES BACK

NPR strikes back: Public radio disdains critics while reaching out to Jewish donors
By Jonathan S. Tobin
JewishWorldReview.com

In the eyes of Kevin Klose, his current task in life is nothing less than to act as the guardian of a national treasure National Public Radio, the source of most of the news and arts programming for the 680 nonprofit radio stations around the country.

But in the view of a growing number of pro-Israel activists, what Klose is actually doing is serving as chief apologist for a biased radio network that is subsidized by our tax dollars and the tax-deductible donations of a great many American Jews.

Are they right? Or are these critics, as Klose and his supporters claim, merely shrill gadflys who know little about news-gathering and engage in ad hominum attacks on distinguished journalists?

For years, critics of NPR have flayed it mercilessly for its perceived left-wing bias. For many on the right, the network's programming was a facade behind which leftist journalists operated as a publicly funded platform for the left-wing of the Democratic Party.

Indeed, in the aftermath of the Republican victory in the 1994 Congressional elections, NPR and the rest of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting world was slated as a leading target of the intended budget cuts of the GOP majority.

But hiding behind the popular feathers of Sesame Street's Big Bird, NPR and the rest of the public broadcasting system survived the onslaught of the Contract With America crowd. Newt Gingrich's career is history, but NPR lives on.

Lately, however, another threat to NPR's future has arisen, and Klose knows that this time neither Bert nor Ernie will be able to croon his network out of trouble. These days, NPR's most troublesome foes come from the one demographic group that the network's affiliates count on most to write checks to pay for their shows: American Jews.

NPR'S BIGGEST DONORS

NPR-affiliate stations provide most of the classical music and arts programming available around the country and generous Jewish support for the arts and culture in general in this country is so commonplace as to be unworthy of notice. Thus, you don't have to be a demographer to know that Jews provide a disproportionate amount of NPR's public donations.

That support has, however, been endangered by the widespread perception among Jews that NPR's news is dangerously slanted against the State of Israel. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has been blasting NPR for bias against Israel for a decade, but the coverage of the last 20 months of Palestinian violence and terrorism has raised the profile of the critics and the volume of the criticism.

Though NPR is far from the only news outlet whose reports on Israel have been deemed unfair to the Jewish state, it receives more than its share of such brickbats. But, in contrast to the confident indifference to Jewish pleas for fairness that has characterized the response of the major commercial broadcasters as well as most of America's major daily newspapers, NPR is acting as if its life depends on convincing Jews that the critics are wrong.

The reason for this panic is clear. While some friends of Israel may think anchormen like ABC's Peter Jennings are incorrigibly biased against Israel, even the most quixotic of Jewish media monitors know that attempting to pressure ABC or its corporate master, the Disney Corp., to do something about it would make jousting with windmills look like a competitive sport. The same is true for AOL/Time Warner's CNN or The New York Times company.

But NPR is a different story. Their dependence on public contributions raised during on-air fundraising drives makes them acutely vulnerable.

Indeed, Boston's NPR affiliate WBUR has already admitted to losing at least six major underwriters and other small donors, who gave a total of more than $1 million, because of dissatisfaction with their Israel coverage.

Thus reaching out to Jews has become a priority for Klose. That's what brought the NPR CEO to Chicago last week to address the American Jewish Press Association's annual conference.

In a private meeting with this writer and a few other Jewish editors, as well as in his address to the conference, Klose made it clear that his goal is "dialogue" with the Jewish community, "in a search for common ground."

But his desire for a rapprochement does not extend to critics like CAMERA, which clearly irritates the former Washington Post editor. He said he would not address CAMERA'S detailed criticisms of NPR because he considers them "polemics" whose aim is to discredit his organization, not improve its coverage.

Yet CAMERA and the increasing complaints about NPR's coverage are not going away. CAMERA's Web site (www.camera.org) provides a litany of studies and analyses that document problems with NPR's Israel coverage.

Klose admits NPR is far from perfect but insists that its dedication to getting the story right should not be questioned. What he does not seem to understand is that the reason CAMERA's attacks have been gaining credence is that they reflect the gut reactions of ordinary NPR listeners to the way the network has covered the last 20 months of terrorism.

At NPR, moral equivalence between Palestinian terror and Israeli self-defense often appears to be the rule of the day. A reflexive desire for "balance" leads them to give air time to apologists for terror groups and to juxtapose moving accounts of Israeli funerals for terror victims with those for Arabs who died however different the circumstances as a result of Israeli fire. Even those listeners who can't point to data feel that the tone of NPR's anchors, the direction of their questions, as well as the slanted views of most of the "experts" they interview, reflects a negative view of Israel.

Yet when confronted with this widely held perception, Klose and NPR ombudsmen tend to dismiss it.

Klose is right when he says his news programs are light years ahead of the commercial networks in seriousness (though that is to be damned by faint praise). But NPR's ability to give stories in-depth coverage makes it all the more dangerous and damaging when that coverage proves faulty.

SEEKING JEWISH ALLIES

The question is, how do those of us who understand that NPR has a problem address it. Do we seek to join Klose in "dialogue" or do we attempt to use the available financial leverage to force NPR to change?

On this point, Klose and NPR may have found some allies within the Jewish community. Even some of those who are critical of the network are not eager to go to war with it. Continued access to NPR is seen by some as a positive value that outweighs any desire to attack it openly.

And what started out as a dispute between the pro-Israel community and NPR may end up being more about an argument between organizations like CAMERA, who don't care about making nice with bigshots like Klose, and more establishment groups like the Anti-Defamation League. In fact, the ADL recently commissioned its own more equivocal study of NPR's coverage though it did not release its report due to what I am told is opposition from some of their major donors.

Where you come down on this question depends upon where you sit: either with those who prefer to retain influence inside the prestigious world of public radio or on the outside with the gadflys intent on exposing bias.

As much as Kevin Klose and NPR would like this argument to disappear, the story has legs.

(JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.)

 

“SUPPORT AND CRITICISM FOR NPR SERIES”

"Support and criticism for NPR's series on the history of the Palestine-Israel conflict" Open Letter by Ali Abunimah
The Electronic Intifada,
October 2, 2002

Dear NPR News,

I have so far found Mike Shuster's treatment of the history of the Palestine conflict to be a reasonable and serious overview, given the difficulty of summarizing one hundred years in what adds up to just a few minutes. And I applaud NPR for making this effort.

Today's installment began with the enormous problem of Jewish refugees in Europe after World War II as accelerating the need and demand for Jewish immigration into Palestine, and that many of these refugees had no alternative. It was an unfair ommission not to mention that a major reason for this crisis is that the United States and Great Britain refused to take in the refugees for a large number of whom Palestine would not have been the first choice. This suited the Zionists whose main purpose was to boost the Jewish population in Palestine at all costs very well.

The discussion about the exodus of most of the Palestinian population from their homeland in 1947-48 helpfully dispensed with some of the most pernicious lies that have been propagated, principally that the Palestinian people conveniently got up and voluntarily left their homes, or did so after calls by Arab states, something that would surely be unprecedented in human history if it were true. (By the way, this lie is still constantly repeated by Elie Wiesel)

But Shuster's chronology of events was somewhat incomplete with the result that it could be misleading. According to Shuster, the UN voted to partition Palestine on November 29, 1947. After that, according to Shuster, "skirmishes" broke out between Arabs and Jews. Then, he says, on May 14, 1948 Israel declared independence and on May 15 five Arab armies intervened.

Although Shuster correctly pointed out that the Arab armies were weak, disorganized and presented no real challenge to Israel, with the result that Israel ended up controlling seventy eight percent of Palestine, Shuster is wrong to refer to what happened between November and May as "skirmishes." It was in fact a major and critical phase of the conflict.

Many of the events and massacres which forced Palestinians out of their homes occurred before May 15, in other words before the intervention of any Arab armies. The massacre at Deir Yassin, for instance, which Shuster mentioned without giving the date, occurred on April 9. This massacre which was advertised by the Zionists in order to terrify Palestinians into leaving is indeed credited with accelerating the flight. Similarly, Benny Morris, in his seminal work "The birth of the Palestinian refugee problem" quotes Ben-Gurion celebrating the fact that most of the Palestinian villages in and around west Jerusalem had been cleansed of all "strangers" (i.e Palestinians) by February 1948, something he predicted would happen throughout the country if the Jews "hold on." The Arab armies did not invade the areas which had been allocated by the UN to the Jewish state.

These are very important and often misunderstood points, because when you take account of the facts about how many Palestinian villages had already been attacked and depopulated by Zionist forces prior to May 15, then from a Palestinian perspective the Arab intervention could have been viewed not as an attempt to "destroy Israel," something they were clearly incapable of doing but as a belated effort to save something of Palestine. In the event, for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who had already been displaced or forcibly expelled by May 15, it was much too little much too late. Because the official Israeli narrative has been so dominant in the United States for so long, the notion that the war began in earnest only after May 15, fits well with the stereotype of Arab aggression in which Israel only fights to defend itself, but this incomplete narrative silences the experience of Palestinians every aspect of whose lives continue to be shaped by those events.

I continue to listen with interest and appreciation to NPR's series.

Sincerely,
Ali Abunimah


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.