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Why Did the Jewish Community Protest NPR?
Reclaiming a National Treasure

Charles Jacobs
President, The David Project
May 15, 2003

[The following op-ed article appeared originally in The Jewish Advocate.]

On May 14 in 35 cities, Jews and others protested NPR's coverage of the Middle East.

For many in the Jewish community, the decision to confront NPR last week was painful. We value NPR for its cultural programming and in-depth news coverage. We rely on NPR's news anchors and hosts. Their voices are familiar. We count on them to keep us company on our daily commutes. But we are deeply troubled by their coverage of Israel and the Middle East, and we cannot afford to be silent.

Over the past decade, various media watchdogs have documented NPR's bias against Israel, disproportionate airtime for pro-Palestinian spokespeople, pejorative language targeting only Israeli leaders, repeated factual errors. Clearly, criticism of Israel's policies is legitimate and newsworthy, but NPR's relentless effort to single out Israel in a demonizing fashion is very disturbing. As organized Palestinian violence continues to rage, and as a new anti-Semitism, connected to the Middle East conflict, arises worldwide, the stakes have been raised. There is a growing sense in the Jewish community that NPR's defamation of Israel contributes to a climate of intellectual and even physical hostility against Jews everywhere. When NPR reporters call a terrorist who shoots children cowering in bed a "militant," or the head of a terrorist organization a "spiritual leader," they debase the English language and they cheapen Jewish life by making attacks against Jews seem normal, even legitimate.

NPR's bias, its ideological sugar coating of terrorism, comes from its distorting "zoom" lens treatment of the Middle East conflict. NPR reporting focuses obsessively on Israel's control of the West Bank and Gaza and neglects to explain that it was an Arab war of extermination launched from these lands that forced Israel to control the territories. It neglects to explain that what keeps Israel there is the Palestinian use of those lands as a base for murderous attacks on its civilians.

NPR's focus on the present overlooks decades of Arab aggression and Israeli peace efforts. Its constricted lens obscures Israel's surroundings -- a political culture of a 300-million-strong Arab world and its despotic regimes' oppression of ethnic and religious minorities. And so NPR reporting turns the conflict on its head and dishonestly transforms David -- Israel's five million Jews, a small, indigenous minority struggling for equality and self-determination -- into Goliath, a powerful Western aggressor. Fair and honest reporting would tell the simple truth: this is a Jewish struggle for self-determination on the edge of a hostile Arab world.

When we recognize NPR's distorted perception of the conflict, we can understand why its seven-part series on the Middle East repeatedly mentioned the Arab refugees from Israel but never once mentioned the million Jewish refugees forced to flee their homes in the Arab and Muslim world. We can understand why NPR consistently chooses to ignore the depth and pervasiveness of violent anti-Semitic incitement rampant in the Arab world, particularly in the Palestinian Authority, its schools, and the Arab press. We can understand why NPR boycotts terrorism expert Steven Emerson whose videos show people in Mosques around the world calling for Jews to be slaughtered. And we can understand why NPR does not inform its listeners about the traditional status of Jews (and Christians) in the Arab world -- "dhimmi" -- subjected people consigned to life with humiliating restrictions, surely not permitted self-rule.

NPR's distorting lens is the result of its advocacy journalism. It exercises its journalistic power in order to advance what it wrongly perceives to be the only path to peace, namely reducing American support for Israel and strengthening the Palestinians. In reality, NPR's crusade against Israel encourages support of those who murder Jews, while ignoring the violent and oppressive tendencies of radical Islamist groups and making the achievement of peaceful coexistence for the peoples of the region an ever-fainter possibility.

By failing to report fairly and honestly on the conflict in order to promote it's agenda, NPR's reporting is reminiscent of sympathetic intellectuals and journalists who denied the atrocities committed by Stalin in Russia and Mao in China. These atrocities, which took the lives of millions, were deliberately overlooked, excused, and given a pass because of the belief that communism was a noble experiment that would make the world a better place. NPR continues this tradition by overlooking the murderous nature and intent of Arab terrorists. It conveniently ignores the misogyny, homophobia, and brutal suppression of women and minorities in Arab countries, all in the name of promoting its agenda of "peace and justice."

By confronting NPR's sins of omission and commission, we are doing it a favor. NPR has forsaken its own ethical standards and is jeopardizing public support for its programming. From Wordsworth Books to Brandeis University, major underwriters have already withdrawn their funding. The Gildor Foundation, which contributed $1.4 million to air Verdi's opera Nabuco on NPR, has now recanted its support.

Encouraged by these examples, we should persist in our demand for fair and honest coverage. NPR has been a national treasure, providing a unique broadcasting experience, so it's disturbing to see that its news division has violated the public trust by promoting a self-indulgent and insidious political agenda in clear violation of journalistic standards and its stated mission as a public broadcasting organization.

Dr. Charles Jacobs, President of the David Project, was recently profiled by NPR's "Humankind" for his campaign against modern day slavery.

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