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For NPR, Violence Is Calm if It's Violence Against Palestinians

by FAIR Thursday, Jan. 17, 2002 at 8:11 PM

FAIR-L Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting Media analysis, critiques and news reports


Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting

Media analysis, critiques and news reports


For NPR, Violence Is Calm if It's Violence Against Palestinians

January 10, 2002

Before the January 9 gun battle on the Gaza Strip, National Public Radio

(NPR) had for weeks been telling its listeners that Israel/Palestine was in

a period of "relative quiet."

"Morning Edition" anchor Bob Edwards on January 3 stated that U.S. envoy

Anthony Zinni was coming to the region during "a time of comparative quiet."

In another report the same day, correspondent Linda Gradstein referred to

"the relative calm of the past few weeks." Other NPR reports have mentioned

the "recent calm" (1/5/02) or the "fragile period of quiet" (1/7/02).

What NPR means by this was spelled out most explicitly by Linda Gradstein in

a January 4 report on the envoy's mission. "You know, there's been actually

three weeks of relative quiet," she said. "Only one Israeli has been killed

in those three weeks, as opposed to 44 Israelis who were killed when Zinni

was here last time in November and early December."

What Gradstein didn't mention-- and what someone who relied on NPR for their

Middle Eastern news would have little idea of -- was that this has been in

no way a period of calm for Palestinians. In fact, in the three-week period

that Gradstein referred to, at least 26 Palestinians were killed by

occupation forces-- more than one a day.

Media critic Ali Abunimah documented the killings in a letter of protest to

NPR (1/8/02), starting with 13-year-old Rami Khamis Al-Zorob, shot in the

head on December 13 while playing near his home in Rafah, Gaza. Most of the

deaths cited by Abunimah were of unarmed civilians; six were minors, ranging

in age from 12 to 17.

But none of these deaths received much attention from NPR, leaving the

impression that calm for Israelis was calm for Palestinians as well. One of

the few times that the Palestinian toll was even vaguely referred to was in

this December 24 exchange between "All Things Considered" anchor Robert

Siegel and correspondent Peter Kenyon:

SIEGEL: "There was a resumption of violence today, I gather, a shooting of a

Jewish settler."

KENYON: "That's right, the first such shooting of a Jewish settler after a

week of comparative quiet. There have been some deaths on the Palestinian

side in the past week. But tonight a Jewish settler was shot in the chest,

seriously wounded by Palestinian gunmen up near Nablus and the West Bank.

One of the gunmen was also shot, and he was killed."

Kenyon agrees with Siegel's claim that December 24 marked a "resumption of

violence," even while acknowledging that "there have been some deaths on the

Palestinian side." In fact, there had been at least five Palestinians killed

by Israeli forces in the previous week, including 12-year-old Muhammad

Huneidek, shot in the chest at a checkpoint near the Neve Dekalim settlement

near Gaza. Are we to conclude, then, that the killing of Palestinians is not


That's the contention of the Israeli government, and NPR appears to take

this position seriously. Here's a January 5 report by Kenyon:

"The raids into the West Bank and Gaza Strip have continued. They were

yesterday in the West Bank village of Tel up near Nablus. They killed one

Palestinian; four arrested. The army said they were all Hamas members....

But the Israelis don't consider these military raids to be violence. They

consider that doing what Yasser Arafat should have been doing, by their

rights, which is arresting these people and rounding them up."

The unequal treatment of Israeli and Palestinian deaths is a long-standing

pattern at NPR; a FAIR study of six months of the network's coverage

(Extra!, 11-12/01) found that 81 percent of Israeli conflict-related deaths

were reported, but only 34 percent of Palestinian deaths. Strikingly, NPR

was even less likely to report the deaths of Palestinian minors killed; only

20 percent of these deaths were reported, as compared to 89 percent of

Israeli minors' deaths. While NPR was more likely to cover Israeli civilian

deaths than those of Israeli security personnel (84 percent vs. 69 percent),

the reverse was true with Palestinians (20 percent vs. 72 percent).

Of course, NPR is not the only outlet that has misreported the

Israeli/Palestinian conflict by downplaying violence against Palestinians.

When a battle in Israeli-occupied Gaza recently left four Israeli soldiers

and two Hamas guerrillas dead, the New York Times described the story on its

front page (1/10/02): "Palestinian gunmen in Gaza put an end to a lull in

the violence, ambushing and killing four Israeli soldiers before being shot

dead." The fact that the story inside acknowledges that "at least 20

Palestinians have died violently" in recent weeks only underscores how some

violence doesn't seem to register with mainstream U.S. media.

ACTION: Please contact the NPR's ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin to ask for an end

to NPR's double standard in reporting on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,

and for equal treatment of all victims of violence, regardless of ethnicity

or nationality.


Jeffrey Dvorkin

NPR Ombudsman

As always, please remember that your comments are taken more seriously if

you maintain a polite tone. Please cc with your


To read Abunimah's letter to NPR, see:


Feel free to respond to FAIR ( ). We can't reply to

everything, but we will look at each message. We especially appreciate

documented example of media bias or censorship. And please send copies of

your email correspondence with media outlets, including any responses, to us

at: .

FAIR ON THE AIR: FAIR's founder Jeff Cohen is a regular panelist on the Fox

News Channel's "Fox News Watch," which airs which airs Saturdays at 6:30 pm

and Sundays at 11 pm (Eastern Standard Time). Check your local listings.

FAIR produces CounterSpin, a weekly radio show heard on over 130 stations in

the U.S. and Canada. To find the CounterSpin station nearest you, visit .

Please support FAIR by subscribing to our bimonthly magazine, Extra!

For more information, go to: . Or call 1-800-847-3993.

FAIR's INTERNSHIP PROGRAM: FAIR accepts internship applications for its New

York office on a rolling basis. For more information, see:

You can subscribe to FAIR-L at our web site: , or by

sending a "subscribe FAIR-L enter your full name" command to

LISTSERV@LISTSERV.AMERICAN.EDU . Our subscriber list is kept confidential.

You may leave the list at any time-- just send a message with "SIGNOFF



(212) 633-6700


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