National Public Radio’s (NPR) Pro-Israeli Bias

by Stephen Lendman / April 29th, 2010

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

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

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

“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.

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, 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

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

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

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. Contact him at: Also visit his blog site
and listen to The Global Research News Hour on
Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with
distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.

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