[News] Palestine: NPR hides an atrocity but highlights the reaction

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Wed Jan 5 11:41:49 EST 2005

The Electronic Intifada - 4 January 2005

Letters to the Media:

NPR hides an atrocity but highlights the reaction

Dear National Public Radio,

NPR's Morning Edition today featured a report by Peter Kenyon about the
upcoming election for Palestinian Authority president in the occupied West
Bank and Gaza Strip. Kenyon's report was informative but did little to
challenge the dull conventional wisdom that Palestinian reform rather than
an end to Israel's military tyranny is the key to peace, and failed to
address in any detail the substantial obstacles Israel, the Palestinian
Authority and the international peace process industry have placed in the
way of genuinely free and fair elections. Nor did NPR pay attention to the
reality that the majority of Palestinians, who live in forced exile, have
been denied the opportunity to vote or to return home and participate, while
Afghan refugees were allowed to vote outside their country, and Iraqi exiles
are also scheduled to vote if their country's elections are held. Why does
no one involved in the peace process industry want Palestinian refugees to
have a say in their own future? Hmmm....

Most disturbing, however, was Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep's lead-in
to Kenyon's report. Inskeep introduced the report thus:

"Sunday's election for Palestinian president could provide clues to the
future of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The frontrunner is Mahmoud Abbas. He's
seen in the west as a potential partner for peace talks. He's calling for
demilitarizing the struggle against Israeli occupation and he criticized
some violence just today, but also today Abbas described Israel as the
"Zionist enemy." He has to appeal to Palestinian voters, many of whom
recently supported the Islamist Hamas in municipal elections."

This intro highlighted the phrase "Zionist enemy," and suggested that it was
a deliberate appeal to Palestinian extremism. But Inskeep did not mention
the shocking context in which Abbas used this, for him, uncharacteristic
language. What Abbas actually said, at a campaign appearance was, "We came
to you today, while we are praying for the souls of the martyrs who were
killed today by the shells of the Zionist enemy in Beit Lahiya."

The "martyrs" he was referring to were seven Palestinian children, the
youngest of them aged 10, murdered by Israeli occupation forces in the
northern Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) in Gaza
reported today:

"According to preliminary investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately
07:45 on Tuesday, 4 January 2005, [Israeli Occupation Forces] positioned in
military posts between "Elli Sinai" and "Nissanit" settlements to the north
of Beit Lahia fired a tank shell at Palestinian agricultural areas located
to the south of the fence separating the two settlements and Beit Lahia.
The shell directly hit a number of Palestinian children who were farming
their land.  Seven children, including 2 brothers, were killed."

PCHR gave the names and ages of the dead as follows:

Their names are: Hani Mohammed Kamel Ghaben, 17; Mohammed Hassan Mousa
Ghaben, 17; Rajeh Ghassan Kamel Ghaben, 10; Jaber 'Abdullah Ghaben,
16; Bassam Kamel Mohammed Ghaben, 17; Mahmoud Kamel Mohammed Ghaben, 12; and
Jibril 'Abdul Fattah al-Kaseeh, 16.

In addition, PCHR reported that two more children, aged 15 and 17, and a 41
year-old male were injured in the attack. Israel, as usual, justified the
massacre as self-defense and claimed it was firing at a "rocket-launching
terror cell" and that the dead and injured were members of Hamas.

NPR often uses lead-ins to reports which have been filed earlier to provide
updated information. But Inskeep made absolutely no mention of this
atrocity, and NPR apparently decided that Abbas' comment rather than the
killing of seven children was the "news."

Once again we are faced with the question: if seven Jewish children had been
murdered in cold blood in this way would NPR have simply ignored it? Would
it have reported that Israelis chanted "Death to the Arabs" (as they often
do), without mentioning a minor detail like the killing of seven children?

  From many long years of experience, we know the answer. Consistently, year
after year, we have documented that NPR is able to ignore the daily deaths
of Palestinians, while carefully reporting on much rarer Palestinian
violence against Israel. It is amazing that after years and years, NPR
continues to willfully devalue Palestinian lives with such bias. Is the fear
of being labeled pro-Palestinian now so great at NPR that it has lost all
integrity and perspective?

Ali Abunimah

Related Links:

Ali Abunimah's Letters to NPR archive

National Public Radio's Middle East coverage archive

The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 863-9977
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