All Things Considered coverage of the Annapolis meeting reinitiating Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks was a big disappointment. Ordinarily, such an event would prompt ATC to present a solid half hour of coverage, including providing listeners with the historical and factual background needed to understand and interpret the event.
We got the half hour. But in this case, little to no contextual information was provided. Instead ATC editors chose to give us a cute feature (apparently the parking situation today in Annapolis was essential news!) and a story about Syria’s attendance–a side aspect of the event that told us nothing new. Even the on-line "time-line" was disappointing. Not only does it commence abruptly in the year 2000, it also assumes "final status" would require "evacuation" of only "some Jewish settlements" located on Palestinian land. Nowhere is it stated that all West Bank Settlements are illegal.
What possible explanation is there for this uncharacteristic lapse in what is a hallmark of ATC’s reporting on world events?
Sad to say, the most likely explanation is fear–plain, simple fear.
If ATC had provided the appropriate factual background it would have become clear that the Palestinians have legal rights that are being denied in violation of international law; it would have become clear that Israel has already stolen most West Bank water; it would have become clear that Israel regularly imposes collective punishment on the Palestinian People. In short, it would have become clear that Israel has its boot on the neck of the Palestinians in repeated and longstanding violation of UN resolutions and that these peace negotiations are not taking place on a level playing field.
Had ATC done its usual world event report, Israel would have looked bad. Americans would have learned that Israel is not an embattled democracy fighting for survival but an aggressive colonial force intent on imposing its will on its neighbors. This in turn would have translated into a barrage of calls, letters and e-mails from the American Zionist Network berating ATC and NPR for "anti-Israel bias" and "anti-Semitism". Some large donors might have threatened to pull bequests.
So, fear–translated into self-censorship – is the most logical explanation for today’s poor coverage.
To its credit, ATC did want to interview both Olmert and Abbas but neither Abbas, not his prime minister, would talk. So there was time to fill. That time could have been filled with an interview of Palestinian lawmaker and presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti or with any of the seven leaders whose reactions were published by the BBC. Instead the editors chose to give us a story on parking in Annapolis. If appropriate background had been intended the lack of one interview would not have deterred presenting it.
There was likely an additional dilemma. Had ATC editors wanted a backgrounder they would have had to choose between Linda Gradstein–who reliably parrots the Israeli Government’s spin on events–and Eric Westerveld – one of the few NPR reporters brave enough to report accurately on Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Perhaps the editors thought it best to avoid that particular situation.
There is no doubt that the Zionist Network is a powerful force. Having been a recipient of a bit of that force I do not wish to see any journalist or news network become its target. But there is the problem of that middle word in the NPR name–the word PUBLIC. As the #1 PUBLIC radio network in the US, NPR has a duty to stand up to intimidation in order to inform the American People about issues critical to their interests and security. NPR has the mantle so it ought to accept the responsibility. ATC’s failure to stand up in the face of intimidation and what amounts to blackmail is a dark stain on its reputation and on American Journalism in general.
When will the good journalists at NPR say no to Zionist intimidation and the resulting self-censorship?
FELICE PACE lives in Klamath, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org