Letter to National Public Radio
by Michael Levin, Ph.D

Written in response to a Q&A; session between host Liane Hansen and reporter Jennifer Ludden, on Weekend Edition (Sunday, April 15, 2020).

Dear Sir/Madam,

While I am a regular listener to NPR (and as a musician I have performed in fundraisers for Chicago's WBEZ), I was not able to hear today's Q&A; between host Liane Hansen and reporter Jennifer Ludden, on Weekend Edition Sunday, about Israeli-Palestinian violence.  If Ali Abunimah's characterization of that interchange is correct (and I find him to be unusually perceptive and accurate in his accounts), then I too must protest NPR's shocking distortions of the nature and the context of the violence in the Middle East.  In general, as an American Jew who believes that the media coverage of explications by Palestinian-Americans of political problems in the Middle East usually falls far short of the coverage of explications by people sympathetic to Israeli government positions, I expect more from NPR.

Specifically, in this case I join Ali Abunimah in his challenge: "I challenge someone at NPR to have the courage to come forward and explain what I just heard, if she or he can." And, I remind NPR that there are many insightful Americans—including Ali Abunimah, Edward Said, and Noam Chomsky—whose lack of significant presence in NPR's explication of Middle East events suggests a serious omission in NPR's coverage and analysis of the those events.

Michael Levin, Ph.D.

According to Ali Abunimah:

"Recounting the violence of the past 24 hours, Hansen listed the following events in this order:

It is absolutely outrageous that there was no mention of a major assault by the Israeli army on Rafah refugee camp in occupied Gaza Strip on Saturday April 14, which injured at least 35 Palestinians, some seriously, and terrorized thousands of others.  Another 15 houses were destroyed in the Israeli attack.

According to the Associated Press at least another 40 Palestinians were injured today, Sunday, by Israeli gunfire by live and rubber-coated metal bullets.  Again none of this made it into NPR's summary of the "violence."

The fact that NPR made no mention of this shows once again that a lightly injured Israeli is considered far more newsworthy than dozens of Palestinians.  The lightly injured Israeli was also mentioned in the 9 AM news bulletin, with no mention of a single injured Palestinian.  To add insult to injury, Hansen stated that "this weekend's violence is relatively mild."

Well, this is how Reuters reported Saturday's attack on Rafah:

"Flexing its military muscle, Israel sent two bulldozers—backed up by three tanks—100 meters into Palestinian-controlled territory in Gaza to demolish buildings which the army said gunmen used as cover to attack its soldiers.  The operation in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip was the second incursion in less than a week into an area Israel handed over to full Palestinian control under interim peace deals.  Heavy fighting ensued and the director of the local hospital said at least 35 Palestinians were wounded, including a 16-year-old youth whose leg was blown off by a tank shell.  No Israeli casualties were reported.  A headquarters of Palestinian military intelligence and 15 houses were destroyed, witnesses said." ("Israel Flexes Muscles in Lebanon, Gaza" Saturday April 14)

Furthermore, Hansen's description of the killing of the Israeli soldier as having taken place in "northern Israel" is wrong.  The Hizbullah attack took place in the Chabaa farms area on the border.  Lebanon maintains that this area is part of Lebanon, while Israel maintains that it is part of the territory it occupied from Syria in 1967.  So by no account can it be described as "northern Israel."

The rest of Hansen and Ludden's conversation was organized around Hansen's questions about whether the Palestinians are doing enough to "stop the attacks." The fact that NPR reported selectively on the violence, carefully censoring out all the reports of the serious violence against Palestinians, supports the Israeli propaganda that Israel is the principal victim.  It is only in this distorted context that Hansen could obsess about whether Palestinians are doing enough to "stop the attacks."

I cannot understand if this appalling reporting is a result of impenetrable ignorance, malice, sloppiness or latent racism which views non-white Palestinian lives as inherently worthless.  Certainly it is not the first time NPR just ignores violence against Palestinians while assiduously reporting on violence affecting Israelis.  While today you reported twice within a few minutes on one lightly injured Israeli, Morning Edition on Friday made no mention at all of a 14-year old Palestinian boy and a 34-year old farmer both shot dead by the Israeli army, of a 7-year old schoolgirl shot in the face in her school, and of a car bomb placed by Israel in the center of Ramallah which had it not been successfully foiled by the Palestinian Authority might have killed or injured dozens.

Whatever the reason there is no possible or plausible excuse for it.  You should examine your reporting and your consciences.

I challenge someone at NPR to have the courage to come forward and explain what I just heard, if she or he can."