Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2002 / 30 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Mona Charen

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National Biased Radio |
Two moments stand out for me from a lifetime of listening to taxpayer-funded National Public Radio.

The first was a commentary by Daniel Schorr one day before the 1990 elections in Nicaragua. Schorr was certain that the Sandinistas were on the cusp of a historic victory that would crush, once and for all, the arguments of the Reagan and Bush administrations about that tyrannical communist regime. In the event, of course, Violetta Chamorro won a resounding victory.

The other NPR moment also stands out. I was driving home from the White House (where I worked for the Reagan administration), listening to a story about the Yalta Conference. The year was 1985, and NPR was commemorating the 40th anniversary of the conference. After some scene-setting, the host interviewed various historians and others with light to shed on the event. One of those was Alger Hiss, the convicted perjurer and notorious communist spy, whose trial was the O.J. phenomenon of the 1950s. How did NPR identify him? "Alger Hiss was a State Department official who was present at the conference." I nearly drove off the road.

But let's not dwell on memories. NPR continues to serve as a reliable voice of the left, and in no area is this more glaring than in coverage of the Middle East. How so many American Jews can fail to notice that liberal equals anti-Israel these days remains a mystery.

A watchdog group called Camera ( has kept tabs on NPR. Here are some examples from the recent past:

On July 27, 2001, two stories from the Middle East bid for attention. The first concerned the funeral of Saleh Darwazeh, a Hamas leader responsible for the deaths of numerous innocent Israeli civilians. He had been killed by the Israelis. The second was the death of a 17-year-old Ronen Landau, an Israeli who was shot to death by Palestinian gunmen in front of his father and brother. A few minutes before the murder of Landau, the Palestinians had shot up an Israeli playground full of children.

In an 1,141 word story, NPR devoted just 26 words to Landau, and here is how reporter Linda Gradstein put it: "Israeli tanks shelled Palestinian security posts in the West Bank early today after Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli teen-ager at the entrance to a Jewish settlement." The rest of the story, 1,115 words, were devoted to Darwazeh.

Grandstein quoted Hassan Ayoub, a "Palestinian activist" from Nablus, who described the killing of Darwazeh as an "act of aggression that produces more anger and more demands to take revenge for the people who have been killed by Israeli forces." Gradstein also interviewed Mahmoud Aloul, the governor of Nablus, who told NPR's audience, "They are killing our children every day, so we have no choice but to resist and to struggle."

Ironic. Darwazeh was not a child. But Ronen Landau, whose death NPR did not even deign to dignify by mentioning his name, was.

Camera finds that only Arabs, never Israelis, are labeled as "moderates" by NPR. (This is reminiscent of the CNN tendency to label Yasser Arafat a "moderate," which is appalling -- but then again, probably true, considering the Arab spectrum.) Israelis, by contrast, often carry the label "hard-liner," though members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad never do.

Between March 27 and April 10, a period that included the Passover Massacre of 29 people in Netanya, the restaurant attack in Haifa that killed 14 and countless other attacks on civilians, including children in strollers, NPR presented the views, complaints and accusations of 62 Palestinians and only 32 Israelis. And some of the Israelis heard from were radical leftists sympathetic to the Palestinian side.

(Has NPR never reflected on the fact that while there are many Israelis who will criticize their country and some -- NPR is adept at finding these -- who even take the Palestinian side, there is not a single Arab who ever expresses support or sympathy for Israel?)

During that harrowing time, NPR did not air a single story identifying the Israeli terror victims by name or interviewing their bereaved relatives.

NPR doesn't receive a huge amount of federal money, but the amount is irrelevant. Nor is it the principle that the government should not do what private entities are perfectly capable of accomplishing. Running radio networks is certainly one of those things. No, what is most obnoxious is that American taxpayers are being forced to subsidize a network that is highly political, tendentious, consistently leftist and quite influential.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate