Public Radio Days
05/09/03
Associate Editor
Photo Galleria: 
National Public Radio has no trouble seeing right and wrong in dozens of other issues, but when it comes to Israel, NPR gave both Palestinian and Israeli historians ìan opportunity to explain how they see it differently.î For its series last fall on ìMorning Edition,î ìThe Mideast: A Century of Conflict,î researched and reported by veteran NPR News correspondent Mike Shuster, that approach earned the Lowell Thomas Award from the Overseas Press Club. That tack may have its virtues. Yet it is hard to imagine Edward Murrow in the 1940s saying that the Germans just see things differently and giving the Nazis a chance to explain the grievances that justified their attacks on Poland and London. In this NPR series, only the Palestinians are described as ìindigenous.î There are no pogroms against Jews but ìviolence broke out between the two communities almost from the start.î There are Jewish ìfanaticsî against peace but no Palestinian fanatics. Public radio can be more delightful. On ìPrairie Home Companionî (April 13), broadcast on WNYC Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, Garrison Keillor ó right after his Lake Wobegon monologue ó had a quartet, the Gypsy Violinists, launch into ìYerushalayim Shel Zahavî (Jerusalem of Gold) and a rousing ìHavenu Shalom Aleichemî that had the Minnesota audience clapping enthusiastically. In 2003, with anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism rising, what public radio and ìPrairie Home Companionî did here is no small thing. The most damning admission to come out of the leftist media in the wake of the Iraq war was an op-ed in The New York Times (April 11) by Eason Jordan, chief news executive at CNN, who admits that he made more than 13 trips to Baghdad over a dozen years ìto lobby the government to keep CNNís Baghdad bureau open.î ìEach time I visited,î he said, ìI became more distressed by what I saw and heard ó awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff.î He knew of Naziesque tortures, terrors and executions but did not report it for the sake of keeping a news bureau open that couldnít tell the news. Eason, of course, did not discuss the obscenely gentle reports from Baghdad that did get on the air. ìObviously,î writes Eason, ìother news organizations were in the same bind,î but that is simply not true. Fox News did not have a bureau in Baghdad and ended up telling more of the story, and with much higher ratings than CNN. Of course, with Easonís outrageous confession in hand, we can resume wondering what CNN is not reporting, or reporting falsely, from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, where CNN so highly values its access as well. Many media commentators were upset that Fox News placed an American flag in the corner of its screen. Less was heard about what happened in so-called enlightened Jordan, where 100 journalists recently burned American and Israeli flags. Also on the cable TV front, Al Jazeera, the all-news station that has been favored by Osama bin-Laden, a station reviled for its anti-Semitic and anti-Western prejudice, is now being carried on cable systems in Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Ithaca, N.Y., and other American cities. Al Jazeera refers to Palestinian suicide bombers as ìmartyrsî and Americans as the ìenemy.î Yet it is being aired on American TV now with less protest than accompanied Dr. Lauraís TV show that so offended gays and leftists. A.M. Rosenthal in the Daily News (May 2) is the latest of dozens of conservative, pro-Likud columnists blasting the ìroad mapî peace plan as not only dangerous but dooming Israelís very existence. They make compelling arguments. They portray the road map as another poorly conceived, morally equivalent, unlikely to be policed, Oslo-style Trojan horse, with a clock that ticks only for Israel and a risk that is Israelís alone. But one thing remains curious: Columnists such as Rosenthal have been enthusiastic supporters of both President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon. There would not even be a road map if Bush and Sharon didnít agree to its parameters. If the road map is a disaster, then what does that make Bush and Sharon? Yet Rosenthal and conservative columnists can write entire columns damning the road map without once mentioning Bush and Sharonís names, let alone their responsibility. Youíd think the road map was Bill Clintonís fault, or Ehud Barakís. By contrast, Michael Freund in the Jerusalem Post (April 16) writes that after all the bluster of Israeli tough talk, ìSharonís promises to rid the country of terror have dissolved into a readiness to reward it. The perpetrators of violence, it appears, are to receive a state, while its victims will be asked to pay the price.î Israel brags about what a kindly army it has, but that is only good when youíre winning. If youíre embarrassed to do what has to be done to win this war, then Israel wonít win. Freund quotes Adlai Stevensonís line: ìItís hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.î Letís face it, this road map is a cosmetic for Israelís surrender, writes Israel Harel in Haaretz (May 4). ìIf political gains are, by definition, the main fruit of victory in the battlefield,î the Palestinians won the war. As much as the latest attack in Tel Aviv raises the question of the Palestinian willingness to stop terror, it is also proof, writes Harel, that Israelís military canít stop the terror either. Harel says the isolated Arafat enjoys ìimmunity like no other leader of mass terror.î He ìlost the battle but won the war.î James Tarantoís column in the on-line Wall Street Journal (April 11) noted that Fatahís top West Bank operative was down in the dumps wondering how Saddamís regime collapsed in less a month while the Palestinians have been fighting Israel for more than two years. Taranto writes, ìOf course, if the massive Israeli war machine set out to dismantle the Palestinian regime the way the coalition has done in Iraq, it could do so in no time. It is only because of Israeli restraint that [this Palestinian] is available for comment.î Taranto (April 28) also wonders what happened to ìall those anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about the motives behind the liberation of Iraq,î such as the common leftist charge that Israel would use the chaos in Iraq as a pretext for driving the Palestinians out of the West Bank. Instead, writes Taranto, Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem treated an Iraqi child with severe burns. Arieh Eldad, a member of the Knesset and a physician, helped make the connection between the hospital and the U.S. military. Taranto says Eldad, incidentally, is a member of the National Union, a party to the right of Ariel Sharonís Likud. What will those right-wingers think of next? n

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