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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

June 05, 2003

Straightening out NPR

Because of its consistent distortions, NPR (National "Palestinian" Radio?) has been the target for corrective action. I have corresponded on this topic with Diana Muir whose recent e-mail to me is reporoduced below with permission.

I have been very active in bringing pressure on National Public Radio, a better target then the[New York] Times because NPR's coverage is far more biased than the Times, and it is far more dependent upon Jewish support.

Here we have made some progress, but we need help in several areas.

The first is to have more communities participate in our No-Pledge campaign. This involves answering NPR's on-air fund appeals by mailing in No-Pledge slips http://home.attbi.com/~jat.action/nopledge.htm#forms . Our web site www.JAT-action.org has more info on NPR.

We will soon post the rather extensive newspaper coverage of our May 14 demonstrations held outside 35 NPR affiliate stations from Seattle to Miami - this will be up on the site in late June.

The most important aspect of the campaign is to encourage activists in other cities to meet with businessmen who are supporters of Israel and NPR underwriters and encourage them to withdraw their sponsorship from NPR affiliate stations until NPR begins to cover Israel in a fair and unbiased manner. In Boston, such major underwriters as Brandeis University and Cognex Corp have stopped funding WBUR. Robert Shillman, chief executive officer of the Natick-based Cognex Corporation, said he has also ended support for the station, because of what he calls "a profoundly pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli bias" on NPR and WBUR. Ten other major businesses have stopped underwriting WBUR, some are willing to have their names publicized, others are not. All, however, are in touch with us and all have met with the station management which knows why the contributions are being withdrawn.

Wordsworth books, owned by Hillel Stavis who is the leader fo the movement to defund NPR as a way of getting the network to cover Israel fairly, was the first business to withdraw its underwriting. The bookstore was picketed earlier this year by supporters of the Palestinian cause. This was truly outrageous. After all, Wordsworth continues to sell Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, and company. The picketers complaint was that a businessman had decided not to make a charitable contribution to a radio station!

WBUR acknowledges having lost over $1 million in annual support from former donors who are upset over biased coverage fo teh Middle East. We have reason to believe that the actual figure is closer to $2 million out of a $20 million annual budget. We believe that if other cities would make similar efforts, NPR would be forced to take a serious look at its coverage.

Nearly every major Jewish organization, The ADL, the Council of Presidents, and JCRC's from across the nation, have met with NPR to express concern with the biased nature of its coverage. NPR has responded by hiring a Public Relations firm and by hoping that if they ignore the criticisms of their coverage, we critics will disappear. On March 15 I appeared on WGBH television news in Boston. I was invited to debate a representative of WBUR. WBUR, however, refused to send anyone to debate me. NPR is now refusing to send a speaker to any forum at which they will have to share the podium with a critic of their Middle East coverage.

NPR spokeswoman Jessica Sarmiento and ombudsman, Jeffrey Dworkin, have answered charges that NPR's Middle East coverage is biased by lying to reporters. Dworkin and Sarmiento have repeatedly claimed that Bonnie Lipton, President of Hadassah, has "gone on record in support of NPR's Middle East coverage."

Lipton denies having made any statement "in support" of NPR's Middle East coverage: http://home.attbi.com/~jat.action/NPR_Lies.htm.

It's interesting and important fight.
Diana's e-mail is encouraging in the sense that it points to an action-oriented initiative that may well yield fruit in the long run, if pursued consistently. The e-mail also indicates a problem which I have highlighted numerous times: pro-Israel advocacy is fragmented into a zillion initiatives with no hand co-ordinating or even providing a central list of links to the various actions. I consider this a problem on many levels, the least being the fact that without central co-ordination, people involved in supporting The Cause are deprived of information. More serious is the fact that without such a central hand the effort may be spread too thinly over too many fronts, or may be duplicated unnecessarily, resulting in inefficiency and squandering of resources. This is no way to wage a war.

I would appreciate readers' comments on the last point in particular.