NPR’s ‘National Conversation’ on US-Israel relations — you need not apply

If you want to feel really demoralized about justice in the Middle East, watch this video of a “National Conversation” about the US-Israel relationship hosted by an NPR reporter, Guy Raz, at the Wilson Center in Washington late in January. You will feel that you have no voice in the mainstream, that no one cares about historical injustices, that Islamophobia is alive and well in the establishment, and that holocaust denial—or the denial of ethnic cleansing– is a virtue in Washington.

Six people speak in this national conversation. I believe that five of them are Zionists (as I wrote ahead of time), that five of them are Jewish, and one or two are Israeli, and the most liberal is, hold on to your hat, Jane Harman, head of the Wilson Center, co-owner of the Daily Beast, and tireless supporter of Israel when she was in Congress– Jane Harman who says in introducing the evening, “P.S. From me, we desperately need a two state solution.”

No one here addresses the one state that exists in Israel and Palestine right now. No one speaks of the horrors of occupation and says that the U.S. should stand up for human rights. David Horovitz, the Israeli journalist, repeatedly says that Israelis can’t possibly think about a Palestinian state when there are Arabs who believe they will get eternal salvation by blowing up themselves and killing non-believing Muslims and Christians and Jews: “They actually believe that that is their path to paradise.”

And Obama naively doesn’t understand this: “The sense in Israel has never dissipated that this president doesn’t get it.” Because unlike John McCain who was tortured, Barack Obama doesn’t understand that some people are evil. No, the innocent went to Cairo first and showed that his heart was not with civilization but the barbarians. 

All that he says without contradiction or demurral. Till Theodore Kattouf, a former diplomat, stands up in the Q-and-A and says that Netanyahu humiliated Obama.

Natan Sachs, who is at the Saban Center and seems to be Israeli, echoes Horovitz. He says that the status quo in the West Bank is not so bad, and the U.S. is guilty of naive solutionism when the situation does not lend itself to a solution. And the man who advised several presidents, Aaron David Miller, while holding out hope for hope about the two-state solution but nothing more, says Israel has a “dark past” and “is living in a dangerous neighborhood on a knife’s edge.” Like a bejeweled scimitar held to its throat.

Sam Lewis chuckles off-mike that if Dan Kurtzer were here – a liberal Zionist—he would be very dismayed by the dialogue.

What is the awareness here of the Palestinian experience of humiliation and the rest of the world’s perception of the injustice? Zero. The matter is considered only from the Israeli perspective. Horovitz describes Mahmoud Abbas’s statement to the U.N. that Israel was born with ethnic cleansing as hostile and absurd, and describes the right to return as “ridiculous” because it would “destroy” the Jewish democracy. Miller allows that this democracy is a “preferential” one because Palestinians are discriminated against. Yes and if that were going on here, American Jews would rise up in arms and denounce the euphemism “preferential” as galling and odious.

Is this right? If you believe that Palestinians have human rights, do you feel represented in this National Conversation? Those who believe that the special relationship is not in the interests of the U.S., do you feel represented? Should an NPR host be a party to this imbalanced marginalization? Should he maybe correct Horovitz when he dismisses ethnic cleansing and the right of return as fantasy? Should he ask how Jews would feel about preferential democracy? Raz goes with the flow.

When I watched this, I understood why people turn to violence, why violence changes a discourse. And I understood why the radicalism of a non-violent movement like BDS is also necessary. Because elites left to their own devices are going to tell lies to comfort themselves about the goodness of the status quo.

PS. The Forward has a piece this week on Israel’s harsh measures in the West Bank:
“Is ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ a Prelude to Annexation of Arab Land?” Even the Forward can talk about an Israeli policy of getting as much land as it can with as few Palestinians as possible on it; but Guy Raz does not dare to contradict an Israeli rightwinger in a National Conversation.

Update: This post originally stated that all the participants in the panel are Jewish. I am told I was wrong, that Sam Lewis is not. Apologies.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 39 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. pabelmont says:

    “Naive solutionism.” Great phrase! I had an uncle who infuriated me (and my Palestinian wife) when he said to us, relative to I/P, “If there is no solution, then there is no problem”. After I left the phone booth (well, actually, the Faculty Club) I wished I’d said, “And since there was no solution to the Holocaust, there was no problem? — And, BTW, Israel is not that solution.”

    “Not even naively.”

    Feh!

    Speaking of non-solutions, ask anyone who’ll stand still long enough, why the USA and EU and UNSC should not insist — backed up by sanctions — that Israel comply with international law to the extent of removing all the settlers, the wall, the settlements buildings, and end the siege. A solution? What was the problem?

    To peace? No. To the illegal occupation? A partial solution, yes.

    And what’s so wrong with solving part of the problem? Do our police enforce the laws against joint-smoking and petit-robbery as well as those against murder?

  2. a blah chick says:

    “Natan Sachs….says that the status quo in the West Bank is not so bad…”

    The status quo is the BEST deal Israel can hope for. Right now they can take all the water, land and resources they want and they can shoot in the head, with impunity, anyone who gets in their way. They will never sit down and negotiate away any of that, unless forced to.

    Also don’t forget that in the settlers we are dealing with a very dangerous group of people. Mr. Sara knows that if he tries to settle with the Palestinians he will end up just like Rabin. Not that he wants to anyway.

  3. Marco says:

    Guy Raz is a committed Zionist. Somehow he’s able to juggle being a professional journalist with NPR while at the same time openly advocating that media coverage be skewed to be more pro-Israel.

    Raz gave a talk at Yale in 2006:

    “National Public Radio correspondent Guy Raz argued that the media’s preoccupation with the Palestine-Israel conflict contributes to anti-Semitism in a talk on Thursday.

    Raz, who has worked as a reporter for CNN in Jerusalem and as a correspondent in several other countries, spoke on “Covering Anti-Semitism: From Nazi Germany to the Modern Middle East, A Reporter’s Notebook” at the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies. The central topics Raz discussed were how and why the media has discounted anti-Semitism in its coverage, and how this problem can be ameliorated…

    Raz connected his argument to the modern world by explaining that things such as “time constraints and editorial disinterest” often make it hard, even for Jewish journalists like himself, to portray the depth of anti-Semitism that they have found, especially in the Middle East.

    He also said that very few journalists who covered the Palestine-Israel conflict are well-informed, which contributes to the spread of misleading information. Many editors or reporters have also been biased because of previous professional experience, he said.

    Raz said there are close to 600 or 700 correspondents in Israel, more than anywhere else in the world. The best thing that could be done to abate anti-Semitism in the media is to bring more coverage to other areas around the world like Darfur, which also has a vast number of casualties and is close to ignored by the media, he said.”

    link to yaledailynews.com

    Got that? The media shouldn’t cover Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, illegal settlements, and apartheid too much. Otherwise the ignorant masses will become anti-Semitic. Go ahead and report on atrocities in, I don’t know, in Africa or something.

    Guy Raz is a exquisite specimen of what passes for American journalism. He shows that NPR and the mainstream media in general is a scam.

    At Yale Raz can tell the elites what goals drive his and his colleagues reporting but to the average listener who flips on the radio or television, how are they supposed to know that they’re being indoctrinated and on whose behalf? Especially when the propaganda is emanating from both supposed sides of the political spectrum?

    • marc b. says:

      Raz, who has worked as a reporter for CNN in Jerusalem and as a correspondent in several other countries, spoke on “Covering Anti-Semitism: From Nazi Germany to the Modern Middle East, A Reporter’s Notebook” at the Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies. The central topics Raz discussed were how and why the media has discounted anti-Semitism in its coverage, and how this problem can be ameliorated…

      Raz connected his argument to the modern world by explaining that things such as “time constraints and editorial disinterest” often make it hard, even for Jewish journalists like himself, to portray the depth of anti-Semitism that they have found, especially in the Middle East.

      He also said that very few journalists who covered the Palestine-Israel conflict are well-informed, which contributes to the spread of misleading information. Many editors or reporters have also been biased because of previous professional experience, he said.

      what a comedian. and logician too. so ‘very few journalists who cover’ I/P are ‘well informed’, yet ‘many editors or reporters are biased on the topic because of previous experience’. biased based on previous experience, where exactly? micronesia? and what of raz’s depth of experience? according to his wiki bio, this 30-something journalist has reported from ‘over 50 countries’. so presumably, based on his standards, he was ‘experienced, and well informed’ about the politics of each of the 50-plus countries he reported from. i must admit i’m impressed.

      “Covering Anti-Semitism: From Nazi Germany to the Modern Middle East, A Reporter’s Notebook”

      lord, how subtle. linking the nazis to the modern ME. did he have a sanger-like overhead with a big red arrow leading from berchtesgaden to gaza?

      • Cliff says:

        In other words, Jewish colonialism = good. All things Arab = Nazis.

        It’s the Sascha Borah Cohen (sp) school of thought.

        And like these Zionist characters, Cohen cannot ridicule himself and Zionism.

    • Does Guy Raz grasp the fact it is Israel’s continuing oppression of the Palestinians, that generates so much ill-will in the Middle East? This oppression undermines American national security interests.

      • seafoid says:

        No. The Arabs are inherently antisemitic and they can’t see that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians for their own good, the selfish b*stards. If it wasn’t good for the Arabs Israel wouldn’t be doing it! Simples. It’s a gift to the world but they are too consumed by irrational hatred to see it , the ingrates.

        • Ecru says:

          I have to object to that categorisation of Arabs as inherently antisemitic. It’s far too limiting. There are life forms orbiting Epsilon Eridani not even aware of humanity and they too are vile antisemites. Because everyone, everywhere is an antisemite. It’s a law of nature – like gravity or unicorns liking virgins, not even up for debate.

        • JennieS says:

          Great comment Ecru. May I stash it in a file for use in future please.

        • Ecru says:

          Help yourself. And thanks for the compliment.

    • Ecru says:

      …Guy Raz argued that the media’s preoccupation with the Palestine-Israel conflict contributes to anti-Semitism…

      Actually it probably does. In much the same way that reportage of Nazi atrocities led to anti-German feeling. Except there weren’t too many ethnic Germans outside Germany defending what Germany got up to, not too many ethnic Germans using every trick in the book to stop the truth coming out.

      The REAL thing contributing to antisemitism (and even with the ADL’s ridiculous European survey it probably IS increasing) is the knowing complicity of manyJews (especially the self styled “Community Leaders” and the Jewish Lobby) in Israeli crimes, and the under-reporting of Jewish voices raised in objection to those crimes.

    • American says:

      Raz is a typical jonrich and hoppie….he’s eaten up with his obsession over anti semitism and blames it for I/P.

      ““As long as anti-Semitism is dismissed, the conflict will continue,” he said. “Anti-Jewish sentiment is an impediment towards democratization.”

      Yep, as usual’….it’s the ‘others’ who are to blame for everything.

      • seafoid says:

        “As long as anti-Semitism is dismissed, the conflict will continue”

        link to ft.com

        “In 1976, Saul Bellow wrote: “No one is at ease in Zion. No one can be. The world crisis is added to the crisis of the state, and both are added to the problems of domestic life.”

        • American says:

          @ seafoid

          Your link….

          “©Luke Waller The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, by Shani Boianjiu, Hogarth, RRP£12.99/$24, 320 pages

          In 1976, Saul Bellow wrote: “No one is at ease in Zion. No one can be. The world crisis is added to the crisis of the state, and both are added to the problems of domestic life.” His words (in To Jerusalem and Back) ring as true as they ever did. What forms this unease takes, and what toll it exacts, have been the subject of some powerful films and books in recent years, most notably David Grossman’s novel To the End of the Land (2010), which searingly depicted the experiences of an Israeli mother whose son is serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

          How to carry on living while brutality is invading the most intimate spaces of one’s being is the central concern of The People of Forever Are Not Afraid, the extraordinary debut novel by Shani Boianjiu, a 25-year-old Israeli.””

          Please do not propagate the sob story of how Israelis ‘suffer’ from anti semitism and their own brutality while carrying on their occupation.
          Anti semitism is not the cause of what Israel does today.
          But what Israel does can cause what the zionist call anti semitism.

        • seafoid says:

          American

          Rachel Abrams wrote the review. She says the book is an anthem to a doomed generation.

          I think I’ll buy it. I would like to understand more about how they think. Before it is all lost !

  4. marc b. says:

    that’s just too funny. what a distinguished, diverse panel! and guy raz, npr berlin bureau chief at 25, stationed there after an exhaustive international search for qualified candidates i’m sure. but, alas, nobody was better qualified than guy at the time. i’m sure he learned quite a bit on the job though, just like ms. rudoren.

  5. W.Jones says:

    Israelis can’t possibly think about a Palestinian state when there are Arabs who believe they will get eternal salvation by killing themselves and Christians and Jews: “They actually believe that that is their path to paradise.”
    If you look at the text passage often cited, it does not mention Christians. As for Jews, it reads like the apocalyptic expectation in oxymoronic “Christian Zionism”. But as with AIPAC’s oxymoronic CZ allies, Muslims are not instructed to do this.

  6. biorabbi says:

    Phil, it looks like the hate Israel/Kreplach Soup crowd also was dealt a body blow with the death of the lovely progressive Hugo Chavez… RIP. I don’t think Maduro has the stuff to extend the revolution. He did blame Chavez cancer on a US/imperialist operation and mentioned the demise of Arafat as a form of proof.

    Hagel and Barak making out. Hugo Chavez gone… what’s next for the anti-Israel crowd? Locusts?

    • chet says:

      Anyone so detested by the simple-minded Bush and the the right-wing crazies (Zio-crazies included) has to be admired – face it – ‘Murikans in their exceptionalism can’t abide someone they so desperately tried and failed to dominate and who so publicly told them to Eat Shit And Die

      • Sumud says:

        ‘Murikans in their exceptionalism can’t abide someone they so desperately tried and failed to dominate and who so publicly told them to Eat Shit And Die

        It’s times like these I wish Mondoweiss had a LIKE button.

    • Ecru says:

      Wow you’re some piece of work to take so much joy at the death of another human being. Of course as a Zionist you no doubt have problems considering any of us “goys” as human right? Souls of donkeys is it?

      Chavez was a bit of a nutter and he made mistakes but he was massively popular with the poor of Venezuela for trying to ease their poverty. But of course ALL that matters to Zionists is not “was he good for humanity” but only “was he good for Israel.” Of course “good for Israel” almost by definition means “bad for humanity.”

      • libra says:

        Ecru: Wow you’re some piece of work to take so much joy at the death of another human being.

        Indeed so. And a bit of a worry given that biorabbi claims to be some sort of medical doctor. Don’t get ill in Little Rock is my only advice.

        • sardelapasti says:

          libra – “given that biorabbi claims to be some sort of medical doctor.”
          Ah, an MD who suggests that Arafat’s death was unremarkable. I’d say the choice is between deepest ignorance or malice, take your pick.

        • Avi_G. says:

          It’s a well documented fact by the World Bank and other international bodies that Hugo Chavez actually brought the middle class back to Venezuela.

          Under his government, he instituted egalitarian policies, free universal healthcare, reduced poverty and unemployment and created a slew of social programs for the better good of the entire nation.

          The West loathed him because his policies improved the lives of the common people and did not prey on the citizenry to serve corporate masters.

          Incidentally, when one examines Cuba’s economic and social policies, and realities, one finds that they are on par with those of Scandinavian countries.

          Fancy that.

        • Thanks Avi for setting the rabbi straight on Chavez. My bet is that the reason he hates him so much has a lot to do with the little love Chavez had for his beloved settler state of Israel.

    • He did blame Chavez cancer on a US/imperialist operation and mentioned the demise of Arafat as a form of proof.

      i thought of arafat’s death immediately, i’m sure it cross many people’s minds. chavez was only 58, he would have stayed in power a long time. it does beat an invasion tho.

    • American says:

      Naw….we deployed the Locusts to Israel. Better call the Christian Zios, they might take this as a end time sign and be heading over there to convert you.

      ”Millions of locusts chow down on Israeli crops”
      You +1′d this publicly. Undo
      The Times of Israel-2

    • sardelapasti says:

      Bio”rabbi” – Arafat’s death certainly is “some form of proof”, as it was due with close to 100% probability to a small number of exogenous agents, i.e. poisoning. Any hematologist, worth his salt or not, will tell you that. A good amount of records and cytology pictures have circulated, confirming it. Whoever did it wanted it to be obvious, too.

      • sardelapasti says:

        Let me complete the message that was cut off.

        Whoever murdered Arafat wanted this to be obvious.
        Just the way the mass murderers, of whom Biorabbi is an accessory, do with their world-threatening nukes.

    • Shingo says:

      Hagel and Barak making out

      Makes you wonder what all the fuss from Elliot Abrams, the ECFI, Bill Krystol, AIPAC and co was all about doesn’t it? But with Israel aid being exempt from sequester, it kinda puts to rest the suggestion that Israel could ever go it alone.

      Hugo Chavez gone

      True, but have you forgotten that the leaders of Brazil, Argentina, and most of Latin America are also pro Palestinian?

    • “mentioned the demise of Arafat as a form of proof.”
      Not that I believe (or not) that Chavez death is suspicious but he and Arafat aren’t the only ones:
      Brazil’s president Lula da Silva died of cancer. Dilma Rousseff, his successor, diagnosed with lymphoma (blood cancer). Cristina Kirchner president of Argentina diagnosed with thyroid cancer. They and Chavez all got cancer around the same time.
      link to forbes.com

      • “Cancer: “Epidemic” Among Anti-US Latin American Leaders?”
        Before his death during many public speeches Hugo Chavez called cases of cancer among presidents throughout Latin America an “epidemic” and a strange and alarming phenomenon. Not only was cancer spreading with non-coincidental regularity at approximately the same time to leaders in Latin America but it was attacking Latin America’s leading left leaning anti-US Imperialists, including Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo, the former President of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. We might also add the mysterious illness of Fidel Castro to the list. Was this possibly a coincidence?
        link to eurasiareview.com

      • “Lula da Silva died of cancer”
        Meant to say contracted (throat) cancer. He’s still alive. Also forgot to add Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo to the list.

  7. piotr says:

    Humans have a capacity to think logically, but also to refuse making certain inferences.

    I remember an illuminating remark about Frankish nobility in Merovingian times. These people treated Bible as absolute truth, and they knew that God created all peoples as equal, descendants of the same couple, Adam and Eve, but they “would never conceive that it also refers to the peasants”. Some things change, some stay the same.

    • Does the Bible say “God created all people as equal”?

      • American says:

        ”Does the Bible say “God created all people as equal”?

        Equal in eyes of God is the explaination. I was stunned once in my younger school days when a Jesuit told me not all people are created equal, nor are all people necessarily born good…..Jesuit teaching allows for scientific explainations of things like criminal brains, such a psycopaths and etc..

  8. Did Jane Harman do anything to stop the growth of the illegal colonies in the West Bank, while she was in Congress?

  9. thetumta says:

    Defund NPR! Let those that own it, fund it. Why should our tax dollars subsidize their propaganda? All the good stuff can pay for itself commercially. It’s sad to say, but who can deny that NPR isn’t Hasbara Central just like the other 5 major commercial media outlets they control. NPR radio in my area features speakers from the Hudson Institute no less, while the local engineering institute carries El-Pacifico(Democracy Now) free and unsubsidized on their own nickel.

    The Zionist Democrat that runs the NPR station says Democracy Now will never be broadcast on public radio in this area and so far he’s right. Imagine why? I’m amazed every morning that I get to hear it. Sort of like East Germany some time ago?

    Hej! Tumta

  10. Citizen says:

    Wanna bet Theodore Kattouf was the only one there who served in a US infantry unit?
    He also worked as a ME analyst for the state department if memory serves.