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NPR report on West Bank expulsion order turns horror into a she-said/she-said debating point

Israel/Palestine
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Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and NPR have at last reported on the month-old Israeli "military order" that allows the IDF to deport any Palestinian inhabitant of the West Bank it defines as an "infiltrator," simply for lacking the paperwork that the Israeli government itself refuses to issue.  Garcia-Navarro details the suffering of the Palestinian people more fully than any recent NPR reporter, but her "report" perfectly embodies the failure of "she said–she said journalism,” in which oppression becomes merely a matter of perspective.

Garcia-Navarro does document the horrific fear that Israeli government policies inflict on one woman and her family.  We hear the anguish in Palestinian Umm Qusay’s voice beneath the translation; and the broadcast closes with a line deleted from the online article: "Qusay says the wider implications don’t matter to her.  After waiting ten years to join her husband and children, she just wants to stay here." 

But Garcia-Navarro allows an Israeli military spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, to assure us that, "The amendments to this law actually help the Palestininans or the other illegal residents that are here."  We hear Leibovich declare in sunny tones that, "There is a committee of judges which is reviewing the material and deciding whether to begin with the process of repatriation or not" [Leibovich’s emphasis].  Garcia-Navarro does not challenge the fairness of Israeli judges, let alone that of military courts, to Palestinian plaintiffs or defendants.

The "wider" ramifications may not matter to Qusay in her desperation to care for her children, but they determine whether listeners are informed or given only the false equivalence of those cliched "competing narratives."  Even Garcia-Navarro’s description of Qusay’s husband as merely a "resident"—not a native –of the West Bank minimizes how Israel wrongs the family. 

Where is the research that would sort out rival claims, the obligation of a journalist to check facts?  Four whole weeks have dragged on between what Garcia-Navarro calls the "new Israeli army order" and today’s story –plenty of time for investigation.  Lourdes Garcia-Navarro should read the Geneva Conventions, the Oslo Accords, and other agreements to verify that, "the new military order contravenes international law and previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians."  She could ascertain roughly how many people are marooned in hiding.   She might look into the harm to "civil society."  Instead, she leaves all questions open.

In sum, nowhere does Garcia-Navarro grapple with the terrible inhumanity of a regime that has kept other people stateless for 60 years, depriving them not just of civil but human rights.  A military occupation that arbitrarily defines the legitimate owners of a land as "infiltrators" is unspeakable. Why is "our" U.S. government paying for the illegal expulsions? 

To do Garcia-Navarro justice, the on-air report gives details curiously absent from the transcript, but holes nevertheless remain. NPR’s transcript changes many terms and the order of the actual Garcia-Navarro report that aired this morning.

I’ve included below choice bits of the broadcast that were not included in the online article.  Why were they removed? Their absence smoothes over the ugly facts of the original broadcast.  I guess we should also ask Lourdes Garcia-Navarro about the alterations.

["After ten years of being separated, I came back to my husband’s home town, and now we are again in a difficult situation. Where do I go from here?"]

She’s not alone. Many ["tens of thousands of people in the West bank have gone into hiding afraid to leave their homes, afraid to leave their areas of residence, for fear of being arrested at a checkpoint and deported and put into prison for seven years…"] 

[[Conclusion not on air:] About 365,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, alongside 2.5 million Palestinians. Another 1.6 million Palestinians live in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Susie Kneedler
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