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‘NPR’s bad geography

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On National Public Radio the other day, reporter Kelly McEvers stated that 100s of 1000s of refugees were headed out of Syria in “every direction,” into all “neighboring countries.” She listed Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and “even Iraq.” (Excerpt below).

Of course she left out the countries to the south and west, Palestine and Israel. Israel shares a border with Syria. The reasons that Israel has closed its doors to Syrian refugees are of course many and complex, from the fact that it would mean welcoming home people whom Israel made into refugees itself decades ago and whose rights it refuses to recognize, to the general attitude toward “Arabs” in Israeli society, to the fact that people in Damascus (when I was there a few years ago) referred to Israel as “the Zionist entity” and “Disneyland”, i.e., not a real place. 

Whatever the reasons, it is a failure of charity on the part of a neighbor that has never gained acceptance in its neighborhood. NPR shouldn’t be papering over the absence of kindness by misrepresenting geography.

SCOTT SIMON: Kelly McEvers, you were talking about the human cost in casualties. What about the refugee situation inside and just outside of Syria?

MCEVERS: The numbers are pretty staggering, Scott. I mean, we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing their country, going every direction into Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and even Iraq, which isn’t totally equipped to handle them because it’s got so many problems of its own. And then, you know, some estimates say that even 2 million Syrians inside the country are now internally displaced.

It’s taxing all of these neighboring countries. They don’t enough. The United Nations is appealing for more money from all the international donors. I was at a town inside Syria just a couple of weeks ago where people are forming their own makeshift camps under olive trees because the Turks won’t let them in to their camps anymore. They basically say they’ve reached capacity.

Here in Lebanon where I’m stationed, there aren’t any camps. They’re trying to absorb Syrians into existing homes. They don’t want to build these camps. We want to try to see if the Syrians can have as normal life as possible. That’s really taxing the economy here.

But probably the worst situation is in Jordan, where it’s possible that some 300,000 Syrians have fled. Many of them are living in very, sort of, dire conditions in a tent camp along the border in the desert. It’s windy, it’s dusty. Others are trying to integrate into Jordanian society, but Jordan just doesn’t have a robust economy. It’s not really able to absorb all these people and support them.

SIMON: And winter’s coming.

MCEVERS: Yes, exactly. I mean, that’s what I heard in that village under the olive trees from so many people. What happens when it starts to rain?

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15 Responses

  1. chinese box
    chinese box
    October 16, 2012, 10:42 am

    Friends don’t let friends listen to NPR.

    • hammersmith46
      October 16, 2012, 9:29 pm

      I actually stopped listening (and contributing) to NPR within the last year. This site helped me make the transition from a decades long listener to NPR. I have gotten smarter; NPR has gotten worse, or both. I think NPR has pretty much become a prop for the most privileged segment of the remaining American middle class, a segment that needs to live with its head in the sand in order to make it through the day. (Pardon the mixed metaphor or whatever that was.)

      • gazacalling
        October 18, 2012, 2:28 pm

        That’s great, hammersmith, your story is exactly the same as mine.

        Thank God for MW, or else who knows what kind of crap I would believe.

  2. hophmi
    October 16, 2012, 10:45 am

    Is this accurate? It seems as though Israel is anticipating taking in Syrian refugees.

    Is there evidence that Syrian refugees are trying to get into Israel in the same numbers they are trying to enter other border states?

    What evidence is there that these refugees were refugees from a war with Israel?

  3. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    October 16, 2012, 11:47 am

    And, Kelly McEvers, what did you hear under the olive trees from so many people about the border to the West with Israeli-occupied Palestine? Are people turned away? Are they shot at? Do they not try to cross? What’s the news to the West? And how is and why is it that you filter your reporting to exclude that part of the news?

  4. jabaroot
    October 16, 2012, 11:54 am

    Honestly, I’m hard pressed to believe that Syrians would even think of going to Israel. Homphi is, for once, probably right on this one. True, Israel would probably shoot them at the border if they did come, but seeing as how Syrians have much closer ties to its other neighbors, especially Lebanon, it only makes sense that they would choose those places for refuge. Frankly, most Syrians I know (and I know quite a few, I lived there for a year) would probably rather die than go to Israel.

    • Rusty Pipes
      Rusty Pipes
      October 16, 2012, 3:01 pm

      I can think of three possible places people fleeing from Syria might want to go:

      1) Some Druze refugees and others might want to return home to the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
      2) Some Palestinian refugees who have been living in refugee camps in Syria might want to return to their former homes in Israel “proper.”
      3) Some Palestinian refugees who have been living in refugee camps in Syria might want to pass through Israel “proper” or even the Israeli border guards at the Allenby Bridge to get to the West Bank.

      I’m sure that Israel does not want to allow #1 and #2. I doubt that Israel would even allow #3.

    • chinese box
      chinese box
      October 16, 2012, 3:21 pm

      I agree, I’m actually inclined to agree with hophmi, for once. But NPR still blows, for many reasons totally unrelated to I/P. I’ve always felt that NPR epitomizes a certain smug, self-satisfied strain of American liberalism and/or elitism.

  5. Les
    October 16, 2012, 12:03 pm

    Golan Heights, anyone?

    • radkelt
      October 16, 2012, 5:22 pm

      I believe Israel has mined the area between the occupied Golan and Syria.
      Attempting travel in the area could be fatal.

  6. Rusty Pipes
    Rusty Pipes
    October 16, 2012, 1:50 pm

    NPR’s coverage of Syria is atrocious both in content and placement. In content, NPR reporters, based mostly in Lebanon and Turkey but occasionally embedded with Syrian “activists,” present a neo-conned narrative about the violence in Syria — supplemented by an unconfirmed body count from the London-based “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.” (while the Reagan administration called the guerrillas it supported “freedom fighters,” the guerrillas in Syria are called “activists” to suggest that they were all non-violent activists in a Syrian Arab Spring before they were forced to take up heavy weaponry to defend themselves).

    In placement, the daily listing of Syrian neighborhoods conquered and retaken alternate with news about Iran’s alleged Nuclear Program, with an occasional human interest story about how a holiday is celebrated in Israel. Consequently, the day’s headlines, which rarely allow room for more than one story about the Middle East rarely mention Israel’s on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestinians off of their lands. NPR assists Israel’s Brand Israel campaign by Assadwashing its Middle East coverage.

  7. dbroncos
    October 16, 2012, 3:29 pm

    “Here in Lebanon where I’m stationed, there aren’t any camps. They’re trying to absorb Syrians into existing homes. They don’t want to build these camps. We want to try to see if the Syrians can have as normal life as possible. That’s really taxing the economy here.”

    McEvers neglects to cite another NPR report that was broadcast several weeks ago in which the “existing homes” she mentions are identified as the homes of Palestinian refugees in the camps established in ’48. No camps are being built in Lebannon because thousands of Syrian refugees are being invited to seek rufuge in the shacks and hovels of Palestinian refugees from another era. McEvers, Simon, and the kind hearted people lovers at NPR didn’t feel like this was worth mentioning again, perhaps because it would invite too many uncomfortable questions and comments that would upset the cozy status quo at NPR.

  8. thankgodimatheist
    October 16, 2012, 8:47 pm

    I doubt Syrians would want to take refuge in Israel, an enemy country, in the first place.

  9. dbroncos
    October 16, 2012, 8:51 pm

    “We want to try to see if the Syrians can have as normal life as possible.”

    “… as normal life as possible” as refugees seeking refuge in… a pre-existing Palestinian refugee camp! What a cruel joke on the part of NPR. No mention of the conditions in which Palestinian refugees have languished there for decades, no mention of how it is that they got there in the first place, and no mention of how it is that Palestinians living in over crowded, abject poverty are supposed to play host to thousands of Syrians seeking food and shelter. Badly done NPR. But we’ve come to expect this of NPR: reporting that exposes listeners to even a whiff of Israeli culpabilty is off limits.
    What makes NPR’s gross omissions vis a vis I/P that much more insulting is the monotonous, soft, whispered speaking voices of all of its on-air talking heads. The obsequious tonality that’s drooled into the microphones at NPR is an affect meant to convince its listners that “we’re sensitive”, “we care”, and “we understand”. So much sincerety of voice as to let us know that if there is a human rights angle to explain, they’ve got it covered. Perfect camoflage for the grotesque underbelly of Zionist fascism and American/Western imperialism.

  10. Theo
    October 17, 2012, 12:34 pm

    McEvers´ report remind me of a very similar case about 30 years ago, where a well known reporter from a major newspaper came to Casablanca, Marocco, to investigate certain events in the Rif mountains. We were staying at the same hotel.

    He spent several days at the bar, interviewed everyone from the bartender to the doorman, after this inplace investigation he wrote a long report and flew back to the States. The Rif mountains happen to be a few hundred km from Casablanca.
    Somehow I have the feeling McEvers never visited those wreched places, but wrote the usual inplace report. Luckily it rains very little in Jordan!!!

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