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No diversity: NPR’s ‘National Conversation’ on US-Israel future includes 5 Zionists, no Palestinians

on 17 Comments

Is this really the “discourse the nation deserves”? The NPR moderator of this completely-unbalanced January 30 event at the Wilson Center has yet to be announced, but the forum offers itself as “The National Conversation, Discourse the Nation Deserves.” The five panelists and introducer include no Palestinians; I believe all are Zionists (and at least four out of five are Jewish). “Concern for Israel’s well-being had become part of me, like some sort of ethnic DNA,” writes Aaron David Miller. Samuel W. Lewis, who has advised Israel Policy Forum and J Street and worked at the Hebrew University, might also be characterized as liberal Zionist (though maybe he has at last fallen off the turnip truck). Horovitz and Harman are famously well to the right on Israel. Sachs is also on the right (see below). 

Here’s the unbalanced event:

Allies at Odds: Obama, Netanyahu, and The State of US – Israeli Relations

Four years in, the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu remains a troubled one. What’s behind the tension, can it be alleviated and how will regional challenges such as Iran’s nuclear program or the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affect US-Israeli relations?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:30 – 2:00 pm Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor, Joseph H. and Claire Flom Auditorium

Intro: The Honorable Jane Harman Director, President and CEO, Wilson Center


David Horovitz Founding Editor of The Times of Israel, a current affairs website based in Jerusalem and former Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Post

Ambassador Samuel Lewis Career diplomat, former Ambassador to Israel and former President and CEO, US Institute of Peace

Aaron David Miller Vice President for New Initiatives and Distinguished Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center and former US Middle East negotiator Natan Sachs Fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution

Moderator: NPR Host TBD

The National Conversation, a joint production of The Wilson Center and NPR, provides a nonpartisan forum for deep dialogue and informed discussion of the most significant problems facing the nation and the world.

Israel-centric: Here is panelist Natan Sachs telling Obama to love Israel to make it change (and show sympathy to Palestinians). And here he is saying that Hamas was trying to “open the gates of hell on Israel” last November, and justifying Cast Lead as a successful war of deterrence against Hamas, and explaining the Israeli public’s view of Gaza rocket attacks without a word about the Palestinian experience of occupation.

And yes this has something to do with funding, in my view, from an older Jewish generation for whom Israel was sacrosanct. Per this obit of the woman for whom the Wilson Center hall is named: “In 2006, according to federal records, the Joseph and Claire Flom Foundation gave $150,000 to the Jewish Communal Fund and $100,000 to the Hebrew Free Loan Society in New York. Other Jewish causes to which Flom donated included the American Jewish Committtee and Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in Chicago.” Spertus censored Palestinian art, and the American Jewish Committee is a proud member of the Israel lobby.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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17 Responses

  1. Krauss on January 19, 2013, 1:29 pm

    It’s funny, looking at the national conversation on Israel. I no longer believe that the American supporters of Israel will drive into a wall. Some will, like Sheldon Adelson, say, but most won’t. Most will lament and urge their fellow liberals “to save Israel from itself”. The method to do this is to sanitize the Israeli politicians.

    You’ve already seen some minor attempts done on Lieberman. The Economist’s man in Jerusalem, Landau(former editor of Haaretz), had a piece up in his former hunting grounds based on that exact premise.

    Abe Foxman – who else, but that infamous Occupation-denier – has gone on record multiple times attesting to Lieberman’s supposed ‘moderation’.

    You will see the same thing with Bennett. Bloomberg did a piece on the elections a few days ago. It was astounding. He was described as just any normal right-winger and Israeli Jews, who by a majority want to deny Palestinians the right to vote, even those inside the green line, were described in bland terms like ‘pessimistic’. This is shocking, coming from a group of people who keep voting the more extreme right-winger after another, cementing since long ago a brutally senseless occupation of some 4 million people. Yet, the article in Bloomberg was empathetic with them! Oh, poor them, so many troubles. We understand that they are ‘pessimistic’. People like Bennett are only natural extensions of such a mood. And of course the reasons for the ‘pessimism’ is all those scary Arabs around them.

    I think because the lobby understands that if the media turns on Israel the same way it turned on Apartheid South Africa(even if many former heroes from the anti-Apartheid struggle now believe that Israel is in fact worse, as Desmond Tutu and others have stated), then Israel is truly finished. And America counts in the UN over any other nation, and will continue to do so in the coming decades.
    There’s also a realization inside Israel that Bibi went too far for Romney.

    This is the liberal Zionist wing speaking. You know, talk liberally, try not to upset the U.S.(which can’t do anything anyway because of AIPAC) too much but still keep building. Not as fast, sometimes you gotta make some noises about compromise etc. The classic ‘liberal’ Zionist way.
    If Israel calms down a little next term, and it might, it will add to this trend, and it will help ‘liberal’ Zionists in America point to this development to other non-Zionist liberals and say, “see? I told you so. Israelis need our help and support so the liberals can win!”.

    Therefore, I expect there to be a total status quo for years ahead. Simply because Israel cannot afford anything else. It won’t receive monolithic support for Bibi, but it’ll be the media version of ‘shoot-and-cry’. Most non-Jewish liberals are so spineless that it might just work for longer than most think.

    I’m reminded by the debate between Walzer and that Gentile counter-debater that you referenced recently. Walzer, a supposed ‘anti-racist’ went to bat for Jewish supremacism and racism, out of his own bigoted ethnocentrism. He then even accused the other liberal – I should say the real liberal – of being an anti-Semite, surprise surprise.

    The Gentile basically folded like a cheap suit and just played defence. I think part of the reason why I am pessimistic is that the liberal establishment is incredibly white in the media. Just incredibly white. So the only counter-balance to Zionists tend to be either Jewish non-Zionists, but they are shunned(see Max Blumenthal) or learn to pipe down and go back into the fold(like Tony Kushner). The other option is WASP liberals. You see some openings, say, Bob Wright at the Atlantic but even he has a tone that is marred by fear. The only real good example I can think of is Andrew Sullivan, who has the intellect and tenacity to take the fight to the Zionists & neocons.

    The problem is that he’s kinda alone in that. Most others just grumble and when challenged, by folks like Goldberg, just pipe down. We keep talking about the changing conversation, and sure, it has changed, but as Yousef Munayyer recently wrote, it is being moderated on the terms of the Zionists.

    That’s why you have 5 Zionists at that panel. Ask yourself: would a guy like Munayyer get a platform if it wasn’t for someone like Beinart? Most likely not.

    The problem here is that WASPs are not a minority, and cannot fight the race card the same way an Asian or a black American can. Also, they tend to be rather milquetoast. There’s a reason why their grip on the media & academia fell like a house of cards in the 1960s when challenged. Most of them are good people, but oh so weak and fearful. So scared of being called racist that they let the real racists run havok.

    It seems that the non-Zionist Jews must draw most of the weight going forward, and our numbers are not exactly inspiring, even if it is slowly, slowly changing.

    • Philip Munger on January 19, 2013, 2:37 pm

      I corresponded with Michael Waltzer after the dispute came out in some blogs about what he implied in his exchange with James Rule. In part, he wrote to me:

      I did not call anyone an anti-Semite, not Jim Rule, and certainly not American Presbyterians. I don’t trade in that currency; I never have.

      I was more concerned about Waltzer’s characterization of American Presbyterian actions regarding BDS than with the Rule-Waltzer exchange, but that is another subject.

    • Sin Nombre on January 19, 2013, 6:46 pm

      Krauss wrote:

      “Therefore, I expect there to be a total status quo for years ahead. Simply because Israel cannot afford anything else.”

      I don’t think so, not at least if by “status quo” you mean the continuation of what has been a fair consensus that Israel has to at least claim to want a two-state solution.

      Bennett is the agent of the pressure wanting to openly discard that pantomime, and just look at how fast and forceful that pressure has propelled him.

      In addition I suspect we’ll be seeing the “broken taboo” effect adding to the crumbling of that consensus. As is evident not only is Bennett not being shunned in Israel he’s getting some nice soft treatment here already, teaching the lesson in Israel that it’s now okay to come out and speak your secret heart.

      All that’s left is to erase the already unlikely possibility that in reaction to an express repudiation of a two-state solution the U.S. won’t actually take any serious, substantive negative action. And Netanyahu has already shown that all the U.S. needs is some airy talk about how someday in the far far far future, maybe just about when the sun runs out of fuel, there could possibly be a Palestinian state.

      Clearly a genie is popping out of the Israeli bottle, and I don’t think it’s the kind that can be put back.

      Walt, Mearsheimer, and lots of others have said that a 2SS is dead, and all we’re seeing now is just the mechanics of how it will be declared dead.

      It’ll take a little time yet, for sure, before we see overly open dancing on its grave in Israel, but I think we can now clearly see it on the horizon at least.

  2. yourstruly on January 19, 2013, 1:40 pm

    a national conversation on u.s.-israel future that includes 5 zionists but no palestinians?

    same as, back in the days of yesteryear, a national conversation on the settler-indian future (if such were ever held) might have included how many indians?

    zionists would say why talk about a people who don’t or never did exist?

    no palestinian narrative until they too are almost extinct?

    except now the palestinian view actually is getting out?

    justice for palestine?

    around the corner?

    in about a half-an-hour?

  3. Citizen on January 19, 2013, 2:03 pm

    This is known as giving the Big Bird to American taxpayers looking for informed consent on US foreign policy.

  4. American on January 19, 2013, 2:44 pm

    No Palestines and no Non Jewish Americans or non Pro Israel Americans…and this is a national conversation on US-Israel policy?…….typical.

  5. Les on January 19, 2013, 3:25 pm

    Someone has been paying for NPR’s managers to do this for a heap of years. Who?

  6. Rusty Pipes on January 19, 2013, 6:34 pm

    How did NPR get roped into co-sponsoring Jane Harman’s, Wilson Center event? Would NPR listeners consider its participation in this event compromising? Perhaps the ombudsman could address these concerns. (Have we heard anything yet from NPR about Siegel’s participation in the Saban event?).

    Perhaps if none of the panelists gets into the influence of the Israel Lobby on American/Israeli relations, Jane Harman will talk about her relations with AIPAC while she was in congress.

  7. Kathleen on January 19, 2013, 7:23 pm

    “the discourse that the I lobby has set up” Pathetic. Seems like another effort to hold back the flood.

    Now this was a diverse panel

  8. dbroncos on January 19, 2013, 10:34 pm

    I sent NPR’s ombudsman a letter:

    Dear Ombudsman,

    I noticed that an NPR host will be facilitating a “national converation” about the state of US- Israeli relations at the Wilson Center on 30 January, 2013. How is it that NPR can be lending its endorsment to a so called “national conversation” when in fact it is a strictly circumscribed Zionist conversation. Those who oppose Zionism are obviously not welcome and it goes without saying that Palestinian Americans need not apply. Would an NPR fascilitator participate in a “national conversation” about race in America with a panel of speakers that included only white men? I can only imagine that by endorsing this event you hope to collect some big donations during your pledge drive. It’s because of NPR’s continuing, unabashed defense of Zionism, and its inherant racism, that I won’t be making a contribution to NPR this year. I’ll be urging my friends and family to do the same.

    • HPH on January 20, 2013, 10:45 am

      I also sent a complaint letter to the NPR ombudsman. I made a similar complaint about the the Lieberman event involving Roboert Siegel a few weeks ago. I never received a response. In fact, I don’t recall receiving any response to any letter that I’ve sent to NPR with the exception of those that went to the local station manager.

      • Reds on January 20, 2013, 2:15 pm

        Send one to the audience services and the same to the ombudsman than when you get the standard reply take the ID and than resubmit saying you were not answered to both if no reply do so within a week with the first ID.

        What happens is the email from the ombuds office gets forward to audience services who often times will reply with the Standard MO but once it gets resent they usually will actually reply with a response.

      • Rusty Pipes on January 21, 2013, 5:55 pm

        Could you help out with links here to both the NPR Ombuds and the Audience Services?

      • Reds on February 3, 2013, 2:28 pm
  9. hughsansom on January 20, 2013, 1:11 am

    We can be sure of one thing. Any NPR-moderated, Wilson Center-hosted discussion on Arab-US relations certainly would include at least one decidedly pro-Israel figure, probably someone connected to the Israeli government or US-Israeli policy. In all likelihood, the entire panel would consist of unambiguously pro-Israel figures (e.g., ‘experts’ from WINEP), perhaps a token moderate and probably a token Arab (though one who would be reliably critical of Arabs and Muslims). I was floored recently when Charlie Rose, arrogant bigot who routinely talks over anyone he isn’t toadying up to, actually had Rashid Khalidi on.

    It less often the case now, but there was a time when any mainstream media ‘discussion’ would have seen no Arab voice of any kind, and quite possibly have seen a majority of speakers who were not just clearly pro-Israel, but Jewish and pro-Israel.

    • Avi_G. on January 20, 2013, 11:51 pm


      I was reading your paragraph about a discussion on Arab-US relations including a pro-Israel panelist and I thought to myself, “Exactly, and let’s not forget the token Arab”, and then I read it in your comment.

      Very true.

  10. Reds on January 20, 2013, 2:09 pm

    Sure the Iran debate will be as “Fair and Balance” as Fox and friends.

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