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Israel’s brand rides high on NPR

on 30 Comments
Melissa Block

Melissa Block

Do you ever feel that you’re having no effect whatsoever on the issue? I had that feeling, listening to two recent pieces on public radio where Israel’s brand was riding high.

First WNYC, the New York public radio station, did a piece on women in the movies that was overtly political, inasmuch as it pressed for greater variety and quantity for women’s roles in film. Host Julianne Welby seemed thrilled by Kristen Meinzer‘s interview with “a very high profile actress,” Scarlett Johansson. The journalists applauded Johansson’s range, which Meinzer said evidences

her box-office bang: People love her, people flock to see her.

Roll tape: Johansson talking about her portrayals of women.

Not everyone loves her! NPR said not a word about the recent SodaStream flap, in which Johansson had to resign from Oxfam because she reps a company that makes seltzer machines in the occupied Palestinian territories. I guess that hasn’t hurt Scarlett Johansson at all, in some quarters.

Then National Public Radio did this piece on an Israeli Palestinian who won a reality TV contest, called Master Chef. Host Melissa Block had a bubble in her voice the whole interview, and the word Arab was said again and again (I count 12 Arabs and Arabics). But no one said the word Palestinian.

Nof Atamna-Ismaeel is the first Israeli Arab to win “Master Chef,” and she’s a microbiologist. She joins me now from Tel-Aviv. Nof, welcome to the program and congratulations….

Nof, I’ve read that you have a dream now, which is to open a Jewish-Arab cooking school. What’s your hope for that cooking school?

Atamna-Ismaeel then said, “I really think that this is the only way that we can solve a little bit of this conflict is by sitting together and trying to talk to each other.”

I’d have little reason to object to this story if NPR did pieces on why many Palestinians are against dialogue, why many oppose “normalization,” and why Palestinians inside Israel are second-class citizens. Or why Palestinians object to being called Arabs– inasmuch as it racializes them and denies their nationality. Or if NPR interviewed Shira Robinson about her new book about Palestinian legal status in Israel, for instance. But that’s just not a story for NPR.

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30 Responses

  1. Citizen on April 12, 2014, 12:45 pm

    Always good to know how the US taxpayer dollar is being spent for Israel’s hegemony in the Middle East. Makes one proud to be an American, always remembering USA is 98% non-Jewish.

    • Krauss on April 12, 2014, 7:47 pm

      For reporters like Melissa Block, it is a form of self-therapy. She is a true believer in the project. Thus she talks about Arabs 12 times(but omits “Palestinian”, because that would have the unfortunate effect of acknowleding past crimes), she projects her own desperation with the situation, coupled with the fact that she refuses to budge.

      She will go down to the end, insisting that the 2SS is coming nigh.

      I’m predicting we will see much more of these kinds of pieces as the vast majority of Jewish journalists are in liberal media and many of them will channel their own personal crises into their work, to the detriment of us all, as we will get these kind of nakedly propaganda efforts when the 2SS paradigm collapses. By which I mean, it is no longer an article of faith among the reactionary Clintonite Democrats. Which is fast approaching.

      Get ready for plenty more Arabs from Israel who will serve as the Token Minority, telling white liberal Jewish Zionists that they are not racist and that peace is possible. Hussein Ibish made a career out of this in America, but most Palestinians see him as a sellout(and for good reasons). So they’ll import people from Israel.

      Finally, ask yourself, how relevant is a chef from Israel to an average American listener? Sometimes you get the feeling people like Block are only doing programs for her own extended community.

  2. brenda on April 12, 2014, 1:00 pm

    NPR is too compromised by its fund raising program to do anything politically controversial. Republicans sit on the board of directors, a consequence of the government grant, and act as watch-dogs. They like ‘equal time’ on the issues and of course they want their own issues aired too, so NPR isn’t really the icon of liberalism it once was. Too bad, it’s great in so many ways, but too attached to the Saturday afternoon live Metropolitan Opera. I wish they would just play whatever is in their music library and forget about the high priced accessories.

  3. Kay24 on April 12, 2014, 1:06 pm

    Looks like AIPAC has been able to poison NPR and make it yet another obedient member of the zionist media. It is disappointing, but not surprising. All it takes is one zionist at the top, and most probably a couple of phone calls from AIPAC.
    Now those who trusted NPR will feel the toxic fumes of zionism, as it continues to brainwash more Americans into believing that Israel is faultless, and a victim.

    • Kathleen on April 12, 2014, 2:55 pm

      NPR has been “obedient” for decades

    • SQ Debris on April 13, 2014, 2:06 pm

      “AIPAC has been able to poison NPR”
      Pulleeze! NPR stands for Not Particularly Representative. 2-3% of U.S. population is of Jewish extraction. The over-representation of uncloseted zionist Jews on-air there is jaw dropping amazing. AIPAC hasn’t “poisoned” NPR. NPR is a broadcast arm of AIPAC.

  4. dbroncos on April 12, 2014, 2:17 pm

    “Do you ever feel that you’re having no effect whatsoever on the issue?”

    Behind NPR’s happy-face facade, the structure of public support for Israel is crumbling quickly. On Thursday I sat in on a panel discussion called Peace Between Israelis and Palestinians: What Progress Looks Like at the annual CU Conference on World Affairs. Two of the panelists, Richard Jones and Stuart Schoffman, were Israel supporters and they were calcified, old, stiff, pessimistic defenders of the status quo. Both of them were stuck in the mud of the Oslo years and had nothing to recommend in the way of progress other than to keep talking about talking with the hope that someday things would change for the better. The third panelist was a young Palestinian woman named Suhad Babaa. She was bright, energetic, confident and composed. She was easily the most likeable of the group and she actually had constuctive opinions about “what progress looks like” – supporting BDS, for example.

    Following their talks, audience members were invited to ask questions. All of them challenged Israeli policy with their questions which only highlighted the ridgid defensiveness of Jones and Schoffman. Not one audience member stood up to defend Israel.

    NPR is still lives in the “dream castle.” Out here in the regions things are changing quickly and NPR will have to adapt sooner rather than later.

    • CloakAndDagger on April 12, 2014, 2:53 pm

      @ dbroncos

      That is really good to hear from your perspective, and quite encouraging. Like Phil, I too, sometimes wonder if there is enough of a change for all the efforts of so many people , here and in Europe.

      Could you please elaborate on who comprised the panel and the audience, and your region? I am interested to know where in the US there is impact and where we are not making progress yet.

      • dbroncos on April 13, 2014, 4:59 am


        Here are the panelist participants. You’ll find their bios at the link below.

        Stuart Schoffman – Israeli journalist

        Richard Jones – US ambassador/diplomat

        Suhad Babaa – director Justvision

        There are dedicated activists in the Denver/Boulder area working towards justice in I/P. The activists in Boulder don’t include CU students which is a real departure from days of yore when CU was a hotbed of agitation against the Viet Nam war and SA apartheid. CU is behind the curve in that respect. However, there’s an active group at DU (Denver University). The “general public” around Boulder/Denver isn’t concerned with I/P – just like everywhere else in the country. However, our small minority of activists, from any and all parts of the country, have the righteous might of justice on our side, while our opposition has only the rickety crutch of institutional power and money propping them up. We’re winning and we will win. That was clear at the World Affairs Conference panel on I/P where not one person from the audience stood up to defend Israel. Not one.

        “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, its the only thing that ever has.”

        -Margaret Mead

      • CloakAndDagger on April 13, 2014, 7:10 pm

        Thanks dbroncos – I should have guessed your region from your nom de plume.

    • Kathleen on April 12, 2014, 2:58 pm

      Sorry to miss most of the conference this year. Heard the panel on Iran was fact based also. Started out with folks talking about how Iran signed the NPT has the right to enrich uranium up to 20% and how Israel refuses to sign on.

      Most of the talks I wanted to attend were in the day..not able.

      Glad the questions were fact based.

  5. James North on April 12, 2014, 2:17 pm

    Hasbara Central telegraphed the “Israeli Arab Master Chef” punch right here on Mondoweiss a few days ago, when one of their members assigned to this site brought it up.

    • just on April 12, 2014, 3:21 pm

      I remember it, James. It was/is pathetic. Reminiscent of how the brigade trumpets Miss Israel…………

    • DaBakr on April 12, 2014, 3:37 pm

      that’s pretty funny jn. i guess your referring to my post where I brought it up in response to all the negativity on mw and i totally expected that post to be ridiculed, scoffed at and delegitimized. I even thought the microbiologist herself would have been accused of ‘collaborating with the enemy’, drinking ‘coolaid’ and so forth.
      And as for your NPR? I have heard as many reports from them that focus solely on negative aspects of israel to ever believe that they function in tandem with anything even remotely close to a pro-Zionist standpoint. At best they are here-and-there on the issue. Sometimes balanced, sometimes pro-Pal.and sometime pro-Isr.

      As for your quip about my being paid or prompted to post here I find it humourous as nobody I know in gov’t would ever waste time on a dedicated hardcore site like mw. Israeli ‘hasbara’ (as you like to call it) would more likely focus on mainstream outlets where hearts and minds are not ossified into a piece of carbon the size of a pebble. I understand it is you who feel that Zionist are the ones with no heart but at least cut the crao about “assigned” posters. It only shows you have fantsies os self importance WAY beyond what reality would dictate. I am here strictly because I like to argue. I never feel like my pov is ever taken seriously and I do not care that there are only a very few other posters who post a pro-Zionist perspective. I am not deluded about the ‘perfection’ of Israel and know its flaws very well. That you find it too hard to accept that anyone would ever post here without being ‘directed’ says more about you then it does the idea of ‘hasbara’. If you don’t understand that what MW is all about is Palestinian hasbara then your really too far gone to interact with.

      And NPR should not be required to notate every single piece it does with a full blown explanation of the complexity of the conflict because a non-Jewish Israeli woman won a popular reality show. Now if they claimed this was eveidence the conflict was ending-okay, then an explanation might be useful. Otherwise-it is what it is. A puff piece no different then a puff piece on ‘happy Kurds’ or the Saudi women who defied a driving ban.

      • Ellen on April 12, 2014, 10:50 pm

        DaBakr, I have heard as many reports from them that focus solely on negative aspects of israel …

        Cite one…just one NPR report that was even remotely critical of anything related to Israel or even it’s politics.

        I look forward to a sourced answer.

      • DaBakr on April 13, 2014, 12:50 am

        NPR : April 10, 2012 broadcast of the Talk of the Nation call-in show, persists in relying on Lebanon-based journalist Rami Khouri as a guest on discussion shows in which he frequently conveys misinformation about Israel and the Middle East. ISP detailed Khouri’s tendency to snipe at Israel here, here and here.

        2) Diane Rehm has frequently stacked the deck against Israel in her NPR talk show. The latest example is her May 23 2012 show, “President Obama, the Middle East, and the Arab Spring,” where she provided a platform for the anti-Israel rhetoric of Hisham Melhem, an anti-Israel polemicist employed as an Arab newspaper/television journalist. Melhem took advantage of his platform, criticizing Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in the most unprofessional way:

        Look, this is Netanyahu. We know where Netanyahu comes from… President Bill Clinton … used the F-word [in the 1990s].

        I’ll just list two. I know that CAMERA got involved with a thrid and I know you probably see them as nazi’botzo whatevers so I didn;t liost them.
        Ira Glass on This American Life di a decidedly unAmerican show on the IDF using photos of young teen Palestinians with absolutely NO EXPLANATION FOR THE POLICY and so it came off as disturbing in the extreme (which I would say-it might have come off that way anyway even with an explanation. An explanation might have made the actions seem even weaker but the fact they werent supplied fueled the anti_israel bias. I had a chance to ask Ira what he thought and he (honsetly) said he was not aware of ANY tit-for-tat proIsr/proPal in his show. My point was it was reflecting on Israeli life not American. The Vasser or UMich might have been more apropo. But I did accept his premise as he just ‘seemed’ believable. Not sure why.
        I tend to agree with donald that the NPR of the past 7 years pales in comparison to the NPR of the 90s. Its less then half the station it used to be on all accounts.

      • Ellen on April 13, 2014, 11:32 am

        Please links to actual broadcasts or scrips. Original sources. Not repeating the interpretations of the discredited-with-an-agenda CAMERA group.

      • Walker on April 14, 2014, 5:35 pm

        I have heard as many reports from (NPR) that focus solely on negative aspects of israel to ever believe that they function in tandem with anything even remotely close to a pro-Zionist standpoint.

        It’s interested that when asked for examples of those stories critical of Israel that you personally heard on NPR you come back with words lifted verbatim from the hasbara site

  6. Kathleen on April 12, 2014, 3:13 pm

    Rather telling that NPR went out of their way to promote the new face of apartheid Johannson and then failed to mention she was forced to step down from Oxfam,

    Today Scott Simon did two pieces from the Aipac perspective on Iran with Deborah Amos who somehow failed that little piece of history that the U.S. put together a coup of a democratically elected leader in Iran during the 50’s. Just somehow slipped her mind.

    Then Scott went next to interviewing Jeffrey Goldberg about US AID contractor Alan Gross in prison in Cuba. Scott Simon even had the nerve to say “we are talking about a human life here” Ever hear Scott refer to the Palestinians situation by saying “we are talking about human lives here” Scott Simon is sure far more jaded than I had ever thought.

    Those PR companies that Israel hired are working over time. But with NPR not really necessary. Never has been.

    One of the issues that I have always thought was never really dug into were some former NPR employees who were let go or quit because of what they called an environment of “pervasive cronyism” at NPR. Especially in regard to who gets a show, who host, what issues are covered etc. Allegedly there was an outside investigative group that came into assess these charges against NPR. That this report has never been released to the public

    Reporter Sunni Khalid files employment discrimination suit against NPR

    Originally published in Current, Feb. 3, 1997

    Sunni Khalid, who recently reported from the Middle East for NPR, has filed a racial and religious discrimination lawsuit against the network and its foreign desk editor, Loren Jenkins. Khalid is seeking more than $2 million in damages.

    Khalid, an African-American and Muslim, charges that NPR failed to provide him the same assignments, compensation, promotions and support that it has given white reporters. This is the fifth discrimination suit to be brought against NPR since 1995.

    NPR spokesperson Kathy Scott says Khalid is “interpreting our efforts to correct serious performance problems with racial discrimination, which we categorically deny and intend to fight in court….” NPR has removed Khalid from his foreign reporting position but offered him other jobs here, Scott says. Though his overseas contract is up, he remains an NPR employee.

    As a result of Khalid’s complaints prior to the suit, NPR brought in a team of investigators to explore the treatment of minorities in the newsroom. NPR’s Scott wouldn’t reveal the results of that investigation. But Khalid’s lawyers say the report found longstanding discrimination at NPR. They also say that NPR’s new human resources director, Kathleen Jackson, told the NPR Board that racism was “pervasive” in the newsroom, and that a two-tiered salary structure had been maintained, one for whites, one for African-Americans. Scott says that claim is “a bunch of baloney.”

    Khalid’s suit charges that:

    NPR managers including Jenkins have made discrimnatory remarks.
    NPR News never fulfilled a repeated promise that Khalid would be assigned to Johannesburg. Khalid banked on the assignment, turning down a job offer from a “major commercial news organization.”
    During his first three months as Cairo Bureau chief, NPR failed to provide Khalid the same support it gave other foreign reporters–specifically, a car, studio, office assistance, driver, translator and Arabic lessons.
    NPR refused to promote Khalid to correspondent, despite a “highly favorable” performance review.
    Jenkins retaliated against Khalid when he made complaints, criticizing him unfairly and giving him lousy assignments

    Study of NPR’s Coverage of Deaths in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

    Seldom listen to NPR any more unless I am trapped in my car and unable to get the BBC or Democracy Now.

    • DaBakr on April 12, 2014, 10:48 pm

      wow! that is really interesting…bringing up a case against NPR from 1997! If NPR were anything like the NPR I remember from 1997 we would all be in better shape as the programming was better , the shows were fresher, Terry Gross wasn’t so annoying and guess what? I still remember friends in the US arguing that NPR was “too anti-Israel” or “too Zionist”. It seems like-as for as NPR goes-nothing much changes.

      • Kathleen on April 13, 2014, 10:11 am

        Is there a possibility that your ear was not as attuned to hearing the pro Israel, persistent coverage of Jewish history and promoting Jewish authors guest etc on NPR. Or the disproportionate amount of host upper echelon that are and had been Jewish. This is not new.

  7. Kathleen on April 12, 2014, 3:18 pm

    Anyone hear anything on any of the NPR programs about Kerry calling Israel’s responsibility for negotiation failures out into the public eye and how unusual this was? Anything?

  8. Donald on April 12, 2014, 6:08 pm

    NPR is mostly fluff on most issues, at least when I’ve listened to it. It’s happy talk radio for the middlebrow set. Hell, I enjoy it sometimes (yes, look what I just said about myself), but it’s not a place I’d turn to hear serious discussion of the issues.

    They always sound like they are floating ten thousand miles above the petty concerns of the people they report on. If a 10 km asteroid were approaching the earth on an imminent collision course, I’d turn to NPR to get the inside story on how the discoverer of the asteroid first became interested in astronomy as a child and made a telescope by taping together several empty toilet paper rolls and sticking a reading glass lens at each end.

  9. Shuki on April 12, 2014, 7:14 pm

    Do you ever feel that you’re having no effect whatsoever on the issue?

    Actually, I would imagine you must feel that way all of the time.

    • Kathleen on April 13, 2014, 10:14 am

      Phil and team are having a measurable impact on the discussion. Getting factual information out there. Have been encouraging all sorts of folks to come to this site since it’s inception. Professors, students, activist, MSNBC host, those not in the know. I think MW has had a huge impact on shifting the debate. Huge impact

      • just on April 13, 2014, 10:19 am

        yes, Kathleen.

        Meanwhile Shuki is here, n’est ce pas? Why bother, if there is “no effect”?


  10. Citizen on April 13, 2014, 6:17 am

    Why isn’t this letter to Kerry in the news?

    Wouldn’t you like to see it get some attention from NPR, PBS, or any of the network news or cable news infotainment shows?

  11. OlegR on April 13, 2014, 10:12 am

    Maybe you should contact Nof and explain to her how she should have objected
    to not being called a Palestinian…

  12. Kathleen on April 13, 2014, 10:56 am

    The NPR contact page is not available at this time. But always worth it to contact them. Some of us believe it was our collective pressure that pushed Linda Granstein’s (Grandstand’s) very biased regular reports from the middle east off of NPR.

    You can only try

  13. Balfour on April 13, 2014, 11:20 am

    Not a coincidence that the two stories aired during NPR national pledge drive periods.

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