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Feel-good co-existence story on NPR fails to point out that one side lives under occupation

on 23 Comments

How strange that just as an international controversy is boiling over whether Israel practices apartheid toward Palestinians, and veils its practice, National Public Radio airs a Cant-we-all-just-get-along report from occupied East Jerusalem that never uses the words occupy, occupation, settlers, annex, or illegal. Quite an achievement.

The story was about dialogue efforts between Jews and Palestinians living in Abu Tor, a Jerusalem neighborhood divided by the Green Line until 1967, when Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Host Scott Simon announced it hopefully:

A small neighborhood in Jerusalem is home to both Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs. Their relations have often been tense or often non-existent. But over the years, a few people have tried to break that cycle.

Joanna Kakissis of NPR, from her twitter feed

Reporter Joanna Kakissis then told us about Alisa Maier Epstein’s efforts to teach her neighbors in Abu Tor Arabic and Hebrew, so that they can relate to one another. Epstein appears to live on the Israeli side of the road that once formed the 1949 armistice line. But all the Palestinians she is addressing live under an occupation/annexation not recognized by the world, and some of the Jews she is encouraging are surely illegal settlers. Kakissis didn’t mention any of that.

I must confess that I admire local efforts to build binationalism from the grass roots. In this video about the co-existence project in Abu Tor, Alisa Maier Epstein says the group has decided to “put politics aside” and work on their common interest as neighbors. Residents say there had been no communication between neighbors of different faiths till this project. A young man with an American accent says he wanted to make it a “more livable, more vibrant community.”

But the structural political component here is still dominant: the Palestinians are second class citizens. Actually they are termed “permanent residents,” not citizens, like the Jews. This is the reason why, for instance, they do not vote in Jerusalem elections; because they abjure these political conditions. When NPR tells us that “a few people have tried to break [the] cycle” of mistrust between the communities, it’s dreamland journalism. These communities are vastly different in power, on a legal basis. When Kakissis says that co-existence has been an elusive goal–

Abu Tor has often been too tense with the violence between Israelis and Palestinians

there’s a good reason for that: Jerusalemite Palestinians are oppressed by Israel. The UN report on apartheid, now suppressed, is a lot more reliable than NPR.

Philip Weiss

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

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23 Responses

  1. chocopie on March 19, 2017, 2:59 pm

    These journalists have no self-awareness. Embarrassing. Trying to sugar-coat a system they would never tolerate in their own country. Dialogue, what a joke. Sorry, Zionists, the 1980s are over and nobody’s buying that crap any more.

    • joemowrey on March 19, 2017, 4:48 pm

      These aren’t journalists, they are propagandists. Stories like this are particularly common to NPR and the NYT. They are carefully crafted pieces of propaganda, leaving no doubt as to the intent of the authors.

      • JWalters on March 19, 2017, 9:35 pm

        Yes, NPR and the NYT have demonstrated repeatedly that they have been captured. The word needs to spread that they cannot be trusted on matters involving Israel, or on war and peace in general.

      • RoHa on March 19, 2017, 10:30 pm

        The media cannot be trusted on anything.

      • Eric on March 19, 2017, 10:39 pm

        NPR and NYT are Zionist mouthpieces and always have been, so no surprise here.
        The Shah of Iran identified Zionist control of the US MSM more than four decades ago, and said so on 60 Minutes:

        Exactly nothing has changed since then.

      • echinococcus on March 20, 2017, 9:23 am


        Wrong. By a strange heavenly retribution, their weather reports have become very reliable these last years.

  2. oldgeezer on March 19, 2017, 5:28 pm

    Dialogue and coexistance are essential for peace in the region. The only other long term solution is genocide and that shouldn’t be on the table.

    That said in order to have dialogue working there needs to be equals conducting the conversation. When one side is the oppressed and the other the oppressor it merely serves as an excuse for the abuse and crimes to continue.

    Dialogue with Israel has only served to further their theft and crimes against humanity. A half century of actual facts on tbe ground proves that.

    • aloeste on March 20, 2017, 1:54 am

      I agree, dialogue is a waste. The abu toris chose not to vote . That is their choice
      On the 100th anniversary in june 2067 they will still be complaining, assuming they are still there…but probably natural jewish growth will surround them…

      • Mooser on March 20, 2017, 12:05 pm

        “…but probably natural jewish growth will surround them…”

        Oh sure, you bet. We got nothing better to do anywhere else.

      • talknic on March 20, 2017, 9:41 pm

        How cute to see aloetse supportive of a state in breach of International Law, the UN Charter and the basic common sense tenets of Judaism. So blatantly Naziesque

      • oldgeezer on March 21, 2017, 12:31 am


        I don’t know the basic tenets. I am not a student of theology.

        I know right from wrong. Aloetse is someone who thrives in the wrong. Might makes rigjt. Screw morality. Screw humanity. What’s in it for me.

  3. JWalters on March 19, 2017, 9:30 pm

    NPR’s “On The Media” had an interview today “debunking” Wikileaks latest batch of information on the CIA. The interviewee assured listeners over and over that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about in all this. There is “no evidence” that the CIA misused any of its tools. He even tossed in their character assassination charges against Julian Assange. It ignored so much reality, and was so carefully crafted that it came across as a glaring CIA planted interview. Despite its small, head-fake nod to Snowden near the end, it looked overall like the Deep State is getting worried about being revealed.

  4. farhad on March 20, 2017, 2:22 am

    I remember one of Scott Simon’s thin commentaries on Israel-Palestine in mid 1990s where he sanctimoniously blamed Palestinians for all that was going wrong with Oslo and then ended his piece with: “Mr. Arafat ….. End the violence.”

  5. Citizen on March 20, 2017, 5:50 am

    I quit watching NPR years ago.

    • Mooser on March 20, 2017, 12:09 pm

      “I quit watching NPR years ago.”

      It’s boring. Sometimes I can see the woofer vibrate a bit, but that’s it.

  6. Boomer on March 20, 2017, 7:16 am

    Don’t say “occupation,” don’t say “apartheid” either. As long as you don’t say it, the US isn’t guilty of supporting it.

  7. Elizabeth Block on March 20, 2017, 9:15 am

    At our weekly vigil outside the Israeli consulate in Toronto, we occasionally get a passerby who genuinely wants to understand why we are there. One man asked, we told him, and finally he said, “Why can’t they just get along?”
    “Because the Jews want all the land with none of the people; they think they have a right to it; and they know they can get it.”

    And if you have any doubts, read Thomas Suarez’s new book, “State of Terror,” which gives the details of the almost daily terror attacks in the 30s and 40s that chased out the British and resulted in the founding of Israel – though, much to the chagrin of Zionists, not on the whole of Palestine (plus Jordan and Lebanon).

    • Boomer on March 21, 2017, 6:30 am

      re: Elizabeth Block, ““Because the Jews want all the land with none of the people; they think they have a right to it; and they know they can get it.”

      Admirably clear, concise, and accurate. Years ago, when I was still befuddled by the maze and haze of NYT and other MSM, a friend of mine returned from a trip to Israel and said as much. It felt disorienting to me, so a variance with the obscurantism of the MSM. It was, in fact, “orienting”: a new, superior way to understand reality,

  8. Tom Suarez on March 20, 2017, 9:26 am

    Philip, thanks for this — very sorry to learn that NPR has not improved. I consider it to be worse than than the “commercial” media (well, NPR is of course also commercial) in that it purports to be enlightened … and so much of its audience believe they are getting honest reporting. What a disgrace.

  9. on March 20, 2017, 11:04 am

    Correct about the Israeli and Israel Lobby capture of America’s establishment media and it obviously continues, as witnessed, about a year and a half ago, by the suppression, censorship, hypocrisy and double standard inherent in the Public Broadcasting System (PBS)’s actions reported in the Mondoweiss post on “Valentino’s Ghost”:

    In early 2016, I complained to PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), including their respective Ombudsmen, with a copy to my Congressperson, asking for an investigation by my Congressperson, PBS and CPB of PBS’s programming practices, and requesting corrective and remedial measures.

    In my letter to PBS and CPB, I said that the issue was whether PBS’s Frontline and it’s then Executive Producer:

    “improperly censored a documentary film and prejudicially favored special interests, including PBS funding sources, thus violating standards of journalistic integrity and ethics. These standards, which the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and PBS claim to uphold, include “…express[ing] diversity of perspectives, strengthen[ing] the democratic and cultural health of the U.S. and the highest commitment to excellence, professionalism, intellectual honesty and transparency.”

    I never got even the courtesy of a response from anyone. Around that time the Executive Producer got kicked upstairs and perhaps that was their lame response.

  10. jack dresser on March 21, 2017, 2:32 am

    This is directed not to other comments that are much more enlightened, but to author Scott Simon who has long remained stubbornly oblivious to elemental historical truth. Scott, Zionists didn’t just emigrate with intentions to become good neighbors. Israel was established by violent and genocidal ethnic cleansing of the largely unarmed and helpless indigenous Palestinian population by terrorism in 1948 after the UNSC had declined to endorse UNGA 181. Israel was admitted to the UN in 1949 only by agreeing to honor the Palestinian right of return (UNGA Resolution 194, annually reaffirmed) and to internationalize Jerusalem under UN administration (UNSC Resolution 273), conditions it has yet to fulfill as pledged. Israel would have undoubtedly been expelled from the UN long ago were it not for ever-reliable US vetoes.

    The 20% Palestinian population within Israel live under an apartheid system with over 50 discriminatory laws restricting virtually every basic area of life (see After seizing the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 in a preemptive war of aggression (see any YouTube presentation by Miko Peled, son of IDF general Matti Peled), Israel has illegally occupied these lands in violation of UNSC Resolution 242 and multiple provisions of the 4th Geneva Convention, to which it is a signatory, subjecting occupied Palestinians to suffocating military law (see It has continued to violate international law and human rights ever since (see, protected from international justice by 44 US vetoes in the UNSC, cast every time in isolation from all other UNSC members (see Jewish virtual library).

    Mr. Simon, you promote the cruel illusion of symmetry and co-equal responsibility and the chimera that “dialogue” will somehow magically correct the brutal power dynamics where half the population of historic Palestine degrades and subjugates the other half by brute force, a situation that can only be solved by enforcement of international law. The BDS movement is necessary to bypass the US roadblock. To evade these facts is a betrayal of your profession, the only profession specifically protected, for sacred reasons you profane, by the U.S. Constitution.

  11. Boomer on March 21, 2017, 6:34 am

    The comments about NPR are deserved. It isn’t alone, of course. Which makes all the more noteworthy this story about the plight of Palestinian farmers in the Washington Post. It, or one like it, might have appeared at any time during the past 50 years, but it appears now:

  12. BDSlist on March 21, 2017, 12:16 pm

    Such journalism is probably more dangerous to the struggle for justice than propaganda pieces against Palestinians and their supporters.

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