Letter to @NPR Ombudsman @EJensenNYC Calling Out Pro-Zionist Bias in Report on Israel Army Killing of Palestinians on Land Day

مسيرة_العودة_الكبرىRe: 16 Palestinians Killed, Hundreds More Wounded In Violence Near Gaza Border, March 30, 2018, All Things Considered by Daniel Estrin.

The word “Hamas” appears 9 times in the article.

  1. Palestinians answered “Hamas’s call to protest.”
  2. But actually Hamas, which controls Gaza, was a driving force. It called from mosque loudspeakers, encouraging people to gather at the border.
  3. Hamas took control of Gaza by force a decade ago.
  4. Hamas has fought three wars with Israel.

Notice how often Hamas is doing things with transitive verbs and action-implying adjectives and gerunds. Calling Israel’s massacres of Palestinians in Gaza “wars” Hamas fought is particularly outrageous.

Israel’s violence is linguistically concealed by using the passive voice, adding in a false or irrelevant sequence to imply justification or causation or simply removing verbal action entirely.

“Palestinian officials say at least 16 Palestinians were killed, and hundreds more were wounded.” Shouldn’t the listener know that Israeli snipers, tanks and artillery were the subjects doing the killing and the wounding?

“It was to highlight the Palestinian demand to return to lands that are today a part of Israel.” Did the lands decide to become a part of Israel? Did the lands turn from one color to another color? Here’s a rewrite which would increase information content: “It was to highlight the demand of Palestinians to return to the lands from which they claim Zionist militias drove them to establish the State of Israel in 1948 and to which Israel has prevented their return for seven decades, despite United Nations resolutions.”

The use of false and irrelevant sequencing, with its implied justification, is particularly pernicious.

Tens of thousands of people in Gaza answered the militant group Hamas’ call to protest. They threw rocks and firebombs near the border fence with Israel. On the other side, Israeli troops assembled.


Israel responded to Palestinians throwing rocks, firebombs, burning tires. Israel fired tear gas and live fire.

Hamas took control of Gaza by force a decade ago. And since then, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza. That prevents most people from being able to leave. It restricts what goods can enter Gaza. All of this is to try to pressure Hamas.

Since Daniel Estrin relies entirely on Israeli army sources for the actual events, we don’t actually have an unbiased account of the sequence of events. Did the Israeli army only assemble when Palestinians threw rocks and firebombs? Or does the Israeli army continuously encroach upon all areas in which Palestinians live and work and regularly shell and shoot people working in fields or fishing in boats?

More revolting, however, is the idea that the proper response to rocks, firebombs and burning tires is tear gas and live fire. By the way, “live fire” is a rather innocuous way to refer to sniper bullets, artillery rounds and tank shells.

Regarding the siege of Gaza, it was of course preceded by many other events, including the ethnic cleansing by the Zionist militias of Palestinians in 1947-48, many of whom fled to Gaza and whose descendants now make up the majority of Gaza’s population since Israel has prevented them from returning to their homes. For over three decades beginning with the 1967 war, Israel directly occupied Gaza with its army and established Jewish-only colonies therein, stealing Palestinians’ land and resources and killing, wounding and imprisoning thousands who resisted. Why is Hamas’s control of Gaza a justification for besieging it? Is that legal under international law? The siege also prevents exports of goods, not just imports. Egypt did not participate in the siege to its current extent until the coup which brought the USA puppet AbdelFattah al-Sisi to power in 2013.  So is this siege and the everyday violence and the three “wars” which coincide with Israeli election cycles to “pressure Hamas” or to pressure the Palestinians to stop demanding their rights?

It is important as well to address the “big scoop” of this article, namely that Hamas was a “driving force” behind the demonstrations. The article didn’t mention that the demonstrations occurred on “Land Day,” whose origins trace to a demonstration in 1976 within the 1948 borders of Israel in which Israel killed Palestinians protesting Zionist expropriation of Palestinians’ land. Over time, this occasion has been an annual occasion to reiterate the demand for the Right of Return for Palestinians worldwide. It is not a Hamas invention.

Second, the idea of the Great Return March as a campaign to begin on Land Day and end on Nakba Day did originate in Palestinian civil society. If Hamas and other political groups latched onto it or supported it, is that a reason for NPR to make their participation more important than the campaign itself? Imagine if NPR broadcast that the Democratic Party was a “driving force” for the “MeToo” or “March for Our Lives” or that Louis Farrakhan was “a driving force” for “Black Lives Matter.” Aside from the factual inaccuracies, it would be an editorial aspersion on those movements.

So often, media outlets use “lack of space” as a justification for removing information from a piece. But notice the repetition of “rocks” and “firebombs” and “militant group”.

Lastly, the piece claimed that some Palestinians on social media criticized the march. While the on-air piece probably could not have discussed those, the online piece might have been supplemented by an article examining Palestinian reactions to the event. I myself have not seen any Palestinian criticism of the protests, so I’m quite curious to read the ones Mr. Estrin read.

It is also important to compare this story to a Larry Kaplow and Laurel Wamsley story produced earlier that day, although I’m not sure when it might have aired since The Two Way is a section, not a show, and there is no statement on the web page about it having been aired.

I request that you as the ombudsman investigate this issue and promote more accurate, information-rich reporting of the Palestinians’ demand for the Right of Return and a lifting of the siege of Gaza. You should also note the inherent imbalance NPR and other news outlets have in reporting on this issue by having your correspondents live in Israel, not in areas in which Palestinians live, and noting the restrictions Israel places on journalists’ interactions with Palestinians in Gaza and the violence Israel unleashes upon Palestinian journalists.

I am a member of Georgia Public Broadcasting.

h/t to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting for the article by Andy Johnson which drew my attention to this issue. It is of course better written than mine, although I like to think I have my own insights and rhetorical flourishes.

One thought on “Letter to @NPR Ombudsman @EJensenNYC Calling Out Pro-Zionist Bias in Report on Israel Army Killing of Palestinians on Land Day

  1. Pingback: Letter to @NPR Ombudsman @EJensenNYC Calling Out Pro-Zionist Bias in Report on Israel Army Killing of Palestinians on Land Day « Middle Eastern Eye

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