NPR Watch: Linda Gradstein Has Done It Again on Gaza

Felice Pace lives in northern California. He can be reached at:

Felice Pace
September 11-13, 2009

NPR’s reporter Linda Gradstein has done it again. She has managed to take a "must report" story on Israeli-Palestinian relations – the new report by B’Tselem on the non-combatants, including children, killed by the Israeli military during the Israeli attack on Gaza – and report it in a manner which minimizes the story's potential to create opposition to Israeli treatment of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza.

Virtually every other published report on this story mentions the number of non-combatant children under 16 which the group B’Tselem – an Israeli human rights organization – found had been killed by the Israeli military in their most recent invasion of Gaza. Many news reports made the 320 Gaza children 16 and under who were killed the story’s lead. But not Linda Gradstein; she completely omitted that piece of information.

If this was the first time Ms Gradstein had failed to report key facts which could negatively impact the opinion of US citizens about Israel we could explain it away as unintentional – the unusual slip of a seasoned reporter in failing to report the most important part of the story. But this is not an isolated incident. It has been well documented that Ms. Gradstein consistently constructs her stories on Israeli-Palestinian issues in a manner that is as favorable as possible to the position of the Israeli Government and the actions of the Israeli military. She regularly provides official Israeli positions and interpretations of events unusual deference. Furthermore, Gradstein has accepted payment for speeches to pro-Israel organizations in clear violation of NPR policy.

Ms. Gradstein is biased and she has demonstrated time and again that she can not put that bias aside. Her biased reporting undermines the integrity of the NPR News establishment and its reporting. NPR management should reassign her; NPR listeners should question why this has not already occurred.

This view of Linda Gradstein is challenged by CAMERA – the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America – a US-based pro-Israeli government media watch organization. CAMERA regularly hammers NPR on their Middle East reporting and urges public radio donors to withhold contributions to local NPR stations in response to the alleged “anti-Israel bias” at NPR. CAMERA identifies Gradstein as “National Public Radio's chronically pro-Palestinian Israel reporter.

CAMERA has a very low bar when it comes to judging the anti-Israel bias of reporters. It has even found Scott Simon – host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday – as occasionally biased against Israel. Those who wish to examine whether CAMERA’s bias judgments are valid with respect to Mr. Simon may want to read my analysis of his March 2007 interview with Madeline Albright published in CounterPunch.

Judging from its tactics, the Israel-can-do-no-wrong lobby in the US believes that pressure – financial and media-based – is the most effective way to assure that Americans do not receive fair and accurate reporting on Middle East issues. They have a point. Reporters and news organizations which are constantly looking over their shoulders to see who is being critical have a hard time seeing what is in front of them. Self-censorship is, after all, the most effective form of censorship.

It has been observed that Israeli citizens have access to more accurate and diverse information about Israel-US relations than do citizens in the US. And while the ignorance of everyday Americans about what is going on in the rest of the world is legendary, Americans’ ignorance about the realities of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is compounded by the prevalence of reporting which – like that of Linda Gradstein – intentionally seeks to mask the reality.

But the truth will out. Step by step Americans are learning about Middle East realities and realizing that they have not been receiving accurate reports about them. Programs like Interfaith Peace Builders – which sends delegations of everyday Americans to Israel-Palestine to learn about the situation first hand – are beginning to make a difference.

Step by step reporters and news outlets are throwing off long-standing – and often unconscious – pro-Israel bias. More and more Americans now question whether the US government’s unqualified support for Israel is in the best interest of this country.

As the American People learn the truth, space opens for a more balanced US Middle East policy – the beginnings of which we may be seeing now from the Obama Administration. As this process continues we can expect CAMERA and the other elements of the American Israel Lobby to become more strident in their denunciation of reports and reporters who do not reflect the Israeli Government’s interpretation of events. This should be viewed positively because it heralds the beginning of the end of the American Israel Lobby’s undue influence over American Middle East policy.

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Israel-Palestine Timeline: The human cost of the conflict records photos and information for each person who has been killed in the ongoing violence.

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