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August 09, 2012

NPR, Walt, and Sanitized Images

Walt npr.jpg
In broadcast on pro-Israel voters, NPR cites Stephen Walt's (above) Harvard credentials, but doesn't note that his views on the subject are highly controversial

The latest quarterly review of NPR's Middle East coverage, carried out by former foreign editor John Felton, has been posted since at least July 19. In it, he points out several instances in which reporters gave insufficient descriptions of sources quoted on air. About some of the sources, he wrote: "As with all 'analysts' quoted by NPR reporters, listeners deserved to hear a little more background, if only to help them judge the analysts' credibility."

Well, it appears that not all NPR reporters got the memo. How do we know this? On the July 29 "All Things Considered" broadcast about pro-Israel voters, host Guy Raz gives extensive air time to Stephen Walt, and introduces him as "Harvard professor Stephen Walt, author of the book The Israel Lobby." No mention that the book is highly controversial, that Harvard's Kennedy School removed its logo from Walt's paper and added a strong disclaimer, and that critics have noted numerous factual problems with it.

Raz also interviews Peter Beinart, identifying him as "the editor of Open Zion, a blog about Israel and Palestine featured on the Daily Beast." Again, listeners are given no indication that Beinart is also a controversial figure, and that critics have charged that his blog, far from open, is a one-sided attack on Israel.

But not all sources receive such uninformative identifications. For instance, there's "Gary Bauer, chairman of the conservative public policy group American values." (Emphasis added.) He's joined by Matthew Brooks, identified as the director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Unlike The Israel Lobby book, or the Open Zion blog, the RJC requires no additional explanation. Its perspective and outlook is immediately transparent.

As for the content of Walt's statement, it's quite rich that Walt, who has spoken on NPR about his "Israel lobby" paper/book and related topics more than half a dozen times in the last few years (Sept. 16, 2009; May 18, 2009; Jan. 6, 2009; Sept. 20, 2007; Sept. 4, 2007; July 6, 2006; April 21, 2006), dismisses growing pro-Israel sentiment on the basis that "the average American has a somewhat sanitized view of the country," thanks to the efforts of pro-Israel groups like AIPAC "to portray a very favorable image of Israel to the American people."

As if Americans didn't just read in the New York Times that "Israel today is a religious, capitalist state. Its religiosity is defined by the most extreme Orthodox interpretations"; or they didn't just see the AP's report that the U.S. views Israel as a "spy threat," or they hadn't heard on PBS that Israel's behavior in Gaza "is a collective war crime," or read in the Christian Science Monitor that Israel is imposing censorship on Gaza, and they had not heard on Fox that Israel has taken over Palestinian land and water, has annexed its history and culture, and negated the Palestinians' humanity.

And yet, "Harvard professor Stephen Walt, author of the book the Israel Lobby" believes that the pro-Israel lobby dictates a positive media image of Israel. Just who, exactly, enjoys an undeservedly favorable media image?

Posted by TS at August 9, 2012 12:49 PM


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