NPR ignores killing of six Palestinians, two children

To: National Public Radio,,

20 November 2002

Dear NPR News,

While NPR reported quickly and repeatedly false Israeli claims of an appalling ambush of “Jewish worshippers” in Hebron, and highly dubious accounts of an alleged 9/11-style “hijacking attempt” of an El Al jet, it has been completely silent this morning about the overnight killings of six Palestinians, two of them children, as an Israeli undercover death squad carried out the extrajudicial execution at his home of 25-year-old Mohammed Zaghal in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm.

According to numerous media reports, four bystanders, including a 13-year old boy, Ihab Zakhli, were killed in that attack. Later, also in Tulkarm, 15-year old Amr Qudsi was shot dead by the occupation forces, reportedly for throwing stones at occupation tanks.

I have listened to five successive news casts between 6.30 and 8.30 AM Eastern Time, and there has not been one word about these killings. Peter Kenyon’s report on Morning Edition about the victory of “dovish” Major-General Amram Mitzna in the Labor Party leadership election also did not mention anything about the deadly overnight attacks by the occupation forces.

No doubt NPR will be quick to report whatever Palestinian retaliation follows this murderous provocation.

NPR habitually ignores even large-scale killings of Palestinians, while obsessively reporting incidents in which Israelis are harmed. This well-documented pattern is a de facto judgment that Israeli lives matter, while those of Palestinians do not.


Ali Abunimah


20 November 2002

I have received two responses to my letter from earlier today about the fact that this morning NPR did not cover last night’s killing of six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Tulkarm.

NPR Foreign Editor Loren Jenkins wrote, “You are wrong! It was reported yesterday afternoon.”

NPR Middle East correspondent Peter Kenyon asked me, “Were you not aware that Linda Gradstein covered it last night, on All Things Considered, including the fact that the youngest fatality was only 13? Did you really mean to punish NPR for covering the Tul Karem killings BEFORE most other media?”

Actually I was not aware of that, and I certainly did not mean to punish NPR. I try to be as fair, complete and careful as possible, and when I make errors, to correct them promptly. Although this morning’s letter dealt only with today’s coverage — about which it is accurate — it should indeed have acknowledged Linda Gradstein’s brief mention of the Tulkarm events which came in the middle of a full-length report about the Israel Labor Party’s leadership election, on All Things Considered for November 19.

This is everything Gradstein said about the killings:

“There was more violence in the West Bank today. Palestinian witnesses said Israeli troops backed by tanks killed at least five Palestinians, one of them a 13-year-old boy, in the city of Tulkarem. Two of the dead were members of the Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades. An Israeli army spokesman said the men were shot while resisting arrest.”

By this morning, however, most reports agreed that one “militant” was among the dead, and that the killings occurred while an Israeli death squad was carrying out an extrajudicial execution in the middle of a residential neighborhood. It also emerged that a second child was shot dead shortly afterwards by the occupation troops.

In addition to Gradstein’s report, Jenkins says he personally edited a news spot for a newscast yesterday afternoon, but could not confirm what time it was broadcast. Unfortunately NPR newscasts are not archived, so I cannot find out for myself.

I did listen to All Things Considered yesterday afternoon, but was apparently not listening carefully enough to catch NPR’s coverage of this major, deadly attack on Palestinian civilians. That is entirely my fault. Clearly I should have been paying closer attention and caught what Gradstein said. I was however, completely unable to avoid NPR’s blanket coverage on succcessive days of the events in Hebron, which included repeated assertions of wrong information for days. Nor, the previous week was there any way to avoid a detailed report and numerous news spots about the attack on Kibbutz Metzer in which five Israelis, including two children were killed.

Even taking into account those reports I missed, the contrast between the amount of coverage given to the killings of Israelis as compared with Palestinians is still significant.

Ali Abunimah