National Public Radio's news feature program, Here & Now, provided yet another example of why Public Radio's brand of journalism cannot be trusted. On Nov. 4, 2014, Here & Now host Jeremy Hobson interviewed Sayed Kashua, an Israeli-Arab comedian who left Israel to live in Chicago. Twice during the brief interview, Hobson prodded Kashua about the recent rescinding of a faculty appointment by the University of Illinois, because, according to Hobson, the candidate, professor Steven Salaita, had voiced criticism of Israel. The obvious implication of Hobson's questioning was that the university had buckled to pro-Israel pressure in order to silence any criticism of Israel. This is what critics of the university's decision contend as they alleged the university had caved in to complaining Jewish benefactors.
Here & Now concealed from its audience that Salaita's comments went far beyond simply "criticism of Israel." The concealment of what Salaita actually said reflects a pattern in media that are hostile to Israel. For example, the Guardian, the influential British newspaper with a reputation for hostility to Israel, also presented the story as a case of denial of free speech in a setting ( academia) where provocative views should be encouraged. The Guardian too ignored the worst of Salaita's tweets, repeating only a few that were less actionable because they were directed at the Israeli government. TheGuardian included Salaita's tweets that
Only Israel can murder around 300 children in the span of a few weeks and insist that it is the victim," said one. "If Netanyahu appeared on TV with a necklace made from the teeth of Palestinian children, would anybody be surprised," asked another.
Unlike the NPR segment, the Guardian at least included the university's official explanation as to why it rescinded the offer to Salaita. In explaining the rescinding of the offer, university officials described Salaita's comments as uncivil, saying they represented "disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice." That quote, however, only hints at what Salaita actually tweeted.
An article in the Chicago Tribune provided much more. The tweets reported in the Tribune editorial reveal incitement to proudly hate Jews and openly wishing that some would be murdered. A sampling of Salaita's tweets in the editorial included:
"Zionist uplift in America: every little Jewish boy and girl can grow up to be the leader of a murderous colonial regime."
"Let's cut to the chase: If you are defending Israel right now you're an awful human being."
"Zionists: transforming 'anti-Semitism' from something horrible into something honorable since 1948."
Or this, posted by Salaita in June after three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed "You may be too refined to say it, but I'm not: I wish all the (expletive) West Bank settlers would go missing."
Salaita also retweeted a post from an account name Free Palestine, complaining that a story by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg "should have ended at the pointy end of a shiv."
These tweets are not about criticism of Israel, they are about encouraging hatred of Jews and in the case of the last two tweets they yearn for murder. In the last case, Salaita singles out an individual by name.
With respect to wishing that all settlers would "go missing," The Tribune editorial asks,
If that one doesn't strike you as reprehensible, substitute "African-American" or "gay" or "women" for "West Bank settlers" and imagine sitting in a classroom run by the author of that remark.
That brings us back to the visceral anti-Israel bias permeating National Public Radio. In recent months, there has been a noticeable trend among news feature programs to air segments that treat Israel and its supporters with derision and include line-ups stacked with harsh detractors of the Jewish state. Here & Now is added to the list that includes Tom Ashbrook's On Point as public forums where Israel and its supporters are denied a fair hearing.
National Public Radio receives public money, it has a journalistic code of conduct that demands fairness and insists on adherence to factual accuracy. By omitting the most damaging tweets by Steven Salaita, Here & Now jettisons NPR's own journalistic code.