A Formal Complaint Entered in the Congressional Record October 24, 2003

I’ve noticed in the last 15 years that NPR’s programming regarding Israel has been impervious to impartiality. This became a formal complaint, entered in the Congressional Record.

To: Congressman Ralph Regula

Re:

  1. The blatantly anti-Israel programming of federally-funded public radio stations WHYY Philadelphia and WNYC New York, public television station WYBE Philadelphia, and National Public Radio.
  2. The stonewalling, sandbagging, and evasiveness employed by them and the regulatory agencies overseeing their compliance with Federal law in dealing with public complaints.

In the more than 2 1/2 years that I have been monitoring the above publicly funded radio and television stations, I have more than detected a commonality of purpose, rhetoric, and methodology inherent in Soviet anti-Israel and anti-Zionist invective aimed at vilifying and delegitimizing the Jewish state. Accurate and balanced reporting has been superseded by the dissemination of repetitive innuendo and sloganized fiction instead of hard fact. The misconceptions thus engendered are enhanced by unrelenting partiality, diversionary tactics, biased vocabulary, and the unbridled use of double standards.

By stating at the beginning of a program that it is a minority view in no way absolves these stations from the fact that the majority Israeli or American-Jewish viewpoint has almost never been aired. Be reminded that for three quarters of a century, Radio Moscow also broadcast a minority viewpoint. In the USSR, the majority viewpoint was legally suppressed, and on these public stations and NPR, it is administratively ignored. Contact with executives of these stations has convinced me that they are tireless advocates of this methodology, resplendent in interviews with only the most extreme elements of Israel’s left wing and their counterparts in the United States.

Would an interview with Netta Golan, a practicing Buddhist, married to a Palestinian Arab living in Ramallah, highly critical of Israel, disowned by her own father and “adopted” by NPR be an example of Israeli public opinion? Would an extensive interview by Marianne McCune of WNYC of a pro-Palestinian anti-Israel woman rabbi from Brooklyn the morning of a giant demonstration against Palestinian terror be an example? At that demonstration, which I attended, I saw Al-Jazeera interviewing the same woman rabbi in the afternoon. Could it be that all the parties had the same agenda and the only difference between them was a slight time differential? My attempts to speak to Ms. McCune since October 2001 have been ignored.

In a meeting with Laura Walker, President of WNYC, on 3/31/03, I compared the interview with three pamphlets I presented from my archive published by the Jewish People’s committee (a Communist front organization) and written by a Rabbi Moses Miller, its head. One supported the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the second supported the takeover of Eastern Poland by the USSR in 1939, and the third supported the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Cold War. Needless to say, Rabbi Miller was also anti-Zionist and anti-Israel. Mrs. Walker’s answer was silence except for stating that she did not know what the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was. When asked if a program about Jewish Public opinion during the Cold War would be misleading if only Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were interviewed, she changed the subject.

Her assistant, Mr. David Rado, who was also at the meeting, has a more interesting track record of dealing with complaints. In May 2002, he called 15 minutes before a scheduled conference call to see if everyone was there. The fact that we were there and ready may have prompted him never to call back and not answer his page. Six months later, at the WNYC Community Board meeting, he was present and representing the station. Three other people with the same complaint as myself were present. I myself traveled 75 miles each way to be granted 2 minutes to speak, so Mr. Rado could decline to answer these complaints and postponed dealing with them until the next public meeting. During the meeting on 3/31/03 he was even more non-committal.

Questions on call in programs that do not echo the anti-Israel sentiments of the guest speakers meet the same fate. On 4/3/02 I was left holding the telephone line for 43 minutes until the program, Talk of the Nation, went off the air. When I complained to Mr. Dworkin, the ombudsman of NPR, that not only were the speakers anti-Israel, but when I asked a question that cast doubt on their statements, I was left “hanging.” He admitted that indeed the questions allowed to be aired were generally correlated with those points made by the speakers, and that a “screener” decided what questions were aired. To rectify the situation, he offered to send me a check for $1.68 to pay for the call.

The monotonous and derogatory use of a biased vocabulary is endemic to their broadcasting and thus puts the position of Israel and Israeli’s who are not left-wing at an immediate disadvantage. Prime Minister Sharon is frequently described as “hard-lined” while Yasser Arafat is called “Chairman” or “President.” Should we then automatically assume that he is “soft-lined”? NPR’s reporters refer to Palestinians on the way to commit suicide raids against innocent civilians as “activists” and “militants.” On 4/29/03 the term “suspected Palestinian militant” was even employed. On September 11th, 2001, were almost 3,000 Americans incinerated by “militants”, “activists”, or “terrorists”? Were the brave Americans who “rolled” to interdict the suicide flight against the White House “assassins”?

NPR’s coverage of the death of Mohammed Dura, the boy killed in the cross fire between armed Palestinians and Israeli troops was covered many times in depth, and from many angles except one; the angle of a German camera crew whose filming showed that it could not have been the Israeli fire that was responsible. What was certain was that NPR convicted Israel before all the evidence was provided, just as they did in reporting the “Jenin massacre.” What was certain is that there never was a massacre in Jenin, and that an innocent child was unintentionally killed in the cross fire. Their reporting of the intentional suicide bombing of a discotheque in Tel Aviv, killing 20 teenagers and mangling almost 100, was treated differently but in a style typical to NPR and its associates.

The name of Alla Nelimov nor her daughters, 18 year-old Yelena or 16 year-old Yulia, were never mentioned. She was the Russian immigrant mother kneeling enar the mangled bodies of her two young children. Instead of mentioning the names of Israeli children intentionally murdered by a Palestinian “activist” or “militant” NPR diverted the listener’s attention and indignation over a Palestinian atrocity to false and obscene allegations that the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs refused to give some of the children a Jewish burial because they were deemed to be of a mixed marriage.

The BBC has never been known to deviate in English from their anti-Israel Arabic service. The three stations mentioned in my complaint use the BBC extensively. One of the worst known examples of this was a little know, but significant, incident aired on 5/24/01. It was little known because WYBE, using the BBC, distorted its significance. On that day, an unidentified civilian aircraft crossed from Lebanon into Israel, heading for Tel Aviv. When the suspected Kamikaze plane refused to identify itself after several attempts it was downed by Israeli jets. The BBC narrator, Nik Gowing, spent the entire interview harshly and abrasively rebuking the young Israeli Air Force spokesman for not using enough restraint and downing the plane, hardly letting him speak. It was not an interview to glean the facts and report the news, but a long, drawn-out tongue lashing to make a point, which was “the Israelis are trigger happy and prone to use force.” Would the American fliers of the planes scrambled on September 11th to down the planes headed for the World Trade Towers even be considered as “trigger happy and prone to use force”? this is only one program of many that exemplifies a deliberate failure by these stations to differentiate between terrorism and counter-terrorism, and thus create a lexicon of logic that equates acts of terrorism equally with measures of self-defense.

This incident was the centerpiece of a complaint sent on 3/13/02 to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Inspector General, and the Attorney General. In a letter dated 2/6/03, I finally received a letter from Carole Florman, Vice President of Communications of CPB. It started with, “Thank you for your letters and calls regarding your concern about perceived biases in coverage of events in the Middle East…..” The following is most of my answer to her replacement, Mr. Vincent Curran, on 3/12/03:

“I would appreciate, in writing, factual statements correlating what Carole Florman the previous Vice President of Communications, states in her letter with reality. She stated that CPB’s Board and its staff take complaints about perceived bias in Public Broadcasting’s content seriously. Like our colleagues at NPR and PBS, we make every effort to insure that the public can easily share its views with us….”

If the above were policy as stated, why was my original complaint and 31 subsequent phone calls ignored for almost one year? Her letter also states that the CPB does not fund BBC, but she does not deny that you fund stations that broadcast BBC’s programs. Would these stations have the funds to pay for BBC’s programming if CPB did not generously fund them with tax payers’ money for other programming, some of which is included in my complaint? The video tape that was produced by BBC and broadcast by public television stations is available. However, many months after my request, the BBC declined to provide it. I have a document to this effect. You have the power to request this tape, and I am sure that your reviewing it would substantiate my complaint more than their eloquent excuses could deny proof of its veracity. The tape contains all the blatantly negative elements in BBC’s and thus public radios’ and television’s programming.

Mr. Curran hasn’t as yet replied in writing as requested. The Inspector General never answered the original complaint, but after many phone calls, I received a three page letter dated 4/16/03 which, in essence, states that CPB does whatever it “damn wants” and that, in essence, the status quo is institutionalized. The only question he had was how I got the right telephone number that actually reached him. The Attorney General never answered.

This segment of my letter to Mr. C. Kelley of the FCC dated 4/19/01 speaks for itself.

“I find your response evasive. All of us are presumed to know the law, particularly those, such as the Federal Communications Commission, which, in part, is statutorily bound to enforce it. I am not seeking censorship. I am seeking equal time in programming for those who are not anti-Israel or extremely left wing to express their views of the current situation in the Middle East. Title 47 of the United States Code, section 396 (g) (A) mandates that publicly funded programs strictly adhere to objectivity and balance. It is the distorted blatancy of unbalanced programming that violates this mandate, which is the basis of my complaint.

The Israel-Arab conflict is a highly controversial subject about which there is more than one viewpoint. Only one viewpoint is being expressed in WNYC’s and NPR’s programming. I do not need to conjure up evidence to prove intentional broadcasting of false information. The soundtracks of these programs from September 2000 through January 2001, which are in NPR’s archives, are proof enough. You have a staturotry obligation to submit these soundtracks to an informed but unbiased committee for their objective evaluation.

The FCC’s failure to respond appropriately to the severe public criticism received from individuals, such as myself, and from organizations concerned with fair reporting in general and the inaccurate and overwhelming anti-Israel reporting of publicly funded programming is unconscionable and legally actionable.”

The reason for my complaint is basically that Federal law is being broken, and the regulatory agencies empowered to insure strict compliance are by their inaction encouraging even more blatant defiance of that law. I ask Congress to investigate the fact that the regulatory agencies charged with enforcement of federal law, after notice by a multitude of citizens that the law is being violated, have failed and refuse to properly investigate and seek an injunction against such unlawful activity.

I request to testify before your committee. I have an extensive historical archive related to the programming in question. I am a US Navy veteran and veteran of the Israeli Army. During the Yom Kippur War, I helped US Air Force Intelligence successfully complete a very important mission.

Thanking you,

Daniel Levinson

About the Author
Daniel Levinson is a U.S. Navy veteran, veteran of the Yom Kippur War, combatant in the terrorist raid of Nahariya, and the father of two reserve officers in the Israeli Army.
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