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Friday, October 22, 2010

NPR and the Jews

Since most of the people I follow on Twitter are in the US, there's been a lot of discussion today about NPR and their firing of Juan Williams for going on Fox and saying that when he gets on a plane and sees someone in Muslim dress, he gets a little nervous.

Ed Driscoll has a round-up of reactions throughout the blogosphere here. One of the many reactions he notes is what won't get you fired from NPR:
Update: What Won’t Get You Fired From NPR: Wishing AIDS on your political enemies and their children,” as NPR stalwart Nina Totenberg did in 1995. Fortunately, she was referring to Jesse Helms, which in NPR-land, is a perfectly acceptable target.
As most of my readers know already, Jews and Israel are also acceptable targets on NPR, but it's worth pointing out anyway:
On June 12, 2004, NPR’s Scott Simon interviewed Richard Ben Cramer on the topic of the latter’s newly released book How Israel Lost: The Four Questions. Though panned by numerous critics who faulted its deceptive depiction of Israel’s security needs, Simon chatted appreciatively with the author, urging him to repeat from his book an anecdote about religious Jews that was evidently apocryphal and meant solely to ridicule the religious establishment in Israel. Having Cramer reproduce his derisive story on air was so important to Simon that, by his own subsequent admission, he overlooked another insult by Cramer, this one directed at American Jews. Responding to listeners’ comments on air a week later, Simon admitted:
I was so intent on getting him to tell his story about Swedish meatballs at a kosher buffet in Tel Aviv, I did not appreciate how listeners could be offended by Mr. Cramer's observation [that American Jews were "unburdened by fact"] and call on him to qualify it.
What then was the fascinating story that Simon was so intent on publicizing? Cramer’s account of rabbis ignorant of Jewish law being hoodwinked by the food and beverage manager of a Tel Aviv hotel was a caricature of bumbling buffoons. (See June 12 transcript below.). Simon, however, presented it as serious analysis, introducing it as a story to "instruct" the audience on "the question of Israel's identity as a Jewish state and the tension between secular Israelis and religious Israelis."
(A refutation of the story exposing its fraudulent nature follows the transcript below.)


Simon did not stop at ridiculing religious Jews. He concluded with a remarkable question posed to the guest that may be a window on NPR attitudes about Israel.

Anticipating that his outrageous question would prompt criticism, Simon nevertheless pressed on, asking: "Is there still a need for the state of Israel?"

Inundated with complaints (critics noted NPR would never have asked such a question about any other country in the world), a week later Simon offered a weasel-worded apology claiming he’d only wanted listeners to hear Ben Cramer’s account of "the circumstances under which Israel became a nation." He claimed the author had replied saying: "Israel is still necessary so that anyone who is Jewish anywhere in the world has a safe place to avoid persecution."

Ben Cramer said no such thing; he claimed Israel was necessary because of a "need in the breasts of the people." Jews, he inisisted have a "national imperative" to experience fear" because without threats to Jews, without the need to protect Jews, then Zionism itself needs a new rationale." That is, Jews have no actual reason to feel fear, only a psychological need.

The two terror attacks killing 25 Turkish Jews (Instanbul synagogues, Nov 15, 2003), the bombing of the Jewish Cultural Center in Morocco (Casablanca, May 17, 2003), the bombing of a Tunisian synagogue killing 15 (April 11, 2002), the numerous arson and vandal attacks against synagogues and other Jewish institutions in France, Belgium, Canada and England...all of these are evidently no cause for rational fear according to Cramer. (Simon, unsurprisingly, never challenged Cramer.)
Read the whole thing.

And of course, Scott Simon still works at NPR.


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