Demonstration decries NPRs alleged anti-Israel bias

National Public Radio is the latest media outlet to be targeted by Jewish groups for its allegedly biased coverage of Israel.

A local grassroots group calling itself San Francisco Bay Area Friends of Israel is protesting Thursday at noon outside the offices of the local NPR affiliate opposite 101 Market St., at Spear Street.

The demonstration is part of a national effort to bring the public's attention to the issue. Demonstrations are also scheduled to take place that day in 24 cities around the country.

Bill Kennedy Kedem, the local group's primary organizer, said that it consists of about 100 members, both Jewish and Christian. And while there is some overlap among their members with groups like Grassroots for Israel, and various Israel Action Committees in the Bay Area, Kedem's group was founded specifically around the NPR issue.

Kedem is a San Francisco community organizer and activist and is working with people around the country.

And according to a statement, the group believes "that important elements of NPR's reporting on the Middle East are so inaccurate and biased that Israel's security is threatened."

Beyond demonstrating, the group is urging Jews to stop supporting NPR affiliates.

"We call on friends of Israel not to make contributions to NPR affiliates until the network begins to cover news from Israel in an unbiased fashion," said Diana Muir, the demonstrations' national organizer who is based in Boston. "We are also asking businesses and foundations that underwrite programming on NPR to cease contributions to the network until it begins to cover the Middle East fairly and impartially."

Kedem cited one example in which Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi was interviewed along with a left-wing Israeli. "The setup was to present a supposedly balanced program, but a mainstream Israeli personality wasn't invited," said Kedem.

But that's only the beginning. According to Kedem, NPR called the bombing of a bus in the Philippines an act of terror by Islamic extremists, while on the same newscast, a similar act of terrorism in Israel was reported as a bus exploding, and it was a result of the Israeli occupation.

In another example, Kedem said that in a media roundtable discussion, 12 Palestinian men killed in Hebron were referred to as worshippers or security personnel. "They were both," he said, "but they're splitting hairs over dead scalps. They didn't mention the loss of Israeli women and children earlier that week. NPR seems to exercise no principle of editorial fairness in such programs. In other words, NPR is reluctant to use the word 'terrorist' for those acting against Israel," he said.

Kedem dropped in to speak with someone at the business office of the local NPR affiliate on Monday. "We asked them to understand our concerns and assist us in conveying a message to NPR," he said. "They appeared to be receptive, and we're awaiting their action."

Kedem said he asked the local Jewish Community Relations Council for its sponsorship on the March 25 protest.

Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the JCRC, said since the JCRC already had the ears of top-level management at NPR, he didn't feel they needed to get involved in the protest.

This winter, the JCRC's director of Middle East Affairs, Yitzhak Santis, wrote an analysis of a seven-part series NPR produced, "The Middle East: A Century of Conflict." (The report written with David Meir-Levi, which has mixed reviews about NPR's coverage, is available online at

When Kahn attended the recent meeting of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs in Baltimore, he was able to meet with NPR's president and CEO, Kevin Klose, the third time the JCRC has met with NPR management in the past year.

Kahn acknowledged that because some Jewish activists are on the board of NPR, they have had access to NPR's management.

"We are engaged in a serious, active and, I would say, important continuing discussion about the Jewish community's concerns with respect to NPR's Middle East coverage, and because of that, we felt we are already engaged in a major activist effort with NPR."

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."