Scott Gordon and the leaders of the Maryland Israel Action Committee (“MIAC”) are “tough” Jews, a termed coined by author Rich Cohen in a book by the same title.
Scott and the MIAC are not your usual cowering Jews who always look to their right or to their left and ask “what will the goyim, think.”
No, they exercise their first amendment rights to speak freely about Jewish special interests as the only form of dialogue that makes sense.
As my good Presbyterian friend Dave Bates , general counsel for Trane Corporation in La Crosse , Wisconsin said, yesterday: . “Heck, Israel already has the bubba vote. Go out there and seize that microphone. After all Arab Americans didn’t think twice about doing that immediately after 9/11 to protest profiling did they?”
So much for worrying about “what the goyim would say,” argument.
But Gordon and MIAC stick out like the proverbial sore thumbs, because they are the only city that will protest NPR bias in Israel and Middle East news commentary out of a group of more than 30 such protests that were to have gone forward on March 27th. All , but the Baltimore NPR protest have been “postponed” until Mid-May.
Gordon and MIAC didn’t buy the arguments of CAMERA-the premier mid east media research group out of Boston led by Alex Safian and Andrea Levin nor those of Daniel Pipes, esteemed Middle East analyst, columnist and scholar who collectively said” now was not the time, given the War and the imminent battle for Baghdad.”
They decided instead to “seize the microphone.”
Gordon and his MIAC team didn’t follow local Jewish communal or defense groups on how to deal with protesting NPR’s Israel news and commentary bias.
Demonstrators for the NPR protest, he said, will include Jewish War Veterans members, pro-Israel Christian groups, Johns Hopkins University students and Beth Tfilon Community High School students.
Major backers of “balabustas” for the NPR Protest in Baltimore include such heavy lifters as:
· Dr. Leon Fleminbaum who is renting the buses for protestors;
· Victor Kovens who purchased the signs for the event;
· Amir Krell a financial backer for the event; and,
· Rabbi Elan Adler of Pikesville, Maryland Moses Montefiore Anche Amunah synagogue, who had roused his congregants to participate in the NPR protest.
The Baltimore Zionist District (BZD) and the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) will not participate. BZD has been monitoring NPR/WPYR coverage since a Sept. 3rd meeting with NPR executives. It distributes informational bulletins and is endeavoring to organize a community ‘town meeting” scheduled for June.
"The BZD has decided at this point, and I want to stress this point, to take an educational approach to the bias that is going on at WPYR and NPR," said BZD director Tami Schultz in a recent Baltimore Jewish Times article.
As Gordon tells it the real reason behind the BZD position is that they “threw me out in February for advocating a boycott of advertisers” including a host of prominent Jewish organizations like: Krieger-Schechter Day School, Sinai Hospital, Gordon Center for performing Arts-a subsidiary of the Baltimore JCC, Beth Am –a Reconstructionist synagogue, Temple Emanuel-a reform synagogue, Baltimore Hebrew University, Jewish Museum of Maryland, Judaic Academic-an alternative to day school.
Interestingly there are three Jewish financial guarantors of a $500,000 operating line of credit for WPYR, the NPR affiliate in Baltimore:
· Jon Melnick,
· Vary Levine, and
· Emil Bendit.
BJC executive director Arthur C. Abramson said in the same Baltimore Jewish Times article that his agency supports the demonstrators' goal "to make sure that NPR is as accurate as possible in its coverage of the Middle East. I think the record shows that they need to be called to account."
But he added, "There is a need for as much diversity on this issue as possible. This is a truly grass-roots organization, and you don't need the organized Jewish community to be involved."
So what we have here is a diffident group of Jewish communal organizations in Baltimore who mean well, but don’t have the spunk to undertake a protest “campaign.” Against what Time Magazine called in its March 24th issue “National Prosperous Radio.”
The demographics of the more than 118,000 listener audience in the signal area of NPR affiliate WPYR match:
· 61% earn over $50,000 a year;
· 1 in 3 are professionals or managers
· 50% have educational attainment at college or higher levels
· gender of listeners are equally shared 50/50 between men and women
Why did Gordon and his media bias investigators get so “inflamed?”
A series of NPR reports and the trivializing of their own discussions with NPR ombudsman Dvorkin and President Klose in Washington.
Three NPR reports stand out like glowing “hot coals” in the mind of Gordon.
On June 21, 2002, NPR reported that Palestinian Commandos killed five Jewish settlers on the West Bank including a mother and two children. The IDF called them what they were: “terrorists.” Commandos connote elite Special Forces engaged in operations against a military threat, not innocent civilians.
In July, 2002, there was the NPR report on the Rafah incident: IDF troops firing at alleged sewer workers. Checking with the IDF authorities Gordon and the BZD media analysts discovered that there are no sewer workers in the Rafah gap adjacent to the Egyptian border. But there are tunnels being dug to secret arms via Hamas operatives under houses in the Rafah gap. The recent tragic death of Ann Corrie, the American International Solidarity Movement activist occurred at one these tunnels sites in Gaza.
In October, 2002, NPR put on a ten segment report on the History of the Middle East conflict in which Israeli revisionist historians and post-colonialist Middle East “scholars” fell over themselves deconstructing history and accusing Israel of being an occupying power and developing a racist apartheid system.
In a January 22, 2003, report on a Haifa restaurant bombing an NPR broadcaster said Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility, was "fighting Israel's occupation of the West Bank."
The US State Department described Islamic Jihad as dedicated to Israel's destruction. Gordon sent the information in an e-mail to NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin, receiving in return "an indifferent response."
"The bombing was not on the West Bank, and the group makes no bones about wanting to destroy the State of Israel," Mr. Gordon said. "I don't know why they want to inject that opinion."
When Gordon got wind that WPYR-the local Baltimore NPR affiliate was going to interview a Hamas representative on January 3rd, 2003, he succesfully intervened with Programming EVP, Marc Steiner and effectively killed it.
Gordon and his former BZD media analysis colleagues met with NPR ombudsman, Dvorkin and President Kevin Klose together with WPYR programming executive Steiner on September 3, 2002 and exchanged “views.” Periodically, following that meeting Gordon would send emails to Dvorkin, Klose and Steiner identifying specific egregious examples of NPR bias of Israel and Mid East commentary. Dvorkin would send back less than fulsome responses. Effectively NPR fobbed them off as did members of the general plenum of the Jewish Center for Public Affairs at the Baltimore annual meetings, last month.
But WPYR’s Steiner has done his best to perpetuate the NPR party line on Israel and the Middle East by providing airtime to known anti-Israel “experts” like Phyllis Bennis, a frequent guest on NPR who accuses Israel of being an apartheid racist state, and Professor Lou Cantori of the University of Maryland of Baltimore County, an organizer of anti-war teach-ins and protests, a frequent lecturer at the State department on Mid East issues and a member of the Saudi-financed Center for the Study of Islam and democracy located in Burtonsville, Maryland. Sid’s Vice Chair is none other that Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University, head of the Christian Muslin Understanding institute, a virtual front for Saudi interests in the US.
Steiner, the WPYR programming exec, views this differently through the eyes of a 60’s era civil rights activist and self proclaimed “progressive,” meaning liberal. I quote from an interview with him in the Baltimore Jewish Times.
"Part of this is partisan issues, and people are going to believe what they believe. I don't think the folks at CAMERA or the other groups involved represent the majority of Jewish opinion out there," Mr. Steiner said, referring to the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy on Middle East Reporting in America.
That isn’t good enough for Gordon, members of MIAC and Baltimore area NPR protest participants. They will demonstrate that both Jews and non-Jews in Thursday’s protest don’t buy the incredible censorship of news and commentary about Israel and the Middle East conflict. They will put considerable pressure on WPYR, the Baltimore Jewish community and other contributing institutions. They are recommending that contributors request refunds and convince others not to pledge.
So Kola Heaved (all honor) to my non relation, Scott Gordon and everyone involved in March 27th protest.
And why was March 27th chosen to protest? Because it will mark the first anniversary of the horrific carnage and deaths of dozens of elderly Jews attending a Passover Seder at the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel. Gordon and the protestors revere their memories by this act of protest.
The author is the co-coordinator of the Fairport Jewish Action Committee of Fairfield, Connecticut, an NPR protest group.