‘We don’t want to integrate Palestinians and give them equal rights’ — NPR gives Israeli leader platform to legitimize apartheid

Ehud Olmert (Screenshot)

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  April 21, 2022

NPR reporter Daniel Estrin’s respectful interview with former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert misrepresents that apartheid nature of the Israeli prison system.

Now that we know that the average Democrat doesn’t really care about Israel, it’s strange to consider that NPR would devote 7 minutes to a very friendly interview with Ehud Olmert, the former prime minister of Israel, because he has a new memoir out called, “Searching for Peace.” (They are always searching for peace in Israel– just not where you can find it.)

Reporter Daniel Estrin was super-respectful, like when he characterized Olmert’s time in prison on corruption charges.

You were washing the floors just like any other prisoner.

The message was that everybody is equal in Israel. But that’s not true for Palestinian prisoners. Olmert was in the “VIP wing” of Maasiyahu prison, a minimum security prison outside of Tel Aviv that is not one of the Israeli prisons that is also used for Palestinian prisoners, according to the Palestinian prisoners’ advocacy group Addameer. There are 4,450 Palestinian political prisoners right now in Israeli prisons and detention centers, on different terms and conditions than Israeli prisoners. Those prisoners have included many Palestinian legislators, including Marwan Barghouti. Human Rights Watch cited the different treatment for Palestinian prisoners as a grounds for accusing Israel of apartheid last year. So did Amnesty International this year.

Olmert all but defended apartheid in his NPR appearance, and the NPR reporter allowed him to do so. Olmert said Israeli leaders had a “dream” of controlling millions of Palestinians under occupation without giving them rights– because we’re not going to give them rights in Israel — and Estrin echoed the idea as if this is perfectly acceptable. Here it is:

ESTRIN: You came to believe in compromise with the Palestinians. So I want to ask, how did you come to hold such different views from the right-wing political establishment that you were a part of?

OLMERT: So when I became mayor of Jerusalem, I found out while I was mayor of Jerusalem – maybe because of the experience that I had in Jerusalem – that the dream of controlling millions of Palestinians within the state of Israel without giving them the equal rights and that somehow we could make an arrangement that will be seen like we are treating them on a reasonable, honest basis while we don’t, that somehow, this built-in contradiction can’t hold and that the sooner we separate from the Palestinians, the better we are – this is not an outcome of the pain and suffering from terror. This is because I thought that, from a fundamental moral basis, it’s either you are integrating all of the Palestinians into the state of Israel and giving them full political rights and civil rights…

ESTRIN: Which I don’t think you or any Israeli leader would be trying to do.

OLMERT: Which we don’t want to do.

ESTRIN: Right.

OLMERT: We don’t want to do because this will change completely the nature of the state of Israel from a Jewish state into something – a binational state, something entirely different. 

Right? How many racist foreign leaders get such a friendly audience in American broadcast media? Maybe NPR shouldn’t be giving 7 minutes to Israeli leaders searching for peace. Or maybe if they do give them that kind of promotion, reporters should call them out on their efforts to legitimize apartheid.

 Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006