NPR Israel correspondent addresses Israel-Palestine conflict, solutions

Pamela Steinle

Linda Gradstein, National Public Radio’s Israel correspondent since 1990, spoke to a 250-member audience, including former Vice President Walter Mondale and his wife, about the complexity of the Israel-Palestine situation.

Members of Jewish and Palestinian communities attended the event at the University Law School on Tuesday night. At several points, Gradstein’s presentation caused a murmur from both parties.

Hillel: The Jewish Student Center at the University primarily sponsored the event. Many members of the Palestinian community received Internet appeals to attend.

Gradstein discussed the history of the conflict, circumstances that have evolved over the past 16 months and potential solutions.

“The problem today is that neither Sharon nor Arafat seems interested in a peace process,” she said. “There is a road map out there.”

The audience was most actively engaged during the question-and-answer session. For 30 minutes Gradstein replied to a wide range of questions, many laced with political leanings.

Despite Gradstein’s role-playing of both an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man to illustrate the suffering both parties are experiencing, some audience members found her biased.

“I strongly disagree with everything she said,” said Elizabeth Lamin, a University law student.

One audience member asked Gradstein why NPR referred to the Hamas as militants and not terrorists. Lamin did not agree with Gradstein’s answer that NPR reserves the label “terrorist” for those who kill civilians.

“She minimized Arafat’s sponsorship of terrorism,” Lamin said.

Laura Jahnke and Mahmoud, both of Minneapolis, were disappointed with the presentation as well.

“I question how fair she can be when she’s sponsored by the Hillel,” Jahnke said.

She said even the event’s title showed bias. “Israel and the Palestinians: Is There Still a Chance for Peace” depicts an established country against a people, she said.

Gradstein advocated U.S. involvement in mediating the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“I think the U.S. is the only one who can bring both parties together and demand a solution,” Gradstein said. “I would not have said this a year ago. But I think with the increase in frustration, both sides want intervention.”

Amy Olson, executive director of Hillel, said Gradstein had an in-depth perspective that countered the sound bites Americans are used to hearing.

“I think it’s important for an issue as serious as this conflict between Israel and Palestine. People should take time to learn about the situation,” Olson said, “not just react to what happened on a particular day.”