WQXR Radio, a New York City station owned by The New York Times, has refused to air a radio spot by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) because of descriptions "outside our bounds of acceptability." AJC Executive Director David Harris said the spot was aired on hundreds of stations in the United States, including CBS.
The commercial stated, "Imagine you had fifteen seconds to find shelter from an incoming missile. Fifteen seconds to locate your children, help an elderly relative, assist a disabled person to find shelter. That's all the residents of Sderot and neighboring Israeli towns have. Day or night, the sirens go on. Fifteen seconds later, the missiles, fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza, hit. They could hit a home, a school, a hospital. Their aim is to kill and wound and demoralize. "
New York Times Radio president Tom Batunek explained to AJC that the spot did not make it clear that the missile attacks were taking place outside of the New York City area. He added, "The description of the missiles as arriving 'day or night' and 'daily' is also subject to challenge as being misleading, at least to the degree that reasonable people might be troubled by the absence of any acknowledgement of reciprocal Israeli military actions."
Harris commented, "In other words, according to Bartunek’s logic, the only way to broadcast the plight of Sderot’s residents over the airwaves is to equate Israel’s right of self-defense with Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s right to strike Israel at will."
The cancelled radio spot continued, "Imagine yourself in that situation. The sirens blast. 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The time to seek shelter has ended. The missiles hit. This is what Israelis experience daily. But, amazingly, they refuse to be cowed. Help us help those Israelis."
Bartunek countered, "Finally, in my judgment the 'countdown' device and the general tone of the message do not meet our guidelines for decorum."
The AJC executive director, also revealed that the same radio station, after the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, refused another AJC commercial. The 2001 spot stated, "Recently, The New York Times reported that in Saudi Arabia, 10th graders are warned of 'the dangers of having Christian and Jewish friends,' and in Pakistan, a million children attending religious schools are taught to "distrust and even hate the United States."
The radio station manger cited the paragraph, which was quoted from the parent company’s newspaper, as not meeting the station's standards.
Harris also said that last month, the Bloomberg radio news station rejected an AJC segment citing hate literature in children's textbooks in the Palestinian Authority (PA), Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran.
"Everything written in this spot was verifiable," Harris said. "Yet, all this was not good enough for the station, which, without putting anything down on paper, asserted that there were some questions about what was being said."
British radio journalist Walter Bingham has launched a letter-writing campaign to WQXR urging the station to reconsider their decision.