The problem with the recent 60 Minutes smear of Israel’s treatment of Christians is not just that it is inaccurate, one-sided, and malicious–but that CBS effectively denies the sovereignty of Israel itself, while affirming a classic anti-Jewish libel.
Jennifer Rubin has covered the backlash, as well as the network’s stubborn response, and as of today CBS refuses to admit the errors in its report, or the fundamental problems with it.
What reporter Bob Simon and producer Harry A. Radliffe II set out to do was to portray Israel as the persecutor, and indeed exterminator, of “Christians of the Holy Land.” That point was reiterated on the 60 Minutes website, where CBS featured a story entitled “The last Christian village in the Holy Land,” implying that there are no Christian communities left in Israel or the Palestinian Authority, which together comprise that contested territory.
Simon focused on Christians in the West Bank, whose numbers have dwindled (even as the number of Arab Christians in Israel has been growing steadily). He places most of the blame on the Israeli occupation, and Israeli security measures (such as the “wall” build to stop suicide bombers). In essence, his segment is the usual Palestinian anti-Israel narrative, told with Christian characters to appeal to a largely Christian audience.
The most obvious error in the segment is not about Israel, but about Christianity. Early in the segment, a Palestinian minister claims: “The only thing that Palestine was able to exploit so successfully was Christianity….Christianity has actually on the back a stamp, saying ‘Made in Palestine.'” Simon does not bother to point out that “Palestine” did not exist at the time; he simply accepts a false and over-used Palestinian propaganda line.
The segment does report Israel’s (true) claims that Christian communities in Israel are thriving, and that Islamic extremism is a factor in the West Bank (though it “balances” those objective facts with contrary, subjective opinions from Palestinians). Yet any positive information about Israel is just told to the viewer; accusations that are damaging to Israel are shown to the viewer. No Israeli Christians are interviewed, for example–nor are victims of terror attacks, or Palestinian Christian victims of Islamist persecution.
One of the most important, and recurring, errors in the segment is an error of omission. Simon refers to Christians living in the “Holy Land,” usually without specifying whether he is referring to Israel or the Palestinian Authotity. In so doing, he obscures the fact that Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories live in two different political systems.
Israel is a democracy that protects religious minorities; the West Bank and Gaza are not. The latter is run by Islamist terrorists. That affects what reporters cover–60 Minutes did not talk to Christians from Gaza, for example–and it affects what people feel free to tell reporters. To obscure the nature and fact of Israeli sovereignty, except when blaming Israel for Christian persecution, is in effect to deny the legitimacy of Israel’s existence.
Towards the end, Simon criticizes Israeli ambassador Michael Oren for contacting CBS management to express concern about the story (then in preparation). Radliffe describes Oren’s intervention as extraordinary, and implies he attempted to kill the story–a claim eagerly seized by the left. The accusation smacks of the tired antisemitic image of Jews controlling the media for Israel’s benefit. Thus far, CBS has done nothing to rebut it.