Why Did 60 Minutes Deceive Its Viewers? (GateStone Institute) by Dexter Van Zile 04/30/12)
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It is not safe for Palestinian Christians to condemn the misdeeds of
their Islamist neighbirs who regard Christians as infidels and
obstacles to the creation of an Islamic state. Did [reporter Bob]
Simon really expect to get Khouri, a prpominnent businessman with a
lot to lose -- and exactly the type of person who would be forced to
pay the protection money described by Khaled Abu Toameh -- to admit
to problems with the Muslim majority in Palestinian society in an on-
camera interview with two other people sitting next to him?"
Palestinian Christians, like other religious and ethnic minorities in
the Middle East, are the target of mistreatment, harassment and in
some instances, violent oppression at the hands of their Muslim
Nevertheless, much of the media coverage about Palestinian Christians
downplays Muslim hostility toward this community and falsely portrays
Israel as the sole cause of its suffering.
The reality is Palestinian Christians cannot speak freely about the
Muslim dominated environment in which they live. Their leaders often
publicly condemn Israel while remaining silent about groups like
Hamas, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Occasionally, they
might admit that Muslim hostility is a problem, but not very often
and not very loudly.
It is safe for Palestinian Christian leaders to condemn Israel – a
democracy that has a tradition of respecting religious freedom and
human rights. It is not safe, however, for Palestinian Christians to
condemn the misdeeds of their Islamist neighbors who regard
Christians as infidels and obstacles to the creation of an Islamic
Journalists obviously have an obligation to dig into the underlying
facts regarding the status of Christians in Palestinian areas.
This information is harder to obtain than anti-Israel comments from
prominent Palestinian Christians. It is not however, impossible to
get testimony about Muslim oppression of Christians in the West Bank
or Gaza Strip. For example, Khaled Abu Toameh has written about
mistreatment of Christians by their Muslim neighbors, a problem that
has gotten worse since Bethlehem and the surrounding towns have
become hotbeds for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
In a piece published by the Gatestone Institute in 2009 (when it was
then called the Hudson Institute), Toameh reported that Christians
have complained about acts "of intimidation land theft by Muslims,
especially those working for the Palestinian Authority." And if that
wasn´t enough, "several Christian women living in these areas have
complained about verbal and sexual assaults by Muslim men." Toameh
also recounts hearing stories of shakedowns by Muslim gangs. He
Over the past few years, a number of Christian businessmen told me
that they were forced to shut down their businesses because they
could no longer afford to pay "protection" money to local Muslim
This is however, not the story that Palestinian Christian leaders
tell to Westerners. Toameh reports:
Ironically, leaders of the Palestinian Christians are also to blame
for the ongoing plight of their people because they refuse to see the
reality as it is. And the reality is that many Christians feel
insecure and intimidated because of what we Muslims are doing to them
and not only because of the bad economy.
When they go on the record, these leaders always insist that Israel
and the occupation are the only reason behind the plight of their
constituents. They stubbornly refuse to admit that many Christians
are being targeted by Muslims. By not talking openly about the
problem, the Christian leaders are encouraging the perpetrators to
continue their harassment and assaults against Christian families.
This is an important story that journalists should highlight.
60 Minutes Dropped the Ball
Given the time and resources available to reporters and producers at
60 Minutes, it would seem reasonable to expect that they would be
able to give viewers an accurate picture.
Apparently, it is simply a story they do not want to tell. This
became evident during a segment that appeared on April 22, 2012. This
segment, titled "Christians of the Holy Land" reported by Bob Simon
and produced by Harry Radliffe, severely misinformed 60 Minutes
In the opening, Simon reports that the "one place where Christians
are not suffering from violence is the Holy Land but Palestinian
Christians have been leaving in large numbers for years." He
So many [are leaving], the Christian population there is down to less
than two percent, and the prospect of holy sites, like Jerusalem and
Bethlehem, without local Christians is looming as a real possibility.
In this passage, Simon is wrong on two issues.
First, Simon reports the Christian population in the Holy Land is
down to less than two percent but he deceives viewers in this
statement. Yes, the percentageof the total is down due to an
increased Muslim population, but the actual number is up in Bethlehem
and the surrounding area since Israel took control of the West Bank.
He also fails to report that this increased stands in marked contrast
to the decline of the Christian population in the West Bank when it
was under Jordanian control.
The numbers, compiled by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs,
reveal that in the late 1940s, there were approximately 60,000
Christians living in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza and that this
population declined to approximately 40,000 just prior to the Six Day
War in 1967. Today, there are approximately 52,000 Christians living
in these areas.
Why did 60 Minutes deceive its viewers?
Muslim violence against Christians
Secondly, despite what Simon reports, Palestinian Christians have
been the target of violence at the hands of Muslim extremists in the
Holy Land. In 2005, more than a dozen homes were burnt to the ground
by a Muslim mob. This act of arson was perpetrated in the village of
Taybeh located in the West Bank by Muslims outraged over a romantic
affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman. Ha´aretz reported
the following about the incident:
PA security sources said that the rampage was triggered by an
incident last week in which a 23-year-old woman was killed by her
relatives because they suspected her of carrying on a romance with a
Christian man from Taybeh. The woman was quickly buried, but last
Tuesday, the PA police exhumed the body for an autopsy.
Did Simon and Radcliffe not hear about this terrible attack and the
apparent honor killing that preceded it? In a four-minute video
featured on 60 Minutes´ website, Simon profiled the village of
Taybeh, which the show billed as "The Last Christian village in the
Holy Land." Judging from this video, it´s clear both Simon, and his
producer Radcliffe spent some time in the town where the attack took
place, but for one reason or another, this notorious act of arson was
never mentioned in either the segment shown on television or the
segment broadcast on 60 Minutes´ website.
Simon also used a confrontation with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren
as a pretext to downplay impact of Muslim hostility toward
Christians. After Oren stated that the "major duress" felt by
Palestinian Christians was coming from Muslims, Simon introduced Zahi
Khouri, a Palestinian Christian businessman (he owns a Coca-Cola
franchise). Khouri dismissed Oren´s assessment as a "Great selling
point. Easy to sell to the American public."
Khouri continues: "I´ll tell you I don´t know of anybody and I
probably have 12,000 customers here. I´ve never heard that someone is
leaving because of Islamic persecution."
Did Simon really expect to get Khouri, a prominent businessman with a
lot to lose – and exactly the type of person who would be forced to
pay the protection described by Khaled Abu Toameh in the piece
referenced above – to admit to problems with the Muslim majority in
Palestinian society in an on-camera conversation with two other
people sitting next to him? Is this what passes for investigative
reporting at 60 Minutes?
When Woodward and Bernstein got information about the misdeeds of the
Nixon Administration from Deep Throat, an anonymous source, they
spoke to him in secret in the bowels of an underground parking garage.
Judging from the public testimony offered by pastors speaking at the
Christ at the Checkpoint Conference held in March 2012, Simon may not
have had to go to such lengths to get the story.
At this conference, two pastors spoke openly about the problems Simon
downplayed in his report. As detailed in a recent CAMERA analysis,
Pastor Nihad Salman, who serves as a pastor in Beit Jala, testified
in more detail to the concerns Christians in the West Bank have
regarding Muslim hostility toward Christians. After speaking about
the impact of high unemployment on Christians in the West Bank, he
said that because Christians comprise only one or two percent of the
population in the territory, they are affected psychologically.
You are afraid. And we have many times when people are afraid of what
is happening in the Arabic Spring. Will the Muslims you know, take
over? If it is true or not true. Whatever the outcome of that... what
will happen? Will after Saturday come Sunday? So this is the type of
thing that makes Christians want to run away.
The reference to Saturday and Sunday is to a well-known proverb in
the Middle East about Muslim hostility toward Jews (whose day of rest
is on Saturday) and Christians (whose day of rest is on Sunday). The
question Pastor Salman is asking is, given that Islamist groups are
coming to power across the region ("Arabic Spring") and having
already persecuted and expelled their Jews ("Saturday"), will these
Arab countries now increase their persecution of Christians
And another Palestinian pastor, Labeeb Madanat, who works for the
Bible Societies in Israel and Palestine said at this
conference, "There are pressures. There is discrimination. The dhimma
system is a system of discrimination. We do not deny that."
More recently, this writer interviewed Steven Khoury, assistant
pastor at The First Baptist Church in Bethlehem in a piece that was
published in The Algemeiner. Khoury reported that anti-Christian
animus has gotten worse in the Bethlehem over the past few years.
Khoury said, "People are always telling [Christians], ´Convert to
Islam. Convert to Islam. It´s the true and right religion.´"
Such testimony is not new. In 2005, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa,
Custos of the Holy Land for the Roman Catholic Church, acknowledged
publicly that Palestinians Christians were suffering from acts of
oppression by their Muslim neighbors.
In its coverage of the story the Telegraph reported that things had
gotten so bad that Church leaders compiled a "dossier" of 93 alleged
incidents of abuse by an ´Islamic fundamentalist mafia against
Palestinian Christians, who accused the Palestinian Authority of
doing nothing to stop the attacks."
According to the Telegraph, "The dossier includes a list of 140 cases
of apparent land theft, in which Christians in the West Bank were
allegedly forced off their lands backed by corrupt judicial
The Telegraph also reported about the activism of Samir Qumsieh, a
prominent Palestinian Christian leader in the West Bank:
Mr Qumsieh said he was trying to repair relations between Palestinian
Christian and Muslim communities, convening a meeting attended by
members of both faiths in Bethlehem last week.
But he said that the Christian community was faced with "very brutal"
adversaries. "A criminal mafia and Islamic fundamentalists work
together," he said. "Their interests met to take our land away." He
said that one man had lost his finger in one land dispute which
turned violent and that a group had attacked and injured a Greek
orthodox monk at a 5th century monastery outside Bethlehem.
The dossier currently in Church hands details far worse allegations
of violence, notably the torture and murder of two Christian girls in
2003 after they were deemed prostitutes. A post mortem examination
reportedly proved they were virgins.
Why is it that Simon relied on Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for
testimony about Islamist hostility toward Christians when Christians
themselves are talking about it? And why did he work so assiduously
to discount Oren´s testimony? Evidently, Simon was not interested in
the truth about the status of Christians in Palestinian society but
instead was more interested in scoring a cheap shot at Oren´s expense.
Promoting Anti-Israel Propaganda as Peacemaking
Simon passed off the Kairos Document as an honest attempt by
Palestinian Christians to promote peace between Israel and the
Palestinians. He did this by reporting that in 2009, a group of
Palestinian Christan pastors "did something unprecedented. They
published a document called Kairos, criticizing Islamic extremism and
advocating non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation which
they called a sin against God."
The Kairos Document, a statement issued by a group of Palestinian
Christian pastors in 2009 is not the document of peace, love and
understanding that Simon indicates it is.
Yes, the document does call on Muslims to "reject fanaticism and
extremism" but does not mention groups like Hamas and Palestinian
Islamic Jihad that espouse Islamist ideology.
And while it calls the Israeli "occupation" a "sin against God," it
characterizes Palestinian acts of terror as "legal resistance." A
Christian group, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace declared the use
of the word "resistance" to describe terrorism "repugnant."
The document also states that if "there were no occupation, there
would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity." Really? Then why
did the rocket attacks against Israel increase after it withdrew from
the Gaza Strip in 2005?
The Kairos Palestine document is so hostile and one-sided, that it
was denounced as "supersessionist and antisemitic" by the Central
Conference of American Rabbis in 2010. Simon acknowledged none of
this in his reporting.
(For more analysis about the Kairos Document, please go here, here
Raheb No Peacemaker
Simon also presented of Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb from Bethlehem as
a peacemaker to his audience despite the fact that he has been
roundly criticized for use of some very bothersome rhetoric at the
2010 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. At this conference, Raheb
declared the following:
… Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land.
And this is not only because I´m a Palestinian. I´m sure if we were
to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus,
born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where
Jesus was born, I´m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace.
While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get
nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who
converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.
Raheb´s assertion that Benjamin Netanyahu is not really connected to
the land of Israel but is instead a descendent of an "East European
tribe" that "converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages" is an anti-
Semitic canard that has a long career.
The notion that European Jews aren´t really Jews, but instead
descendants of the "Khazars" who converted to Judaism is a shopworn
trope often used to deny the connection between modern day Jews and
the land of Israel. Raheb´s use of this rhetoric prompted New
Testament Scholar Malcom Lowe to issue the following critique:
Even if Raheb´s claims about the ancestry of himself and Binyamin
Netanyahu were true, he would be putting them at the service of a
shameless racism. But, of course, he also has not the slightest
evidence to support those claims. He knows nothing of Netanyahu´s
ancestry. And he himself, for all he knows, may be descended from
Greek pilgrims or from Europeans who arrived with the Crusaders, as I
have pointed out elsewhere. As for DNA, had he taken the trouble,
Raheb could have found that genetic studies on Jews have shown that
European Jews are genetically much more closely related to Jews in
the Middle East, and even to some non-Jews there, than to non-Jewish
Did Simon or Radliffe, the producer, look into Raheb´s background
before presenting him as a peacemaker?
Basic Facts and biased omission
Simon descended into outright propaganda about Israeli security
measures when he asserted that the concrete security
barrier "completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the ´little town´
where Christ was born into what its residents call ´an open air
In fact, the security barrier does not "completely surround"
Bethlehem, because if it did, it would be cut off completely from the
rest of the West Bank. It isn´t.
Maps provided by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United
Nations, B´tselem, and the PLO all indicate that the security barrier
is located to the north and west of the city, and does not completely
surround Bethlehem. This is a favored lie of anti-Israel
propagandists. Simon worked on this program for months, spending time
in Bethlehem. He could see for himself the barrier doesn´t encircle
the town. If he can´t be trusted to get the facts straight on
something as obvious as this, it´s hardly surprising he got so much
Simon also reports that for Palestinians, "leaving Bethlehem is a
struggle" and that going to Jerusalem means going through an Israeli
checkpoint, which can take hours, and that in some instances, they
are not allowed to enter Israel at all.
Simon´s expectation that Palestinians living in the West Bank should
have easy access to Jerusalem is unrealistic. Palestinians have been
in an effective state of war with Israel for decades. During the
Second Intifada, Palestinian terrorists were responsible for the
deaths of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and weapons are found at
checkpoints on a regular basis.
It is simply unreasonable for Simon to expect that it would be easy
for Palestinians to enter into Israel under these conditions.
Simon´s most obnoxious moment came when he complained about the
Ambassador calling his boss, Jeffrey Fager, head of CBS news and
executive producer of 60 Minutes about the segment before it aired.
Simon stated that he has been doing his job a long time and
that "he´s never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn´t
been broadcast yet."
This is newsworthy? Christians are being murdered in Egypt, Iraq and
Nigeria and Simon´s scoop – his big reveal before he signs off – is
that Oren called his boss to complain about a story that hasn´t aired
This is simply outrageous. Simon and his producer, Harry Radliffe
failed to treat the subject they were covering with the seriousness
They owe the American people an apology for their journalistic
This article was originally published by the Committee for Accuracy
on Middle East reporting on April 25th.
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