Did Bob Simon do a hatchet job on Israel in his “60 Minutes” slot, entitled “Christians in the Holy Land”? Of course he did. Should he have been surprised – and even put out -that Israel's US Ambassador Michael Oren presumed that he would do a 'hatchet job' on a story on Israel? Well, that is another matter. But he did attempt to browbeat Oren and even manipulated an anti-Semitic metaphor (Jews caring about money) to do so.
What was wrong with Simon’s piece? Well, together with producer Harry Radliffe, he aired an item that was a presentation representing the most extreme anti-Zionist, and at times, anti-Semitic local Christian liberation ideologies, with no balance provided from the pro-Zionist Christians nor any neutral group who could have provided much counter-argument to the various claims asserted from official or non-official Israel representatives except for one journalist/columnist from Haaretz.
It is, actually, fairly simple to spot the errors, the misrepresentations and the missing voices. If one reviews the text from the transcript of Bob Simon's April 22 '60 Minutes' piece, "Christians of the Holy Land", (the video clip is here), all becomes quite clear. (There is also a companion clip on Taybeh village which avoids a story of Muslims raping a Christian girl in 2005 – a news clip is here – or the overall Palestinian Authority oppression of Christians. What interests Simon is how many Christians there were in the village “before the Israeli occupation”, at 2:58 but he never inquiries, on camera, if Christians had been moving to Detroit, say, in the late 1950s or why.)
The lead-in sets the tone:
(CBS News) The exodus from the Holy Land of Palestinian Christians could eventually leave holy cities like Jerusalem and Bethlehem without a local Christian population, Bob Simon reports. Why are they leaving? For some, life in the middle of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become too difficult.
What 'exodus'? What 'Holy Land'? Is it that Christians leaving...Israel or the territories under military administration, Judea and Samaria? What about Gaza? (See Acts 8, 1 & 26 for those geographical names) Is it not part of the Holy Land? Jordan is not part of the "Holy Land"?
Simons never develops for the listener/viewer the reality, in all its proportions and complexity. He 'smoothes over' all the politics, the history - flattening that out so the viewer is putty in his hands. He even lies:
The one place where Christians are not suffering from violence is the Holy Land.
But they are, at the hands of fundamentalist Islamists who punish them as part of their fight with Israel in Gaza, and all throughout the Palestinian Authority. Even the US State Department can confirm that. In its report, DENIAL OF RELIGIOUS RIGHTS BY THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY, Simon could have read that:
"Periodically, there are incidents of Christian-Muslim tension in the occupied territories. Tensions have arisen over Christian- Muslim romantic relationships or when Christians have erected large crosses in the public domain. Christians in the Bethlehem area also have complained about Muslims settling there and constructing homes illegally on land not zoned for building. "During the period covered by this report, there were periodic reports that some Christian converts from Islam who publicize their religious beliefs have been harassed. Converts complained that they were mistreated and threatened. The draft Palestinian Basic Law specifically forbids discrimination against individuals based on their religion; however, the PA did not take any action against persons accused of harassment."
And here are a few of the assaults by Muslims on Christain Holy Sites:
On July 5, 1997, Palestinian policemen arrived at the [Abraham's Oak Russian "Holy Trinity" Monastery in Hebron], physically removed the monks and nuns, and took over the site. Several of the monks and nuns required hospitalization….During the October and November 2000 hostilities, Fatah gunmen -- members of the "Tansim"-- fired on the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo from areas adjacent to churches in Beit Jalla, most notably the Church of St. Nicholas, hoping that Israel's return fire will hit a church," reported a Christian cleric. "Then it will be front-page news for the "Christian West,' that Israel is now destroying churches."…In January 2000, Palestinian police evicted five "White Russian" monks from their 19th-century monastery in the West Bank town of Jericho, handing the property over to the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church…In May 2002, 13 Palestinian terrorists forcibly took over the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem. They stole gold objects from the monks, ate their scarce food, and urinated on the church floor.
but Palestinian Christians have been leaving in large numbers for years. So many, 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.
And who is at fault? Simon has no criticism for or reference to the PA, except as phrased as a doubt, in a question, as if he cannot independently confirm that.
His geography is wrong:
This is what the Holy Land looks like today. Bethlehem, where Jesus was born.
He asks Eastern Orthodox Theophilos
When you first came here in 1964 what was the percentage of Christians in the old city?
Theophilos: There were around 30,000 of-- Christians living in the Old City.
Bob Simon: And now how many are there?
Theophilos: Very few.
So few, some 11,000 Christians out of a population of almost 800,000 -- just one and a half percent.
However, in 1964, Jordan occupied the area and in any case, we never learn what was the previous percentage. Did Jordan, a Muslim authority, have anything to do with a mass emigration of Christians?
Simon talks with Mitri Raheb, “a Palestinian, a Christian and a Lutheran minister from Bethlehem, a person Israel considers a 'racist' and an 'anti-Semite', who says
Christianity has actually on the back a stamp saying, "Made in Palestine."
If anything, a good claim could be made that Christianity as a religion separate from being a sect of Judasim nor the life of Jesus, was made on the road nigh onto Damascus.
Simon accuses not only the “occupation” but also the Jewish communities, places where thousands of Christians come to volunteer and work and which have nothing to do with local Christians:
Palestinian Christians, once a powerful minority, are becoming the invisible people, squeezed between a growing Muslim majority and burgeoning Israeli settlements…
It was reported in December 2011 that the makeup of Christian families in Israel is two children, slightly fewer than the 2.2 for Jewish families and the 3 for Muslim citizens. So, perhaps Christians also have their own demographic problem which has nothing to do with the “occupation”? Moreover: Israel is the only Middle East nation where the Christian population has grown in the last half century (from 34,000 in 1948 to 140,000 today), in large measure because of the freedom to practice their religion. It was during Jordan's control of the Old City from 1948 until 1967 that Christian rights were infringed and Israeli Christians were barred from their holy places when the Christian population declined by nearly half, from 25,000 to 12,646. Since then, the population has slowly been growing. The proportion of Christians in the Palestinian territories has dropped from 15 percent of the Arab population in 1950 to less than 1 percent today. Three-fourths of all Bethlehem Christians now live abroad, and the majority of the city’s population is Muslim. The Christian population declined 29 percent in the West Bank and 20 percent in the Gaza Strip from 1997 to 2002. By contrast, in the period 1995–2003, Israel’s Arab Christian population grew 14.1 percent (see also CAMERA’s December 24, 2004 report after a NY Times story that also got the facts wrong).
By the way, I found this in the transcript
[Zahi Khouri: Great selling point. Easy to sell to the American public.]
A producer's note of excitement for his anti-Israel angle?
And that same Zahi Khouri says:
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.
Do you feel, like me, that he is simply lying?
Bob adds at this point a mention of the 2009, document called Kairos. Well, that lets the proverbial cat out of the bag. That "document" was roundly criticized by many Christians and Jews. Simon is promoting an extremist anti-Jewish agenda.
“S,” an Arab from eastern Jerusalem, is one of the outstanding IDF soldiers who will be recognized at this year’s Israel Independence Day ceremony at the President’s residence. “First of all, I’m an Israeli,” he says. “For me, to continue to serve in the IDF is a dream.”
How long will Bob Simon keep his job with 60 Minutes? On Sunday, the Jewish American CBS correspondent, exposed the exodus of Christians from Israel (a once dominant community is now a shell) and laid it at the door of Israel’s policies toward all Palestinians, Christians and Muslims
And , (a) inserts a bit of anti-Semitic conspiracy theory - Jews can get media people fired; and (b) while getting the story line wrong, proves how biased Bob Simon's report was for it was the supposed Christian exodus from the "Holy Land", by which Simon meant East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, aka the 'West Bank'.
If MJ got it wrong, Simon was, alas, too good.
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