Thursday, August 23, 2007

CNN's Two Hour Attack On Israel

On Tuesday night CNN had a two hour "Special Investigations" piece called "G-d's Jewish Warriors" hosted by Christiane Amanpour. Rather than being a piece of investigative journalism it was, in fact, a smear campaign attacking Israel, American Jewish supporter of Israel, and Orthodox Judaism in general.

There is no doubt that Jewish extremism exists. It is, however, embraced by very few religious Jews and is unrepresentative of Judaism or Israel. You'd never know it from watching the piece. I would never complain about an objective or accurate report on Jewish extremists within the settler movement in Israel or anywhere else for that matter. There was nothing objective about this report.

Former President Jimmy Carter was trotted out and his now infamous book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" was touted. No mention was made of how many members of the Carter Center's Board of Directors resigned over that book was made. No other former President with different views appeared other than in old film of speeches opposing Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Gaza was rarely mentioned and Israel's unilateral withdrawals from Gaza and southern Lebanon were ignored. The terrorism that followed those withdrawals, the daily rocket fire on Sderot or Hibullah's rain of thousands of missiles on northern Israel last year wasn't mentioned either. Never mind that the fear of such attacks on Israel's main population centers from Judea and Samaria was the reason Prime Minister Olmert's plans to withdraw from the West Bank was scuttled. Watching the report one rather got the impression that all Israeli governments, including the current one, intended to hold onto all of Judea and Samaria forever.

Theodore Meron was trotted out to explain his view that settlements violate international law. Israel's view that the territories are "disputed" rather than "occupied" and that Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions don't apply since no prior Palestinian state ever existed was given exactly one dismissive sentence. The fact that borders have never been agreed by anyone was ignored. For the majority of the piece the idea that Israeli settlements, including any and all construction in east Jerusalem, are illegal was taken as an indisputable fact. It clearly is not. The fact that Kfar Etzion was Jewish before 1948 was mentioned as a reason for reestablishing the community was one of the very few bright spots in this abysmal program.

John Mearsheimer explained his view of how the American Jewish lobby unduly influences American foreign policy at length. No credible opposing view was given and the long list of distinguished academics who denounced the Mearsheimer-Walt report or claimed that it failed to meet any acadamic standards were not mentioned. The fact that Christopher Hitchens, a long time critic of Israel, claims that Mearsheimer and Walt overstated the influence of the pro-Israel lobby certainly wasn't worthy of inclusion. It didn't fit CNN's agenda. American Jewish support of Israel was shown to be support of settlements, and by extension, support of extremism or Kach or terrorism.

Every time someone was shown as an avid supporter of Israel or someone was shown moving into the territories a point was made of telling the viewer that they were Orthodox. The impression the CNN report gave was that Orthodox Jews were unanimous, or at least nearly so, in support of settlement activity. One also got the impression that all settlers are religious, probably fanatically so. No mention was made of the fact that religious Jews cover the entire political spectrum. No mention was made of the fact that many who bought homes in Judea and Samaria did so because housing was inexpensive there. There was certainly no coverage of large communities in Judea and Samaria like Ariel, with it's large Russian immigrant population that is overwhelmingly secular. You certainly would never know that most settlers are absolutely horrified by rare acts of Jewish terrorism just like everyone else from watching this program. Indeed, the report gave the impression that Jewish terrorism by settlers is common, widely supported, and a serious problem. After all, CNN is giving Jewish terrorism and Islamic terrorism equal coverage, aren't they?

In the latter part of the two hour report the attack shifted to "G-d's Christian Warriors" who support Israel. Christian Zionists were painted as extremists supporting other extremists. They too, it seems, have undo influence in Washington. Never mind that evangelical Christians make up somewhere around a quarter of the American population and are a truly huge voting bloc, unlike American Jews. Certainly no mention was made of the fact that a rather large majority of Americans, religious or not, support Israel according to every poll taken on the subject this century.

The program presented those who called President Carter or Dr. Mearsheimer antisemitic in a disparaging way. Yet, with it's broad attacks and generalizations not only about Israeli settlers, but about Israel as a whole, about the American Jewish community, and about Orthodox Judaism I couldn't help but feeling that the report was, indeed, truly antisemitic. This from someone who has never called President Carter or Dr. Mearsheimer antisemites.

I talked about "G-d's Jewish Warriors" with a friend this morning. Her response: "What did you expect?" Regarding Christiane Amanpour she added: "Her views are well known." Indeed. If you want a horribly biased report send a truly biased reporter.

I know the blogosphere, expecially Jewish bloggers, are writing extensively about the CNN attack on Israel. I haven't read any of it yet. I wanted this piece to be based solely on my own impressions of the program. I didn't want to be influenced by anyone else's views before I wrote this.

I guess I have to once again add CNN to the BBC as an organization hopelessly biased against Israel. This report was something I would have expected of Al Jazeera. I had hoped CNN had learned from it's past mistakes and repeated apologies and would have tried to really have given a balanced report. Silly me.

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