From Stand With Us
On Sunday, April 22, CBS` "60 Minutes" ran a shockingly biased episode, "Christians of the Holy Land" by Bob Simon. Even the always diplomatic Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren called the show a "hatchet job" on Israel. You can watch the program here.This is just one part of a greater whole to demonize Israel and the Jewish people. Both Jeffrey Fager and Bill Owens should change their names to Joseph Goebbels. For they are just continuing the work that he started.
Ambassador Oren was right. Simon only paid lip service to the violent persecution and flight of ancient Christian communities throughout the region which is the real historical tragedy unfolding in the Middle East. Instead, incomprehensibly, he chose to bash Israel, the only Middle Eastern country that protects Christians. The program scapegoated and demonized Israel, distorting reality to blame Israel`s security measures -- the fence and checkpoints -- for the suffering of Palestinian Christians. Simon interviewed biased and sometimes anti-Semitic sources, treating them as legitimate. He asked leading questions. He dismissed the real reasons for the plight and flight of Palestinian Christians: persecution by Palestinian Islamists and the Palestinian Authority. His shoddy, irresponsible research produced propaganda, not journalism. This dangerous misinformation stokes anti-Israel prejudice and bigotry, shifting public attention away from the forces that are imperiling the survival of Christian communities in the Palestinian Authority and throughout the region.
Write to CBS executives. Demand that CBS offer an apology, and give equal time to correct the misinformation and anti-Semitic innuendos.
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Jeffrey Fager - Chairman of CBS News, Executive Producer of 60 Minutes
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Bill Owens - Executive Editor of "60 Minutes"
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We were shocked by the shoddy journalism in your April 22nd "60 Minutes" piece, "Christians of the Holy Land." We urge you to run a corrective piece and publicly apologize for the piece`s irresponsible inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and bias. Bob Simon either unwittingly or intentionally promoted hostility toward Israel and anti-Semitic views. In a pattern that he has repeated in the past, Simon interviewed biased sources and treated them as legitimate. He asked leading questions. More disturbing, he ignored and effectively belittled the real threats to beleaguered Christians, which come from rising Islamist persecution throughout the region and in Gaza and the West Bank. Instead, he focused on the one country in the Middle East that firmly protects the rights of Christians. If allowed to stand uncorrected, this program will have misinformed the public and irreparably damaged the reputation of "60 Minutes," which will no longer be considered a reliable news source.
SELECTED DETAILS ON MISLEADING AND ANTI-SEMITIC INNUENDOS IN "CHRISTIANS OF THE HOLY LAND"
Despite the program`s claims, Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians` rights are fully protected and where the Christian population has grown instead of declined in the last 64 years.
Christians have been emigrating from the Holy Land in a two-century-long trend, not because of Israel and the security policies -- the barrier and checkpoints -- it was forced to implement in just the last 10 years.
- Israel`s Christian population grew from 34,000 in 1948 to 154,000 in 2012.
- Israel has fostered a positive environment for Christians, most evidenced by official recognition of 10 Christian denominations and by Israel`s distribution of free Christmas trees every year at Christmas time.
- Major emigration occurred in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In some cases, emigrant Christian Palestinian communities grew larger than their communities of origin in the Holy Land.
The program interviewed one businessman only to deny the real problem facing Christians: rising hostility and persecution by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Palestinian Islamist groups. Why didn`t the program mention any of the following?
- During Jordanian control (1948-1967), Jerusalem`s Christian population dropped from 29,000 in 1944 to 11,000 in 1961. In Bethlehem, 75 percent of the population was Christian in 1947; in 1967, the percentage had dropped to 46 percent.
Simon implied that Israel`s policies and the fence are harming the West Bank`s economy.
- The PA declared Islam its official religion, committed to Sharia law, and does not offer civil protection to other religions. A few weeks ago, the PA declared that the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem is illegitimate.
- Christians in the West Bank have been victims of repeated persecution, violence, and rape. In 2005, Palestinian Christians, including Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, custodian of the Holy Land, documented 93 incidents of abuse and violence by the "Islamic fundamentalist Mafia" against Christians.
- Christians face intimidation, brutality, theft of their property and boycotts of their businesses.
- The PA Ministry of Information reported in 1997 that "any Muslim who [converts to Christianity] or declares becoming an unbeliever is committing a major sin punishable by capital punishment."
- Christian history is denied by Palestinian Muslims, including Yassir Arafat`s and the recently retired Mufti of Jerusalem who claim that the Jewish Temple never existed in Jerusalem.
- The Christian population in Gaza has plummeted from 2,500 to under 1,000 because of persecution by Hamas.
Simon interviewed only biased sources -- and did not bother to investigate whether many Christians were afraid to speak out of fear of endangering themselves and their families.
- In fact, the terrorist war known as the Second Intifada, not Israel, is what harmed the West Bank`s economy.
- As the PA has tried to control terrorist groups, Israel has been able to relax its counter-terrorism measures, bringing the PA extraordinary economic growth of 8 percent per year in the last three years.
Simon asked leading questions to provoke answers that fit his political agenda.
- Simon did not interview clergy and ordinary Christians who might have had the courage to speak up, such as Rev. Steve Khourani of the First Baptist Church of Bethlehem; Samir Qumsiyeh of Bethlehem, director of the Catholic radio Station; or the Christian leaders who signed the 2005 document detailing the PA`s persecution of Christians.
Simon interviewed and promoted anti-Semitic sources.
- Simon asked the woman who lived near the security barrier, "How can you live like this?" The barrier may be unpleasant, but his very question suggested it is unjustifiable and intolerable, and he got the answer he wanted.
- When the woman said she wouldn`t move but would stay and "fight," he never asked what she meant by "fight" or why she didn`t instead say she wanted to seek peaceful coexistence so the barrier could be removed. Instead, he stoked the sense that the barrier was intolerable and her reaction understandable -- even though her anger betrayed why the barrier is necessary.
Simon engaged in anti-Semitic innuendos.
- Mitri Raheb, the main pastor he interviewed, is well known for promoting replacement theology which Vatican II condemned as a prime source of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
- Raheb delegitimizes Israel and the right of the Jewish state to exist.
- Simon uncritically promoted the Kairos Document though it has been exposed as using high-minded rhetoric to camouflage the authors` sinister motives -- delegitimization of Israel, opposition to the existence of the Jewish state, and calls for boycott and divestment from Israel.
- Simon claimed that Israel treats Christians well and wants to promote good Christian-Jewish relations because of the money it gets from Christian tourism.
- In fact, Israel protects Christians, not for tourism dollars -- an anti-Semitic "Shylock" innuendo -- but because those are Israel`s values.
FACT SHEET -- Read more about the persecution of Christians by the Palestinian Authority here.
Call, Write, Boycott the network. If this is allowed to continue on, the next step will be worse.