Israeli Ambassador Fears 60 Minutes “Hatchet Job”; Bob Simon Protests, Then Delivers

by A. Jay Adler on April 23, 2012
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On 60 Minutes last night, Bob Simon explained in backgrounding the excerpts of his interview with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren that Oren asked to respond to the 60 Minutes report – before it even aired – because he had heard the report would be a “hatchet job.” (The reported charge is in the video, but omitted from a transcript that is not labeled as abridged.) Simon made much of the unusual request and Israel’s apparent defensiveness. Oren said during the interview that the interview itself had confirmed the reports. Simon protested that Oren could not know this because the report had not aired yet. Oren conceded that point.

Now the report has aired.

It is worse than a hatchet job. It is slick, slasher journalism and a disgrace. It is a black mark on 60 Minutes’ storied tradition not only because it enters the annals of prejudicial, anti-Israel reporting, but because it is garbage journalism not worthy of the name.

To suspect that Simon might be responsible for a hatchet job on Israel, one only need be familiar with his prior reporting on the subject. In this 2009 report, for instance, it is not only the substance of the report that is problematic, but Simon’s reporting tactics and style. At about 5:35 in the video, Simon makes a show of attempting to interview a small IDF unit that has taken up a position in a Palestinian home, a unit in the middle of a security operation. Talking through a door from the street, Simon attempts to make the soldiers appear dishonest and furtive because their commander – in the midst of a military operation – will not talk with a reporter.

“Have you lost your voice,” Simon accusatorily asks, while surrounded by Palestinian boys.

It is a manipulative and bathetic display with only one aim.

In last night’s report, Simon pretends to cover the story of the West Bank’s dramatically declining Arab Christian population. He interviews a myriad of Palestinian sources and cites Palestinian documents that clearly suggest Israeli responsibility for the decline. Among Israelis, Simon interviews only Oren and Ari Shavit, though Shavit is actually offered as a mostly supportive voice for the Palestinian claims. So Oren is the only Israeli voice to counter all of those that are critical. The manifest aim of the report is insinuate the cause of Christian immigration by adjoining the repeated references to the population decline to stock complaints about Israeli behavior towards Palestinians, such as the construction of the security barrier. Amidst all this, however, the report does not present a single piece of factual evidence or cite a single Israeli policy or action that is specifically directed against Arab Christians.

Let me repeat that, because it is very important: Bob Simon’s 60 Minutes report, the report that very prominently devotes itself to suggesting Israeli culpability for the decline in the Arab Christian population in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and which explicitly upbraids Ambassador Michael Oren for objecting beforehand to its aim – that report does not cite as much as one Israeli policy or Israeli government act as exemplary of behavior specifically driving Christians to emigrate.

The report never addresses why Moslems are not emigrating in the same way. Though Oren states it, Simon’s report never explores his claim that it is Moslem behavior toward Christians that is driving them away. Though even Shavit states,

 Israel is not persecuting Christians as Christians

Simon does not explore the meaning of that point or alter the argumentative drive of his report.

When Simon reports, in this one sentence,

But inside Israel, in Christian towns like Nazareth, Arabs are Israeli citizens and, according to Ambassador Oren, they’re thriving,

he leaves it at that and devotes not a word of commentary or a second of screen time to examining the truth of Oren’s claim or its implications for the presentation his report is making.

The report even goes this far. I leave it for last because it is so outrageous and so tendentiously brands Simon and his report as promoters of the Palestinian propaganda that seeks even to reach back into history and lie about it to delegitimize the Jewish presence in Israel. The report offers:

Mitri Raheb: Christianity started here. The only thing that Palestine was able to export so successfully was Christianity.

Mitri Raheb is a Palestinian, a Christian and a Lutheran minister from Bethlehem. He runs schools, cultural centers and health clinics.

Mitri Raheb: Christianity has actually on the back a stamp saying, “Made in Palestine.”

This is said, with no corrective follow up, of the religion whose central figure of veneration was born and died a Jew, whose followers for the next century were still considered Jews, and who was born in the Kingdom of Judah.

Bob Simon owes Michael Oren an apology. CBS needs to initiate a review of the making of this 60 Minutes report and account for it to its audience.

AJA

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