Why Did 60 Minutes Deceive Its Viewers?

The Gatestone Institute:

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 neighbors.

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 state.

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 writes:

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 gangs.

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…

Read on here and see the true obnoxious anti-Israel propaganda being passed off as peacemaking.



Churches Silent in Face of Islamic Persecution of Palestinian Christians

Instead of blaming Israel, this is far more honest and responsible reporting:

Op-ed: World, churches silent in face of Islamic persecution of Palestinian Christians.

Veteran CBS News anchor Bob Simon just reported on the Palestinian Christians, indicting Israel’s “occupation” as responsible for their dramatic disappearance. The 60 Minutes story caused Israel tremendous PR damage.

Yet largely ignored by Western media, a systematic campaign of Muslim persecution against the Christians is taking place in Palestinian areas. It’s a religious and ethnic cleansing campaign silenced by the global churches.

Christians have long been the frontrunners of Arab nationalism. The most prominent Palestinian intellectual was a Christian, Edward Said. The propaganda term “Nakba” has been penned by a Christian, Constantin Zureiq. The terrorist George Habash was a Christian, as was Yasser Arafat’s wife. Azmi Bishara, the Arab MK who leaked secrets to Hezbollah, comes from a middle-class Christian family from Nazareth.

Since the first Intifada, Palestinian Christians created a Muslim-Christian unity to portray Israel as the aggressor, colonizer and invader. They thought that the Islamic-Christian front against Zionism would help secure their position in the Arab world. Indeed, Arab Christians, and especially their judeophobic clergy, have been in the vanguard of the battle for the destruction of Israel. It was a political operation that also served to cover the crimes committed against Christians by the PLO and the Islamic groups: forced marriage, conversions, beatings, land theft, fire bombings, commercial boycott, torture, kidnapping, sexual harassment, and extortion.

The latest victim has been the Baptist Church in Bethlehem, which the Palestinian Authority just declared as illegitimate, as the US church’s message of reconciliation flies in the face of the hateful propaganda permeating Palestinian society. Arab Christians were obliged to make continual compromises, afraid to mention their own suffering for fear of irritating the Muslim authorities. Soon it became a taboo subject even in the West.

When last month Ayaan Hirsi Ali penned the Newsweek cover story on the persecution of Christians under Islam, she did not mention the Palestinian areas, where Christians dropped from 15% of the population in 1950 to just 2% today. With the PA refusing to reveal accurate statistics, the real extent of Christian emigration is unknown.

Christian shops firebombed

As the CBS report showed, Palestinian Christians today have to speak out against “Israeli occupation,” because if they don’t, their silence will be perceived as pro-Israeli by the Muslims. Christian leaders don’t mention the fact that they have suffered the most from the mafia-style rule of Yasser Arafat’s kleptocracy, that slogans like “Islam will win” and “First the Saturday people then the Sunday People” have been painted on their churches, and that PLO flags were draped over crosses.

After the 1948 war, Christian communities suffered most in the West Bank, not under “Israel’s occupation,” but because Muslim refugees were cynically settled in their midst by the Arab leadership. Ramallah was 90% Christian before the war, while Bethlehem was 80% Christian. By 1967, more than half of Bethlehem’s residents were Muslim, while Ramallah is a large Muslim city today.

In a process of “Lebanonization,” Arafat changed Bethlehem’s demography by bringing in thousands of Muslims from refugee camps. Arafat then turned the city into a safe haven for suicide bombers and transformed the Greek Orthodox monastery, located next to the Church of Nativity, into his residence. Christian cemeteries and convents were desecrated and Christians became the PLO’s human shields.

In the first year of the second Intifada, when Arafat’s terrorists ravaged Christian towns by gunfire and mortars, 1,640 Christians left Bethlehem and another 880 left Ramallah.

In 2007, one year after Hamas’ Gaza takeover, the owner of the Strip’s only Christian bookstore was murdered. Christian shops and schools were firebombed. Ahmad El-Achwal is just one of the many Palestinians converted to Christianity killed by Islamic militants.

Astonishing silence

The silence of the Vatican and the World Council of Churches has been astonishing. Only a few Christian leaders have been brave enough to denounce what is taking place on the ground. With harsh and unexpected words, in 2005 the Custodian of the Holy Land, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, said to an Italian newspaper: “Almost every day – I repeat, almost every day – our communities are harassed by the Islamic extremists.”

When Palestinian Christians approached their organizations and complained that terrorists were using Christian homes to fire on Gilo, international Christian solidarity did not meet the challenge.

A few days ago, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Archbishop Vincent Nichols, urged William Hague, the UK Foreign Secretary, to address the “tragic situation” faced by Palestinians – not because Islamist threats, but because Arabs were “displaced” by the Israeli barrier in Beit Jala, despite the fact that in constructing the security barrier no land has been annexed by Israel, no houses have been demolished, and no-one has been required to leave their home.

In fact, the bigger truth ignored by the Western press and the Churches is that Israel’s barrier helped restore calm and security not just in Israel, but also in Bethlehem. The Church of the Nativity, which Palestinian terrorists defiled in 2002 to escape from the Israeli army, is now filled again with tourists from around the world.

The Catholic and Orthodox Churches also frequently asked Israeli authorities to change the route of the fence. They simply didn’t want to live under the Palestinian autocracy. Thus, for example, the Rosary Sisters School in the Dachyat El Barid neighborhood north of Jerusalem was included on the Israeli side of the fence, in light of requests from the Mother Superior of the order.

Today, Palestinian Christians risk the same fate of their brethren in Lebanon. Everyone remembers the Phalange atrocities at Sabra and Shatila. But very few know that the first ethnically cleansed community during the civil war was a Christian town. In November 1976, Palestinian forces came into Damour and dynamited homes and churches, massacring entire families. They exhumed the dead from the Christian cemetery and scattered skeletons throughout the rubble. Some 500 Christians died that day. Will Bethlehem be a second Damour?



CBS Piece on Christians’ Plight in Middle East — in Israel?

In the Washington Post:

On Sunday, “60 Minutes” aired a report on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Was it on the Copts in Egypt? The destruction of Christian communities in Arab lands? Syrian Christians living in Bashar al-Assad’s slaughterhouse? Oh no. This was about Israel. As host Bob Simon put it, with only about 11,000 Christians left, “Religious leaders are afraid Jerusalem could become a museum, a spiritual theme park, a great place for tourists and pilgrims, but not for the Arab Christians whose roots date back to the church’s very beginnings.”

The fault, he claimed, lies with that dreaded wall. You know, the one Israel was forced to erect to stop wave after wave of terrorist bombings. So you see in defending itself, Israel has turned Bethlehem into “an open-air prison.” This, according to Simon, means: “For all Palestinians, just leaving Bethlehem is a struggle. Getting to Jerusalem, only seven miles away, whether it’s to pray, go to a doctor, visit family members or work, means going through this Israeli checkpoint. That can take hours, but before Palestinians can get even this far, they need a permit from the Israelis, which can take weeks or months to obtain and is frequently denied.”

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Oren, remarked on the piece: “It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding? I think it’s — I think it’s — I think you got me a little bit mystified.” (For some  balance to the CBS hit piece, check out Oren’s Wall Street Journal op-ed from March.)

There is no mystery, actually. It is pretty much par for the course in much of the European and American coverage of Israel. At best, Israel’s defense is painted as morally equivalent to the murders that precipitated  it. At worst, Israel — the most democratic and tolerant country in a sea of Islamic tyranny —  takes a beating.

Some Christians in the United States are not sitting still for this. Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest pro-Zionist group in the country, sent out an ”action alert” asking its members to contact CBS and air their complaints. The letter to CUFI members states: “This story scapegoated Israel and ignored the greatest threats facing the Christians of the Middle East. By focusing on the wrong story and blaming the wrong party, you have squandered a precious opportunity.” It continues: “The Christians of the Middle East do face unprecedented threats. As Islamic terrorists have stepped up their attacks against Christians, we are witnessing the collapse of the ancient Christian communities of Iraq, Egypt and Syria. Yet you chose to ignore these threats and focus instead on the security measures that Israel has taken to protect its citizens — Jewish, Christian and Muslim — from the very same Islamic terror.” A CUFI spokesman tells me that 16,000 e-mails were sent to CBS in the first  four hours.