April 26, 2012
60 Minutes smears Israel for Christian exodus from Holy Land
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Such testimony is not new. In 2005, Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land for the Roman Catholic Church, acknowledged publicly that Palestinians Christians were suffering from acts of oppression by their Muslim neighbors.
In its coverage of the story the Telegraph reported that things had gotten so bad that Church leaders compiled a “dossier” of 93 alleged incidents of abuse by an ‘Islamic fundamentalist mafia against Palestinian Christians, who accused the Palestinian Authority of doing nothing to stop the attacks.”
According to the Telegraph, “The dossier includes a list of 140 cases of apparent land theft, in which Christians in the West Bank were allegedly forced off their lands backed by corrupt judicial officials.”
The Telegraph also reported about the activism of Samir Qumsieh, a prominent Palestinian Christian leader in the West Bank:
Mr Qumsieh said he was trying to repair relations between Palestinian Christian and Muslim communities, convening a meeting attended by members of both faiths in Bethlehem last week.
But he said that the Christian community was faced with “very brutal” adversaries. “A criminal mafia and Islamic fundamentalists work together,” he said. “Their interests met to take our land away.” He said that one man had lost his finger in one land dispute which turned violent and that a group had attacked and injured a Greek orthodox monk at a 5th century monastery outside Bethlehem.
The dossier currently in Church hands details far worse allegations of violence, notably the torture and murder of two Christian girls in 2003 after they were deemed prostitutes. A post mortem examination reportedly proved they were virgins.
Why is it that Simon relied on Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren for testimony about Islamist hostility toward Christians when Christians themselves are talking about it? And why did he work so assiduously to discount Oren’s testimony? Evidently, Simon was not interested in the truth about the status of Christians in Palestinian society but instead was more interested in scoring a cheap shot at Oren’s expense.
Promoting Anti-Israel Propaganda as Peacemaking
Simon passed off the Kairos Document as an honest attempt by Palestinian Christians to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He did this by reporting that in 2009, a group of Palestinian Christan pastors “did something unprecedented. They published a document called Kairos, criticizing Islamic extremism and advocating non-violent resistance to the Israeli occupation which they called a sin against God.”
The Kairos Document, a statement issued by a group of Palestinian Christian pastors in 2009 is not the document of peace, love and understanding that Simon indicates it is.
Yes, the document does call on Muslims to “reject fanaticism and extremism” but does not mention groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad that espouse Islamist ideology.
And while it calls the Israeli “occupation” a “sin against God,” it characterizes Palestinian acts of terror as “legal resistance.” A Christian group, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace declared the use of the word “resistance” to describe terrorism “repugnant.”
The document also states that if “there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity.” Really? Then why did the rocket attacks against Israel increase after it withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005?
The Kairos Palestine document is so hostile and one-sided, that it was denounced as “supersessionist and antisemitic” by the Central Conference of American Rabbis in 2010. Simon acknowledged none of this in his reporting.
(For more analysis about the Kairos Document, please go here, here and here.)
Raheb No Peacemaker
Simon also presented of Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb from Bethlehem as a peacemaker to his audience despite the fact that he has been roundly criticized for use of some very bothersome rhetoric at the 2010 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. At this conference, Raheb declared the following:
… Israel represents Rome of the Bible, not the people of the land. And this is not only because I’m a Palestinian. I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.
Raheb’s assertion that Benjamin Netanyahu is not really connected to the land of Israel but is instead a descendent of an “East European tribe” that “converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages” is an anti-Semitic canard that has a long career.
The notion that European Jews aren’t really Jews, but instead descendants of the “Khazars” who converted to Judaism is a shopworn trope often used to deny the connection between modern day Jews and the land of Israel. Raheb’s use of this rhetoric prompted New Testament Scholar Malcom Lowe to issue the following critique:
Even if Raheb’s claims about the ancestry of himself and Binyamin Netanyahu were true, he would be putting them at the service of a shameless racism. But, of course, he also has not the slightest evidence to support those claims. He knows nothing of Netanyahu’s ancestry. And he himself, for all he knows, may be descended from Greek pilgrims or from Europeans who arrived with the Crusaders, as I have pointed out elsewhere. As for DNA, had he taken the trouble, Raheb could have found that genetic studies on Jews have shown that European Jews are genetically much more closely related to Jews in the Middle East, and even to some non-Jews there, than to non-Jewish Europeans.
Did Simon or Radliffe, the producer, look into Raheb’s background before presenting him as a peacemaker?
Basic Facts and biased omission
Simon descended into outright propaganda about Israeli security measures when he asserted that the concrete security barrier “completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the ‘little town’ where Christ was born into what its residents call ‘an open air prison.’”
In fact, the security barrier does not “completely surround” Bethlehem, because if it did, it would be cut off completely from the rest of the West Bank. It isn’t.
Maps provided by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations, B’tselem, and the PLO all indicate that the security barrier is located to the north and west of the city, and does not completely surround Bethlehem. This is a favored lie of anti-Israel propagandists. Simon worked on this program for months, spending time in Bethlehem. He could see for himself the barrier doesn’t encircle the town. If he can’t be trusted to get the facts straight on something as obvious as this, it’s hardly surprising he got so much else wrong.
Simon also reports that for Palestinians, “leaving Bethlehem is a struggle” and that going to Jerusalem means going through an Israeli checkpoint, which can take hours, and that in some instances, they are not allowed to enter Israel at all.
Simon’s expectation that Palestinians living in the West Bank should have easy access to Jerusalem is unrealistic. Palestinians have been in an effective state of war with Israel for decades. During the Second Intifada, Palestinian terrorists were responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 Israeli civilians and weapons are found at checkpoints on a regular basis.
It is simply unreasonable for Simon to expect that it would be easy for Palestinians to enter into Israel under these conditions.
Simon’s most obnoxious moment came when he complained about the Ambassador calling his boss, Jeffrey Fager, head of CBS news and executive producer of 60 Minutes about the segment before it aired. Simon stated that he has been doing his job a long time and that “he’s never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn’t been broadcast yet.”
This is newsworthy? Christians are being murdered in Egypt, Iraq and Nigeria and Simon’s scoop – his big reveal before he signs off – is that Oren called his boss to complain about a story that hasn’t aired yet?
This is simply outrageous. Simon and his producer, Harry Radliffe failed to treat the subject they were covering with the seriousness it requires.
They owe the American people an apology for their journalistic misdeeds.
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