Top Ten Reasons Israel tried to Censor Bob Simon’s Report on Palestinian Christians

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren not only called the head of CBS news in an attempt to quash a report on the displacement of Palestinian Christians by the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, but he briefed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the far right wing Likud Party on his attempt.

Here are the top ten reasons Israel’s Likud Party would have wanted to censor American television news on this occasion (and of course we don’t know all the occasions they have successfully done so):

1. The report told Americans that there are Palestinian Christians. Right wing Israelis have attempted to displace, expropriate and erase the Palestinian nation, and to convince Americans that Palestinians don’t exist or if they do are enemies of the U.S. When the foe of the US was the Soviet Union, they made the Palestinians Communists. When the foe became al-Qaeda, they made the Palestinians violent fundamentalists. But if some percentage of Palestinians is Christians, then that fact disrupts the propaganda. In fact, millions of Palestinians are descended from the 700,000 or so Palestinians ethnically cleansed by the Israelis from what is now Israel in 1948, of whom about 10 percent were Christian.

2. The report mentioned that some Palestinians are Lutherans, Catholics and Episcopalians, establishing a link of commonality between them and Americans. The Israeli Likud Party wants Americans identifying only with Israelis, not with Palestinians.

3. The report told Americans that Israel is occupying and colonizing Palestinian land. Most Americans think it is the other way around because of the success of Likud disinformation.

4. The report let it slip that Palestinians in the West Bank need a permit to travel to Arab East Jerusalem and are subjected within the West Bank to humiliating check points that turn a 7 mile journey into an all-day ordeal. This system sounds an awful lot like the old South African Apartheid.

5. The report allowed Palestinians to speak for themselves and to refute Oren’s anti-Palestinian talking points. It is a key principle of right wing Israeli propaganda that Palestinians should never be allowed to challenge the Israeli narrative on American television.

6. The report allowed a prominent Palestinian businessman and Coca Cola distributor to say that he knew of no Palestinian Christians who were leaving the West Bank and Jerusalem because of Muslims but that rather they were leaving because of Israeli oppression.

7. It allowed the Palestinians to point out that the West Bank now looks like Swiss cheese, with Israeli colonies grabbing the good land and water, and the stateless Palestinians pushed into the holes.

8. The report described the Palestinian Kairos Document, calling for nonviolent, peaceful struggle by Palestinians against Israeli Occupation and land grabs. Likud propaganda insists in racist fashion that all Palestinians are inherently angry and violent and that their protest against being made stateless and homeless by Israel is irrational.

9. The report quotes an Israeli scholar who puts “Political Judaism” on par with “Political Islam.” It is a key principle of Likud propaganda that no movement in Israel may ever be compared to movements in the Muslim world.

10. The report allows Palestinians to point out that the way the Israelis built the Separation Wall isolated Bethlehem, Jesus’s birthplace and a city that still is 18% Christian, had made it “an open-air prison.”

Bob Simon’s report on Christians in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank and Jerusalem is here:

43 Responses

  1. One more very important point made by patriarch Theophilos III is that the number of Christians in Jerusalem dropped from 30,000 to 8,000 under Israel

  2. Dear Professor Cole

    The content of this piece is unremarkable.

    The plaform it is published in is, however, interesting.

    link to jpost.com

    If you can’t change American public opinion, you will never change American foreign policy. And until America steps aside from protecting Israel from criticism, as Simon’s CBS report actually accomplishes in a very subtle way, then the conflict will never end. There will never be peace in Israel. And Palestine will never exist as a state.

    In the end, and from watching the report several times, it sure looked to me like CBS pulled its punches to soften the criticism and leave the question of the fate of Christians up in the air.

    All because of Oren’s complaint.

    After all, who wants to be accused by Israel of being anti-Semitic?

    • If when you say public opinion, you mean the attitudes of the unwashed masses your dead wrong. The only pubic opinion that matters in the US is that which reigns within its “establishment” of power, and that’s not as solid as it once was before 19 March 2003.

  3. As an American who happens to be Jewish, I was appalled – but not surprised – that Ambassador Oren would try to supress the 60 Minutes report. The behavior of the Israeli government towards both the Palestinian people and the American news media is disgusting.

    • As an American and a Jew — Yes, the “behavior of the Israeli Government” is disgusting in these matters. It is also disgusting in numerous other areas of influencing peddling and racist actions. You might try walking further down that road. This is just the tip of the iceberg that was not supposed to be seen ever, ever.

    • It’s so nice to hear that. Reminds me that not all American Jews support AIPAC. Keeps me from forgetting and becoming biased. :0)

  4. I saw that 60 Minutes report and thought WOW! This is the
    first time that I have seen any honest discussion of
    Israel in the main stream media.

    Even the occasional articles in the New York Times by
    Palestinians are carefully selected so as to not question
    the basic principles of the Israeli narrative. Is this
    the first crack in the Israeli propaganda machine? Can
    Israel as we know it survive an honest look?

    • 60 Minutes has done programs in the past on Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Of course, the pushback from The Lobby is quick, intense, and vicious, judging by some of the letters they read afterwards.

      But 60 Minutes has continued to cover the issue over the years, at least every now and then.

  5. Israel gets treated with kid-gloves everywhere.

    On Bill Maher, in the week before Israel made its full court press on Obama about Iran in early March, Michael Oren just happened to gain the lead-in, warm-up interview with Bill. The guy was remarkably loose and particularly glib as he trotted out the usual lines, that sounded in that case extraordinarily trite.

    What astounded me was Oren’s utter confidence and how cavalier he was. Bill was hunched over in chair, in a closed defensive posture, offering up softballs and accepting everything Oren asserted. I’d seen him in other shows throw some really uncomfortable zingers at other guests regarding Israeli behavior and attitudes, notably Richard Haass. But not here, and it struck me that as part of a organized nationwide campaign that week, the fix was in.

    In this case, Maher’s deference was painful: it was as though he was on a leash.

    • If you watch Maher, as I have for a number of years, you would know him as an unabashed Zionist and ‘Israel Firster’. He’s what’s also known as a PEP, Progressive Except for Palestine. Apparently the Jewish side of him (his father was Irish and mother Jewish) apparently bought into the Hasbara some time in his adult life (he was raised a Catholic as a child but, like me, probably gave it up for good during Lent one year). His fawning interview with Bibi Netanyahu a couple of years ago stands as a low point in his so-called investigative journalism experience – at least with people like me who are concerned about the Israeli/Palestinian issue.

      I’d like to see Maher’s feet held to the fire on this by having those of us impressed by Bob Simon’s report flood Maher’s mailbox with letters urging him to follow up on the story. With very few exceptions, he deftly avoids the issue – even when it’s front and center in the mainstream new. It’s time for Bill to ‘break the chains’ and get on board with the progressive side of this issue as well.

  6. “UCLA Professor Warned about Israel Views.” is the title of a post by Glenn Greenwald

    link to salon.com

    Here is a quotation from the article which has links.

    “But I want to leave to the side the obvious threats to academic freedom this poses. My real question is this: what kind of person goes to an academic institution and then demands to be shielded from political ideas that they find objectionable? Of all places, academia is supposed to permit and encourage the challenging of one’s assumptions and beliefs. At least in theory, that’s the prime value of studying at a university: learning how to think critically, which requires subjecting one’s views to rigorous dispute. The petulant entitlement needed to demand that nobody in that setting ever cite or mention objectionable political views is just staggering; it also reveals a severe lack of confidence in the validity of one’s own views. Whatever one thinks of it on the merits, the belief that Israel should be targeted with boycotts and divestment for its apartheid policies the way South Africa was is one that is embraced by many people in many places around the world. It’s hard to express how anti-intellectual and oppressive it is to demand that such a view never even be discussed or aired — of all places — on an academic campus, and to formally complain against a Professor who merely mentions it on a website.”

  7. I’m puzzled by the claims of Palestinian protestants. I was under the impression from Usama Makdisi’s book “Artillery of Heaven” that (Western) Protestant attempts at conversion in the Levant have been largely unsuccessful. Could you Juan or anyone else give more information on the Protestant Palestinian population?

    • The Quakers in Ramallah have been there since the 1800s and educate a large percentage of the population in that city that are Christian; it is considered to be an elite school. I know a clan from Ramallah that is Seventh Day Adventist. There is also a Lutheran school that has operated in that area.

      Due to being a center of Christianity, many diverse Protestant groups have conducted missionary activities in the area, but one would be correct in assuming that Eastern Orthodoxy prevails in the Ramallah/Jerusalem area among Christian adherents and Roman Catholic adherents being the second largest Christian denomination with various Protestant groups filling out the remaining segment of the Palestinian population.

    • Hugh,
      I believe Usama Makdisi is referring to the Protestant missionaries’ attempts at converting Muslims as being unsuccessful. Christians in the Middle East of course pre-date the missionaries establishment in the Levant, but nonetheless may have changed denominations. Hope that helps.

  8. I remember that during the second intifada, CNN’s coverage had a custom of inviting Israeli and Palestinian interviewees on a split screen, thus letting both sides be heard.

    It was a knock out and any observer would immediately notice that the Israeli position is untenable. Israel’s response was to send a delegation to Time Warner (is it antisemitic to point that TW’s management and ownership is in Jewish hands?) to urge them for a “more balanced” coverage, i.e. not to allow Palestinians be heard.

    I am not sure what the result was but American media has inherently predisposes and biased towards the Israeli position, some because of Jewish/Zionist influence and some because of the Imperial West vs. East chasm.

    Anyway, Palestinian Christians is kryptonite to Israel Hasbara (propaganda) as you noted, because most Americans, including Christian Zionists, are not aware that Palestinians are also Christian and it demolishes the myth of Judeo-Chritians against evil Muslims, which is the worldview pushed by Israel supporters and a key tenet of Zionist propaganda.

    • I think you have summarized the media situation exactly. I lived near Bethlehem 2 years ago. Christmas Eve midnight mass is still held and Christmas decorations are still on the city square. Muslims and Christians are both out that night from what I was told. I just couldn’t go b/c buses from where I lived would not run that late, and if I took a taxi from the other side of the Wall to Jerusalem and then home, I couldn’t get there b/c the Wall entry point to where I lived would have been closed at that time of night. :0((

  9. Having extensive contacts with the Palestinian Christian community, I know that the community is highly diverse with not only Orthodox and Catholic members but also significant numbers of Seventh Day Adventists, Lutherans, Quakers, and other denominations in Israel and the West Bank. The Armenian Apostolic Church has a significant presence in Jerusalem.

    These Palestinian Christians have sustained land expropriation, humiliating checkpoints, and other invidious forms of discrimination as Muslims have in the region.

    The great irony is that the organization once known as the Israel Communist Party, now known as Hadash, is and has been a bastion of Jewish/Christian/Muslim solidarity since the First Knesset was seated in 1949. Tawfik Toubi, a Christian journalist from Haifa, was the last surviving member of the First Knesset when he died last year; he was elected as a member of the Israel Communist Party. Hadash currently holds five seats in the Knesset. The city of Nazareth is two-thirds Muslim and votes heavily for Marxist Hadash in the Knesset elections.

    Palestinian Christians in general blame the Israeli government far more than Muslims in the region for their woes. They do, for the most part, eschew terorist and other armed resistance against Israel, however.

    • > These Palestinian Christians have sustained land expropriation, humiliating checkpoints, and other invidious forms of discrimination as Muslims have in the region.

      The real tragedy is that everybody knows what is happening and just don’t care, but as soon there is a hint of it happening to Christians we have a problem.

    • Most Palestinian Muslims aren’t terrorist leaning either. I lived there and knew a lot of people. Never met a single terrorist. They are few and far between and are not following the values held in the Quran.

  10. The report made my day because I know that CBS, sad to say, has legitimacy with mainstream America. To alert the masses, I sent out an email to many of my friends which included the following…

    As you watch Oren, can’t you imagine him as your friendly neighbor next door, as pleasant and easy-going as one could imagine, and handsome too! Could such a guy tell anything but the truth?

    This is Israel’s huge advantage in the United States – it has a large number of advocates for Israel who, like Ambassador Oren, look as American as can be, speak highly of Israel in the halls of power and, because of their open manner convey sincerity. With such folks speaking as they do, why would any American bother to find out the facts?

    • In other words, their spokesmen act exactly like our own on-air elites, so the public will not change until it has turned against even our own elites.

    • Oren looks to me to be shallow and not very bright: He likes to think he is an intellectual but his writing is pure hasbara trash. Frankly, he looks like a guy trying to sell you insurance.

  11. What it is all coming down to is that if an Israeli politician is not calling you an antisemite and you consider morality and fairness as a virtue, then you need to revisit your beliefs.

  12. It is interesting that people need to be told that there are Palestinian Christians given that a key player in the first anti-Zionist movement, Isa al-Isa, was a Christian. The first cause that he took up, near the start of the 20th century, was to get the Greek Churches in Palestine to conduct services in Arabic. He went on to found the journal ‘Filistin’, which was very important to Palestinian nationalism.

    • Dr. George Habash was an Orthodox Palestinian Christian, former leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. As was Tawfik Toubi, the longtime Knesset member from Haifa.

      I questioned many of the Christians whose families immigrated to America from the Jerusalem/Ramallah region and found that a large percentage came after the Six Day War. Most simply did not want to live under Israeli martial law and army occupation. They came on Jordanian passports although now the Palestinian Authority issues its own passport documents.

  13. re apartheid, heard tarik ali make this case on cspan:

    4…both bishop tutu and ronnie kasrils, former deputy defense minister in the mandela government, vehemently dispute the analogy. they insist that the condition of palestinians in the occupied territories is far worse than was that of blacks in the bantustans.

    if people think this hyperbole, look through the images when googling: gaza poverty.

  14. wait a minute…in the beginning of the segment, bob simon says “in syria, revolution seriously threatens christian communities.”

    smears that suggest rebels are targeting christians was debunked! from a mcclatchy report:

    The group also has been accused of targeting Christians in Homs. But interviews with Syrian Christian refugees who’d fled to Lebanon from Homs and Qusayr uncovered no evidence that Christians were targeted because of their religion. Rather, Christian refugees from Qusayr said that a Christian man and 16 others working with government security forces in Qusayr had been captured by Farouq fighters in March, prompting some Christians to flee. Members of Farouq confirmed the story, as well as the arrests.

  15. The Christian clans from areas such Ramallah, Ramleh, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, it is important to note, co-existed with the Muslim population – and native Jewish populations in Palestine foe centuries as separate cultures that rarely intermarried but respected each other.

    The “nakba” for those in the West Bank occurred in 1967 when the IDF occupied those areas. Jordan still administered those areas by supplying welfare payments to Palestinians even up to the 1980s.

    What is interesting is that the administrative vacuum that occurred in the West Bank after 1967, things such as deed recording was taken over by the churches. The churches functioned as a form of local government.

    During the 1980s and 1990s land transactions were often made between absentee Palestinian Christian landlords in the U.S. that weere processed through the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Today however most land transactions involving the West Bank are processed via the P.L.O. Mission in Washington D.C. Many if not most of the aristocratic Palestinian Christian families in the West Bank emigrated out of that area but still transact business between each other in the U.S. relative to investment real estate in the West Bank. Almost all abhor the Israeli occupation and refuse to live under it, but have retained their Christian identity and intermarry with other Palestinian Christian clans from the same home towns while residing in the U.S. The “Ramallah Federation” is a U.S. organization of Christian clans from that town that perpetuates their culture and identity through conventions and other social events.

    The main difference I have discerned in these Christians as opposed to Palestinian Muslims is that they are a passive and peace-loving culture as opposed to the Muslims who actively are inclined to favor armed struggle against Israel and be more outspoken on these issues.

    Justin Amash, a University of Michigan law school graduate, became the first Ramallahite to be elected to U.S. Congress 1n 2010. He is a Christian. A number of other Ramallah Christian immigrants have achieved prominence in public office.

  16. Omen has made the point already, but although the apartheid system was appallingly brutal and dehumanizing, and the regime that implemented it has now deservedly vanished from the pages of time, there are many examples that show that the Israeli treatment of Palestinians is worse by far than most things the Nationalist government inflicted on Black South Africans.

    To name a few: although black areas were segregated from white, they weren’t walled or fenced in, or controlled by check-points to the extent that control is exerted over the Palestinian’s movement. Although the pass system sought to control the movement of Black South Africans, it was never effective enough to completely inhibit people’s movement around the country. Indeed it was the randomness of the system’s enforcement that made it so devastating on the unfortunates that were caught in its net.

    The Nationalist government didn’t bomb the houses of suspected opponents of its rule using fighter jets. Although in the last years of the regime, there was a covert program that sought to assassinate anti-apartheid activists, it was always covert, and therefore limited in its extent. It seems to me that the Israelis believe they have carte blanche to kill anyone they please, whether with the afore mentioned jet fighters, or their military hit squads. (Both regimes appear to have little hesitation in using live ammunition when attempting to suppress peaceful protest.)

    Even at its height, the apartheid system did not reserve particular roads for the exclusive use of white citizens.

    • The difference is the need for cheap labor.

      The Afrikaners exploited blacks for a living. They could not make their economy work without them. Like American Southerners, they had to maintain a captive work force large enough to burn down the country in a rebellion.

      Though some Israelis benefit from cheap Arab labor in various ways, the main goal of the system is to make life so unbearable that the Palestinians go away, to complete the desired myth that they had never existed. Their labor can always be replaced with Filipinos.

      I think there’s been an interesting shift in American racism from the former to the latter position; the hardcore bigots today claim they just want blacks to go away. Of course, the modern development of multinational exploitation and outsourcing means you no longer have to live in the same country as your ni**ers to profit from them.

  17. PLEASE view Mordechai Vanunu, Israeli Nuclear Whistle Blower’s message to US Christians regarding the real Wailing Wall and Palestinian Christians:

    link to youtube.com

  18. Thanks for this fine discussion of the details that often go unnoticed in any important news story! Wish there were more honest discussions about this subject.

  19. I also appreciate not only Professor Cole’s “Top Ten” but the reasoned, intelligent comments. Kudos and thanks to all!

  20. I am hoping that the 60 Minutes piece will be an historic opening of the door to mainstream criticism of Israel. So what if they call anti-semitic? That’s a joke already. I am, by Likud measure, a proud “self-hating Jew” who is “anti-semitic.” I wear the lable with pride.

  21. As a Palestinian Christian whose family had lived in Jerusalem for generations, I am saddened by the fact that since 1967, 90% of my close relatives have left their ancestral homes in Jerusalem, and are now scattered all over the world. In California alone I have currently 12 first cousins and 31 second cousins. If you ask them the reason for their immigration, every one of them will confirm that they could not bare to live under the Israeli occupation.

  22. Olympia Co-op directors have successfully defended themselves from a Strategic Lawsuit Against Participation which was brought against them when they discontinued products from companies that benefit from the Israeli occupation. Each director was awarded $10,000 on the basis of anti-SLAP legislation enacted in Washington state. The persons bringing the suit ran for office as directors in a side effort, but they were not elected. The plaintiffs who attempted to overturn the decision of the Oly director may appea. Nonetheless, the initial success means a lot to those who remember Rachel Corrie, a student from nearby Evergreen College. Rachel was run over by a militarized Caterpillar tractor as she tried to protect the home of a family with whom she was staying. Publicity about this SLAP suit has not been widely publicized, except among those who track human rights in the U.S.

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