60 Minutes performed a classic hit job on Israel in a 14-minute segment last night. Titled “Christians of the Holy Land,” video of the segment is here; transcript is here. Bob Simon “reported” the story.
The gist of the story is that Israel is responsible for the exodus of Christians from the West Bank and Jerusalem. The story was short on facts and context, particularly the context of the assaults on Christians and Christian sites in the Muslim Middle East. Anyone who has ever been to Israel knows that the authorities treat all religious sites as a sacred trust. Over at the American Spectator, Aaron Goldstein asks: “How many Christian churches have been burned down by Israelis? How many Christians have been murdered inside Israel?” I don’t think Simon “reported” the answer to that question, but I’m pretty sure Power Line readers have a good bead on it.
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren figured prominently in the 60 Minutes story. Oren knew exactly what was coming down the pike when he heard that 60 Minutes was at work on the story. Oren’s March 9 Wall Street Journal column — “Israel and the plight of Middle East Christians” — must have been written in anticipation of the 60 Minutes story. One can learn more from spending a minute reading Oren’s 750-word column than from watching the 60 Minutes segment. The segment is willfully obtuse.
My favorite part of the segment was Simon’s attack on Oren for contacting Jeffrey Fager to raise concerns about the story in advance of the broadcast. Simon described Fager as “the president of — chairman of CBS News” and treated Oren’s call as something like a federal offense. Simon somehow omitted Fager’s responsibility for 60 Minutes as the show’s executive producer. Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters?
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Rereading the transcript of the segment, I see that Simon also described Fager on air as the executive producer of 60 Minutes in his first reference to him, before the reference I quoted. I regret the error. In his interview with Ambassador Oren as broadcast, Simon described Fager in the reference I quoted without identifying him as the executive producer of 60 Minutes.
Simon reports that Ambassador Oren called Fager because he had information the 60 Minutes segment would be “a hatchet job.” I should add that Ambassador Oren has a helluva source inside 60 Minutes.
My point stands: Whom was Oren supposed to call? Or was he supposed to wait for the “hatchet job” to air? In the interview Simon acts like Oren’s call to Simon’s boss was lèse-majesté.