Who ya gonna call? take 2

Before leaving the subject of the 60 Minutes hatchet job on Israel, I would like to draw attention to Dexter Van Zile’s excellent CAMERA essay, “60 Minutes smears Israel for Christian exodus from Holy Land.” Supplement Van Zile’s essay with Raymond Ibrahim’s latest report on the status of Christians in the Middle East, “Muslim persecution of Christians: March, 2012.” March was an eventful month for Christians in the Middle East:

Saudi Arabia’s highest Islamic legal authority decreed that churches in the region must be destroyed; jihadis [holy warriors] in Nigeria said they “are going to put into action new efforts to strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women”; American teachers in the Middle East were murdered for being Christian or talking about Christianity; churches were banned or bombed, and nuns terrorized by knife-wielding Muslim mobs. Christians continue to be attacked, arrested, imprisoned, and killed for allegedly “blaspheming” Islam’s prophet Muhammad; former Muslims continue to be attacked, arrested, imprisoned, and killed for converting to Christianity.

Ibrahim comments:

The extent of this persecution is virtually unknown in the West, due to the mainstream media’s well-documented biases: the mainstream media knows that if they do not ignore or at best whitewash the nonstop persecution of Christians under Islam, their narrative of Islam as the “religion of peace” would be quickly undermined.

Placed in this proper context, the 60 Minutes segment on Christians in the Holy Land lies somewhere between a farce and a mockery.

The 60 Minutes segment made much of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s call to 60 Minutes executive producer Jeffrey Fager while the segment was in production. Van Zile comments on this aspect of the story:

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?

Oren must have a helluva source inside CBS; he knew the segment was going to be a hatchet job, and tried to do something about it. Oren’s complaint was the predicate for the interview conducted by Simon, snippets of which were included in the segment.

Simon complained to Oren during the interview that the segment hadn’t aired yet, but Oren somehow had it nailed. Nathan Guttman provides background on Oren’s intercession that I have not seen elsewhere:

An account provided to the Forward by an Israeli official involved in the events confirmed that controversy ran throughout the entire year of preparation. Israelis first heard of Simon’s intent to produce a story on Palestinian Christians more than six months ago. For Israel, a damning story about its treatment of Christians in the Holy Land could dampen relations with Christians across the world and complicate Israeli public diplomacy efforts aimed at portraying the Jewish State as the only haven of religious freedom in the Middle East.

An official discussing the issue likened the danger of such a report to a “strategic terror attack” against Israeli diplomacy.

The story was scheduled to air on the weekend of Christmas, but the Israeli embassy in Washington stepped in toward the end of November and contacted “60 Minutes,” demanding to insert an Israeli reaction. After a back-and-forth involving the program’s executive producer, an interview was set with Oren. The 80-minute long exchange, taped in New York, was described by Israeli officials as tense….

The intended Christmas timing of the segment is piquant. No wonder Oren was visibly tense in the fragments of the interview that 60 Minutes chose to include in the segment. He knew Israel was about to get slimed big time. Who ya gonna call, indeed.

Let’s give Van Zile the last word for the moment: “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.” But don’t hold your breath on that one.

JOHN adds: Hey, if they had aired the segment at Christmas, they could have included this story–perfect for the holidays! For what it’s worth, and despicable as this smear certainly was, it would take a lot more than 60 Minutes to weaken American Christians’ support for Israel. In Dwight Yoakum’s memorable words, we may be slow, but we ain’t blind.