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Last Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a segment entitled "Christians of the Holy Land,"with Bob Simon, shedding light on the struggles of Palestinian Christians living under Israel's occupation. In the segment, Palestinian Christians affirm their commonality with Palestinian Muslims in suffering under and struggling against the same oppression. The segment also includes an interview with Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, which exposes how the Israeli government tried to censor the story.

According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American. That's one reason why Israelis are very sensitive about their image in the United States. And that could be why Ambassador Oren phoned Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, while we were still reporting the story, long before tonight's broadcast. He said he had information our story was quote: "a hatchet job."

Michael Oren: 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.

Bob Simon: And it was a reason to call the president of-- chairman of CBS News?

Michael Oren: Bob, I'm the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It's just-- that's an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. When I heard that you were going to do a story about Christians in the Holy Land and my assum-- and-- and had, I believe, information about the nature of it, and it's been confirmed by this interview today.

Bob Simon: Nothing's been confirmed by the interview, Mr. Ambassador, because you don't know what's going to be put on air.

Michael Oren: Okay. I don't. True.

Bob Simon: Mr. Ambassador, I've been doing this a long time. And I've received lots of reactions from just about everyone I've done stories about. But I've never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn't been broadcast yet.

Michael Oren: Well, there's a first time for everything, Bob.

According to the Forward, because of the intervention of Israel's embassy, CBS delayed broadcasting the segment from its originally scheduled date of the Sunday before Christmas until after Easter.

But Ambassador Oren wasn't the only one objecting to the story before it was aired.  One Israeli official even characterized the story as "a strategic terror attack."  The Jewish Federations encouraged its members to flood CBS' boxes with complaints:

The discourse should focus primarily on the biased portrayal of Israel in the program. "60 Minutes" will likely attempt to demonize Israel and blame it for the very real problems that the Christian community faces within the territories. The fact of the matter remains that their difficult position is not a result of Israeli policy, but rather because of social, political and cultural pressure within the Palestinian society and Palestinian policy toward Israel (ex: terror activities and their refusal to negotiate a peace agreement). Further, the program is being incredibly manipulative in interviewing Christians on camera. ...

We expect that "60 Minutes" will select examples that are not a reflection of Israeli policy towards Christian but rather of security concerns (ex: issues related to the security fence and issues related to demolition orders for projects that were not properly licensed). These examples will attempt to manipulate the viewer to believe that Israel pressures the Palestinian community to flee the region.
...
We hope that CBS will be flooded with responses through their inboxes, facebook, twitter and mail after the program to express discontent if it is as biased as we anticipate.

As always, MJ Rosenberg aptly chronicles the efforts of many others to quash and spin CBS' coverage of this story to fit GOI's narrative (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).  While members of the Israel lobby have been encouraging supporters to flood CBS with complaints (and claim that over 20,000 have responded), supporters of Palestinian Human Rights, like Churches for Middle East Peace and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, also have mobilized supporters to contact CBS.  Here is such an appeal from Jewish Voice for Peace:

reprinted with permission

Thank you, 60 Minutes. Journalists who tell
the truth about Palestinian life under occupation deserve our thanks, not political attacks.

Dear {Rusty Pipes},

This week, something rare happened: A major U.S. media outlet actually showed the effects of the Israeli occupation on Palestinians.

But the candid reporting by "60 Minutes", America's most respected news program, has unleashed a furious response from major Jewish and right-wing Christian groups. They've generated over 29,000 letters of complaint — many before the episode even aired.

Unless we push back now -- and thank "60 Minutes" -- real journalism like this will become even more rare. Can you sign our petition to thank "60 Minutes"?

Click here: http://www.ThankYou60Minutes.org

I'm sure you'll agree that now they need to hear from you and others who support their courageous and sadly all too accurate report about the Palestinian Christian exodus from cities like Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
Under Israeli occupation, Palestinians have endured decades of unlawful home demolitions, checkpoints, land confiscation, detentions without charges, and much more. That's primarily why Palestinians are leaving, and why Palestinian Christians issued a call to Christians in other lands to help create pressure on the Israeli government through divestment campaigns.

In response to this call, this week the United Methodist Church is considering a historic vote to begin phased divestment from companies that profit from the occupation. The "60 Minutes" segment, which you can watch on our petition page, explains clearly why church divestment is the right thing to do. The occupation dehumanizes Christians, Muslims and Jews.

Please, take a moment to sign the petition and share this link, http://www.ThankYou60Minutes.org, with your friends. Don't let "60 Minutes" back down. We need more fair and truthful reporting, not less.

Thank you,

Cecilie Surasky
Jewish Voice for Peace

As the JVP letter notes, the timing of this 60 Minute segment is actually providential for advocates of BDS.  Because of Oren’s intervention, the segment was delayed from airing the Sunday before Christmas -- when many mainline Protestants are too busy baking Christmas cookies, lining the kids up for a Christmas pageant or Nutcracker performance, singing Christmas carols for shut-ins or just getting in some last minute Christmas shopping to find time to watch an hour-long news program.  Instead, it aired a few days before the United Methodists would be gathering to discuss divestment from multinational companies that profit from the occupation — providing important context about the occupation not only for those delegates gathering, but for the average Methodists back in their home congregations.  United Methodist Kairos Response is already reporting overwhelming interest in learning about divestment issues -- five times as many delegates attended their first educational event at General Conference as had been anticipated.

Bob Simon and the segment producer, Harry Radcliffe, are to be commended for airing this timely segment on 60 Minutes.  Several journalists and bloggers are also to be commended for covering this story as it has unfolded, especially Robert Wright of the Atlantic, MJ Rosenberg, Adam Horowitz and Phil Weiss.  The reality-based community is in their debt, even if they had to wait a few days to hear it here.

Originally posted to Rusty Pipes on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 03:17 PM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East and Street Prophets .

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Would you contact CBS/60 Minutes about this segment?

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| 52 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank You, 60 Minutes! (22+ / 0-)

    And thank you, progressive bloggers for your service to the reality-based community!

    It isn't nice to go to jail ... but if that's freedom's price

    by Rusty Pipes on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 03:13:30 PM PDT

  •  though you might enjoy an article from the (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elliott

    other side (chuckle, chuckle, snort)

    Another 60 Minutes Hatchet Job on Israel
    By AARON GOLDSTEIN on 4.22.12 @ 9:53PM
    http://spectator.org/...
    I watched 60 Minutes and saw Bob Simon's story on the exodus of Christians from Israel and the West Bank and thought it was a complete load of rubbish.
    Simon blamed Israel's security fence and checkpoints for this exodus. His sanctimony was unbearable whether he was berating Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren for calling the President of CBS about the segment or when he asked left-wing Israeli journalist Ari Shavit, "Do you think the Israeli government ever thinks of the fact that if Christians aren't being treated well here, and America is an overwhelmingly Christian country, that this could have consequences?"
    Well, I think of a majority of American Christians believe that Christians are being treated far more harshly in Iraq, Syria and Egypt than in Israel. How many Christian churches have been burned down by Israelis? How many Christians have been murdered inside Israel? And yet 60 Minutes singles out Israel for scorn. Well, it's not the first time. In a 2009 story about Jewish settlements, Simon described Israel as an Apartheid state.
    Any segment 60 Minutes does on Israel (and for that matter the Middle East) should be looked upon with the sternest possible skepticism.
  •  Michael Oren basically said that Christians (10+ / 0-)

    who are not conservative evangelicals are enemies of Israel.

    Ari Shavit: In 2009, this group of Christian activists 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.

    It was endorsed by the leaders of 13 Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican.

    Michael Oren: These are denominations who have been exceedingly critical of the State of Israel. And sometimes to the point of going beyond legitimate criticism.

    The Israeli government likes fundamentalist Christians, because they believe that the Jewish people returning to the Holy Land is part of God's plan, something that had to happen before the Millennium arrives.
  •  Thanks Rusty. (9+ / 0-)

    And thanks to 60 Minutes, too.  The Zionists are desperate to keep Americans in the dark about the truth of their occupation and the immense damage it has done to the Palestinian people, which explains Michael Oren's unusual actions.

    Tipped and Recc'd.

    Terror has no religion.

    by downsouth on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 03:59:23 PM PDT

  •  Well said! (10+ / 0-)

    I'm so delighted by the CBS report, by their refusal to stand down, and by all the positive response that the report has generated. As you said, the postponement was a blessing in disguise, coming the week that the Methodists are in Tampa contemplating divestment from the occupation.

  •  Equal opportunity dispossession. (7+ / 0-)
    For decades, the dwindling Christian community of Beit Jala and Bethlehem has joined its Muslim neighbors to work the land of the Cremisan Valley during the week, and picnic here with their families at the weekend.

    But the route of Israel’s controversial separation barrier will soon cut them off from the valley, placing it on the Israeli side and out of their reach – a route that residents say was designed to grab their land...

    ...“With this confiscation, Jerusalem and Bethlehem will no longer be connected. That’s something that the Christian world should understand,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman who comes from a Beit Jala family.

    link

    That's all it takes, really...pressure and time.

    by Flyswatterbanjo on Thu Apr 26, 2012 at 04:32:56 PM PDT

  •  Thank you Rusty (6+ / 0-)

    As an Arab Christian what I was really happy to see was that an American reporter talked to Palestinian Christians and that our voices were heard. Far too often Israeli politicians and diplomats feel as though they have the right to talk for us. I hope that American Christians are listening to what we say.

  •  The current Israeli government has other problems (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rusty Pipes, poco, Terra Mystica

    with Christians, some of which have been posted here, including their treatment of the Cenacle, the place where Christian tradition teaches that the Last Supper occurred, and Bibi's claim of right to determine which parts of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre are in fact holy to Christians and which are not. And determining which ordained Christians appointed to positions such as an Anglican bishop, are to be permitted to take their posts. And which Christian-owned property must be turned over to designated non Christian Israelis. And doing nothing when settlers who were seeking to put themselves on the very banks of the Jordan a few months back apparently took possession of what they called an abandoned building and others called a church near or at the traditional location of the Baptism of Jesus in said Jordan river, as part of a pattern of threats against the Kingdom of Jordan over something or other.  Deputy FM Danny Ayalon has been particularly active in taking steps and making statements which require that Christian organizations give what he considers proper recognition to the fact that Christians and their churches and shrines in Israel must be subject to Israeli Jewish sovreignty.

    The recognition among politicians there appears to be that the lust of certain divisions of non ME Christianity to see and help the Ingathering of Jews, the sooner to create the conditions their particular interpretation of the Bible they recognize says are required to produce the Rapture and the Last Days, despite the fate those same beliefs describing terrible fates facing all Jews so ingathered once that happens, is something which can be useful in the US and a few other places to produce political support for the current Israeli government, despite its obnoxious aspects as far as Jews are concerned. Palestinian Christians are apparently just so many additional Palestinians, period.

  •  This was a great positive step, but... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rusty Pipes, poco

    I couldn't help but get the feeling a lot of that footage was cut out. I mean, the report is probably mildest I've seen about how the Palestinian Christians are treated.

    I guess baby steps.

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