CNN and Christiane Amanpour Defame Israel
by Andrea Levin
CNN's Christiane Amanpour has set a new standard - and not the kind a news network usually trumpets. "God's Jewish Warriors," her two-hour screed against Israeli settlers and American supporters of Israel, is the most poisonously biased and factually shoddy feature to air on mainstream American television in recent memory.
The August 21 broadcast was the first of God's Warriors, a three-part CNN series, ostensibly examining the role of people who want "God back in their daily lives, back to the seat of power." In actuality, the deeply false premise of the programs, established in the opening scene, is the equating of Jewish (and Christian) religious fervency with that of Muslims heard endorsing "martyrdom," or suicide-killing.
There is, of course, no counterpart among Jews and Christians to the violent jihadist Muslim campaigns underway across the globe, whether in numbers of perpetrators engaged, magnitude of death and destruction wrought or the widespread support of their co-religionists.
To demonstrate the supposed threat of Jewish fundamentalism, the few cases of Jewish terrorism - a handful spanning decades with each one overwhelmingly denounced by Israeli society and with those involved arrested, tried and jailed are elaborated on at length and cast as a profound peril.
But it's Israeli settlements, in the Amanpour script, that are the great enemy of mankind and all those with any link to them, however indirect, whether Christian or Jewish, secular or religious, are part of a putatively evil nexus. This dark alliance is said to include Jewish fundraisers stumping the U.S. for money ("defiance of international law comes dressed in diamonds") and Jewish organizations with an alleged stranglehold on Congress.
Throughout, Amanpour hammers the claim that Jewish settlements violate international law and she seeks to paint this position as a universally accepted view with a lopsided parade of like-minded commentators.
Yet apart from any judgement about the political advisability of building or not building settlements, many legal scholars argue these communities are, in fact, legal and do not violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as the detractors claim. Such experts include Meir Shamgar, former Israeli Supreme Court Justice, internationally renowned legal scholar Professor Julius Stone and Former Under Secretary of State Eugene Rostow, among others. But not one scholar of this viewpoint is given voice in a two-hour feature largely devoted to decrying settlements and their residents.
Also consistent with Amanpour's propaganda-style use of images and editing is her grossly misrepresenting American presidential views of settlement legalities. A video clip shows former UN Ambassador William Scranton saying: "Substantial resettlement of the Israeli civilian population in occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, is illegal."
Amanpour then declares: "Ever since, American presidents both Democrat and Republican have spoken from virtually the same script."
The next image is Ronald Reagan making a tangential comment framed as agreeing with Scranton. But Reagan explicitly did not speak from the same script. "As to the West Bank," he said in a February 1981 New York Times story, "I believe the settlements there, I disagreed when the previous [Carter] Administration referred to them as illegal, they're not illegal."
Nor, contrary to Amanpour's gloss, have other presidents, including Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, termed settlements "illegal."
Amanpour is similarly deceptive and manipulative in other depictions of nefarious Jewish power, respectfully interviewing both Jimmy Carter and John Mearsheimer, and giving not the slightest hint of the gross factual errors in the charges leveled by the two controversial figures whose recent, incendiary allegations against Israel have been extensively debunked.
Carter declares absurdly that no Member of Congress could vote against aid to Israel "and hope to be reelected." Amanpour does not, of course, remind him or viewers of the numerous Members who have opposed aid to Israel and been repeatedly reelected, including Senate Majority leader Robert Byrd and more than a dozen Representatives.
In another sequence meant to demonstrate the vast, coercive powers of the Jews, she claims the first president George Bush opposed loan guarantees for Israel but collapsed under the weight of Jewish pressure and backed down. In fact, Itzhak Rabin was elected as prime minister to replace Itzhak Shamir and offered concessions that satisfied the administration. Israel back-tracked - not Bush.
Numerous other falsehoods and distortions mar the production. Amanpour declares bizarrely that "the 40-year tug of war over Jerusalem began when Israel bulldozed the Arab neighborhood next to the Western Wall and built a plaza where Jews now pray." Obviously, the modern battle over Jerusalem 'began' 60 years ago when the Arabs attacked in 1948 to destroy the newborn state of Israel, seizing the eastern side of Jerusalem, including the Jewish quarter of the old city. Every Jew was expelled or killed and all synagogues destroyed. Thereafter for 19 years, no Jew could pray at the Western Wall and Christians had limited access to their holy sites.
Such obtusely uninformed and biased claims betray Amanpour's agenda and reveal a derelict network where editorial oversight failed shockingly. CNN needs to correct every error and slander against Israel and its American supporters. More importantly, it needs to air an accurate and contextual documentary on these subjects, just as lavishly funded and promoted as Amanpour's, that will set the record straight.
Andrea Levin is Executive Director of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.