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CNN Strikes Again With 'God's Warriors'

Rabbi Joel Hoffman

Remember when the media was supposed to present an accurate, fair and balanced portrayal of the news and of special reports?

I haven't watched CNN in years, but I was in a hotel room a few days ago and when I turned on the TV I saw Christiane Amanpour discussing religious fundamentalism so I watched out of curiosity on how she would report on such a theme. I had my hunches.

It turned out that this was a three part series on CNN entitled "God's Warriors" by the award-winning journalist Christiane Amanpour. What I found was that even compared to typical CNN reports on the Arab-Israeli conflict which are slanted against Israel, the episode on "God's Jewish Warriors" was grossly anti-Israel.

Although there is no moral equivalency between the Israeli government's actions and the celebrated strategy of terror of the Arab leadership, this was lost on CNN.

Amanpour had to reach for far in-between exceptions of Israeli terrorists which should have negated her moral equivalency thesis, but she knows that propaganda doesn't work that way for the average American viewer. A distortion told over and over becomes truth for the masses.

Whereas the actions of Dr. Baruch Goldstein were almost universally condemned in the Jewish world, a Palestinian youth soccer tournament was named after Adb al-Basset Oudeh who perpetrated the Pesach massacre in 2002. Such a contrast was not even mentioned. Imagine if a group in the United States named a soccer tournament after Timothy McVeigh.

In particular, Amanpour framed the timeline of the Arab-Israeli conflict beginning in 1967 with the settlements as the key issue, while referring to the West Bank as Palestinian land as a matter of fact. In doing so, she ignored the big picture of how the Israelis obtained possession of the West Bank, or disputed territories (which is a non-biased better term), which was through a defensive war.

Specifically, Jordan was told by Israel (via the USA) to stay out of the war in June, 1967, but Jordan attacked, lost, and lost procession of its land west of the Jordan river. Nine days after the Six Day War Israel offered to give over this land to Jordan, but the response of the Arab leadership was "No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negation with it" � but this critical fact was also not mentioned by Amanpour.

If Jordan would not have attacked Israel then there would be no disputed territories or settlements today. Additionally, Arab attacks on Jews in the land of Israel dates back prior to 1967, such as 1948 with the War of Independence, and 1929 when 67 Jews were murdered in Hebron, which are just two of thousands of documented examples prior to 1967.

I could go on and on with examples of distortions such as statements about the "Israel Lobby," the Temple Mount, etc., but my space is limited, so suffice it to say that in discussing many of these issues Amanpour cited Jimmy Carter's seriously flawed book, interviewed the Muslim Mufti of Jerusalem, and interviewed the controversial professor John Mearcheimer without also obtaining a balanced perspective, such as from an Israeli source on the various issues � and this was during the episode of "God's Jewish Warriors"!

In contrast, the episode on "God's Muslim Warriors" presented what I thought were very informative insights into Islam, though it lacked the necessary scope for an accurate understanding of Islam which could have been done in the two hour show.

Whereas "God's Jewish Warriors" was overtly anti-Israel, the most negative thing I found in "God's Muslim Warriors" was the implication that it would be challenging for a devout Muslim woman to interact in the Western world because her religion necessitates that she dresses modestly, including wearing traditional head-dress, can't have physical contact with members of the opposite sex, is restricted with where she can eat because of religious dietary laws, and has to pray five times per day. (As a sidebar: as an Orthodox Jew I have similar "restrictions" but my religion tells me to go to work and overcome the challenges.)

Additionally, a very good explanation of Islam's value of modesty was relayed (by an ex-nun of all people). But no such "apples to apples" paradigm was utilized in describing Judaism and Islam, respectively. Rather, Israel and the Jews were made to look bad, while only a partial truth of Islam, and a good one at that, was presented.

The said series reminded me why I do not watch CNN, but I am concerned because millions of people get their only news about the Arab-Israeli conflict from sources such as CNN and the New York Times. When anti-Israel sentiment are repeated at the water cooler at work the overwhelming majority of Jews do not speak up because they too were negatively influenced by the same CNN report or New York Times article, and/or do not know the basic facts about the Arab-Israeli conflict. As a result, the pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel side gains another battle victory in the "metaphysical war".

It's time for Jews to get educated about the Arab-Israeli conflict and to develop the courage to speak up when they hear anti-Israel sentiment.

Two of the many ways of doing this are reading the many informative essays on aish.com about the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as by attending a lecture by The David Project when it speaks in one's community. It is only after the Jews get properly educated about the Arab-Israeli conflict, then at the water cooler might we be able to counter CNN's and the New York Times' negative influence on American minds. An imperfect voice is better than perfect silence. As the rabbinic sage Hillel once remarked, "Go and study."

Rabbi Joel Hoffman is a former Jewish educator who now works in Israel advocacy and leadership training.

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