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April 24, 2012 Contact: Jeff Walton 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell “The story reveals far more about how the mainstream media's Israel obsession causes it to ignore the real war on Christians throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world than it reveals about the reality of life for Arab Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.” – Faith McDonnell, IRD Religious Liberty Director
Washington, DC – In a segment entitled “Christians in the Holy Land,” that aired on Sunday, April 22, CBS’s "60 Minutes" focused on the plight of Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Correspondent Bob Simon declared that the “exodus of Christians from the Holy Land,” could eventually leave it “without a Christian population.” Although facts show that the oppression, persecution, and killing of these Christians for their faith is part of the pattern of persecution experienced by Christians elsewhere in the Islamic world, "60 Minutes" ignored Islamic violence against Christians and laid blame for the Christian migration squarely at the feet of Israel, the only country in the Middle East where Christians actually have religious freedom.
Simon’s biased interviewees testified to the pain of living under Israeli occupation and struggling with the inconvenience of Israel’s security wall/fence. Although admitting that terrorism has gone down 90 percent since the building of the security fence, Simon said that “the wall completely surrounds Bethlehem, turning the ‘little town’ where Christ was born into what its residents call ‘an open air prison.’” However, a map of Israel and the West Bank shows that the wall is on one side of Bethlehem only.
Simon also interviewed Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. Responding to the condemnation of the security fence that Israel regrets “any inconvenience caused by the security precautions,” Oren reminded Simon that what is a matter of inconvenience for the Palestinians is “survival” for the Israelis. Oren said that inside Israel, in Christian towns like Nazareth, Arabs are Israeli citizens and are thriving. It is in the West Bank, “as in elsewhere in the Middle East, Christian communities are living under duress,” Oren said. He explained to a skeptical Simon that the duress is coming from Muslims, not from the Israel occupation. But when Simon asked the opinion of a group of Palestinian interviewees on this matter, Palestinian businessman Zahi Khoury exclaimed that out of the 12,000 customers of his West Bank Coca-Cola franchise, he had “never heard” of anyone leaving because of Islamic persecution.
At the end of the story, Simon confronted Oren, concerned that the "60 Minutes" story would be a “hatchet job” on Israel, about contacting officials at CBS. "60 Minutes" closed the story stressing that the migration of Christians from the region is no longer a religious question, but a matter of politics.
IRD Religious Liberty Director Faith McDonnell commented:
“Throughout the "60 Minutes" report, the statements of Palestinians are accepted without question, while the words of Israel’s Ambassador to the United States are challenged and brought back to a panel of Palestinians for their rebuttal and derision.”
“Does CBS not realize that Palestinian Christians have a gun to their heads? If they blame Israel, they stay off the radar screen of Hamas and other Palestinian extremists. If they criticize the Islamic authorities, they run the very high risk of being labeled a “collaborator” with Israel and becoming the victim of the horrible atrocities reserved for those who are considered traitors to the Arab Islamists.”
“The story reveals far more about how the mainstream media's Israel obsession causes it to ignore the real war on Christians throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world than it reveals about the reality of life for Arab Christians in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
“Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali also reported recently on the plight of Christians. But in her Newsweek cover story, “The War on Christians,” Hirsi Ali describes the “rise of Christophobia,” and says, “from one end of the Muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith. "60 Minutes" wasted an opportunity to reveal this real persecution of Christians in the Middle East in favor of attacking the mainstream media’s favorite scapegoat.”
The Institute on Religion & Democracy works to reaffirm the church's biblical and historical teachings, strengthen and reform its role in public life, protect religious freedom, and renew democracy at home and abroad.
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