Sifting through the discussion after ‘60 Minutes’ report

A screen capture of Bob Simon’s report on ‘60 Minutes’

By Larry Levin, Publisher/CEO

There’s no better time to get a feel for various media outlets’ perspectives on Israel than just after a major broadcast piece has been aired.  

The most recent notable example is Bob Simon’s report on Sunday’s “60 Minutes” installment on CBS. Simon covered the Christian population in Israel and the Palestinian territories and the impact of various events over the last several decades upon that group.  

I watched the piece and, quite honestly, found it only mildly interesting and only modestly well reported. Simon’s initial teaser acknowledges the brutal treatment of Christians in other Middle East nations, but then asks about how they are faring in “the Holy Land,” citing Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem as key geographic elements in the Christian narrative. 

He then interviews clergy, academic and adherents, painting a picture overall of Christians being caught in the net of issues that surround Israelis and Palestinians, such as the security fence – it’s been highly effective with a resultant 90 percent reduction in terror, but has adversely affected residential life, and checkpoints are a major frustration. He also talks to Christians who have decided to stay in the territories, despite the hassles, as their “cross to bear” in furtherance of their religious commitment.

There are a few places where Simon paints a picture that wasn’t nuanced or reported well enough. He cites the reduction of Christian population in the territories without looking at the full breadth of possible root causes and whether the statistics are truly accurate and meaningful. For instance, the report seems to dismiss Islamic persecution as a reason with the almost offhand swipe of one interview subject. And he hauls out the infamous KAIROS report of several denominations about peace in Israel, which has been labeled as anti-Semitic in either intent or effect by many. 

The most emotive part of the report, however, should have been the least. Simon interviews Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, who talks about the need for safety and security as reasons for the fence installments (nothing new there). But then Simon  surprises when he asks Oren why the diplomat called higher-ups at CBS News before the report aired because he heard that a “hatchet job” was going to air. Oren stumbles through the answer, but it should be noted that this segment is well into the story—beginning at 11:20 out of a 14-minute story, and comprising less than 10 percent of the whole. 

Robert Wright at The Atlantic found the report reasonably well balanced: “Simon emphasizes that Israel isn’t singling out Christians for persecution; their plight is simply the plight of Palestinians in general–a plight that, Simon notes, is due partly to actions taken by Israel to secure itself against terrorism.” See (By the way, Jeffrey Goldberg of the same publication had a different reaction:  See 

That’s hardly where the commentary ends.  The almost-always conservative Fox Nation blog linked to the Washington Free Beacon’s story with the sensationalist headline, “Journalistic Malpractice:” “The CBS report purports to reveal that Israeli policies are asphyxiating Christian minorities throughout the West Bank. Statistics, however, reveal that Muslim populations in Greater Israel have increased over the years, leading experts to determine that most Christian persecution is being carried out by Islamic hardliners, not Israel.” See

More tersely, Aaron Goldstein, on the American Spectator’s Spectacle blog, said it this way: “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.” See

The most comprehensive criticism I saw came from the “Green-Lined” blog on the Jerusalem Post website, where Yisrael Medad, the Director of Information Resources at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, calls out a whole slew of omissions and offers corrections, well worth reading, but chastises the report as biased: “(Simon) did attempt to browbeat Oren and even manipulated an anti-Semitic metaphor (Jews caring about money) to do so.” I have to say, Simon’s questioning wasn’t hyperbolic by typical video journalism standards, and I certainly think Michael Oren can fend for himself, though in this case he didn’t do so very well. See

Then there’s the other side. MJ Rosenthal had just a couple days before the report offered up his views on Israel’s survival, which most would consider left of at least the American center on Israel matters: 

And then in the aftermath of the CBS piece, Rosenthal writes a lot of blog posts on the matter, and the headlines probably suffice: “In advance of show, entire organized Jewish community tried to stop ‘60 Minutes’;” “Israel shocked by CBS pushback on heavy handed tactics;” “Israel’s worst hasbara moment ever,” the latter of which began with the provocative poser, “How long will Bob Simon keep his job with ‘60 Minutes’?” (You can see all his posts at