Surely the folks at CBS do not think of themselves as biased against Israel. On the contrary, they surely see their work as thoroughly professional, fair to the bone. Nevertheless, last Sunday night’s “60 Minutes” report on Israel’s supposed oppression of Christianity was deeply flawed and failed the fairness test. Instead, it fit one of Natan Sharansky’s definitions of anti-Semitism: “whether criticism of Israel is being applied selectively… do similar policies by other governments engender the same criticism, or is there a double standard at work?”
At a time when Christians are being persecuted for being Christian in Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Arab world, “60 Minutes” zeroed in on Israel alone — the one place in the Middle East where the Christian population is growing and Christians are not being persecuted by law or custom. Since 1948, Israel’s Christian communities have actually expanded more than 1,000 percent, with Christians serving in the Knesset, foreign ministry and Supreme Court.
By contrast, last year in the Egyptian heart of the Arab Spring, 200,000 Christians faced death and dislocation from Islamic “protesters.” Though the CBS report asserted that the Christian presence on the West Bank is declining, a report issued by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs last year offered extensive proof that the Christian population in the West Bank is not decreasing. It also noted that according to Palestinian sources, the Christian presence is on the rise.
Besides manipulating the facts, “60 Minutes” blamed Israel for the situation, ignoring the fact that Muslim prejudice against Christians is the source of the problem.
Before Oslo, under sole Israeli control, Bethlehem was a Christian city. Since Oslo, Bethlehem is under the Palestinian Authority and the Christians are now only 20 percent of the population. Since 2007, Hamas — not even mentioned by Simon — persecuted Christians to the point that half of Christian Arabs there left Gaza.
The fact that some Christians are inconvenienced at roadblocks or by the security fence, as is everyone else in the region, is the result of an intifada that was not of Israel’s choosing. Israelis themselves were inconvenienced, one might say, by exploding buses and murderous rampages. The security fence has reduced anti-Israel terrorism by 90 percent.
Filming the wall, Simon called Bethlehem “the world’s largest outdoor prison.” He could have called Gilo, on the Israeli side of the fence, the world’s largest target for Bethlehem terrorists before the fence was built.
Simon implied that Christian tourists from America should be made aware that Israel is to blame for the plight of their brethren, noting it could have serious “consequences” for Israel. Perhaps he was just warning Israel for her own good, of course.
In the end, Simon’s report was far more revealing about “60 Minutes” and its methodology and far less about Israel and Christians.