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PM was fully updated by Israeli ambassador to U.S. Michael Oren on his attempts to halt an investigative report on Israel's treatment of its Christian community which he thought would harm Israel's interests
The attempts by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren to halt the broadcast of a "60 Minutes" investigative report on the Christian community in Israel and the West Bank were carried out after a series of consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political adviser Ron Dermer.
It is unclear whether Netanyahu or Dermer were the ones who instructed or suggested that Oren directly address the president of CBS in an attempt to prevent the broadcast, but the two were fully informed on the affair almost since its start.
Officials in the Prime Minister's Office said that, on the contrary, the attempts to affect the article proved successful. "The broadcast of the article was delayed for several weeks because they reexamined the entire report," officials said. "The article was malignant and harmful, but the wording was much softer than in the original version."
On Sunday, “60 Minutes” aired a report on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Was it on the Copts in Egypt? The destruction of Christian communities in Arab lands? Syrian Christians living in Bashar al-Assad’s slaughterhouse? Oh no. This was about Israel. As host Bob Simon put it, with only about 11,000 Christians left, “Religious leaders are afraid Jerusalem could become a museum, a spiritual theme park, a great place for tourists and pilgrims, but not for the Arab Christians whose roots date back to the church’s very beginnings.”
The fault, he claimed, lies with that dreaded wall. You know, the one Israel was forced to erect to stop wave after wave of terrorist bombings. So you see in defending itself, Israel has turned Bethlehem into “an open-air prison.” This, according to Simon, means: “For all Palestinians, just leaving Bethlehem is a struggle. Getting to Jerusalem, only seven miles away, whether it’s to pray, go to a doctor, visit family members or work, means going through this Israeli checkpoint. That can take hours, but before Palestinians can get even this far, they need a permit from the Israelis, which can take weeks or months to obtain and is frequently denied.”
As one who has been harping for years on the Israel lobby's unique ability to silence critics of Israeli policies whether they work in politics, the media, academe or anywhere else, I can't say that I am surprised by the brouhaha surrounding Sunday's 60 Minutes broadcast of a Bob Simon report on the treatment of Palestinian Christians.
The 60 Minutes report caused the Israeli government to go ballistic even before it aired. In fact, it tried hard to stop it from being broadcast. That is because the Israeli government and its advocates here have portrayed the Christian exodus as the result of Muslim discrimination not the burdens of the occupation.