Op-Ed: A Classic Media Distortion
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards...
Christiane Amanpour avoided getting bogged down in objectivity.
“Looking back, the 2007 CNN series ‘God’s Warriors’ was a classic example of extreme media distortion of an important global issue, in this case by ‘star’ journalist Christiane Amanpour, who has won some of broadcast journalism’s highest honors. She is viewed by many other journalists as an authority on the Middle East, due to her exotic appearance, name and accent.
"Unfortunately this view is totally unjustified. The series however, offers a valuable window into her mindset.
“Another reason for a reassessment is that religiously-based violence almost exclusively in the name of Islam, has greatly intensified since the series was first aired. The perpetrators’ targets are Jews, other Muslims and increasingly, Middle Eastern Christians. One need only note the massive bloodletting in Syria to see how cloudy Amanpour’s crystal ball was.”
Alex Safian is Associate Director of CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America).
“As the title of the series suggests, it was ostensibly about the growing role of religious fundamentalism inside the world’s three major religions. Amanpour’s true aim however, seems to have been to propagandize by grossly exaggerating the role of Jewish fundamentalism and the incidence of Jewish-based terror, by denigrating Christian believers as backward and reactionary and by whitewashing Muslim fundamentalism as mostly peaceful and only violent when provoked.
“At CAMERA we identified this series as ‘one of the most grossly distorted programs to appear on mainstream American television in many years.’
"It relied on pejorative labeling, generalities, testimonials and a stacked line-up of guests, which are classic elements of propaganda. As such, it was the opposite of journalism - Amanpour’s supposed profession.
“Some of the main lies, misrepresentations and distortions included Amanpour’s claim that, ‘the Israeli government was divided - trade the captured land for peace or keep it and build Jewish settlements.’
"In fact, Israel was ready to trade all the territory at the time – except for Jerusalem – in return for peace with its Arab neighbors. Amanpour also omitted the declaration by Arab leaders at their 1967 summit in Khartoum that there would be ‘no negotiation, no recognition and no peace with Israel.’
“Regarding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Amanpour stated: ‘From here, according to Muslim scripture, the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven around the year 630. But Hebrew scripture puts the ancient Jewish Temple in the same location, destroyed by the Romans in the year 70. For the next 1,900 years, even the last remnant of the temple known as the Wailing Wall, or Western Wall, was lost to the Jews.’
“However, Muslim scripture makes no mention of Jerusalem. Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven from the ‘farthest mosque.’ This could not have been the Jerusalem one, which was built many years after his death. The Western Wall is part of the Temple Mount complex and a remainder of the retaining wall built to extend and flatten the Mount. It was never part of the actual Temple, and thus could not be a remnant of it.
“Turning to Israeli settlements, Amanpour allowed Jimmy Carter to claim without challenge, that no American politician could survive politically while calling for settlement-related aid cuts to Israel: ‘There's no way that a member of Congress would ever vote for that and hope to be re-elected.’
Yet Israel-critic and former Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd opposed loan guarantees to Israel in 1992, and was among many other politicians voting against aid to Israel, or opposing other resolutions favoring Israel, without losing their seats.
“Amanpour also made viewers believe that U.S. presidents have consistently labeled Israeli settlements as illegal. Carter did, but Ronald Reagan said: ‘As to the West Bank, I believe the settlements there — I disagreed when the previous administration referred to them as illegal, they're not illegal.’ Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did not term settlements ‘illegal’ either.
“Amanpour ignored the devastation of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the expulsion of its residents by the Jordanians in 1948, as well as the Jordanian destruction and desecration of synagogues and cemeteries in Eastern Jerusalem. She did not discuss the denial of Jewish access to holy sites and restriction of Christian religious freedom after Jordan’s illegal annexation of eastern Jerusalem in 1950.
"Instead, she rewrote history alleging, ‘The 40-year tug of war over Jerusalem began when Israel bulldozed the Arab neighborhood next to the Western Wall and built a plaza where Jews now pray.’
“Amanpour was heavily criticized for her many distortions, including by other journalists. In a segment on his program titled ‘CNN's Holy War?’ Dan Abrams of MSNBC said, ‘CNN should have called it what it was, a defense of Islamic fundamentalism and the worst type of moral relativism.’ He added, ‘Christiane Amanpour avoided getting bogged down in objectivity.’
“When the series was later rebroadcast, there were numerous material changes and many of our objections were addressed. One has to give CNN some credit for that.”