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Book recounts Mike Wallace being attacked at NY party by Barbara Walters and Mort Zuckerman over ’60 minutes’ Israel coverage

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As we watch the many accolades coming in regarding Mike Wallace, there’s an important story to remember from Michael Emery, the late journalism professor at Cal State Northridge.

Described in part in the November 13, 1990 Village Voice and in more detail in On the Front Lines – Following America’s Foreign Correspondents Across the Twentieth Century, Emery explains how Mike Wallace helped to bring the truth forward about what happened during the October 8, 1990 shooting at the Haram Al Sharif in Jerusalem which left 22 Palestinians dead and more than 100 more injured, and how the Israeli government officials completely distorted what happened. It cost Wallace a great deal, personally, to bring this story forward.

Initially, news reports indicated Palestinians threw stones from the Haram al Sharif on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall. Upset Israelis began shooting at Palestinians. However, a nine month investigation headed by Judge Kama concluded the opposite: Israeli police rather than Palestinians provoked the violence.

It turned out two different tourists captured the event on video and became the basis for Emery’s writing and later a segment on 60 Minutes. In his book, Emery explains the incident began when Border police used tear gas against “a group of Palestinian women which led Palestinian men to throw rocks. Border police began firing while being forced out of the grounds by the stone-throwing crowd.” “The hail of rocks featured prominently on world television was aimed at the Israeli border police… those standing beneath a seven meters high wall could not see into the Western Wall Plaza… Border police stormed back into the Haram al Sharif and assumed control of the area after opening fire on unarmed Palestinians, some of whom were shot in the back from long-range distances. Hundreds of rounds were fired and audible on the two videotapes.”

According to Emery, none of the Israelis featured in TV and newspaper photos had been praying at the Western Wall, rather they had been in rooms adjacent to it. “Careless or opportunistic television editing gave the impression that the rocks were falling as they fled. A CBS editor said to me when he learned of the private videotapes, “You mean that we got the story backwards?”

Emery charged: “Many of the so-called witnesses (quoted in the global press) … were persons set up by Israeli agents or were agents themselves…” He also claimed Israeli officials created a “bogus story” that Saddam Hussein had plotted with Palestinians who had packed away tons of rocks for the occasion.

Emery traveled to the Middle East and was able to obtain a copy of one of the videotapes. He provided it to Wallace. 60 Minutes producer Barry Lando was in Jerusalem, working on a segment related to the First Intifada. An interview with an injured Palestinian nurse had convinced Lando to devote the entire segment to the shootings. Wallace personally interviewed her as well.

Wallace later told Emery that the story was one of the most riveting in his 60 Minutes experience… and one of the two most satisfying in his long career. Several days after the segment ran, Wallace told the journalism professor that there had been quite a few complaints. Moreover:

Wallace and (Don) Hewitt were attacked at a New York party by ABC’s Barbara Walters, Mort Zuckerman of US News and World Report, and others who felt the show had been unfair and “anti-Israel.” Hewitt walked out in a huff, leaving Wallace to defend the ship, which he did with his usual bluntness. The Jerusalem Post also attacked Wallace in its media review columns, calling him a “self-hating Jew.” All I felt I could “add to this debate is that I found Wallace completely faithful to the facts as we knew them, honest in his evaluation of the people involved, and courageous in his telling of this bizarre incident. The entire team did a highly professional job, from start to finish…

Linda Lotz

Linda Lotz had the opportunity to work on Middle East issues with Michael and Lulu Emery while on the AFSC/Pasadena, CA staff in the late 80's and early 90's. She is now doing consulting and volunteer work in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area.

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21 Responses

  1. Kathleen on April 9, 2012, 1:45 pm

    interesting find. Because in general the I/P issue has been off limits on 60 minutes as much as the rest of TV MSM. Up until the last five years 60 minutes generally did not touch this issue.

  2. annie on April 9, 2012, 1:57 pm

    interesting. i’d like to see that segment of 60 minutes. does anyone know if it is available?

  3. Les on April 9, 2012, 2:22 pm

    He was born here but I read a long time ago that Wallace was an Iraqi Jew.

  4. pabelmont on April 9, 2012, 2:43 pm

    “All I felt I could “add to this debate is that I found Wallace completely faithful to the facts as we knew them, honest in his evaluation of the people involved, and courageous in his telling of this bizarre incident. The entire team did a highly professional job, from start to finish…”

    Did no-one remark on the NEED to say “courageous in his telling of this bizarre incident”? Why should news-reporting (especially of an event outside USA require “courage”?

    Of course, we know, don’t we?

  5. Nevada Ned on April 9, 2012, 3:16 pm

    Back in 2004, 60 Minutes covered Israel’s Apartheid Wall, and discussed the suffering that this inflicted on the West Bank Palestinians. Bob Simon, a longtime journalist for 60 Minutes, led the coverage. Simon asked some tough questions of Israeli officialdom. The Electronic Intifada praised Simon’s coverage, in contrast with Thomas Friedman’s program on the same topic. (By the way, Bob Simon is Jewish).

  6. Taxi on April 9, 2012, 3:25 pm

    Coooooooh I’ve been loving so many mondo stories lately!

    Terrific job modo guys and girls!

    What a cool motley crew of town-criers you got yourselves there, Phil and Adam.

  7. Justice Please on April 9, 2012, 4:07 pm

    “Barbara Walters, Mort Zuckerman of US News and World Report, and others” seem to be much too anti-truth and anti-justice for modern society.

    • Kathleen on April 9, 2012, 10:26 pm

      Just when it comes to the Palestinians and giving back the Golan Heights etc

  8. eGuard on April 9, 2012, 4:46 pm

    So the first time Wallace is mentioned to be Jew, he is a “self-hating Jew”.

  9. radii on April 9, 2012, 9:54 pm

    Wallace respected the truth in the case of that story (and the videotape didn’t lie) – and for a time in journalism truth really mattered … zionist israel’s desperate death-throes as it unwillingly transmutes into a pluralistic society and government sees it doing everything in its power to thwart the truth

  10. Kathleen on April 9, 2012, 10:54 pm

    Mike Wallace tribute

    Now here is an oldie goldie. Wallace interviewing Rod Serling (a favorite on mine)

    • Denis on April 10, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Wow, good one, Kathleen. Thanks.

      Serling hits on just about every one of the 5 filters from Chompsky’s propaganda model.

      This interview was before Twilight Zone aired. I think Serling is too dismissive of his own program and efforts in the interview. We never missed an episode. This was the one, probably the only, example of intelligent TV in the 1950’s. It got you thinking … even the phrase “another dimension” made a 10 yr-old stop and think.

      Serling describes this era as TV at its nadir of mediocrity. But there was nothing mediocre about TZ; it’s amazing how 50 years later I can still recall many of those TZ plots, but not a single plot from Lassie or Roy Rodgers — not even the sexy new-born puppies episode.

  11. Dan Crowther on April 10, 2012, 9:22 am

    I have seen footage of 60 minutes interviews be edited in a way that distorts the truth about I/P – but whatever else is true, Wallace’s interview with Meir Kahane were very important in letting americans know that Israel and Israeli’s can be more than capable of extreme racism and violence.

    But before we give ANY american “reporter” the freedom medal – we should remember that Wallace, 60 minutes and the rest were all complicit in the war in Iraq.

  12. DaveS on April 10, 2012, 10:56 am

    Several things I recall about this incident, which occurred during the months between Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the start of the Gulf War:

    It initially was met with harsh criticism of Israel for killing 22, but as usual, Israel turned straw into gold. The two major lies du jour were that 1) Israeli police were forced to fire to protect thousands of Jewish worshipers, who were being mercilessly attacked by homicidal Arab mobs raining stones down on their heads, and 2) that Arafat had orchestrated the entire disaster in order to deflect world attention away from pressuring his good friend Saddam to leave Kuwait. The 60 Minutes piece did an excellent job on the first lie, showing the home-made videotape that the square in front of the Western Wall had been entirely cleared of people when the Palestinian youths courageously threw stones at armed police officers firing at them, and some of the stones fell to the empty plaza below. Israel reported a handful of injuries among the worshipers, but eventually it turned out that not a single one had been hit by a stone, and all had suffered “injuries” such as sprained ankles as they were hustled out of the area when the incident began. I recall some prominent Rabbi on the show, and when the interviewer – Wallace I guess but cannot remember – asked him how thousands of stones could have rained down on thousands of worshipers, without a single one being hit, the old fool answered that God protected them – “it was a miracle.”

    The second lie was widely disseminated, and I recall seeing it told by Netanyahu on Nightline. He was holding a rock that he said was one of the ones thrown by “the Arabs” in their attempt at mass murder of Jews. I was struck by how smooth and articulate a liar he was, and how persuasive he might seem to the less skeptical. It was a brilliant ploy – not only to deflect blame from the Israelis who committed the massacre, but to blame Arafat and Saddam. At the time, Israel was lobbying heavily not only for war against Iraq but for regime-change war. It also made the Palestinians out to look like insane lunatics, as the story was that Arafat ordered the entire affair to provoke the Israelis into killing his people, and his followers faithfully complied on their suicide mission, all to give brief PR protection to their brother Arab Saddam.

    The whole affair was really a microcosm of the past several decades. Israel commits an atrocity — whether this or Gaza or Lebanon or the Mavi Marmara — that initially gives rise to bad press, which they effectively counter (at least here in the US) with a preposterous load of BS that is dutifully given credence by the powerful. The civilians casualties in Lebanon and Gaza were the result of Arab terrorists cowardly hiding behind civilians; the flotilla was a ship of armed militants trying to break the blockade to supply terrorists with weapons, etc. What made this incident unusual is that it was one of the very few instances in which an MSM organization cast doubt on the official Israeli lies.

  13. LanceThruster on April 12, 2012, 7:03 pm

    Again, the story Wallace missed was the one Walt & Mearsheimer would so effectively cover years later.

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