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Netanyahu involved in ’60 Minutes’ pushback; Official compares CBS story to a ‘strategic terror attack’ on Israeli diplomacy

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Israel continues to scramble in the fallout from Bob Simon’s bombshell story on the plight of Palestinian Christians. The back story on the Israeli attempts to kill the story are starting to come out, and they go right to the top.

From Haaretz:

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.

Part of the preemptive response to the story was the Wall Street Journal op-ed that Oren wrote touting Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Christians. Again Haaretz:

The result of the consultations that Oren carried out with Netanyahu, Dermer, and other officials in the Foreign Ministry, was an op-ed that he published shortly afterward in the Wall Street Journal, in which he stressed that while Christians are victims of persecution throughout the Arab world, the Christian community in Israel is actually growing.

In parallel to the op-ed, Oren gave several interviews to Christian media in the U.S. and Netanyahu spoke before the Evangelical organization “Christians for Israel” that took place in Jerusalem in March.

And as can expected, the campaign to pressure CBS only seemed to backfire:

Nonetheless, the attempt to thwart the broadcast of the report has brought up the issue of Israel’s treatment of its Christian community all the more forcefully. A source in the Foreign Ministry even said that on some level, the preemptive campaign against the report just intensified the resolve of the “60 Minutes” reporters to air it.

“We awakened the dead – instead of stifling the subject we just increased interest in it,” the source said.

The Forward also adds detail to the Israeli campaign to kill the story, including that it was originally supposed to run at Christmas last year:

An account provided to the Forward by an Israeli official involved in the events confirmed that controversy ran throughout the entire year of preparation. Israelis first heard of Simon’s intent to produce a story on Palestinian Christians more than six months ago. For Israel, a damning story about its treatment of Christians in the Holy Land could dampen relations with Christians across the world and complicate Israeli public diplomacy efforts aimed at portraying the Jewish State as the only heaven of religious freedom in the Middle East.

An official discussing the issue likened the danger of such a report to a “strategic terror attack” against Israeli diplomacy.

The story was scheduled to air on the weekend of Christmas, but the Israeli embassy in Washington stepped in toward the end of November and contacted “60 Minutes,” demanding to insert an Israeli reaction. After a back-and-forth involving the program’s executive producer, an interview was set with Oren. The 80-minute long exchange, taped in New York, was described by Israeli officials as tense. In one part that made it to the report’s final version, Simon asked Oren point blank for the reason he tried to go over his head and ask CBS top executives to intervene before the story aired. “It seemed to me outrageous,” Oren replied, explaining that at a time when Christians are persecuted in Arab countries, it would be odd to focus on Israel. “And it was a reason to call the president — chairman of CBS News?” Simon asked. “I’m the ambassador of the State of Israel, I do that very, very infrequently,” Oren said in response. When Simon stated he had never seen such conduct in all his years of working as a journalist, the Israeli diplomat paused for a second and then replied: “Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob.”

In parts of the interview that were not broadcast, Simon, according to a recording of the interview held by the Israeli embassy, asked Oren if Palestinian Christians were involved in terror, a question to which Oren did not have an immediate answer. Simon explained that only one Christian Palestinian was among the terrorists released recently in the Shalit deal.

Israelis, however, are pleased with the bottom line. “It could have been much worse,” said an Israeli official who noted that Oren’s intervention succeeded in getting Israel’s point of view into the story and in postponing it from sensitive broadcast dates during Christmas and Easter.

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of

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35 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther on April 24, 2012, 11:57 am

    The bit from Simon on Oren going over his head reminds me of the interview Amy Goodman did with Chomsky and Zinn on the “jihad” Dershowitz declared on Finkelstein – at one point, Goodman had to emphasize “the administration at DePaul actually wrote Harvard to get them to stop Dershowitz” which Goodman noted was pretty much unheard of in academia. Chomsky added: yes, stop this maniac!

  2. Kathleen on April 24, 2012, 12:30 pm

    Now we all know this is not the first time Israeli officials or the I lobby has tried to kill coverage of honest reporting on any aspect of the I/P conflict by the MSM. We can be sure of this. But what Simon should/could ask Oren when he said “I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador” was how often does “very, very infrequently” actually mean?

    I would ask the “president of– chairman of CBS News” and former chairmans or producers of MSM outlets etc how often they have gotten calls from Israeli officials or the I lobby when they have even approached doing honest stories about the conflict? We know that the MSM has “very very infrequently” done any honest reporting about this issue. But when they have tried how has this exposed story been the common experience? Not even making it this far. Shutting a story down before it even gets to the drawing board?

    “Bob Simon: And it was a reason to call the president of– chairman of CBS News?

    Michael Oren: Bob, I’m the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It’s just– that’s an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. When I heard that you were going to do a story about Christians in the Holy Land and my assum– and– and had, I believe, information about the nature of it, and it’s been confirmed by this interview today.”

  3. pabelmont on April 24, 2012, 1:02 pm

    [1] If Oren talked to Bibi about CBS, then he was not lone-wolfing. He is an ambassador, after all, the representive of the head of state (who is Mr. Bibi). Just as USA’s rep at UNSC represents the President, not the Congress, not the people.
    [2] If Israel is making nice with Christians inside pre-1967 Israeli territory (first I ever heard of it), then I suppose they are giving them building permits, withheld generally from Muslims, huh? And supplying money to their towns and villages, huh? Let’s get the stats, or else not believe these bozos, because talk is cheaper than real action.

  4. mikeo on April 24, 2012, 1:07 pm

    Goddamn I love this phrase:
    There, I said it :)

  5. DICKERSON3870 on April 24, 2012, 1:43 pm

    RE: “The back story on the Israeli attempts to kill the story are starting to come out… Part of the preemptive response to the story was the Wall Street Journal op-ed that Oren wrote touting Israel’s treatment of Palestinian Christians.” ~ Adam Horowitz

    SEE: Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment in 1942, including a photo of the device that allowed Goebbels to interrupt all German radio programming to make an announcement –

    AND SEE: Wilhelmplatz 8/9 ~ Dr. Goebbels’s Command Post

    • DICKERSON3870 on April 24, 2012, 2:05 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: Terezin Propaganda Film (VIDEO, 01:08) –

      FROM WIKIPEDIA [Theresienstadt concentration camp]:

      (excerpts) Theresienstadt concentration camp, also referred to as Theresienstadt Ghetto[1], was established by the SS during World War II in the fortress and garrison city of Terezín (German name Theresienstadt), located in what is now the Czech Republic. . .
      . . . On June 23, 1944, the Nazis permitted a visit by representatives from the Danish Red Cross and the International Red Cross in order to dispel rumors about the extermination camps. . .
      . . . To minimize the appearance of overcrowding in Theresienstadt, the Nazis deported many Jews to Auschwitz.
      Also deported in these actions were most of the Czechoslovakian workers assigned to ‘Operation Embellishment.’ They also erected fake shops and cafés to imply that the Jews lived in relative comfort.
      The Danes whom the Red Cross visited lived in freshly painted rooms, not more than three in a room. . .
      . . . Apparently the Red Cross representatives were easily fooled by the Germans as the tour was conducted by following a pre-determined path designated by a “red line” on a map. The hapless Red Cross apparently didn’t attempt to divert from the “official” tour route as led by the Germans who also posed questions to the Jewish residents along the way. If the Red Cross attempted to ask the residents questions directly, they were ignored and not answered. Despite this, the Red Cross still apparently formed a positive impression of the town.[9]
      The hoax against the Red Cross was apparently so successful for the Nazis that they went on to make a propaganda film at Theresienstadt. Production of the film began on February 26, 1944. . .
      . . . it [the propaganda film] was meant to show how well the Jews lived under the “benevolent” protection of the Third Reich. . .

      SOURCE –

      • W.Jones on April 24, 2012, 6:06 pm

        I am confused. If the Nazis thought what they were doing was so good and moral and the will of the German people, why not show what they were doing?

        If on the other hand, they thought it would be bad to treat Jewish prisoners well, with cafe’s, etc., why make a propaganda movie showing that? If the Reich was going to be a thousand years, eventually people would get trained thinking one way from the propaganda films and then be more likely to object if they were going to be ordered to do these bad things.

        Even 1000 years later the Nazis would still have undesirables, like disabled people. Yet apparently the Nazis told everyone they were doing one thing and did another.

        This suggests to me that at some level they knew what they were doing was wrong and then chose to do what they realized was wrong. How else to explain it? How could this “false show” be justified from even a German nationalist viewpoint? They would have to claim that the Nazis were ahead of their time and the german people themselves weren’t ready to know this “good” way. But then, it really isn’t the German people’s will after all.

        Or imagine a poor school that brings in pets and rents sports supplies to show parents, and yet the kids never get to play with those things. Maybe they would try to justify it by saying they don’t have the money and are just showing their ideal? Maybe.

        But in the Nazi case, I don’t think nice camps was really their ideal…

      • DICKERSON3870 on April 25, 2012, 2:21 am

        RE: “This suggests to me that at some level they knew what they were doing was wrong and then chose to do what they realized was wrong.” ~ W.Jones

        REPLY: They certainly knew on some level that what they were doing was wrong. On the surface level they obviously knew that much of the world would consider it a heinous crime, and consequently considered it a PR problem to be managed through the use of propaganda (such as the film).
        Goebbels apparently had also at one point worked towards producing a propaganda film about the Warsaw ghetto that would try to make conditions there look not all that bad (see below).

        DOCUMENTARY: A Film Unfinished (Shtikat Haarchion), 2010, R, 90 min.
        This potent documentary uses a long-lost film reel to illustrate how the Nazis controlled images of Jewish life during World War II. Though the Nazis made a propaganda movie of contented Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, the missing spool exposes the truth. Director Yael Hersonski shows how the imagery was staged to distort historical knowledge and, with the aid of Jewish survivors’ testimony, chronicles the horrifying reality of ghetto life.
        Netflix Availability: Streaming and DVD
        • IMdB listing: A Film Unfinished (2010); Shtikat Haarchion (original title) –
        • TRAILER: A Film Unfinished aka Shtikat Haarchion (2010) official trailer HD (VIDEO, 02:09) –

  6. Kathleen on April 24, 2012, 1:47 pm

    “Michael Oren: Bob, I’m the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It’s just– that’s an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. ”

    Who buys this bs. “I do that very very infrequently as ambassador” Who buys any of this? “extraordinary move for me to complain about something” Come on.

    What is “infrequent” and “extraordinary” is 60 minutes or any other MSM outlet to get even close to reporting about anything having to do with the I/P conflict honestly. That is what has been “infrequent” and is “extraordinary” Really makes you think about how many times any even thought about stories like this have been shut down much much earlier in the process. This is the change ….that they actually did the report.

    Simon should have asked Oren “just what do you mean by “I do this very very infrequently as ambassador” How many times has he done this as ambassador or at any other time? How often has he tried to shut down a report or even an attempt to report about the I/P issue honestly?

    • Blake on April 24, 2012, 3:43 pm

      Indeed. We will never know how many stories “Israel” has quashed but he certainly shot himself and his cause in the foot big time this time.

      • Pixel on April 24, 2012, 9:25 pm

        We will never know how many stories “Israel” has quashed…”


        How many have they tried to quash?

        All of them.

      • Kathleen on April 25, 2012, 10:07 am

        And if so called journalist never ask them that question especially in reply to say for instance Oren saying to Simon “I do that very very infrequently as ambassador” I know I would have gone to so what does “very very infrequently” mean. And have you complained or tried to shut down coverage in other positions rather than as ambassador. So curious about this one statement. Just opened up the door wide to Simon and he chose not to walk through. Remember he said “I have been doing this for years” Oren opened up the door to that next question with his statement “I do that very very infrequently”

        “How many times have you complained” Ambassador Oren?

      • Sumud on April 25, 2012, 7:46 am

        Indeed. We will never know how many stories “Israel” has quashed but he certainly shot himself and his cause in the foot big time this time.

        Indeed, indeed – and all 60 Minutes had to do was let the cameras roll and let Oren paint himself in a corner.

        That’s all you ever have to do when it comes to Israel. No editorialising required because the facts speak for themselves.

  7. Rusty Pipes on April 24, 2012, 2:30 pm

    The 60 minutes report just keeps producing more benefits. First, Simon’s team did some great investigation, allowing Palestinian Christians to speak for themselves rather than to allow others to spin their story. Then, he exposed how the Israeli ambassador contacted his boss at CBS and tried to squash the story. Now, Ha’aretz and the Forward are exposing that Oren and Netanyahu are concerned that Palestinian Christians speaking for themselves might undermine support for Israel by American Christians:

    Oren told Netanyahu and his advisers that the broadcast of the report may harm Israel’s ties with those Christian communities in the U.S.

    We learn that a “communique” tipped off Oren about the segment before its broadcast (would that “communique” be a CBS source who contacted the embassy or an intercepted electronic communication about the content of the program?):

    Oren was very wary of the broadcast of the report, particularly in light of the fact that the embassy got wind of it from one of its communiqués, and not from “60 Minutes.”

    “We conducted a thorough examination and we found out that no official Israeli source was asked to comment on the assertions in the report,” an Israeli diplomat said.

    But, best of all, we learn that because of Oren’s intervention, the segment was delayed from before Christmas and Easter, when many American Christians are too busy with holiday preparations to find time to watch an hour-long news program, to a few days before the United Methodists will be gathering to discuss divestment from multinational companies that profit from the occupation — where it can provide important context not only for those delegates gathering, but for the average Methodist back home.

    • annie on April 24, 2012, 2:46 pm

      would that “communique” be a CBS source who contacted the embassy or an intercepted electronic communication about the content of the program?

      they don’t have to rely on intercepting communications with an occupation in place. a 60 minute crew is not a secret event. all they have to do is detain a few of the people interviewed and question them to find out what was said. i wonder how many of those christians interviewed had someone knock on their door for a little 1 on 1.

      • Kathleen on April 24, 2012, 2:54 pm

        no need to knock on any doors…just call those you know working at CBS

      • Rusty Pipes on April 24, 2012, 3:15 pm

        There’s all sorts of intelligence that GOI might have picked up from a CBS crew going to the West Bank, both through human and electronic sources. But currently, it sounds as though the embassy didn’t catch wind of the story, or at least its direction, during the interview phase but during the editing and production phase. This suggests that the American ambassador got wind of the story through US sources, not West Bank. But who knows what else may surface in the coming days.

      • Kathleen on April 24, 2012, 4:56 pm


    • Pixel on April 24, 2012, 9:27 pm

      “(would that “communique” be a CBS source who contacted the embassy or an intercepted electronic communication about the content of the program?)”


      • Kathleen on April 25, 2012, 10:08 am


    • Citizen on April 27, 2012, 7:38 am

      Here’s a letter between CBS honchos and directed to Oren back in January–telling Oren they will meet with him so he can tell them what he doesn’t like about the developing show segment on Christians in Israel:

      Maybe they were originally going to air the segment over the Xmas holidays?

  8. MarkF on April 24, 2012, 2:32 pm

    It’s a pattern. Stephen Walt is an intellectual terrorist. CBS stages a strategic terror attack.

    It’s almost comical. people like Simon head over there, spend time, interview do research, and they get attacked by people who have probably never been there a day in their lives. A person in our local community wrote an article in our local paper about the I/P conflict after heading over there for two months and people write letters to the editor basically saying she shouldn’t believe her lying eyes.

    It sure does help to be on the ground in order to know the facts on the ground. Simon does just that.

  9. ahadhaadam on April 24, 2012, 3:07 pm

    I see Israeli Hasbara pushing the following line: “At least we are fair. We oppress Muslims and Christians equally!”

    Palestinian Christians is kryptonite to Israel Hasbara and may indeed provide the path to ending Israel Apartheid. Don’t hold your breath though, Israel is a morally bankrupt country but won’t give up easily. Expect “Christian-washing” in the months to come, add that to the other “washings” it already engages in to mask its racist oppressive policies: whitewashing, pinkwashing, greenwashing, blackwashing, Druzewashing.

  10. Walid on April 24, 2012, 4:55 pm

    From 4 months ago in the Daily Star about Christians in Bethlehem having their lands stolen from them and being forced to leave:

    West Bank Christians pray for threatened Cremisan Valley December 24, 2011 01:52 AM By Sara Hussein

    CREMISAN VALLEY, Occupied West Bank: A handful of Palestinian Christians stand on a ridge under grey skies at an open-air mass, praying for protection for the sweeping valley that descends from their feet.

    For decades, the dwindling Christian community of Beit Jala and Bethlehem has joined its Muslim neighbors to work the land of the Cremisan Valley during the week, and picnic here with their families at the weekend.

    But the route of Israel’s controversial separation barrier will soon cut them off from the valley, placing it on the Israeli side and out of their reach – a route that residents say was designed to grab their land.

    Locals say the barrier is part of a long-standing Israeli attempt to annex territory belonging to the southern West Bank town of Bethlehem, effectively separating it from Jerusalem, which is five kilometers away.

    “With this confiscation, Jerusalem and Bethlehem will no longer be connected. That’s something that the Christian world should understand,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman who comes from a Beit Jala family.

    Residents say the land grab is part of an Israeli plan to fragment the West Bank, and make the formation of a coherent Palestinian state impossible.

    In Bethlehem, it has dispossessed the area’s once-thriving Christian community, pushing them to move overseas as their village lands are occupied to Jerusalem and eaten away by expanding settlements.

    Cremisan Valley is well-known for its vineyards which are run by Roman Catholic monks from the Salesian order, and which provide wine to churches throughout the Holy Land.

    Read more:

  11. Kathleen on April 24, 2012, 4:58 pm

    Fundamentalist Christians have been persuaded to donate money to the cause. But when you think about what some of them believe will happen to “non believers” who knows whether this program would diminish funding

    • W.Jones on April 24, 2012, 6:12 pm

      I think that despite the ideological claims, knowing what the State is doing would really hurt funding.

      Right now the justification is, you describe, helping the state to bring on the End Times. OK, but they still have to decide what part they are going to play in the End Times. Who is going to donate to something they have come to believe is harmful, in order to bring on the Last Judgment at which their actions would look bad?

  12. dalybean on April 24, 2012, 5:03 pm

    Another part of the Israeli pushback on this was to present to CBS the Newsweek story, “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World,” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali published in February 2012. So that was clearly a placed story in Newsweek, which is of course owned by the AIPAC bag lady and ex-Congresswoman, Jane Harman.

    All of the usual suspects are pimping the Newsweek story arguments to counter the CBS piece.

    Poor Jane. She’s caught in the thick of Israeli scandal yet again.

  13. Walid on April 24, 2012, 5:06 pm

    From the National:

    Tough road to Jerusalem for Palestinian Christians

    Hugh Naylor

    Apr 2, 2012 JERUSALEM // If he could, Ibrahim Khoury would bring his family to this city every Sunday.

    But in his way are Israel’s walls and bureaucracy that restrict him and other Christian Palestinians from entering Jerusalem.

    Unlike the 280,000 Palestinians who hold Jerusalem residency, he – like most Palestinians from the West Bank, Christian as well as Muslim – must get Israel’s permission to visit the city that is his cultural and spiritual home.

    But yesterday, the Khoury family was part of a group of Roman Catholics from Ramallah allowed in to celebrate Palm Sunday.

    Although a joyful experience a week before Easter, it was also bittersweet for Mr Khoury: he lamented the obstacles to visiting his most important holy sites such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Stations of the Cross.

    “Israel tells the radio and the newspapers that there is freedom of religion here, but in reality, it’s not like this at all,” said Mr Khoury, 68, an architect who lives in Ramallah. It was his first visit to Jerusalem in more than a year.

  14. tombishop on April 24, 2012, 9:56 pm

    Important Glenn Greenwald article about suppression of discussion about Israel on college campuses:

    UCLA Professor warned about Israel views
    What kind of person goes to college and demands to be shielded from political views they dislike?

  15. DICKERSON3870 on April 25, 2012, 1:26 am

    Thank CBS for Telling the Story of Palestinian Christians!
    CBS reporter Bob Simon highlighted the story of Palestinian Christians on the April 22nd episode of 60 Minutes. Express your appreciation to CBS for telling the often forgotten story of Palestinian Christians by sending them an email (pre-written and editable).

  16. Xpat on April 25, 2012, 9:48 am

    Looks like Israel has overplayed Hasbara in the MSM.

    Haaretz today covers an interview Netanyahu just gave to CNN.
    Interestingly, as in the CBS story, Hasbara itself became the story. Arin Burnett mockingly shows footage of Netanyahu doing the same Hasbara spiel he gave her – only 20 years ago.

  17. seafoid on April 25, 2012, 10:31 am

    Comment from Ha’aretz that hits the spot

    ‘Hasbara’ – based on North American news sites, Israel’s hasbara brigade flogs outrageous lies, then alleges dissentors are anti-Semitic. If that doesn’t work, no vile insult or bigoted remark is beneath them. This stratregy is clearly in line with the contention that Assad’s crimes excuse those of Israel. The adolescent ‘well they’re doing it too’ defense falls flat.

  18. powzon on April 27, 2012, 3:54 pm

    Pat Robertson’s CBN News also has a “pushback”. Let them know what you think here: “Bob Simon and Bethlehem Christians”

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