APR 23 2012, 8:46 AM ET 280
By Robert Wright
Last night’s 60 Minutes segment about the plight of Christians in the West Bank has gotten a lot of attention, in part because of the attempt by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren to intervene with CBS brass while the segment was being put together. (See the 11-minute point in the video below, where CBS correspondent Bob Simon confronts Oren with this fact.)
You can see why Oren might rather the piece hadn’t aired. Things that Palestinian Muslims routinely say about the Israeli occupation may get more traction in America when Palestinian Christians say them. Such as this, from a Christian clergyman: “The West Bank is becoming more and more like a piece of Swiss cheese, where Israel gets the cheese–that is, the land the water resources, the archaeological sites, and the Palestinians are pushed in the holes.”
Also, Oren clearly doesn’t want this document, mentioned by Simon, to get attention. In it an interdominational group of Middle Eastern Christian clergy–Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant–refer to the occupation as “clear apartheid.” (Oren hints that they’re anti-Semitic.)
Finally, the 60 Minutes piece complicates the post-9/11 Israeli narrative according to which Israel and Judeo-Christian America are involved in a common struggle against Islamic radicals, and the occupation should be viewed in that context. Hence the importance of the moment when Oren insists Christians are leaving the West Bank under duress from Islamic radicals, not because of the occupation, and Simon presents testimony to the contrary.
Notwithstanding Oren’s understandable qualms, the piece struck me as legitimate and balanced. Its subject–the ongoing exodus of Christians from the Holy Land–is of undeniable interest to American viewers. And Simon emphasizes that Israel isn’t singling out Christians for persecution; their plight is simply the plight of Palestinians in general–a plight that, Simon notes, is due partly to actions taken by Israel to secure itself against terrorism. Now that Oren has had a chance to see the 60 Minutes piece, I’d be interested in hearing what, if any, parts of the story he thinks CBS should have included but didn’t.