60 Minutes on the Plight of Palestinian Christians

Source: The Atlantic

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.


  1. The 60 Minutes piece was amazingly even-handed, considering how little truth about the Middle East is allowed to be presented in the American MSM. Oren’s ham-handed effort to stifle it was a classic Israeli move which, on this rare occasion, backfired. 60 Minutes, like virtually all US media outlets, has a disproportionate number of Jews but I suspect they didn’t like being pushed around by Oren, their ostensible co-religionist – who would?

    Good for CBS here, I hope Americans were paying attention to what our billions of tax dollars annually are going to support, namely the oppression of Christians in the West Bank.

    Before anyone jumps on me, I’ll be the first to admit that the Palestinians have often hurt the peace process, and terrorism is always wrong – but Americans need to understand that the core issue here is occupation, one which US tax dollars pay for, and one which is obliterating the Palestinian Christian community in real time.

  2. The 60 minutes broadcast about Christians in the Middle East was NOT amazingly evenhanded. It was amazingly shallow. If I had not known quite a lot about the situation there, I would not have learned anything after watching the broadcast. I realize that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to explain the complexities of the situation there, but the broadcast did little to illuminate, except to castigate the Israeli minister for his “interference.” It certainly reflects the increasing anti-Israeli tone which is rapidly becoming the norm among the American media.

    • “It certainly reflects the increasing anti-Israeli tone which is rapidly becoming the norm among the American media.”

      So, I take it you think anything not obsequiously syncophantic to the Netanyahu/Likud line is “anti-Israeli”?

      You are either misinformed or wicked.

      As I’m neither a Jew nor an Arab, I have no real “dog” in this fight, but I have spent time in Israel/Palestine and know quite a lot about the situation, which is nothing if not complex.

      The one thing I am certain of is I don’t like it when non-Christians abuse and oppress my fellow Christians, using US tax dollars to do so.

      If you have ever been to the West Bank, and are not totally brainwashed by hasbara, you will know what that occupation and oppression look like. To a civilized American, it would be a source of shame to be complicit in such things, in any way.

  3. The video certainly does a good job setting forth the problem. In short, owing basically to inattention to detail, Israel is making life hard for Christians who represent no threat for all practical purposes denying them passage to the other side of their wall. Israel requires them to live among Islamic folk– some few of whom do random murder. So, the Christians leave since the Islamic folk who would negotiate are basically not murderers to begin with while there is little point negotiating with the murderous sects.

    What wasn’t stated in the video, but I bet I wasn’t the only one wondering about it… Once the Christians basically all leave will that fact be bruted about as a reason to lessen overall interest being a moderating factor over there? Use that plus our economic hard times as a reason to simply pull back from expensive interventions of various sorts aimed at violence minimization almost half a world away? Israel is doing little or nothing to make life tolerable for its Christians on the wrong side of their wall. Islamic folk are doing little to police their radicals to protect the Christian minority living among them. If this continues along current trends the forces pushing the US to withdraw materially will become stronger.

    It’s an open secret that Israel has the most devastating weapons. It’s generally believed to be true that radical fundamentalists on the other side (a small minority among Islamic people) count life as cheap, have lots of money, are not otherwise stupid and could just possibly build a horrible weapon. Can Israel and the Islamic majority that prefers those weapons not be used near where they live not wake up to protect the Christians living there? It would be a very good idea, and right soon.

  4. Some friends of mine who are Jewish have given me this link to a report they claim completely destroys the central thesis of the 60 minutes piece. Specifically the one made by the Patriarch in Jerusalem that in 1964 there were about 30,000 Christians there, and now there are about 11,000. The central thesis of the report they offer in rebuttal is that the population of Christians overall has in fact remained statistically unchanged. The report says that there were about 10K Christians in Jerusalem in the 1960s, and that’s how it remains today. 20K left between the end of wwII and the 1960’s.

    Here’s the link:


    Hopefully folk will not resort to the usual “Let’s decide this on the basis of ‘our team'” thinking. Clearly both can’t be correct, but how to decide where the truth is?

  5. Thanks for sharing this 60 minutes video. This is a very controversial issue and I think every country has its own issue.

    “It’s an open secret that Israel has the most devastating weapons. It’s generally believed to be true that radical fundamentalists on the other side (a small minority among Islamic people) count life as cheap, have lots of money, are not otherwise stupid and could just possibly build a horrible weapon.” I absolutely agree.


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