In the course of a hostile interview on July 30 with Israeli spokesperson Miri Eisen, CNN International anchor Rosemary Church actually charged that Israel could shoot down the Hezbollah Katyusha rockets that have rained down on the country, but has chosen not to try:
ROSEMARY CHURCH: But they’re crude rockets aren’t they, and after all their impact has been minimal compared to the impact of Israeli strikes on Lebanon. Explain something to us, why would you not try to be shooting these missiles, these Katyusha missiles, or rockets, we should say, they’re not missiles at all, they’re rockets. Why would Israel not be trying to shoot them out of the sky? They – they have the capability to do that.
Before dealing with the implications of the CNN anchor’s assertion, let’s first dispose of the technical issue – can Israel shoot down Katyusha rockets?
The answer is unfortunately no. Israel and the United States have been jointly trying to develop such a system known as MTHEL (Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser), and even tested a prototype at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. But according to defense sources MTHEL is still only in the development phase, and is not scheduled for deployment until at least 2007.
So Ms. Church was misinformed – at this time neither Israel nor the United States has the ability to shoot down Katyusha rockets on the battlefield.
But far more disturbing than Ms. Church’s perhaps understandable ignorance about missile defense was her implied charge that Israel could shoot down the Katyushas but has chosen not to. Clearly, a country that could defend against Katyusha rockets but instead allows its citizens to be killed by them is capable of anything, no matter how monstrous. Which raises the question of what exactly is the culture in the CNN International newsroom that such extremely hostile and distorted views about Israel can apparently exist? And how heinous would an anti-Israel charge have to be for Ms. Church and her editors to think it worth fact-checking before broadcasting it?