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Media Analyses





CNN Anchors Weigh Down Israelis, Boost Palestinians


Many CNN anchors and interviewers have displayed a marked double standard in their manner of interviewing Palestinians and Israelis. They have allowed Palestinian guests to make sweeping allegations and false accusations against Israel while treating Israeli statements with skepticism and, at times, open hositility.

A particularly egregious example occurred on September 10, when CNN's Jim Clancy respectfully interviewed Palestinian Saeb Erakat, accepting his many false assertions as self-evident truths, not interrupting even once, then interviewed  Israeli Natan Sharansky, in what could more accurately be called a cross-examination.

Here are the relevant excerpts (full text at bottom of page):

CLANCY: ... I want to switch now to Gaza, where we're joined by Saeb Erekat, one of the lead negotiators for the Palestinians, someone who has been at an all- important meeting where the Palestinian leadership is determining if it will go ahead with its threat to declare a state unilaterally by this Wednesday, the 13th of September.

Saeb Erekat, what can you tell us?

SAEB EREKAT, PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well I can tell you, Jim, that the Palestine Central Council just concluded its meeting five minutes ago, and the PCC addressed the Palestinian position for the strategic choice of peace. Hopefully, it will lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the establishment of the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

They call upon the Israeli government to continue the implementation of the outstanding commitment of the interim agreements, they reiterate their commitment to a comprehensive peace and all issues (UNINTELLIGIBLE) permanent status without any fragmentation or delays, which will include Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, borders, water and other issues of common interest. ...

CLANCY: Saeb Erekat, we know that the next four weeks are going to be intensive negotiations. Some people have said negotiate on those areas where you can perhaps reach an agreement -- you mentioned some of them. Is it possible that there will be two tracks, one to deal with those stubborn issues of Jerusalem and the future of refugees outside of the Palestinian territories, while the other one negotiates on some of those issues that might be resolved?

EREKAT: Well I don't think it's the form, how you do it, in one track or two, it's the substance of the issues that need to be tackled now. And believe me, Mr. Barak and President Arafat do follow personally the negotiations on all these issues. And at the end of the day, what we need is to see the Israeli government committing itself to the implementation of the terms of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) provided for unlimited peace conference. Now we have agreed, and we actually met the Israeli side today and we present to them our willingness to commence immediately the negotiations in terms of a few weeks to give every possible shot on all issues without, you know, delaying any of this, without fragmenting any of the issues. ...

CLANCY: Saeb Erekat there giving us the latest from the Palestinian Central Council meetings that went on, deciding in those meetings to postpone the unilateral declaration of a state for now. There was a September 13th deadline.

In this interview Clancy and CNN provided a platform for Erakat to level numerous false charges and claims, including that UN Resolutions 242 and 338 call for creation of a Palestinian state, or that it is Israel that has violated the Oslo Accords. Clancy neither questioned any of Erakat’s inventions, nor did he once interrupt his monologues.

Compare Clancy’s indulgent manner towards Saeb Erakat with – later in the same program – his hostile cross-examination of Natan Sharansky. Midway through the interview Clancy even frames a question to Sharansky by quoting an op-ed written by a fringe extremist, whom he identifies only as an “Israeli writer.” Here are excerpts of the interview:

CLANCY: ... Until recently, Natan Sharansky was an ally of Mr. Barak's, serving in his coalition government as the interior minister. But he and his party quit that government before the last Camp David summit, arguing that Mr. Barak was simply giving too much away.

Mr. Sharansky joins us now from New York.

Natan Sharansky, if you were the lead negotiator, how would you handle this situation now? Would you negotiate? What would you negotiate?

NATAN SHARANSKY, FORMER ISRAELI INTERIOR MINISTER: Well I believe that such important and fateful negotiations have to be done on the basis of very broad consensus among our people, because we are talking, in fact, about our identity. When we are talking about Jerusalem, which for thousands of years was the village which was uniting our people and saving our people and which returned us back to Zion; Jerusalem, which never was the capital of any other country in the world except Jewish state in the past and today....

CLANCY: I want to quote here. Jim Ron (ph), an Israeli writer, had this to say, and it's all about land and specifically about Jerusalem. He writes:

"Israeli Jews tacitly understand that these lands, including East Jerusalem, belong to another people. They rarely acknowledge so openly. Ever since the 1948 war, the subject of Palestinian land claims has been one of Jewish society's greatest taboos. Even Israel's most liberal leaders gingerly skirt the issue, fearing that acknowledgment of Palestinian rights will hurt them at the polls."

Is that a political reality?

SHARANSKY: I have to say that seven years ago we started Oslo agreement process, peace process, the base of which was that both sides, step by step, would come to the compromise. And in the meantime, they will be building confidence measures. What was demanded from Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to have the life of their own, to be the masters of their own fate? What was demanded from Yasser Arafat? To recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel, not to challenge its existence.

Seven years after the fact, we transferred 40 percent of the Western Bank to Yasser Arafat. We returned now 98 percent – I repeat, 98 percent of all Palestinian people are controlled now by Yasser Arafat. As the former interior minister, I can say that many of them don't like it. But that is a fact. They are not controlled by us anymore. ...

What's happened to the other side? On the other side, Yasser Arafat, unfortunately, is misusing all the power which have to him to build a very non-democratic, ruthless, authoritarian regime. And what is most important is the new generation of Palestinian schoolchildren is starting schools by the maps where there is no Israel. They are learning in their summer camps...

CLANCY: Mr. Sharansky...

SHARANSKY: ... that Israel should be destroyed. And that is the sad fact. We have to go through changes...

CLANCY: Mr. Sharansky, that's an extreme view.

SHARANSKY: ... we have to accept, and they also have to accept...

CLANCY: That's a very liberal interpretation...

SHARANSKY: ... the facts of our existence.

CLANCY: ... of what's happened in the peace process. Do you think, though, that these negotiations, at least, Israel – very briefly – can Jerusalem be on the table, or you say no?

SHARANSKY: I think exactly as Ehud Barak said, no prime minister has the authority and mandate to divide Jerusalem. ...

CLANCY: All right, Natan Sharansky, our thanks to you for being with us in our special report, "The Quest for Peace."

In stark contrast to his treatment of Erakat, Clancy could hardly contain himself as Sharansky spoke, finally interrupting the Israeli and characterizing his statements as "extreme" and a "very liberal interpretation of what's happened in the peace process." It is literally impossible to imagine CNN treating Erakat, or Hanan Ashrawi, or any other Palestinian spokesperson in that way.

Whether in their news reports or their interviews CNN consistently favors the Palestinian viewpoint at the expense of fairness to Israel. Violating ethical requirements common to all journalists, CNN skews what is reported and how it is reported, acting as a virtual PR agency for the PA.

 

ACTION ITEMS: [In the original alert, action items and contact information were listed here.]


Full text of interviews with Saeb Erakat and Natan Sharansky

CLANCY: ... I want to switch now to Gaza, where we're joined by Saeb Erekat, one of the lead negotiators for the Palestinians, someone who has been at an all- important meeting where the Palestinian leadership is determining if it will go ahead with its threat to declare a state unilaterally by this Wednesday, the 13th of September.

Saeb Erekat, what can you tell us?

SAEB EREKAT, PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: Well I can tell you, Jim, that the Palestine Central Council just concluded its meeting five minutes ago, and the PCC addressed the Palestinian position for the strategic choice of peace. Hopefully, it will lead to the implementation of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the establishment of the Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

They call upon the Israeli government to continue the implementation of the outstanding commitment of the interim agreements, they reiterate their commitment to a comprehensive peace and all issues (UNINTELLIGIBLE) permanent status without any fragmentation or delays, which will include Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, borders, water and other issues of common interest.

And they appoint the PLO executive committee, the Palestine Liberation Organization, as the executive committee to follow up the steps necessary for the establishment of the Palestinian state, and to submit a report on a special meeting to be convened before the 15th of November.

So all I can tell you, Jim, is that the Palestinian leadership decided to give the peace process the chance it deserves. This corresponds with what was agreed between President Arafat and President Clinton last Wednesday, to have an intensive negotiation over the next few weeks and to give us every possible chance in order to conclude an agreement on all permanent-status issues as soon as possible.

CLANCY: Saeb Erekat, we know that the next four weeks are going to be intensive negotiations. Some people have said negotiate on those areas where you can perhaps reach an agreement -- you mentioned some of them. Is it possible that there will be two tracks, one to deal with those stubborn issues of Jerusalem and the future of refugees outside of the Palestinian territories, while the other one negotiates on some of those issues that might be resolved?

EREKAT: Well I don't think it's the form, how you do it, in one track or two, it's the substance of the issues that need to be tackled now. And believe me, Mr. Barak and President Arafat do follow personally the negotiations on all these issues. And at the end of the day, what we need is to see the Israeli government committing itself to the implementation of the terms of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) provided for unlimited peace conference. Now we have agreed, and we actually met the Israeli side today and we present to them our willingness to commence immediately the negotiations in terms of a few weeks to give every possible shot on all issues without, you know, delaying any of this, without fragmenting any of the issues.

Now as far as the leaders are concerned, there have been channels between them, and there could be many things that can work between the two sides. But at the end of the day, what we're talking about now is a substance. We have a major gap on all issues, but I think we should use the next five weeks and exert maximum efforts in order to produce the result satisfactory to both sides.

CLANCY: Saeb Erekat there giving us the latest from the Palestinian Central Council meetings that went on, deciding in those meetings to postpone the unilateral declaration of a state for now. There was a September 13th deadline.

 

CLANCY: ... Until recently, Natan Sharansky was an ally of Mr. Barak's, serving in his coalition government as the interior minister. But he and his party quit that government before the last Camp David summit, arguing that Mr. Barak was simply giving too much away.

Mr. Sharansky joins us now from New York.

Natan Sharansky, if you were the lead negotiator, how would you handle this situation now? Would you negotiate? What would you negotiate?

NATAN SHARANSKY, FORMER ISRAELI INTERIOR MINISTER: Well I believe that such important and fateful negotiations have to be done on the basis of very broad consensus among our people, because we are talking, in fact, about our identity. When we are talking about Jerusalem, which for thousands of years was the village which was uniting our people and saving our people and which returned us back to Zion; Jerusalem, which never was the capital of any other country in the world except Jewish state in the past and today.

All the negotiations about Jerusalem have to be done on the basis of broad consensus. And unfortunately, our prime minister -- and it's a sad fact -- is very alone in these negotiations, because he crossed all the red lines. He had no mandate from the people, from the parliament, from his own government, to agree to divide Jerusalem.

And unfortunately I cannot take comfort from the fact that the prime minister of the Jewish state puts us in this station, when it is Yasser Arafat who will have to decide whether Jerusalem will be divided or not.

CLANCY: I want to quote here. Jim Ron (ph), an Israeli writer, had this to say, and it's all about land and specifically about Jerusalem. He writes:

"Israeli Jews tacitly understand that these lands, including East Jerusalem, belong to another people. They rarely acknowledge so openly. Ever since the 1948 war, the subject of Palestinian land claims has been one of Jewish society's greatest taboos. Even Israel's most liberal leaders gingerly skirt the issue, fearing that acknowledgment of Palestinian rights will hurt them at the polls."

Is that a political reality?

SHARANSKY: I have to say that seven years ago we started Oslo agreement process, peace process, the base of which was that both sides, step by step, would come to the compromise. And in the meantime, they will be building confidence measures. What was demanded from Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian people to have the life of their own, to be the masters of their own fate? What was demanded from Yasser Arafat? To recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel, not to challenge its existence.

Seven years after the fact, we transferred 40 percent of the Western Bank to Yasser Arafat. We returned now 98 percent – I repeat, 98 percent of all Palestinian people are controlled now by Yasser Arafat. As the former interior minister, I can say that many of them don't like it. But that is a fact. They are not controlled by us anymore.

And what is the most important thing, Israel society went through the whole real mental revolution. Now we departed from the idea of the control of the land. We understand, that we done want and don't have to control with the great (UNINTELLIGIBLE). We understand that we don't want and don't have to control the lives of Palestinians, and we are trying to help them to build their lives.

What's happened to the other side? On the other side, Yasser Arafat, unfortunately, is misusing all the power which have to him to build a very non-democratic, ruthless, authoritarian regime. And what is most important is the new generation of Palestinian schoolchildren is starting schools by the maps where there is no Israel. They are learning in their summer camps...

CLANCY: Mr. Sharansky...

SHARANSKY: ... that Israel should be destroyed. And that is the sad fact. We have to go through changes...

CLANCY: Mr. Sharansky, that's an extreme view.

SHARANSKY: ... we have to accept, and they also have to accept...

CLANCY: That's a very liberal interpretation...

SHARANSKY: ... the facts of our existence.

CLANCY: ... of what's happened in the peace process. Do you think, though, that these negotiations, at least, Israel – very briefly – can Jerusalem be on the table, or you say no?

SHARANSKY: I think exactly as Ehud Barak said, no prime minister has the authority and mandate to divide Jerusalem. And that's why even though if you signed agreement about division of Jerusalem, about dividing the old city, about turning the Wailing Wall into the Berlin Wall of Middle East, this type of agreement, will never pass the referendum of Israel.

CLANCY: All right, Natan Sharansky, our thanks to you for being with us in our special report, "The Quest for Peace."



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