expressed highly contentious views based on dubious assertions that should have been challenged by the host.
Bringing guests hostile to Israel is nothing new for McDonnell. He has invited Ali Abuminah (founder of Electronic Intifada - picture above) four times in the past two years, fringe anti-Israel activist Jeff Halper , and ex-president Jimmy Carter . But until April, Worldview provided a similar number of Israeli government representatives and mainstream scholars like Michael Oren, David Makovsky and Bennett Zimmerman.
Allowing false statements to go unchallenged
On April 18, 2007, McDonnell devoted an entire hour to three women billed as the "Jerusalem Women Speak Tour" who purportedly seek to find a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, but in fact promote a radical anti-Israel agenda. The "tour" is a longstanding effort by an organization called Partners for Peace, which in turn is the creation of a longstanding anti-Israel organization, The Council for the National Interest (CNI). CNI, founded by a group of former U.S. foreign service officers with extensive ties to Arab countries, lobbies against U.S. support for Israel and places full page advertisements in major newspapers railing against the Jewish state. Partners for Peace also boasts the founder of the radical group the International Solidarity Movement, Adam Shapiro, who has justified terrorist acts against Israelis. McDonnell should have clarified that these women hardly represented a balanced perspective.
The three women, an Israeli, a Palestinian Muslim and a Palestinian Christian all shared the same perspective. The Israeli woman, Tal Dor, criticized Israel for "building a wall and making the state more and more militaristic... making us much less secure." Never mind that since the separation barrier has been in place, suicide bombings against Israelis have dropped by over 90% and the Israeli death toll due to Palestinian terrorism has fallen from 452 in 2002 (prior to the barrier) to 27 in 2006. According to Tal, "We [Israel] will pay a price for our own behavior."
The Palestinian Muslim, Huda Abu Arqoub, told listeners that they should stop paying taxes to the U.S. government because of its support for Israel. She asserted that the American people are manipulated by the mainstream media and that Hamas is "not a terrorist government. In fact, she claimed, "they are a healthy organization."
Among the demonstrably false accusations she leveled at Israel are that "the Jewish state is attacking" the Muslim religion and that the "Jewish state does not recognize its citizens rights if they are not Jews." McDonnell said nothing in response to these accusations despite the fact that it is well known that Israel is the most pluralistic state in the Middle East, where Arab citizens are equally protected under the law and have the right to vote.
McDonnell asked her about Palestinian textbooks. Abu Arqoub denied what has been confirmed on several occasions, that Palestinian schoolchildren are being exposed to anti-Israel and anti-Jewish indoctrination. She claimed that the textbooks are "bringing in the notion of peace" and they teach the concept of "knowing the other and respecting the other." Arquob admitted that it was difficult to teach these notions since Israeli soldiers at checkpoints were "abusing as many Palestinian children as they can."
Arqoubs statements about Palestinian textbooks were directly contradicted only two months prior to the show by Senator Hillary Clinton, who condemned Palestinian textbooks for teaching hatred. Senator Clinton cited textbooks claiming that the founding of Israel was
"a catastrophe that is unprecedented in history, when the Zionist gangs stole Palestine and expelled its people from their cities, their villages, their lands and their homes, and established the State of Israel."
The textbooks also avoided mentioning atrocities committed by the Nazis against Jews and makes no reference to the Holocaust against Jews, describing instead Nazi restrictions on "non-Aryan" people.
It was Arquoub, not McDonnell, who actually brought up Senator Clintons condemnation. She demanded an apology from the Senator. McDonnell did not challenge Arqoub on the substance of her claims.
Misrepresenting Christian Zionists as violent End Times fanatics
On August 30, McDonnell's show about religious views regarding End-Times scenarios in the Middle East featured a derisive segment against Christian Zionists by Nation magazine writer Max Blumenthal, an interview with anti-Zionist professor Norton Mezvinsky on Jewish religious extremism and an apologia regarding Iranian leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, by professor Kaveh Afrasiabi. In casting the views of radical ideologues and propagandists as legitimate and credible, complex issues, like the motivations of Christian Zionists and the vastly different strengths of religious extremism among the different faiths, are reduced to one-sided propaganda. McDonnell's partisan treatment of such politically charged issues on a publicly supported station is troubling.
In the segment on Christian Zionists, Max Blumenthal used cuts from his filmed interviews to portray the attendees at a July, 2007, Christian United for Israel (CUFI) conference as unhinged fanatics or manipulators. He crudely mocked the "professed philo-Semitism" of Christian Zionists as a "clever way... of plumping up the turkey - the Jews - before they put it in the oven." He leveled a number of controversial charges against Christian Zionists.
McDonnell offered no challenge to Blumenthal nor did he include a representative of CUFI to answer his accusations. Among the more inflammatory statements made by Blumenthal were:
Christian Zionists only support Israel because of their End-Times theology. Christian Zionist groups urge Israel to "take as much land from the Palestinians as possible" and "engage in nuclear war with Iran." "Israel acts as a surrogate military base for neo-conservative worldwide military policy"... against even the EU and Russia. "Muslims were demonized openly in language I just considered unacceptable in open society." Christian Zionists want to put American Muslims in internment camps. Christian Zionists and their Jewish supporters are "waging a holy war against all Muslims." "Elements of the Israeli right and pro-Israel policy establishment are encouraging all of this."
Blumenthal selectively incorporates brief comments by CUFI members disputing him in his film clip but dismisses their comments as PR.
Blumenthal admits that he "wanted to show that [John Hagee - the head of Christians United for Israel] is an anti-Semite in philosemitic clothing." Blumenthal claims as evidence Hagee's inclusion of a biblical quotation in his book foretelling the persecution of the Jewish people. Blumenthal accuses Hagee of blaming the Jews for their own persecution. Hagee denies the accusation and explains that Blumenthal misunderstood what he wrote. But Blumenthal misrepresents Hagee's response as a denial that the lines were even in the book. McDonnell makes no effort to clarify the issue and instead plays along with Blumenthal, who ridicules Hagee and mockingly asks, "who did write it, did Jesus Christ write it or did God write it?"
CAMERA contacted a CUFI spokesman familiar with Blumenthal's film who denied Blumenthal's charges and pointed to official public pronouncements by the group and its leaders that contradict Blumenthal's allegations.
The supposed "balance" that McDonnell provided to Blumenthal's attack on Christian Zionists was an interview the previous day with an obscure fundamentalist named Lester Wright, who is convinced that the book of Daniel predicts today's events unfolding in the Middle East. The net effect of the two segments is to render fundamentalist Christians as zany and dangerously irrational. McDonnell should have included a segment that allowed a spokesperson from CUFI, such as Pastor John Hagee, and/or another prominent, credible spokesman for Christian Zionism, to rebut these serious allegations.
Blaming Israel for the tensions with Iran
In sharp contrast to Blumenthal's mugging of Christians United for Israel, McDonnell allows Tehran University professor Kaveh Afrasiabi to whitewash the Shia eschatology, particularly that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Afrasiabi blames Israeli fundamentalists for escalating tensions. Borrowing a page from the conspiracist crowd, Afrasiabi posits that "by inflaming tensions with Iran, they [neocons, Jews] hope to hasten their end times scenario." He further contends that the rightwing Jews "celebrated the reign of Ahmadinejad" because he presented them with a "convenient enemy." Afrasiabi insists that Ahmadinejad's messianic fanaticism is exaggerated and dismisses Ahmadinejad as a "tin-pot pseudo-dictator." According to Afrasiabi, there really is nothing to worry about here. He assures the audience that Shias' "messianic element is not necessarily violent." When McDonnell asks him to confirm that in his view the Iranian President does not adhere to an apocalyptic vision, the professor replied "I haven't seen anything that would convince me otherwise." It is Israel that "uses the ruse of Iran's threat to divert attention from their own Arab problem."
On the previous day (Aug. 29), McDonnell did carry an informative interview with Joel Richardson, who painted a frightening picture of Ahmadinejad and clearly differentiated between the passive Christian and Jewish eschatological beliefs from the active Muslim pursuit of the End-of-Times.
Jewish fundamentalist anti-Zionism
The third segment of the August 30 show featured a Jewish professor known for his radical anti-Zionist views to talk about Jewish fundamentalism. Professor Norton Mezvinsky admits that End-of-Times ultra-orthodox Jews are a minority within a minority, but nevertheless exaggerates their impact on the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. Mezvinsky, who co-authored a book with notorious anti-Zionist Israel Shahak, also gets his facts wrong, claiming that "since September 28, 2000 when Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount and fighting broke out, more Palestinians and more Israeli Jews have been killed then in the whole history of the State of Israel since 1948 up to that September 28, 2000."
In fact, the approximately 1100 Israelis killed in the Second Intifada is considerably less than the number killed during the Arab attacks on Israel in 1947-1949 alone, where over 6000 Jews were killed (the vast majority after May 14, 1948). The toll of Israeli Jews from the 1956, 1967 and 1973 wars, the War of Attrition in 1968-1970 and fighting Lebanon totaled another 6000.
Meanwhile, the cumulative total of Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza or Arab states bordering Israel, who were killed between 1950-2000 far exceeds 5000. Over that same time span, estimates of the number of Palestinians killed in internecine (Arab on Arab) fighting vastly exceeds the number killed since the beginning of the second Intifada (estimates of 4,000 -10,000 in 1969-1971 civil war in Jordan, tens of thousands in Lebanon from 1969-2000) .
Conceding that Palestinian suicide terrorists fit the definition of extremists, the numerically challenged Mezvinsky adds, "we've had terrorist acts committed by Israeli Jews. I'm not quantifying that." Mezvinsky's coyness allows him to gloss over the fact that the number of terrorist acts by Israeli Jews is minuscule in comparison to the thousands committed by Palestinians.
McDonnell offered both a critical and apologetic presentation on the Holocaust denier, Ahmadinejad, a supposed but inadequate balance on the Christian Zionists, while providing no rebuttal or balance to the one-sided critique of Israeli fundamentalists.
Offering extensive exposure to fringe radicals
On June 7, in a show supposedly related to the fortieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, McDonnell handed the microphone to Norman Finkelstein, who offered the conspiratorial view that Israel intentionally provoked the war in order to block Arab modernization. According to Finkelstein, Israel's response to Arab attempts to modernize is to "bring out the club and break Arab skulls." McDonnell's decision to feature a discredited member of the radical fringe like Finkelstein as one of the two historians (the other being mainstream author, Michael Oren the prior day) to discuss the Six-Day War is a travesty. Finkelsteins scholarship and invective are widely condemned, yet McDonnell gives over an entire show to showcase his revisionist history.
On July 27, Ali Abuminah, founder of a radical internet Web site, Electronic Intifada, provided a pro-Hamas version of recent events. Abuminah speaks out of both sides of his mouth, denigrating Palestinian President Abbas as illegitimate - despite the fact that he was democratically elected - while bestowing legitimacy on Hamas because it was elected. He also falsely claims that Hamas has abided by a truce with Israel but that "Israelis continue to rule and conquer through violence."
While McDonnell has long welcomed radical anti-Israel types as guests on his show, in the past he was more careful about balancing their views by also inviting Israeli officials and mainstream commentators. While respect for free speech encourages controversial opinions to be discussed, with freedom comes responsibility. It is incumbent upon the interviewer to effectively challenge unsubstantiated or inflammatory allegations.