What did Christiane Amanpour hope to accomplish in her CNN Special Generation Islam? It was supposed to be, as she described it, an investigation of the battle between extremists and moderates for the "hearts and minds" of young Muslims, especially in Afghanistan and Gaza.
While such a program might have been interesting, unfortunately it's not what Amanpour actually presented. Instead, viewers were fed the usual Amanpour propaganda, especially in the second hour, where the subject might have been Gaza but the target was clearly Israel.
The contrast in the two parts of the program could not have been more striking. The first hour, on Afghanistan, identified the good guys as those fighting to create a more tolerant form of Islam, those building schools and encouraging girls to get an education. Amanpour, for example, rhapsodically described Greg Mortenson, who was said to have helped build 79 schools in the country, as "one of America's least likely, but most successful counter-insurgents ... one of America's most successful fighters against extremism."
The bad guys, just as clearly, were the Islamists, the hard line Taliban, the brutal backward criminals who destroy schools, and kill girls for trying to get an education.
But in the second hour, on Gaza, the bad guys were not the Islamists who rule Gaza, teaching hatred of Christians and Jews, and attacking Israeli civilians with suicide bombers and thousands of rockets. Instead Amanpour's bad guys were the Jews of Israel, for supposedly oppressing the Palestinians, and she offered not a single mention of the hate indoctrination that Hamas specializes in.
While Amanpour showed in great detail the suffering of people in Gaza, only once, and perfunctorily, did she give a hint of why they might be at least partially responsible for their own misery.
Amanpour also falsely claimed that there are no movie theaters and no sports centers in Gaza, and allowed guests to make absurd claims such as that in Gaza there is no water, electricity or fuel. Another guest was allowed to make the bizarre claim that there is nothing radical or extremist about the Gaza's Hamas-run Islamic University.
And while in the Afghanistan segment Amanpour briefly mentions civilian deaths caused by American attacks (the word "killed" is used twice in this regard), in the Gaza segment she has long conversations with Gazans who explain how Israel killed their loved ones. Not surprisingly, in the Gaza segment the word "killed" is used in this way seven times.
Amanpour described the focus of her program with these words:
I'm Christiane Amanpour in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is ramping up its war against the Taliban. But there's another war the U.S. can't afford to lose. President Obama says America cannot have yet another generation of Muslims who see it as the enemy.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward.
AMANPOUR: So come with us to two places -- Afghanistan and Gaza, where the battle for young Muslim hearts and minds is the most intense.
Amanpour explained that the people of Afghanistan are justifiably:
... afraid of the Taliban, who attacked almost 300 schools last year, and severely burned a dozen girls with acid, just to keep them from going to class.
But while Amanpour is certainly correct to excoriate the Taliban, she once again betrays a complete misunderstanding of Islamism, and the threats that it poses. At one point, for example, she criticizes madrassas (religious-based schools) in Pakistan and Afghanistan, stating:
... many madrassas teach a version of Islam that's locked in the past. Students are rarely taught math or science. Some students have never even heard of Barack Obama. But they have been taught that America is the enemy.
But learning math or science is hardly a guarantee against Islamic extremism. For example, many of the 9/11 hijackers were quite well educated, with the ringleader, Mohamed Atta, having earned a masters degree in architecture in Germany. Indeed, as the Princeton historian Sean Wilentz remarked, judging by the 9/11 attacks, terrorism is caused not by poverty or ignorance, but by "money, education and privilege."
Furthermore, contrary to Amanpour, knowledge of math and science actually makes terrorists more dangerous. Some sources, for example, report that Osama bin Laden himself has a degree in civil engineering, and there is no doubt he was exposed to the subject through his family's enormously successful construction firm. Which led him to understand that crashing a fuel-laden passenger jet into a metal framed skyscraper might well melt support beams and collapse at least part of the building. Here is bin Laden in his own words describing this:
We calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all (inaudible) due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. This is all that we had hoped for.
So the issue is not going to a modern well-equipped school, or living in a prosperous society, it is what is actually taught to young Muslim students about non-Muslims and their place in the world. Students who are taught that Islam should be the dominant religion and culture in the world, and that followers of other religions must submit to the Muslims, will be predisposed to bringing this supposed utopia about, by whatever means are necessary.
Young Muslims who are taught to hate and fear Christians and Jews will easily fall prey to the siren call of a bin Laden or of Hamas.
Unfortunately Amanpour is willing to confront none of this reality, which was especially evident in the second hour of the program, focusing on Gaza. Here, suddenly, the bad guys were not the Islamists who rule Gaza, and who teach hatred of Christians and Jews. Instead Amanpour's bad guys were the Jews of Israel, for supposedly oppressing the Palestinians.
Thus, while showing in great detail the suffering of people in Gaza, only once, both deceptively and perfunctorily, does Amanpour give a hint of why they might be at least partially responsible for their own misery:
On December 27, 2008, Israel launched an offensive, a war provoked by both sides. Three years ago, the Palestinian people on this small strip of land elected the Islamist group Hamas, which promised reform.
But Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, Europe, and Israel. Militant groups in Gaza had fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel and stepped up the attacks once Hamas took over.
Israel responded by closing Gaza's borders, making it a virtual prison. As the siege continued, so, too, did the rocket attacks. Israel went to war. It lasted 22 days. Thirteen Israelis and more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of Gaza's children.
That's it never more did Amanpour even mention the terror attacks that Hamas and allied militias in Gaza have launched against Israeli civilians. Never in the program did she interview or even mention any Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism from Gaza. Never did she point out that Gaza also has a border with Egypt, meaning that Israel couldn't make Gaza into a "virtual prison" even had it wanted to.
Despite lingering over scenes of destroyed Palestinian buildings in Gaza, there was not one hint of destruction in Israel, there was not one hint that missile attacks from Gaza had forced hundred of thousands of Israelis to live in underground shelters for weeks at a time.
Instead viewers heard from one Palestinian victim after another with not even the suggestion that perhaps voting for Hamas might have worsened their suffering.
Amanpour also allows ridiculous claims from her guests, and adds a few of her own. One Palestinian, for example, is allowed to claim that in Gaza there is "no water, no electricity, no fuel, no work, no life, no hope." If there is no water, what exactly do Palestinians drink, and how do they grow the citrus that is their main agricultural crop? Did Amanpour ever stop to think that Gaza exists because it is an oasis sitting on top of a major aquifer? Because Gaza farmers waste huge amounts of water, there are shortages and quality problems. But it's ridiculous to say there is no water.
And if there is no electricity, what powers the lights that are clearly seen in some of the scenes in Gaza? If there is no fuel, what powers the car that picks up Amanpour at the border as she enters Gaza, and what powers the other cars that are plainly seen to be moving in the streets of Gaza? If there's no work, might that be the fault of Gaza's radical rulers, who would rather engage in attacking Israel than attacking unemployment?
Amanpour adds to the disinformation. After admitting that "Hamas' hard-line stance further isolated its people," a few moments later she charges that:
Life here is completely abnormal. There are no movie theaters, no sports centers, few parks, and virtually nothing for young people to do. They are easy prey for the militia.
No movie theaters? Actually, as NPR (of all outlets) reported, a new theater, called Horst Park Cinema, opened in 2004. So Amanpour is wrong again. But why had there been no theater before that? Had the cruel Israelis destroyed it? Not exactly. According to the NPR report:
In 1995, the New Statesman published an article called Gaza Blues, which featured a scene of children picking through the rubble of the Daral-Jallah cinema in Gaza City, holding up scraps of celluloid to the sunlight to see the images. The movie house had been ransacked by Islamist hard-liners during riots the previous fall ...
So it was the hard-liners of Hamas that destroyed the movie theater.
And are there no sports centers? Well, here's a recent picture of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh playing soccer in one of the supposedly non-existent Gaza sports centers:
When Amanpour does briefly admit that Hamas has "openly promoted a culture of violence" and presents "suicide bombers as heroes," she immediately interviews Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef, who explains that it is all the fault of the Israelis:
When they have the Israeli belligerent approach all the time, they see all the time the Apache and the tanks, what do you expect the people to do?
We expected that the world would help the Palestinians to achieve their dreams of having a free, independent state. Until we achieve that, it will continue; nobody will surrender. It's our culture.
Amanpour, of course, offers no challenge to this rewriting of history.
She is at her most compliant, however, when it comes to the institution that is perhaps the crown jewel of Hamas, the Islamic University in Gaza. She tells viewers that the university was founded by Hamas, which is not exactly true it was founded long before Hamas existed by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, who later also founded Hamas.
Interviewing a student at the university, Nasser, Amanpour puts it to him that it is:
... seen now by many as a training ground for Hamas political leaders. Israel, people in the United States, they think that this university is a hotbed of radicalism, of Jihadi...
Tell me really what it is like here.
NASSER: We study English language. We study human rights also. There is nothing related to radicalism, nothing related to discrimination. That's what I have seen in my eyes.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Nasser chooses the path of nonviolence.
Amanpour offers no challenge to this idyllic portrait of the Islamic University. Is that what it's really like? Well, here are some facts about the Islamic University that Christiane Amanpour evidently missed. Earlier this year the Islamic University hosted a festival commemorating the founder of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. One of the dramas included in the festival featured a "Jewish" father instructing his son that Jews drink the blood of Muslims:
Jewish Father: "We Jews hate the Muslims. We love killing Muslims. We Jews love drinking the blood of Muslims and the blood of Arabs. Are you Arabs? Are you Muslims? I hate you. Yes, I hate you. I hate you in order to please God. In order to please God In order to please God " (translation by MEMRI)
Here's the clip (from MEMRI):
This anti-Semitic skit was only one example; there are many more:
After Hurricane Katrina caused so much destruction in the United States in 2005, the head of the Department of History and Archeology at Islamic University, Dr. Khaled Al-Khaledi, rejoiced at America's tragedy:
The only reason for this disaster is that Allah is angry at them, and wants to punish them and torment them with torments that he promised for every arrogant oppressor... [He punished them] because they declared war on His religion, and on its virtuous believers. They ordered their slaves who rule our lands to close the madrassas [Koran seminaries] and to change the curricula, that are based on the Koran and the Sunna; they have demanded the arrest or the killing of the virtuous sons of the nation who call for judging according to the Shari'a of Allah in their land, and oppose foreign rule in their land...
[They were also punished] because they attacked the Muslims in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and killed their women and children and elderly... and because they hate Islam and its Prophet and look at the Muslims as inferior...
Allah will continue His war against America, its allies, and its helpers, and against all the arrogant ones who treat His believers with aggression... (translation by MEMRI)
In a report about the Islamic University entitled "Palestinian University Owes Much to Hamas," the Baltimore Sun quoted Jameela El Shanty, a professor of education at the school and also a member of the Palestinian parliament, as saying:
Hamas built this institution. The university presents the philosophy of Hamas. If you want to know what Hamas is, you can know it from the university. (Baltimore Sun, Feb. 12, 2006)
Sheikh Dr. Nizar Rayyan was killed during the fighting earlier this year between Israel and Hamas. He was regarded as the spiritual mentor of Hamas's military arm, the Iz A-Din Al Qassam Brigades, and he also had extremely close ties to the Islamic University, according to a report from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism:
Sheikh Rayyan was a senior Hamas leader in Gaza and former member of the Islamic University's board of trustees in Gaza known as a traditional Hamas strong hold and symbol. [In addition] Riyan was a lecturer in Islamic Sharia studies at the Islamic University in Gaza.
His position regarding suicide attacks was manifested when Rayyan justified in 23 January 2002 suicide attacks against Israeli civilians within a Fatwa (religious Islamic edict) issued by the Lebanese Islamic scholar Sheikh Faisl Mawlawi. In a Hamas rally on 23 June 2003 Rayyan stated in front of a mass crowed in Gaza:" All of Palestine will be liberated by our Mujaheedin (Muslim fighters) and their guns and not through fruitless political negotiations. Our campaign with the enemy will continue and will not stop at the borders of Gaza strip even after their retreat (from Gaza). Haifa, Beit Shean and Tabaria (Israeli cities within sovereign state of Israel before 1967) are our lands and with God's will, we will celebrate in (the Israeli city of) Ashkelon".
The ICT report also pointed out that the University's labs were used to perfect Hamas weapons that were used to attack Israeli civilians:
Hamas used the Islamic university laboratories for research and development for Qassam rockets investing efforts in extending the range and lethality of the rockets acquired by Hamas in Gaza Strip. Based on these facts the laboratories were destroyed in an Israeli air raid during "Cast Lead" operation on 28 December 2008.
Said Siyam, who was in charge of Internal Affairs and National Security for Hamas, and who was killed in the recent fighting in Gaza, was also closely tied to the Islamic University. According to an ICT report:
Said Siyam as a senior Hamas operative ... was also a member of the Islamic University in Gaza board of trustees together with other Hamas leaders Muhammad Hassan Shama'a (Hamas founding member) Ismail Haniyah (the current Hamas prime minister), Hamad Hassanat (Hamas founding member, and Muhammad Taha (senior Hamas leader).
In fact, according to a report in the Washington Times:
Sixteen Islamic University lecturers and teachers are elected Hamas members of the Palestinian legislature. In 2005, 78 percent of the student council vote went to Hamas ...
This is the university that Amanpour allows to be portrayed on CNN as a place that merely teaches English and human rights, with "nothing related to radicalism." Is this the kind of school that Amanpour praised in Afghanistan, or is it closer to the madrassas that she so heavily criticized?
Why the different approach? Is it just that the Gaza university, and its Hamas masters, consider Israel their avowed enemy? Why would that garner special favor from Amanpour?