Behind the Scenes of CNN Bias II: Amanpour

According to CNN, its online Behind the Scenes series is meant to give correspondents a chance to share their experiences and “analyze the stories behind the events.” But as CAMERA’s review of a January 2008 Behind the Scenes piece revealed, the series can also present readers with an opportunity to analyze the reporters behind the stories.

A new Behind the Scenes piece, by CNN’s controversial Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, again allows readers a rare peak “Behind the Scenes” of CNN bias.

Although the Aug. 1 piece is primarily about her interview with the Dalai Lama, Amanpour manages to weave in a paragraph about the Arab-Israeli conflict, a topic on which the correspondent seriously stumbled last year with her error-filled program, “God’s Jewish Warriors.” (The mistakes and distortions in that program led CNN to make significant revisions to the piece before rebroadcasting it.)

At a mere two sentences, Amanpour’s detour from Tibet to the Middle East is short in words; but it is a far stretch in terms of distance from the original topic, making the shift seem contrived and strained. And like the previous Behind the Scenes piece analyzed by CAMERA, Amanpour’s comments on the Arab-Israeli conflict push the Palestinian perspective of the conflict at the expense of balanced understanding.

She writes:

Our visit [to the Dali Lama’s home] coincided with the events that commemorate each March 10, the date the Dalai Lama fled Tibet on horseback in 1959. He managed to evade the Chinese Communist forces, disguised as a soldier and escaping at night. The somber remembrance is a little like what the Palestinians do every year. They call it al-Nakba, or “catastrophe,” which marks 1948 when they lost much of their land as the state of Israel was founded.

One can only speculate on the reasons behind this clumsy attempt to link the Palestinian and Tibetan situations. But what is clear is that the analogy is blatantly false on a number of levels.

“Al Nakba” is used by Palestinians to describe the result of a war of aggression that they themselves started. The Palestinians, along with their Arab allies, rejected a United Nations compromise proposal and launched the war in an attempt to squelch Jewish self-determination and destroy the nascent Jewish state. The Jewish community in Palestine eventually managed to repel this multi-pronged attack, but lost one percent of their entire population doing so.

March 10 represents nothing of the sort. Whatever the sides’ claims and counterclaims, the Tibetans did not strive to eliminate China’s sovereignty in Beijing and the rest of China. They did not bomb hospitals in Shanghai and vow to push the Chinese people into the sea. And the Chinese were not defending their one and only homeland against attacks by neighbors many times their size.

The Tibetan leader, who as a boy fled from Chinese troops disguised as a soldier, is now known as a man of peace.

The Palestinian leader at the time, Grand Mufti Haj Amin al Husseini, had also fled British Mandate Palestine in disguise (actually many years before the “Nakba”), but there the similarity ends. The Mufti is remembered as a virulent anti-Semite, an orchestrator of murderous pogroms against Jewish civilians in Palestine and Iraq, and a strong wartime ally of the Nazi party in Germany. Indeed, because of his efforts to organize Bosnian Muslims into a Waffen-SS division, the Handzar Division, which committed atrocities against civilians in Yugoslovia, Husseini was added in 1945 to a Yugoslav list of war criminals. Husseini, then, had rejected peace and coexistence with the same, if not greater, ferocity that the current Dalai Lama campaigns for those ideals. (See here for more details about the Mufti.)

In short, the Palestinians are not the Tibetans, Israel is not China, and 1948 in the Middle East was nothing like 1959 in Tibet. If one were intent on drawing an analogy between the two situations, though, Israel, the country invaded by Arab aggressors bent on eliminating the Jewish state, would be linked with Tibet, the country invaded by Chinese forces bent on eliminating the Tibetan state. The invading Chinese army would be analogous to the invading Arab armies. The key difference is that Israel succeeded in defending itself.

While readers learn nothing about the Dalai Lama from Amanpour’s detour to the Arab-Israeli conflict, they do, at least, learn more about the CNN reporter and her apparent biases.

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