Originally aired on Aug. 2, 2015 (repeated on Aug. 3, Aug. 8), a three-hour show on C-SPAN2’s Book TV-In Depth featured radical activist Medea Benjamin hosted by C-SPAN’s Peter Slen. Slen, like other hosts of C-SPAN’s Washington Journal daily three-hour call-in show, routinely accepts (and sometimes encourages) callers’ numerous blame-Israel misinformation harangues. So, it’s not surprising that Slen facilitates the guest’s condemnation of Israel and its supporters, along with her Code Pink group’s other post-liberal leftist nostrums.
Perhaps looking into her crystal ball, Medea Benjamin, born (1952 in Freeport, New York, on Long Island) as Susan Benjamin, decided to change her name during her first year at Tufts University. She renamed herself after the mythological Greek character “Medea.” Medea was an enchantress and witch who used her powers to help Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece. Today, media indulgence of Medea Benjamin’s public narcissism fleeces news consumers of time better spent on more substantive guests.
Code Pink, Iran and AIPAC
During the introduction, Slen mentioned several books authored by the guest, the most recent being Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control
(later in the program mentioning her travels throughout the Middle East). Asked about the Code Pink organization she co-founded, Medea described it as “a group of women environmentalists” that later added anti-war activities. Left unsaid is that the organization prominently supports the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement and one of its main goals
(according to its national director) is the disingenuous “freedom for Palestinians” campaign. In keeping with her pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel propaganda effort, Medea@codepink.org recently co-issued a press release aimed at discouraging freshmen Democrat members of Congress from accepting an invitation by the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) education arm to visit Israel.
Code Pink is associated with other well known, anti-Israel, often anti-U.S., often antisemitic individuals. For example, author Alice Walker
(“I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves,” Foreign Policy
, June 2011) and the late newspaper reporter, Helen Thomas
(“Jews should leave Palestine and go back to Poland, Germany and the United States.”) who received an award from Code Pink.
• Asked to comment on the Iran nuclear deal, Benjamin enthusiastically praised it, condemning those lobbying against it, “… big money groups like AIPAC” and urged that the United States work “cooperatively with Iran.” Benjamin commented that the Iranian leadership has said that it “does not want” nuclear weapons. As CAMERA has pointed out
(See “Son of Fatwa? What Fatwa,” June 30, 2015), Iran may be having it both ways on this claim. Typically unchallenged by host Slen, Benjamin emphasizes Jewish opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement as if Jewish Americans are united against the proposal, when J Street, for example, a left-leaning organization of Jews critical of both AIPAC and the Israeli government, supports it, and as if American Jews are the only or primary opposition when recent public opinion polls indicate opposition at well over 50 percent.
Benjamin has previously disparaged “groups like AIPAC” in similar circumstances on C-SPAN. For example, in a Sept. 7, 2013 C-SPAN guest appearance on a Washington Journal segment dealing with the possibility of U.S. intervention in Syria, Benjamin, representing Code Pink, mendaciously charged, “Groups that support the Israeli government … like AIPAC … are sending people to Capitol Hill this week to call for Congress to vote in favor of an attack on Syria.” However, such reports had come essentially only from fringe and otherwise unreliable sources. Then as in this broadcast, in a typical C-SPAN abdication of journalistic responsibility, it failed to press Medea Benjamin for proof or evidence that her charges amount to anything other than false or gross exaggerations.
• Asked to comment about a viewer’s entry on the program’s Facebook page, “In your opinion which would be more preferable, the U.S. using several bunker buster bombs to destroy Iran’s nuclear bomb missile program or New York City being entirely destroyed by a single nuclear tipped missile sent by Iran’s dictators,” Benjamin replied condescendingly, “Well, it’s a stupid choice. The second one is just not going to happen. Iran, first of all, does not have, nor according to this deal, are they going to get a nuclear weapon, and even if Iran had a nuclear weapon, they are not going to bomb the United States. So, the question doesn’t make any sense.”
Here, Code Pink’s chronically on-camera co-founder predicts that Iran would not contemplate a preemptive strike on the United States. Host Slen characteristically fails to challenge guest’s smugness and perhaps her naïveté. He fails to point out the obvious: Iran seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held and abused 52 American diplomats for more than a year. In 1983, its agents blew up the American embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, killing hundreds. In 1996, it blew up Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, murdering 19 GIs. In 2011, senior Iranian officials plotted to blow up a busy Washington, D.C. restaurant to kill the Saudi ambassador. It’s lied about and cheated with its nuclear program for decades. A brutal police state controlled by Shi’ite Muslim clerics with an apocalyptic world-view including the necessity of a war of destruction with Israel and the West to hasten the return of a messianic “twelfth imam,” it tortures and executes its own citizens in large numbers. Guest and viewers should have been reminded of this and Benjamin questioned about the basis of her forecast. That would have been basic journalism. Instead, C-SPAN hands Benjamin free advertising for her book and group.
Condemning U.S./Israel military activities
Guest demanded the closure of U.S. military bases abroad, and because “the human rights situation is worse …”
; in Egypt, she advocated ending military aid to that country’s government, led by President Abdel al-Sisi who, as chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, had ousted President Mohammed Morsi (an Islamist allied with the Muslim Brotherhood) amidst an uprising in 2013. President al-Sisi has warned Egyptian Muslim clerics that “parts of Islam ideology are driving terrorists to kill worldwide …” Benjamin followed these demands with, “the U.S. has also been one-sided in its support for Israel, giving Israel over $3 billion a year in our tax dollars to the Israeli military that has been used for repressing the Palestinian people.”
Contrary to guest’s hyperbole and misrepresentation, the U.S.-Israel connection is beneficial. First, Israel does not “repress the Palestinian people.” The Gaza Strip is ruled by the actually repressive Islamic fundamentalists of Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. Daily administration of nearly all the West Bank’s Arab population is in the hands of the corrupt and thuggish Palestinian Authority, led by the Fatah movement. Palestinian Arabs in eastern Jerusalem, under Israeli administration, are freer than Arabs in most Middle Eastern countries. Israel does maintain significant security measures in the West Bank — in response to repeated Palestinian terrorist attempts. But that’s a far cry from “repressing the Palestinian people,” who benefit, for example, from access to Israeli hospitals while their communications media, schools, mosques and some churches indulge in anti-Zionist, antisemitic vitriol.
Second, financial (military only) aid to Israel constitutes only a tiny portion of the federal budget (less than 0.1 percent). Israel is required by U.S. law to spend most (74 percent) of the U.S. aid ($3 billion per year) in the United States for the purchase of military materiel which helps create or sustain thousands of American jobs. Third, cooperative arrangements with Israel provide technology benefits to America related to unmanned aircraft, anti-missile defenses, battlefield medical techniques – and intelligence on anti-U.S. as well as anti-Israeli Arab and Islamic radicals. So Israel indirectly helps strengthen the United States’ ability to fight and defeat Islamic extremists, which also aids Arab states dependent upon U.S. support like Saudi Arabia.
Fourth and perhaps most important in the long run, Israel, the only Western-style democracy in the Middle East, is a technologically advanced, open society with equal rights for Christians and Muslims as well as Jews. Israel upholds women’s equality, an independent judiciary, free press and is the only country in the region where Americans could live as freely as they do at home and one that, if not for religious and ethnic prejudice in neighboring states, ought to be an example for the Middle East’s many countries now in intra-communal upheaval. But Medea Benjamin and Code Pink’s interest in Middle Eastern democracy on the basis of U.S. national interest is notional at best – not that C-SPAN helped viewers recognize that.
Charging a war crime
Persisting in her demand for the end of U.S.-Israel military cooperation, Benjamin, implausibly identifying herself as a Jew who “cares very much about Israel and the Jewish people,” polemicized, “I think our giving of $3 billion to year to the Israeli military to then be used to attack the poor people in the Gaza strip is a war crime.”
But as CAMERA has noted, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, was among those military and foreign political leaders who noted that Israel went to great lengths to avoid non-combatant casualties last summer in retaliating for the thousands of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups’ mortars and rockets fired into the Jewish state. Those launches – and Hamas’ terror tunnels into Israel – were war crimes, not that Benjamin, or host Slen, mentioned it.
This hopelessly unbalanced broadcast is in line with C-SPAN’s chronic airing of anti-Israel (often antisemitic) messages mainly in, but not limited to, Washington Journal daily call-in show broadcasts to audiences of potentially millions of viewers.