In one of the most blatantly one-sided presentations aired recently on American TV, CNN Headline News bucked conventional wisdom to champion Arab claims that Israel is at the root of the terrorism problem now facing the U.S.
Billed as a behind-the-scenes investigation into the roots of terror, the CNN broadcast, “Behind the Headlines: Roots of Terror” aired on the morning of October 15, 2001. It echoed Arab accusations and presented the founding of the Jewish state as the event that “led to the Arab-Israeli war on 1948, a war which was over in a year, but which left a rift between Arabs and Jews that remains…” Carefully obscuring the reality that Israel had fought a self-defensive war, omitting mention of the fact that five Arab armies had invaded the fledgling state and that Arab aggression had predated the founding of the State of Israel, CNN presented only the Arab narrative.
The anti-Israel position of former U.S. Defence Secretary James Forrestal was cited alone with no countering argument, and Forrestal was portrayed as a prescient visionary who “forsaw” in 1948 that American support for Israel would deepen the rift between Arabs and Israelis.
The 1967 Six-Day War was specified as the turning point in American-Israeli relations and Arab resentment, while captions underneath the film footage implied that Israel had launched this war to capture more territory. There was no mention of continued Arab belligerency, threatening behavior, or the act of war which forced Israel into a preemptive strike:
“1967: Israel fought Egypt, Jordan, and Syria”
“Israel captured: Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip”
“Israel captured: West Bank, Golan Heights”
While pundits across the U.S. and prominent figures such as U.S. President George Bush, Dennis Ross, Robert Satloff, and even Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak all denied that the anti-American terror attacks were in any way connected with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, CNN not only rejected their opinions but expanded the list of accusations to implicate Israel as being at the root of all terror attacks perpetrated against the U.S.:
It is impossible now to separate the taking of hostages in Iran, the bombing of barracks in Lebanon, the war with Iraq or even the current conflict in Afghanistan, from the question of Israel.
As if this ludicrous allegation was not enough to smear Israel, a caption underneath the film footage gave credence to an even more preposterous Arab claim by presenting it without rebuttal:
Some Arabs believe Israel behind Sept. 11…
Further legitimization of virulently anti-Israel opinion came at the segment’s end. Here, against footage of a wide-eyed Palestinian child and a feeble-looking, elderly man, the opinion that America in its role of superpower should be biased to Palestinians who are “weak and right” and “cannot protect themselves” against Israel who is “strong and wrong ” was attributed to “moderate voices” in the Arab world. CNN’s stamp of approval — “Powerful arguments in the war of words, a war now very close to home.”
It should come as no surprise that CNN has abandoned any pretense of objectivity in reporting about the Middle East. According to a recent article in The New York Times (Monday, October 22, 2001), CNN has been accused of trying to “cozy up to regimes at odds with the United States just to win a competitive advantage,” and by using questionable tactics and unethical deals to obtain exclusive war zone pictures and interviews. Some of the tactics of which CNN has been accused include news-sharing arrangements and collaboration on its weekly “World Report” program, featuring unedited reports from state-run news agencies under dictatorial regimes, and leaving expensive equipment and satellite dishes behind on foreign soil in order to win exclusive access to foreign governments.
In a September 28th interview with Bill O’Reilly, founding president of CNN Reese Schonfeld explained the tilt toward the Arab world in CNN’s reporting:
…they do have economic presence and they make a certain amount of money…from marketing their product in the Arab worlds…they also want access to those guys, so they bend over back backwards. They–why does Hussein let them stay in during the Gulf War and nobody else? Why does he let Peter Arnett in there? Because they have a very cozy relationship where Hussein distributes his Iraq television stuff on the CNN show that Ted Turner created.
Maybe so, but CNN executives must make the choice — will CNN serve as a legitimate news agency adhering to journalistic norms or will it function merely as an extension of the Arab propaganda machine?
CNN executives have contacted CAMERA to say that the October 15th segment “Behind the headlines: Roots of Terror,” which prompted a CAMERA Alert, had originally been slated to air multiple times. It was pulled, however, according to CNN, after the morning broadcast on October 15th when the network realized the report had failed to go through proper editing channels.
A transcript of a revised version was sent to us by CNN. The newer segment attributes anti-Israel grievances to “Arab extremists” instead of presenting those hostile opinions as facts. We were told the new version was initially aired on October 22, and repeated on the weekend of October 27 and 28.