Review of 60 Minutes’ “Israel’s Hit Squads”

On April 1, CBS “60 Minutes” aired a segment with Bob Simon entitled “Israel’s Hit Squads.” The program described Israel’s policy of arresting terrorist suspects when arrests are possible, but mainly focused on Israel’s policy of assassinating terrorists and planners of terrorism.

60 Minutes gave the Israeli spokesperson adequate time and open-ended questions to say what he wanted. CBS referred to most of the Arabs killed by the Israelis as “terrorists” and mentioned Israeli victims of terror. However:

* Simon gave lopsided emphasis to Israel’s killing of Palestinian Thabet Thabet, who was portrayed as a peacenik, unlikely to be involved in terrorism. At the same time, Simon did give the Israeli spokesperson a chance to explain why they targeted Thabet. The Israeli spokesperson didn’t offer a substantive explanation, due to intelligence concerns about revealing — and jeopardizing — their information source. 60 Minutes spent much of the segment humanizing Thabet Thabet, interviewing family and friends, while they didn’t do the same for Israeli victims of terror. They also didn’t mention that Israeli intelligence information (which determined that Thabet was involved in terrorism) is usually quite reliable.

*Additionally, Simon described in graphic detail how Thabet’s “arm was nearly severed.” He did not use similarly graphic and emotional language to describe the injury done to Israeli victims.

* In the intro, 60 Minutes said that Israel was “in the assassination business.” Obviously, there is no “business” or profit involved. So this was an oddly crass way of describing Israel’s response to terrorism.

*While Simon used the term “terrorist” numerous times, he did refer to one of the terrorists killed as merely an “activist” and didn’t at all describe his crimes or allow any comments from the Israelis about it.

*Missing also was context — the question of alternatives to Israel’s actions. There was no comparison of Israel’s policy to their past policies or to those of the US. For example, in response to terrorist attacks, the US has, without warning, bombed military infrastructures of the responsible government or terrorist group, regardless of whether the people inside the structures took an active role in that particular terrorist attack.

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