CNN Compounds Inaccurate Reporting with One-Sided Commentary

For a network that proclaims it is the “most trusted name in news,” CNN sure can’t seem to get the story right. Its coverage of the security situation in Israel over the last few days is a stark example. In its April 7, 2023 article, “The situation in Jerusalem is boiling over. Here’s how it all happened” by Nadeen Ebrahim, the network compounds factual errors with skewed commentary and context.

Factual Errors and Omissions

Ebrahim’s very first sentence contains a blatant and material omission, claiming: “Israel said it struck targets belonging to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in southern Lebanon and Gaza early Friday, hours after dozens of rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory…” An uninformed reader would be forgiven for wondering why Israel struck targets in Gaza given that Ebrahim only mentions that rockets were only fired from southern Lebanon. In fact, rockets were launched from both southern Lebanon and Gaza, with at least 40 rockets reported as having originated from the Gaza Strip, including one that hit the home of a mother and her infant daughter near the Gaza border. Nowhere in the text of the article is this mentioned.

The article’s attempt to cover the situation in Jerusalem is especially problematic. Some errors are basic, such as Ebrahim’s false claim that Jordan governs both Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Jordan’s authority is, in fact, only for Muslim holy sites, not Christian ones.

But other errors are more serious and work to decontextualize the situation in such a way as to erase the responsibility of Palestinian actors.

Referencing the Israeli police raids on rioters in al-Aqsa Mosque, the article states that “[t]here is no explicit agreement restricting overnight worship at the mosque.” The problem? Israeli police have repeatedly stated there is an agreement with the Waqf, which administers the Muslim holy sites, “to only allow overnight stays at mosques outside the complex.”

Ebrahim downplays this by quoting Mairav Zonszein (see below) who acknowledged “understandings” to the effect have been reported, but simply claims “Palestinians are unlikely to have agreed to them.” The conclusory statement is presented without any explanation for the partisan Zonszein’s doubts.

Ebrahim went on to claim that “Israeli entry into the al-Aqsa mosque is forbidden by the status quo agreement.” In fact, the status quo places Israel in charge of maintaining security in the compound, and this includes entering “the mosques when riots originate therein, to seize stockpiles of rocks and iron bars, or to make arrests.”

This relates to the present situation. According to police, the “Palestinians who tried to stay overnight in the past week and a half were planning to try and attack Jewish visitors to the site during the morning visiting hours.”

Skewed Context

CNN compounds these errors and omissions by presenting partial and skewed context.

Perhaps most egregiously, Ebrahim writes: “The al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Muslims as Al Haram Al Sharif, is the third holiest place in Islam, and is the holiest site in Judaism, known to Jews as Temple Mount.” The site is declared to be a “mosque compound,” with no reference to the ruins of the Jewish temple and with “Temple Mount” treated as if it’s just the Jewish name for the “mosque compound.” The reference inherently prioritizes the site’s Muslim history while downgrading and arguably even erasing its Jewish history.

Elsewhere, the article references “Jewish extremist groups” that “encouraged Jews to go up to the compound and sacrifice goats as part of [an] ancient Passover ritual,” without mentioning that these fringe individuals have been prevented from doing so for years by the Israeli police, who enforce the status quo’s discriminatory ban on Jewish worship at the holiest Jewish site.

But more importantly, the article fails to contextualize the situation by reporting on the century-long history and pattern of incitement and violence by Palestinians over the Temple Mount, invoking imaginary “threats” to the mosque to incite anti-Jewish violence. It is far from the first time Arab rioters have sought to block and attack Jews simply visiting the Temple Mount.

Carefully Selected, Partisan “Experts”

A review of the three commentators Ebrahim chose to include in her article also reinforces the skewed nature of the reporting.

Most shockingly, Ebrahim included comments from the Francesca Albanese, a deeply controversial United Nations official whose antisemitic remarks have led to widespread condemnation, and whose complete lack of objectivity is not only well-documented, but has been acknowledged by Albanese herself. Readers are predictably left without any knowledge of her deeply problematic background.

Zonszein tweeting her agreement that Zionists are “more antisemitic than anti-Zionists,” notwithstanding that the vast majority of Jews are Zionists.

Mairav Zonszein, a fringe Israeli known for playing loose with factual accuracy when it comes to demonizing the Jewish state, is one of the other commentators. Zonszein is notably introduced only as an analyst at a European think-tank, with no reference to the fact she was the founding editor of the far-left, anti-Israel +972 Magazine. As with Albanese, readers are left without any other context about her history of bias and major errors.

The only other commentator quoted by CNN is a former Israeli official and think-tank fellow, Chuck Freilich. However, Freilich’s remarks are limited to discussing only internal Israeli politics (i.e., Israeli societal division over the proposed judicial reforms). Neither Freilich nor any other mainstream Israeli is given an opportunity to challenge or contextualize Albanese and Zonszein’s one-sided commentary on the main substance of the article.

Ebrahim’s article is yet another disturbing example of the decline in the accuracy and nature of CNN’s coverage of the Jewish state. From fabricating polling data to uncritically publicizing blood libel cartoons, the network is moving further and further away from its goal of being the “most trusted name in news.”

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