CNN Misfires on Terrorism

CNN’s July 28th special, "Acts of Terror," presented in collaboration with Time magazine, should be studied in journalism schools. It is a guide to the ills of the profession, but above all to the menace of anti-Israel bias. CNN anchor Bernard Shaw introduced the ninety-minute program as a "report in depth" on both the Olympic bombing and the July 17th crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island. Commentary turned to the topic of Middle East terrorism and "why the United States has been targeted with increasing frequency."

Scott MacLeod, veteran correspondent for Time, provided the answer: Israel.

He said, "…if the crash of TWA Flight 800 did have Middle East origins it is worth taking a closer look at why somebody might perform such a deed. Middle East terrorism is rooted in the conflicts that followed colonialism. Much of this violence has surrounded the creation of Israel. When Jewish nationalists made their state, they did so at the expense of local Arabs, who lost homes, property and no less important, their dignity. That was nearly fifty years ago and the wounds have never healed."

MacLeod continued: "Even moderate Muslims believe that America gives Israel the green light to oppress Muslims. Washington is seen as the hand that controls puppet Arab regimes who made peace with Israel."

More particularly, according to the reporter, Islamic fundamentalist factions that have targeted America have done so because of Israel. "The Lebanese Hezbollah group, which hit the U.S. hard in the 80’s, is upset with Israel’s American-supported attacks on southern Lebanon, which left scores of women and children dead. The Palestinian group Hamas is furious over America’s detention of one if its leaders. Musa Abu Marzook faces extradition to Israel."

Neither Shaw nor co-anchor Judy Woodruff uttered a word of challenge to this nonsense. They did not distance themselves or their network from a report that scapegoated tiny, democratic Israel for the myriad forces that spawn assaults on America. No one winced at MacLeod’s failure even to mention Middle East despots that despise American democracy, freedom, individualism and tolerance. Incredibly, the program omitted any reference to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, and Syria. The state of Israel alone was identified as the "cause" of terrorism.

Let it be clear, first of all, that MacLeod’s assertions about the creation of Israel are boilerplate propaganda. The Jewish restoration of Israel nearly fifty years ago was not a process of dispossession of native Arabs, regardless of the relentless claims to this effect that are written, broadcast, and taught in the Arab world and elsewhere. Zionist development renewed a desolate and sparsely populated region, attracting 100,000 Arabs into Mandate Palestine between the World Wars. Indeed, the centers of Jewish concentration in Palestine were precisely those that drew the largest number of Arabs, while Arab towns grew little or declined. Zionism was an economic boon to most Arabs.

That the Arab world, spurred on by leaders such as Haj Amin el Husseini, opposed the reconstitution of a Jewish nation, and rejected numerous proposals for territorial compromise, is part of the historical record. That the Arabs hurled themselves ineffectually into repeated wars against Israel in an effort to obliterate the new state is also a fact. But if the failure thus far to eradicate Israel is an affront to Arab dignity, it is not the role of CNN to falsify history, to blame Israel for the aggression perpetrated against her, or to rationalize murderous attacks on America as an expression of wounded Arab feelings.

Nor is it ethical to impute fault to Israel because Hezbollah terrorists on Israel’s northern border hate all non-Islamic entities and vent their hatred against the nearest target, the Western-oriented Jewish state. It is plain malice for MacLeod to parrot Hezbollah charges against Israel and to be silent about the decades during which Israeli communities have endured unprovoked shelling from Lebanon. Jewish children have been forced to flee regularly to bomb shelters and so pervasive is the threat that special ordinances require Israeli homes in the north to be constructed with walls capable of withstanding 115 mm shells.

The stupidities and omissions of the CNN special are dangerous not only because they incite viewers against Israel. They are a peril because they distort and conceal vital information and obscure the sources of threat to America. The message that Israel is the root cause of terrorism suggests that action by that nation would dampen the rage at America. Yet, no ceding of territory or other concessions to Palestinian Arabs would appease the Iranian mullahs, the Iraqi tyrant, or the Islamic Jihad terrorists. Their grievance is ultimately with the freedoms that the West reveres and Israel embodies.

Reporting of MacLeod’s sort, blaming terrorism’s victims and giving credence to the rationalizations of the perpetrators, all too often renders our media no more than purveyors of a blurred reality in the face of very real evil.

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