Bill Moyers opened the most recent broadcast of his PBS program, “Bill Moyers Journal,” with a response to the criticism leveled at his January 9, 2009 broadcast in which he suggested that Israel’s attack on Hamas in the Gaza Strip was a consequence of violence being “genetically encoded” in the Jewish people. The suggestion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is “genetically encoded,” along with other distortions in Moyers’ Jan. 9, 2009 commentary, prompted responses from Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Professor Alvin Rosenfeld from Indiana University, and Judea Pearl, father of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal journalist murdered by Al Qaeda in Pakistan in 2001.
Truculent Swagger Is Gone
Judging from Moyers’ tone and demeanor during this follow-up commentary (transcript below), he was clearly taken aback by the criticism from these and many other commentators, but the only concrete concession he could offer his audience was an acknowledgement that his comments about Israeli violence being “genetically encoded” were “not sufficiently precise.” Moyers said he was not talking about a “specific people,” but about the entire human race. This is a pretty weak excuse from a supposed wordsmith like Moyers, who has been writing for public consumption for several decades.
In the original segment he made the “encoded” comment and then went on after brief mention of Islamic radicals to focus overwhelmingly on
Moyers has, like Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal, hunkered down. He restated his false accusation that
While Hamas has declared war on every Jew in
Moyers’ efforts to evade the issue do not stop here. In response to Abraham Foxman’s letter, the long-time PBS journalist writes that to “call someone a racist for lamenting the slaughter of civilians by the Israeli military offensive in
Foxman did not call Moyers a “racist” for “lamenting the slaughter of civilians by the Israeli military offensive in Gaza” but, in fact, accused him of including anti-Semitism in his commentary by declaring that Jews are “genetically encoded” for violence. Foxman’s allegation had nothing to do with Moyers’ overheated rhetoric over
On this score, Foxman is on much stronger ground than Moyers cares to admit. Why did Moyers restrict himself to Hebrew Scripture when talking about the Arab-Israeli conflict? The Koran and other Muslim texts ar e quite clear in their expressions of hostilities toward non-believers, Jews especially, and yet for some reason, Moyers says nothing about this reality.
Moyers, Lens Crafter
Attempting to deflect and rationalize his explosive statements, Moyers also includes the threadbare explanation that people view the Arab-Israeli conflict through different lenses – as though there aren’t empirical facts and data and tangible realities. He cites as if for proof a comment from a reporter who said during the Vietnam war that “Everyone sees what’s happening through the lens of his own experience.”
Notably, this quote is from an unnamed source; it is the third such anonymous quote Moyers has offered up to his audience in the controversy. On
Why no names? A lot of people, Jews especially, are critical of Israeli policies, but some critics are more credible than others. Some activists, such as Marc Ellis, a professor at
Moyers’ sleight-of-hand is not limited to un-named sources who say what Moyers needs them to. He also appears to exaggerate the criticism he received from Palestinian supporters when he says “When I point out
If anyone actually wrote that they think Moyers was too soft on Israelis, why didn’t it show up in any of the letters read on his show? Judging from the volumes of feedback he got on his Web site, the notion that Moyers was somehow “soft” on
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the JOURNAL.
First, a word about my comments last week on the carnage in
DON DEMBOWSKI: Your comments on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict were most welcome. Such thoughtful analysis is hardly ever heard on TV. The
LORNA BOSNOS: I’m a Jewish woman and am shocked once again by
SAMUEL GINSBERG: I ask you, Mr. Moyers, what is a sovereign state supposed to do when its neighbors launch thousands of rockets aimed at its cities and its innocent women and children? What is an army supposed to do when its enemy uses its women and children as human shields? What is a humane, advanced civilization to do when it is confronted with a culture that embraces hatred and death as a way to sanctify life? — Samuel Ginsberg
LEONARD BOASBERG: You imply a moral equivalence between Hamas and
HAROLD COHEN: How utterly naïve you are! The Hamas government, freely elected by the Arab populace of
BILL MOYERS: There’s a lot more, all on our Web site at pbs.org, including my exchange with the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Your letters remind me of a time during the Vietnam War when I asked a reporter, just back from the frontlines, “Who’s telling the truth out there?” “Everyone,” he said. “Everyone sees what’s happening through the lens of his own experience.”
And so it is goes. When I decry the death of civilians in
Some of you were offended by my comment that “god-soaked violence” has become “genetically coded.” Those words were obviously not sufficiently precise, I was not talking about a specific people but of the violence in the DNA of the human race, as the Bible itself so strongly attests.
So here’s the lens through which I see things. From my days in President Johnson’s White House onward, I have defended
As the former Israeli soldier turned journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg, wrote in the NEW YORK TIMES this week, Hamas cannot be bombed, nor cajoled, into moderation. “Tanks cannot defeat deeply held beliefs,” he wrote. No. Waging war on an entire population guarantees one thing: the radicals get what they want, and the innocents, on both sides, suffer.