Typifying the Ineptitude: C-SPAN Hosts Faced with Anti-Israel Callers

Inept call-handling by C-SPAN’s Washington Journal hosts, especially anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli callers, was on display in the Feb. 5, 2012 broadcast. In the space of seven minutes, host Steve Scully – ostensibly moderating a discussion on the network’s premiere public affairs program of the upheaval in Syria – permits anti-Israel diatribes by three callers.

Among other things, Scully fails to respond to anti-Israel diatribes and allows an obsessively anti-Israel repeat caller to freely assert a demonstrably false equivalence between Syria and Israel. His performance follows the practice of Washington Journal hosts rarely enforcing the program’s one-call-per-30-days rule when it comes to antisemitic, anti-Israel bigots.

The Syria-Israel comparison should have been a red herring for any well-informed host. Israel’s government and military attempt to protect the country’s citizens – Jews, Muslim, Christians and others – against Palestinian terrorism and threats from countries like Syria and Iran. But in Damascus the government has set its military against Syrians protesting the dictatorship, killing at least 5,000 in 11 months.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad reportedly seizes the wounded from hospitals to jail and torture them. Israeli hospitals, on the other hand, have been treating thousands of Palestinian Arabs at the same time terrorist groups fire rockets and mortars at villages and cities in the Jewish state, still the Middle East’s one Western-style democracy.

Host Scully fails to raise this obvious point.

In the face of a second caller’s vague, unsubstantiated allegation that “what the Israelis do to the Palestinians is unconscionable,” Scully displays no professional curiosity. What is unconscionable – that under the corrupt, thuggish Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, Palestinian Arabs still enjoy more personal liberty than Syrians, Saudis or Egyptians? That Palestinian Arabs in the Gaza Strip are ruled by Islamic fundamentalists of Hamas? Or that Israeli Arabs exercise the same civil rights as Israeli Jews?

Again, Scully’s response is no response, except to let the anti-Israel charge stand.

A third caller draws another false equivalence between Syria and Israel, including repeating the accusation that Israel deals with Palestinian Arabs with brutality similar to the Syrian government’s against its own people. Again, the Washington Journal host fails to point out the obvious, and the relevant: Tens of thousands of Syrians are protesting a murderous tyrant, while many Palestinian Arabs support either Hamas, a terrorist organization dedicated to genocide of the Jews, or Fatah, which has rejected a “two-state solution” with Israel three times in 12 years and honors terrorists as “martyrs.”

Dealing with another caller, host Scully seems either unaware of or uninterested in pointing out that the caller’s anti-Israel assertion, “[Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad never said they wanted to wipe Israel of the face of the earth …” is fraudulent. Ahmadinejad, a religious fanatic who apparently believes world conflict will hasten the return of Shi’ite Islam’s messianic “Twelfth Imam,” has frequently advocated the destruction of Israel. For example, on Oct. 26, 2005, in a speech to a “World Without Zionism” conference in Tehran, he vowed that “Israel must be wiped off the map.”

Given this feckless performance in the face of unfounded anti-Israel allegations, it was not surprising that when the caller accuses Scully’s guest, Ash Jain of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, of propaganda and lies, the C-SPAN host says not a word in his defense.

And dealing with a tweet, “Iran does not want peace between Israel and the Palestinians because peace would legitimize Israel” and an e-mail, “Isn’t it time to insist that Israel sit down at the negotiating table with Palestine in exchange for having to back them in this next war,” the tweet’s salient point is ignored and the e-mail’s questionable points are unaddressed.

Again, the host of a public affairs program ought to be aware, and point out as relevant, which it was in this case, that it is Israel that has been insisting for several years Palestinian Authority leaders return to direct negotiations but it has been the PA that has refused. Indeed, the Palestinians’ highly publicized “statehood declaration” at the United Nations was an attempted end-run around direct talks.

What is the point of public affairs broadcasting such as this on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal when it a) permits repeated dissemination of bigotry and misinformation and b) makes no effort to accurately inform viewers? What is C-SPAN’s motivation, when it permits such bigotry and misinformation repeatedly to target Jews and the Jewish state?

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