Wednesday, April 25, 2012

60 Minutes Christians Controversy

As a huge fan of Bob Simon and 60 Minutes, I was a bit surprised at the focus of his story on the Christians in Holy Land.   The disappearance of West Bank Palestinian Christians is a well known tale, done by nearly every reporter who's ever stepped foot in the West Bank, including yours truly.

Simon's Story

I don't really have any issues with the content of the story, including his grilling of Ambassador Michael Oren for trying to interfere with 60 Minutes editorial position before the story was published.  I thought that was fascinating.  Simon revealed the prickly relationship between the "Mainstream media" and the Israeli government.  Nothing he said in the report was untrue, but perhaps it's what he left out of the report that is the problem.  His critics are correct to point out that you can't do an entire report blaming Israel for its West Bank policies without showing that Christians in Israel proper are doing pretty well.

As a religious Sunday night viewer, I have definitely come to expect more from 60 Minutes.  Why not use the budget and production potential of the program to explore the plight of Christians in the Greater Middle East?  60 minutes needs to be at the vanguard of journalism, not recycling the same old story. While people are still obviously suffering, nothing really new has happened since the wall went up 7 years ago, which is a prerequisite for using the word, "news" to describe your program.

I wholeheartedly empathize with the plight of Palestinian Christians AND Muslims who are suffering more or less equally under Israeli occupation.  It's true that there were incidents of Muslims harassing Christians in the past, they are not really occurring today with any frequency.  The reason Christians are fleeing is the Israeli Occupation, and mainly, because of its economic impact.  They leave the West Bank because they are used to living better, and are more likely than Muslims to have relatives abroad who they can join.   But what about the troubled Christian populations in Syria, in Egypt? What does the world know of them? Not much.  Which is exactly why we need great journalism programs to go to these places.

In case you're curious, here's my story on Bethlehem's complications, from a few years ago.  I had a slightly different angle, but ended up telling the story on the plight of West Bank Christians, Muslims, and Jews who all try and come to worship in Bethlehem.  My most horrendous memory from that report, which didn't make the final cut since I had no footage to show, was riding in the bus along with the Jerusalem-based choir after Midnight mass.  We were stopped at the main Bethlehem-Jerusalem checkpoint by the IDF, and then harassed and threatened by the rudest Israeli soldiers I ever came across.  I pretended not to know Hebrew, but of course understood every nasty word they used to describe a church choir on their holiest and most special night of their year.  I was frisked from head to toe despite showing my journalist credentials, and was nearly assaulted for trying to film.  When they finally let us pass, after an hour, at 3AM, some of the choir members were heaving hysterically, broken down, in tears.  They had gone from pure ecstasy to pure misery, ion Christmas Eve.  Yes, this is what the West Bank Christians often must go through, which makes Simon's story important, but certainly not the whole story.

1 comment:

Samantha Born said...

I see the point that you are making about the imbalanced or incomplete reporting of 60 minutes. It is quite a pity to be building some kind of public opinion, that Christians are fleeing due to Muslim harassment, while they are only leaving because of the israeli occupation and the bad economy (which is also something Muslims suffer from equally). I also agree that there needs to be more information about other countries that face similar conflicts, such as, as you mentioned, Syria and Egypt. Looking at these situations, I am putting in a lot of faith in your story hunter project. Do you think that your project might be influential enough in the future to help reveal the complete truth about how things really are trough the lens of a video camera? I sure hope that your project will reach a wider audience in the near future. There are still so many issues going on, that have so much mystery behind them. And yes, the case of the Christians not being happy in the middle east, is definitely one of them. Yet there is so much more.