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Israeli PR machine in frenzy over CBS report on Christians

By going to such great lengths to interfere in a report by CBS News simply because it involves Israel, the government and foreign ministry of Israel are proving just how reprehensible the country’s policies are – that they require constant PR surveillance.

When the Israeli government and its embassy in Washington discovered that CBS News show 60 Minutes was going to run a segment on the increasing departure of Christians from the West Bank, they felt obligated to step in. With Prime Minister Netanyahu’s advice and blessing, Ambassador Michael Oren decided months ago that before the show even aired, he must speak with the network’s chairman in order to make sure the report included an Israeli reaction, delaying the report’s airing from last Christmas to this last Sunday.

The Ambassador claimed he had information the 60 Minutes story was going to do a “hatchet job”  on Israel which, apparently for Israeli leadership and diplomatic officials,  means any mention at all of the possible suffering of Christian Palestinians in places like Bethlehem, due to the separation wall towering over their homes, or the myriad other hardships and violations committed by Israel’s military occupation.

In this clip from the full 60 Minutes report, Bob Simon tells Ambassador Oren that he has never in all his years of journalism been confronted with such interference in his reporting, before a story even aired.

By telling Bob Simon of CBS News that there is a ‘first time for everything,’ Ambassador Oren admitted that Israel’s Foreign Ministry is pioneering a new kind of diplomacy: pure damage control. Israel will continue to be an occupying force, while doing everything in its power to make sure its PR strategy is cleansed of any mention of it. Great plan.

As far as Israel is concerned, this makes perfect sense. As one Israeli diplomat told Haaretz: “Ambassador Oren did what a diplomat is supposed to do to – prevent serious damage.”

How many faux pas will it take for Israel’s well-oiled PR machine to realize that the best way to prevent serious damage to its image is to simply act in a way that merits a better image? One that maybe wouldn’t require my taxes going to an ambassador that is wasting time making Israel look even worse than it already acts. This kind of effort doesn’t show the world how fair and democratic Israel is – but rather gives the world every reason to believe Israel has a lot it must hide and much “damage” to “control.”

Read also:
Omissions, half-truths and lies: Ambassador Oren in Foreign Policy
Ambassador Oren concedes Israel’s interference in U.S. politics

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    1. Richard Witty

      Many recent analyses, including Noam Sheizaf’s a month ago, have reported that Israel (government and populace), now prefer the status quo to any change in political and social relationships.

      The logic that the 67 borders are indefensible and that the scope of peace and acceptance required to make them not need defensibility is not coming, has been accepted.

      The annexation of the West Bank is considered undesirable. Of Gaza, not even considered.

      They want it all for defensibility and historical destiny, but know that that is impossible.

      They site the precedent of other internationally long-term occupied peoples as living with it, and do not feel any significant incongruity from that.

      There is not sufficient plausible international pressure from any sphere.

      Yes, damage control is what is being played. Exposing it as damage control isn’t even an embarrassment, and will not affect behavior.

      What will affect Israeli behavior positively, is the oppossite of what is attempted internationally.

      Internationally, Israel is singled out for real wrongs, but insignificant relative to others among immediate and other neighbors. And, then as the effort to address Israeli accountability is an affirmation of small tent collective resentment, and not the big tent defense of law by universally consistent application, it is dismissed.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Richard Witty

      What will affect behavior is the advocacy for the application of law universally.

      So, that means in Syria, in Gaza, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Sudan, in Iran, everywhere peaceful dissent is suppressed violently.

      And, in Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jack

      Hes coming out obsessed, but after all propaganda is their foundation.

      Richard Witty,
      Gaza, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Sudan, Iran just came out of the blue? All these muslim nations are condemned, sanctioned. The only country that doesnt get sanctions nor serious condemnations are Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Louis

      Another fine example of Israeli Hasbaraganda hard at work… The vocation of “explaining” the Occupation and putting a hwppy face on it is a job for Israel’ super heroes of Occupression…

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      I wish that Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, Turkey, Sudan, Iran, committed to the rule of law.

      The point is that law itself is what deserves support, and that dissent loses its credibility when it is selective in its observation and advocacy.

      I guess that means you.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Jack

      Richard Witty,
      Yes we all wish of a utopian world.
      However thats not the question. The question is that Israel along with other western back regimes GET AWAY with crimes. Compared to Gaza for example which gets condemned and sanctioned. The “selective choice” of states to be sanctions and condemned are the group you represent.

      Reply to Comment
    7. the other joe

      A few years ago I spent a while trying to get to the bottom of the Palestinian Christian exodus. There is clearly a movement of Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.

      There is some evidence of intolerance to Christians within the occupied Palestinian Territories. This is particularly seen in Gaza and there have been problems in some parts of the West Bank.

      However, the main movement of people have been from Bethlehem, where the situation for Christians is good – certainly much better than Gaza.

      A more plausible explanation appears to be that the main Christian families in these areas tended to be relatively wealthy, owning businesses and factories. This meant they had family members elsewhere (often, apparently, in South America) and therefore were able to relocate.

      I asked a lot of Christians about their situation. Most claimed there was no intolerance of them. Some said there was occasional problems (from my observation possibly due to the overt alcohol consumption in parts of Bethlehem winding up the conservative Muslims). One very poor Christian craftsmen I met claimed that they’d been specifically targeted by Muslims.

      Make of that what you want.

      Reply to Comment
    8. the other joe

      Also having been to Cairo, I’d say that the Christians of Bethlehem are far freer than the Christian Egyptians.

      Reply to Comment
    9. aristeides

      So maybe it isn’t just antisemitism to suggest that Israeli interests control the US media. Ya think?

      Reply to Comment
    10. Michael W.

      Aristeides, only an antisemite would point to a failed attempt by the Israeli Ambassador to influence the CBS piece, as evidence that Israel controls the US media. Why? Because it is illogical. Antisemites are illogical.

      Why not ask, does the US control Israeli media? How many Americans own major Israeli news outlets?

      Reply to Comment
    11. max

      starting with the odd statement “… simply because it involves Israel” and following with ” … which, apparently for Israeli leadership and diplomatic officials, means any mention at all of the possible suffering of Christian Palestinians in places like Bethlehem, due to the separation wall towering over their homes, or the myriad other hardships and violations committed by Israel’s military occupation”
      How do you know so much, Mairav, and how did you learn it between the 2 sentences, have you seen the original report?
      Israel had a somehow similar angry exchange with the BBC. Israel was proven right, though the British court is still pondering whether the BBC should be obliged to publish the results of its internal investigaton

      Reply to Comment
    12. the other joe

      @Michael – clearly the Israeli ambassador managed to severely delay a report which he has not even seen. Is that not control at some level? Could there not also be other interventions – which succeed so we don’t even see the reports?

      Reply to Comment
    13. max

      @TOJ, you don’t know what he’s seen or not. presumably, he was told about the content.
      “Is that not control at some level?” – is it? At what level?
      Are there other such interventions? I gave an example of the BBC. Was it control? Obviously not. Would we not hear about such incidents? I’d say that in open societies chances are close to zero. And as Bob Simon tells, interference happens.
      So it’s really about the intensity, not the act itself. Explaining Israel’s actions is the Ambassador’s role, and for a reason we’re not familiar with he thought that his correction, with such pressure, is warranted.

      Reply to Comment
    14. the other joe

      @Max – I saw the video and the presenter clearly stated that the Ambassador was making a comment on a piece he hadn’t even seen.
      That is an attempt at control. You try to bully people into not talking about an issue.
      The BBC issue was far more complex and you know it was.
      And no, it isn’t about intensity, it is about the assumption that if you are the Israeli ambassador you can call the chief executive of a media organisation to block a piece of journalism you’re worried might not be entirely complimentary of you. Can you imagine what CBS would have said if Iran had tried that trick? Would they have delayed releasing a report about Iranian brutality for 6 months? I doubt it.

      Reply to Comment
    15. max

      @TOJ, I stand corrected for the 1st part 🙂 but I also wrote that he presumably heard about the content, and knew that it wan’t “… simply because it involves Israel”
      And now I agree with you: attempt to control…
      Aren’t you surprised that the reporter didn’t seek Israel’ feedback before airing the report?

      Reply to Comment
    16. the other joe

      @Max – well yes, I’d have been surprised if there had been no feedback from Israel. I don’t know that we’re in a position to tell whether that was planned or not.
      I must say that I thought the piece was a pretty poor piece of editing. I know some of these people and to make them sound like there is a real difference between Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims is putting words into their mouths.

      Reply to Comment
    17. max

      I think that most Israeli Jews can’t tell the difference between Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims, notably at the checkpoints… though they’d be – ideologically – more in favor of Christians (less association with suicide bombers?).
      I have, however, no doubt that the general trend towards extreme and intolerance affects also Palestinian Christians, which are a double-time minority.
      Sooner or later the missing pieces will get on the Net, so we’ll find out what it was about

      Reply to Comment
    18. aristeides

      Illogical, Michael W? Perhaps you can submit a proof? of invalidity?

      If the Israeli ambassador calls up a US news program to demand a report be slanted, he does so with an expectation of success. That he has this expectation is evidence that similar strongarming has in the past succeeded. This suggests strongly that Israeli interests have been exercising a degree of control over such news reports in the US media. That’s logical.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Kolumn9

      This Palestinian Christian nonsense is resolving itself. They are unhappy living under the PA and they are leaving the West Bank. Soon enough they will be jut an oddity like the Christians of Gaza, Iraq, Turkey, etc.. On the other hand I am sure the community will do just fine in Israel itself.

      Reply to Comment
    20. jjj

      What an ironic title.
      This whole website is a PR machine for the Palestinian view, of pure intolerance to Israel’s very existence.

      Reply to Comment
    21. I’m re-posting into the actual discussion:

      At first Oren starts saying “my assumptions” but quickly corrects himself and says “I HAD, I believe [esc. clause], information about the nature of it”

      But then Bob Simon cuts Oren off and ‘corrects’ him “You don’t know what’s going to be put on air”.
      Oren accepts this ‘correction’ gracefully – “Ok. I don’t. True”

      ie. Oren KNEW of the footage. He just couldn’t know whether it would be AIRED or not. A technicality.

      It’s in both Simon’s and Oren’s interests to not show how cozy (incestuous?) Israeli government’s relationship is with American media. And not talk about how Oren even came by the information in the first place.

      Reply to Comment
    22. “This Palestinian Christian nonsense is resolving itself. They are unhappy living under the PA and they are leaving the West Bank.”
      Palestinian Christians speak out about their problems, actually receiving quite a prominent platform for once, and you dismiss everything they’ve said as ‘this Palestinian Christian nonsense’? I don’t know what words of comfort you would have had for my landlady last summer, when she broke down in tears and announced that she just wants to die. (She lost her business to the wall and now she’s barely scraping by.) I think she and her family would be surprised to hear that the PA is at the root of their problems.
      Then again, they might not have been surprised at all. Palestinian Christians have got pretty used to other people speaking on their behalf, without regard to their own words. It’s a topic that is guaranteed to get neighbourhood residents furious.
      “On the other hand I am sure the community will do just fine in Israel itself.”
      The Christians of Walajeh, Cremisan, and Beit Jala don’t share your confidence. They aren’t interpreting the land confiscation and home demolitions that they have been suffering as a wonderful sign of welcome.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Devin

      Occupation creates lots of problem for any country. The image is broken and Mr. ambassador can not fix it. If you want to repair your image, leave people’s land and let them govern themselves. Basically occupation cost a lot.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Jack

      This frenzy provide us with the information that (american) christians (votes, support) are important to Israel. So this is where the pressure should be put, some sanctions are already on from american christian communities.

      Also, Oren tries to portray Israel a state that doesnt “prosecute” christians.

      Now does he make the argument that prosecuting is bad generally OR does he make the argument that persecuting christians are bad? Its the latter of course which seems that Oren (Israel?) apprently think its ok to persecute some people (palestinians/muslims) while some people should not be persecuted.

      And some christians are critical due the occupation, something Oren didnt brought up…

      Reply to Comment
    25. Christians are leaving the Palestinian areas (they, like Palestinian Arabs call Israel “Palestine,” a state that has never existed, only in name, an insult given the Jews by the Romans) like Christians have left Turkey and every Muslim nation. Israel’s ambassador objected to CBS about what he knew in advance to become a hatchet job. During the interview Bob Simon denied that his report will be a hatchet job, since Simon said Oren had no way to know what the content of the story will be. Obviously Orin did know, and knew in detail what it will be, and his objections were 100% valid and Simon turned out to be a liar. 60 Minutes has a long record of showing Israel in a negative light, one being Leslie Stahl’s hatchet job on the excavations in Jerusalem.

      And, as you will see, the program is completely bogus, for Israel is accepting Christian refugees from Africa on a regular basis; many have settled in Israel, and they are not so-called “Palestinian Christians,” but Christians period. I ask, have the Christians of Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, Turkey, Iran and Iraq left because of the Jewish State or because of Muslim persecutions? There, in a nutshell, is your answer. You can read about it and see the entire 60 Minutes segment at the bottom of:


      And the segment positively crosses a journalistic line when it attempts, in classic 60 Minutes fashion, to both report the story and be the story. “For Israel, there could be serious economic consequences,” Simon “reports.” “According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi-billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American.” (Script written by Propaganda Central @ 1600 Pensylvania Ave. – AGB) The late, great Mike Wallace was the master of this maneuver, of discussing the consequences of what he had just revealed in real time. The difference is that when Wallace did it, he had the goods; Simon’s “smoking gun” is the importance of tourism to Israel, “many,” and “most.” Weak. And dumbassed.


      Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians [WSJ]
      Christians for Palestine [Tablet Magazine]

      Writes one Christian to the Obama-controlled CBS: You only interviewed Palestinian Christians. They are known to be like the house slaves of our antebellum South who were either privileged or too fearful to tell the truth about their plight. Experts like Raymond Ibrahim and Khaled Abu Toameh whose (articles I will reference) have documented the threats, property expropriation, mayhem, murder and judicial persecution that have caused the population of West Bank lands and Gaza previously occupied by Jordan to seek safe haven. This pogrom has been perpetrated by Muslim gangs and also by the warlords of the Palestinian government. You failed to interview a single Israeli official as part of the report, but you showed Amb. Oren’s wariness of your views in the prequel you presented as a feeble rejoinder. I find it hard to believe that Amb. Oren did not recite facts. (AGB: Maybe he did, but CBS censored it!) Since you did not report facts, let me recite a few. The Christian population of Israel exceeds 150,000 today compared to some 34,000 in 1948. They have full citizenship. Israel honors and protects their religious practices as well as their holy sites and other properties. If the pre-1967 Christian population of the West Bank and Gaza had been 20% and is now 2%, and it was the Israelis who caused this, why has the Muslim population grown? Surely, if the Israelis ever practiced ethnic cleansing, they would have chased the Muslims out en masse; but in fact the Muslim population is growing. The fact that Christians are fleeing Muslim-majority lands is part of a pattern of Islamic supercessionism and political Islam in the Palestinian territories that is rampant from Nigeria to Indonesia. You did not report that half the Christians of Iraq have fled. So as CBS and the mainstream media often do, you imply Israel is responsible for the disappearance Christians from Palestinian territories that are clearly under Palestinian control. Why then are the Israelis also not responsible for the Assyrian and Coptic Christians who have fled and are continuing to flee Iraq and Egypt? Is it that because Israel exists that the Muslims, having no Jews to expel anymore, must take it out on their Christian population and that is Israel’s fault? Shame on you.

      Muslim Persecution of Christians: February 2012 by Raymond Ibrahim | March 16, 2012
      Muslim Persecution of Christians: August, 2011 by Raymond Ibrahim September 7, 2011 at 5:00 am
      The Deadly Sounds of Christian Silence Mar. 28, 2012 http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=lsKWLbPJLnF&b=4441467&ct=11678221

      SEE THIS SITE: http://www.scoop.it/t/the-palestinians-the-invented-people-of-a-fabricated-nation/curate

      Reply to Comment
    26. ginger

      This certainly is the tip of the iceberg of the shennagins Oren and the Israeli Lobby has been up to for years.

      I hope it all comes crashing down amongst their ears

      Israelis like Oren and their constant anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab/Persian/Muslim drumbeating for war is the most obviously racist thing happening in the ‘western world’ today

      Israelis like this are intolerant racists – and they should be called on the carpet for every racist word they utter

      It’s not just words will never hurt anyone either – these maniacs are after war, war, war

      Reply to Comment
    27. aristeides

      Nova – lies like you promulgate are the exact reason the 60 Minutes report was needed to refute.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Woody

      Pre-emptive criticism is standard when it comes to the topic of Israel. Rather than accepting that reason can prevail, there is an attempt to stop reason from unfolding. Anyone who has ever spoken out loud on the issue in the US is aware of the technique Oren is employing. I once scheduled a talk and had the dean of my law school CANCEL it. When I refused to comply, she tried to censor what could be said, simply because of the poster that had been put up for the event.

      There is a strong racist element to this criticism, wherein a person’s ethnicity is the first element to be examined as to whether one is allowed to speak. Then, one’s allegiance to “the team”, as evidenced by their commitments, life experience, and resume, is brought into question. The content is rarely at specific issue, since pre-emptive censoring isn’t acting on facts or statements. Rarely are time-place considerations part of the censoring. So what we’re left with is PR in the form of attacks on people and institutions. All that is created is a confrontation over a person’s overt willingness to go along with the pro-Israel story. I’ve seen many people without principles fold, begrudgingly, as if a boss had just told them to complete a task they didn’t care for. It is rare that the arguments are allowed to see the light of day – though more and more they are. To see the reporter turn on this technique was brilliant and typically American response to Israeli badgering. That is, one may gain complicity of Americans for awhile, because America has long since lost a sense of principles, but when pushed too much, the American rebellion will be brutal.

      All of this begs an interesting question. Does reason fundamentally reveal the injustice of the occupation? Or is it a more general fear, held by many, that reason isn’t relevant to the situation of Israel, due to reasoned-humanity’s failures during the Holocaust. Therefore, exceptionalism applies in all discussions.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Tamar

      Mr. Simon doesn’t seem to mention this, but Ambassador Oren was, in the not-so-distant past, employed by CBS as a consultant. See for instance this report from
      February 2009: http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-18563_162-4199459.html. Let’s just remind ourselves also that weeks earlier, during the Gaza war, Oren served as an IDF media relations officer (http://www.allgov.com/Official/Oren_Michael). That’s quite a cozy relationship with Israel’s PR machine.

      Reply to Comment
    30. The increase in Christians that Amb Oren mentioned in his Wall street piece has nothing to do with the Palestinian Christians. It would seem that when the Israelis brought in hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews from the old USSR, some were really Christians pretending to be Jewish to get out of that country. Many people overlook that fact and the Israeli pr machine use that point to give the illussion that Christians are thriving and growing in the country when in reality the numbers are artifical.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Bob Krasnansky

      Vicky wrote:
      The Christians of Walajeh, Cremisan, and Beit Jala don’t share your confidence. They aren’t interpreting the land confiscation and home demolitions that they have been suffering as a wonderful sign of welcome.

      60 Minutes omitted the housing permit policy which prevents Palestinians from building new houses. Palestinian youth grow up, marry, start families and need a place to live.

      A $5,000 fee must be presented with an application to build a new house. The Israelis reject 97% of Palestinian applications to build, but keep all the $5,000 fees. Palestinians either build illegally, gambling that the Israelis might take a few years to get around to bulldozing their homes, or emigrate.

      “Natural growth” is the rationale Israel uses for additional building in settlements. But Israel does not permit Arabs to build new homes because of “natural growth.”

      Reply to Comment
    32. FRG

      What to say? Israel is a totalitar state like USA.

      Reply to Comment
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