CNN Comes Under Unprecedented Attack

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 05, 2007, issue of September 07, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Washington - A CNN documentary about religious extremists has prompted an unprecedented outcry from the organized Jewish community, including a call to advertisers to pressure the network.

A CNN documentary on religious extremists by Christiane Amanpour has prompted an unprecidented outcry from American Jewish groups.
A CNN documentary on religious extremists by Christiane Amanpour has prompted an unprecidented outcry from American Jewish groups.

The three-episode special, “God’s Warriors,” by CNN’s chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is being characterized by Jewish groups as equating Jewish extremists in West Bank settlements with Muslim jihadists. The program is also accused of containing numerous factual errors.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which represents more than 50 national Jewish organizations, convened a special discussion with its members following the airing of the program last month, and has urged them to take up the issue with companies that have bought advertising slots during the show.

In the past, there have been widespread complaints about the media’s treatment of Israel, but this appears to be the first time that so many organizations have come together in opposition to a single media outlet.

“This was not an average show,” said Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi, founder of The Israel Project. “CNN bought full-page ads promoting the show and ran it on prime time. The perspective the show left the viewers with is that Israel doesn’t want peace and that Israel’s friends in the United States don’t want peace.” The Israel Project, a group focused on providing information to the press and the public about Israel, broke a five-year tradition of not reacting to media reports on Israel and put out a press release about the Amanpour show, detailing Israel’s efforts to promote peace in the region.

“The program definitely has a great damage potential because of the people who watch CNN,” Laszlo-Mizrahi added, pointing to the fact that foreign officials and decision makers tend to view CNN as an important news source.

Relations between Jewish organizations and American media outlets were rocky during the first years of the intifada when Jewish activists protested outside almost every major media outlet and threatened to embark on reader boycotts. As violence on the ground died down, though, so did the tensions over media coverage. Now, “God’s Warriors” has the potential of drawing the Jewish community into the media debate once again.

The vigorous response appears to be due, at least in part, to the coincidence of the program’s screening just before the release of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” a book by scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. The book levies serious charges against the power of the Jewish lobby which, it states, influences the United States to choose a foreign policy in favor of Israel against its own interest.

In the CNN program, among those interviewed are Mearsheimer and former president Jimmy Carter, who has been controversial in the Jewish community since the publication of his book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.”

In a letter to CNN’s vice president, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, wrote: “The program made a huge and unfounded leap from legitimate pro-Israel advocacy in the U.S. to nefarious support for Jewish extremists.”

The first episode of Amanpour’s trilogy, titled “God’s Jewish Warriors,” dealt mainly with extreme Jewish settlers in the West Bank who vow never to leave the land because of biblical traditions and religious beliefs.

Amanpour interviews a member of the former Jewish underground who not only planted bombs in cars of Palestinian mayors but also plotted to blow up the mosques on the Temple Mount. In addition, the show deals extensively with the relations between Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the territories, and with the support for settler groups from Jewish and Christian groups in America.

Critics of the show point to a series of inaccuracies and claim that little was done to maintain a balance in choosing interviewees. But the main issue for media watchers is the equation that the series appears to make among extremists in all three major monotheistic religions.

“The whole setup from the start is false,” said Andrea Levin, executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America — a media watchdog group that follows coverage of the Israeli-Arab conflict in American media outlets.

A CNN representative would not remark on the complaints of Jewish groups. The representative said that the network will respond directly to media-monitoring organization Camera and other groups that voiced concerns about the program.

The strongest reaction so far came from the Presidents Conference. An e-mail sent by its chair, June Walker, and Malcolm Hoenlein, its executive vice president, details steps taken by the Jewish community since the program aired. Conference members have asked CNN to avoid rerunning the show before concerns about factual errors and bias are addressed and corrected. It is also requesting that the network invest similar resources to produce a new program that would “rectify the bias and inappropriate context.”

“We are aware of some advertisers that have already distanced themselves from ‘God’s Jewish Warriors,’” the e-mail reads. “It was recommended that all advertisers be contacted to express concern at their association with this offensive program.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.