60 Minutes: A Response

Several people have requested an article on Lesley Stahl’s 60 Minutes piece last night. The following is my response to the piece:

Lesley Stahl’s reporting on the City of David during last night’s 60 Minutes was an almost-flawless example of categorically irresponsible journalism. Her points were soft, her assertions were one-sided, and her facts were, quite frankly, missing.

No contention that Stahl put forward went unrebutted. In fact, even the fundamental premise of her argument — “No one has found any evidence that Abraham was ever here” –has some major holes. Let’s start with the basics.

Religion, as a basic idea, is based off of speculation and unsubstantiated “fact”. Religion–even if rooted in some sort of historical truth–is inherently ambiguous. While religion is a means of connection, community, and culture for billions of people worldwide, it is not wholly rational. This is true of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the Gospel, the Torah, and the Qur’an, Jesus, Muhammad, and, of course, Abraham. So, it is ill-advised to counter a theological argument with a rational one, based in concrete reality.

Stahl claims that organizations like Elad are using archaeology as a “political tool.” This may be true–and perhaps improper in the current Middle Eastern political climate. But she uses words like “indoctrination” to describe Israeli soldiers’ visits to historically relevant sites (like the City of David). Imagine someone claiming that the US Army was “indoctrinating” its soldiers by bringing them to the Alamo or, on a simpler level, Washington D.C. It’s simply hyperbolic and accusatory (to an unnecessary degree).

Stahl says, very matter-of-factly, about a man who opposes any settlements in East Jeruslem, “He’s angry that Elad bought his grandmother’s house and moved a number of Jewish families into it.” As stated in previous posts on this website, however, Israel is a free country, (the only one is the Middle East), and functions through several markets. One of those markets is the housing market and if a Palestinian family puts a house on that market, and someone expresses interest in buying that house (and offers an appropriate amount of money), then what is the point in being angry? His grandmother (or his family) sold the house to a Jewish organization. They could have sold it to an Arab organization or family if they’d wanted to. What’s that problem?

In another segment of the piece, Stahl herself says that “boys were throwing rocks at passing cars.” This is said in passing. She moves on to make a point about the leader of Elad, and his failure to stop after hitting a child who had just thrown a rock at his car. Obviously, it is not acceptable that the man hit the boy (accidentally or otherwise motivated–as the boy appeared to have run into/in front of the car), and he most likely should have stopped and gotten out of the car, but focus was shifted to the result of their rock-throwing, from their rock-throwing.

This of course brings us to the ultimate issue: even if all of this digging and building on controversial land is justified and legal, is this the right time for Israelis to be doing it? As Stahl asks, “Why not wait until the peace talks are settled?” Well, that’s the question.

Will the peace talks ever be settled? No one knows. And even if the talks, themselves, are settled, can Israelis and Palestinians practice what they preach? Can they turn theory into actuality? Probably not. Agitating Palestinians should not be the motive behind any of this–though it may be. The goal should not be to evict people from their homes or to turn public opinion against any particular group.

Tourism is a factor, religion is a factor, history is a factor, culture is a factor, safety is a factor, politics are a factor, settlements are a factor. Is this the right time to be expanding? That’s for you to decide.

What’s the ultimate lesson we should derive from this? Jerusalem’s Mayor, Nir Barkat, said it best: “Get your facts right before you bash Israel, before you bash Jerusalem.”


5 thoughts on “60 Minutes: A Response

  1. #1. Nir Barkat is awesome
    #2. Your counter-arguments are flawless, maybe except for the one about the rock throwing but whatever that happens all the time, old news. First, it’s completely irrelevant to compare a theological argument with a rational one, those two words are practically antonyms. Second, the Palestinian family members are just being whiny attention-seekers, they’re trying to condemn and twist a perfectly innocent act, which tends to happen a little too often. The argument at the end is great. It’s true, after everything that’s happened I really doubt that the peace talks will ever truly be “settled”. Though neither side is completely innocent or blameworthy, they both have their widely held prejudices and personal afflictions that will definitely hinder the peace-making process for a LONG time. So it’s completely irrational to suggest that we wait until these settlements are complete, when there’s a good chance that they never will be. I basically just reaffirmed everything you said but I haven’t commented in a while so I felt the need to.

  2. To me, one of the main lessons from this blog post — and the Lesley Stahl piece in general, and all pieces I read, anywhere, really — is this: There is really no such thing as unbiased reporting. How frustrating and true.

  3. Thanks for pointing out this odd and skewed bit of “journalism.” I agree that her points were “soft.” And the way she structured the segment, she was setting up Elad and the whole enterprise as a “controversial” project to then be exposed and criticized. There wasn’t a lot of context. And I agree that if the guy’s grandmother sold her house, he should be angry at her, not the people who bought it.

    The segment with the rock-throwing boys getting hit by the car was just bizarre and inflammatory. In my opinion, if you’re in the road with a lethal weapon — throwing rocks at windshields from close range — then it’s acceptable to fight you with lethal force. If I show up at your door late at night threatening you with a knife, you are within your rights to shoot me to protect your life. Same with the guy driving the car in the segment. What’s Stahl’s point? If a bunch of boys were throwing stones are her windshield, would she politely stop, get out, and chat with them?

  4. Leslie Stahl’s “fascination” with Islamists.

    It has been a long career of pro-Islamism “research,” by this eloquent reporter for CBS’ 60min.
    In the latest example (May, 13, 2012 http://www.cbsnews.com/2718-18560_162-962.html) she made  a piece about Gulen, the Turkish Islamic cleric/tycoon who “funds” schools in the US and turns them into revenues for his global empire.
    In quoting blogs that criticize Gulen as having a hidden Islamic agenda, she confronted one of Gulen’s representatives about it, but instead of waiting for an answer from the man, Leslie jumped and PROVIDED an answer of her own… ” Would you say it’s Islamophobia..?” The man, of course, agreed to the provided “answer.”
    This is typical Leslie Stahl.

    In fact, the entire program was not focused on the American English teacher who was fired for the sake of replacing her with a Turkish teacher… but on her fascination with the Turkish cleric. She was so memorized by his wealth… All you saw from her was, awe. Some “fearless” reporter, seeking the “truth,” alright. 

    (I remember, she once [last year] took an Arab-Palestinian word… his ficticious claim that he has been in the area for… “hundreds” of years… at face value. Never mind that no Arab can prove any connection to the land of the Jews beyond the 1800s… Or the latest admission from the horse’s mouth – Hamas to Egyptian media that “Palestinians” are basically half from Egypt, the other half from other Arab land…)

    Here are some suggestions to Leslie, if she were to be a bit less bias…
    Let’s see a bit reporting on the Goliath. Not just in power and size, but in… intolerance!

    1 – Checkout the usual venomous sermons in “moderate” mosques. Why not pick the March 15, 2012 example of top Islamic authority (mufti) calling to destroy all churches. Or the latest “moderate” Islamists (Egypt) call for jihad to march on Jerusalem as capital of a Caliphate?
    2 – Scrutinize the ocean of racism against non-Arabs from Arabia to Sudan (Afro-Arabs, massacring millions of non-Arab natives); Mauritania (slavery), through Iraq (Assyrians, Kurds, Blacks, Yazidis, etc., all still discriminated against); Syria (the Alawite apartheid genocidal regime), Libya, Gulf states (Oman, Kuwait, S. Arabia, Qatar, UAE, where Asian workers/slaves are constructing their impressive buildings, and/or Asian maids are basically sex-slaves); N. Africa (e.g. Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, not just blacks, but Berbers natives to the land,  have for too long suffered immensely); Lebanon (which hosts 200,000 living in the same slavery conditions as the African slave/maid who committed suicide this year. Or the Ahmadis as well as children of black slaves at the hands of) Palestinian-Arabs; (the Dom-gypsies in) Jordan; (the indigenous al-Akhdam in) Yemen, etc.  Just because Arab Christians fear for their lives and won’t speak on camera against totalitarian Palestinian Islamic-apartheid, doesn’t mean, CBS should be silent….
    These are just the tip of the iceberg, non-Muslims are either second or third in almost all Muslim land. Not just in Iran/Pakistan/Afghanistan/S.Arabia/Palestinian-Authority/Egypt, etc. Even in “moderate” Turkey, especially on Cyprus.
    3 – Scrutinize the pro terror CAIR Islamic lobby (tied to criminal al-Arian).
    4 – Heck, you can even make a ‘special’ on dehumanization in Islamic schools. The favorite one is of course the sick notion that Christians are pigs and Jews as apes.
    5 – Last but not least, for CBS info… Terrorism against non-Muslims such as in Nigeria, Russia,  Egypt, China, Israel, India, Philippines, Thailand, etc., or even against Muslims who are ‘not Muslim enough…’ by jihadists, such as in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, etc., is also intolerance, and a very bloody one!

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