On Sunday, “60 Minutes” aired a report on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Was it on the Copts in Egypt? The destruction of Christian communities in Arab lands? Syrian Christians living in Bashar al-Assad’s slaughterhouse? Oh no. This was about Israel. As host Bob Simon put it, with only about 11,000 Christians left, “Religious leaders are afraid Jerusalem could become a museum, a spiritual theme park, a great place for tourists and pilgrims, but not for the Arab Christians whose roots date back to the church’s very beginnings.”
The fault, he claimed, lies with that dreaded wall. You know, the one Israel was forced to erect to stop wave after wave of terrorist bombings. So you see in defending itself, Israel has turned Bethlehem into “an open-air prison.” This, according to Simon, means: “For all Palestinians, just leaving Bethlehem is a struggle. Getting to Jerusalem, only seven miles away, whether it’s to pray, go to a doctor, visit family members or work, means going through this Israeli checkpoint. That can take hours, but before Palestinians can get even this far, they need a permit from the Israelis, which can take weeks or months to obtain and is frequently denied.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Michael Oren, remarked on the piece: “It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding? I think it’s — I think it’s — I think you got me a little bit mystified.” (For some balance to the CBS hit piece, check out Oren’s Wall Street Journal op-ed from March.)
There is no mystery, actually. It is pretty much par for the course in much of the European and American coverage of Israel. At best, Israel’s defense is painted as morally equivalent to the murders that precipitated it. At worst, Israel — the most democratic and tolerant country in a sea of Islamic tyranny — takes a beating.
Some Christians in the United States are not sitting still for this. Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest pro-Zionist group in the country, sent out an ”action alert” asking its members to contact CBS and air their complaints. The letter to CUFI members states: “This story scapegoated Israel and ignored the greatest threats facing the Christians of the Middle East. By focusing on the wrong story and blaming the wrong party, you have squandered a precious opportunity.” It continues: “The Christians of the Middle East do face unprecedented threats. As Islamic terrorists have stepped up their attacks against Christians, we are witnessing the collapse of the ancient Christian communities of Iraq, Egypt and Syria. Yet you chose to ignore these threats and focus instead on the security measures that Israel has taken to protect its citizens — Jewish, Christian and Muslim — from the very same Islamic terror.” A CUFI spokesman tells me that 16,000 e-mails were sent to CBS in the first four hours.