Host of CNN’s God’s Warriors
AMANPOUR’S POOR JUDGMENT
By: Roz Rothstein, International Director of StandWithUs
Roberta P. Seid, PhD, Education/Research Director of StandWithUs
It would not be out of line to express concern that Christiane Amanpour’s purpose in making her CNN special, “God’s Holy Warriors,” was to float a theory about a Jewish conspiracy in the U.S. and to float innuendoes with anti-Semitic undertones.
Critics have already highlighted the program’s multiple distortions, questionable “experts” and troubling bias. But these critiques do not get to the darker message lurking beneath it. Amanpour’s documentary intended to teach people (1) that Israel and the “illegal” Israeli settlements are the root of Middle Eastern turmoil and increasing extremism; (2) that the world’s only superpower, the US, supports Israel and turns a blind eye to the settlements only because of the power of the Jewish lobby, and (3) that the newly developing pro-Israel Christian and Jewish partnership poses a fundamentalist threat to American values.
All these charges carry undercurrents of classic anti- Semitism that need to be exposed and challenged.
The very fact that Amanpour introduced the program with Jews and Israeli settlements implied that they are a primary problem. She said as much, claiming that the battle over Jerusalem is the heart of the conflict in the Middle East, and that the Jewish presence there and in the West Bank “inflames the Muslim world.” This is a standard anti-Semitic trope. If only the Jews weren’t there or were under control-be it in 12th century England, 15th century Spain, 20th century Germany, the 21st century West Bank and Gaza, and Jerusalem-the world would be a better place, and conflict would subside. The Jews’ presence, and the fact that they dare to assert rights, is inherently sinister.
Amanpour reinforced this message by focusing on the few, isolated examples of Jewish terrorism in order to equate it with Islamic terrorism. In effect, this equivalence becomes another anti-Semitic trope for the implication is that Jewish terrorism is more widespread than most viewers would have thought, that Israeli Jews are as much perpetrators as victims of terrorism and of the conflict itself.
Critics have pointed out already how hard Amanpour had to search for Jewish “holy warriors” who could be classified as terrorists. She dredged up the rare examples of criminal behavior that stretch back a quarter of a century to Gush Emunim in the 1980’s, and to Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir in the 1990’s. Although she mentioned in an aside that the perpetrators were imprisoned, she neglected to highlight the fact that their actions were universally condemned and punished in Israel. The message was unmistakable: Jewish “settlers” are extremists who may resort to violence, and their intransigence is the infectious agent in the Middle East. Another message, too, was unmistakable: there is a moral equivalence between Israelis building communities where their neighbors don’t want them, and the terrorism of radical Islamists who promote and carry out mass murder of civilians.
Finally, Amanpour implied that the US supports settlements only because of the machinations of the Jewish, pro-Israel lobby. She showed wealthy American Jews fundraising for Israel and drew special attention to the diamonds worn by the women. Such images echo the ant-Semitic cartoons of bloated Jewish capitalists pulling the political and economic strings of a nation. She went further, claiming that the new Christian-Jewish alliance threatens to undermine Western secular values. Once again, Jews are the culprits behind undesirable social changes.
Such insidious messages must be exposed for their bigotry.
Amanpour ignored essential facts that would have ruined her theory. The conflict is not about settlements and never has been. There was not even an Israel in 1929 when Jews were murdered in the Hebron pogrom. Long before there were settlements, nearly one million Jews were thrown out of nine Arab countries with only the shirts on their backs. There were no settlements in the 1950’s when Egypt sent mujahadeen from Gaza to attack civilians in Israel. The settlements were not there when the PLO was formed in 1964, with a Charter that called for the destruction of Israel. Egypt and Jordan finally made peace with Israel even when settlements existed. There are dozens of armed conflicts going on around the world, all involving radical Islam, that have nothing to do with settlements. The terrorist bombings in Russia, Bali, and London had nothing to do with the settlements. Yet in these terrorist attacks, we see the extremism, the violent rhetoric and the behavior we also see in the Palestinian attacks against Israelis.
If Amanpour had seriously searched for the causes of the conflict, she would have examined the charters of Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO and other terrorist groups that call for the elimination of Israel, many of which quote liberally from The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. She would have found-and taught-that the conflict is about radical Muslim intolerance of non- Islamic groups, that it is about the failure of Arab leaders to teach peace. The conflict stems from ignorance, apartheid-like rules for “infidels,” and media incitement that have bred extremism, racism and intolerance for non-Muslim minorities whether they are Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Copt or Ba’hai. It stems from an Islamic imperialism that denies non- Muslim groups national independence, and that is bent on absorbing Israel and destroying the one Middle Eastern minority that managed to achieve sovereignty in the face of constant existential threats.
Amanpour’s message that the Jewish Lobby has too much influence in government and the accompanying insinuation that American Jews have dual loyalties, are not just old anti-Semitic tropes that get resurrected whenever Jews-of whatever political persuasion– have the temerity to excel. It is also a way to find a scapegoat and avoid talking about the real problem– radical Islam, and its influence in the Middle East as well as globally.
Amanpour and CNN are wrong to equate Jews with extremist Islamic “holy warriors.” However Jews should stand up as warriors of principle when they are accused of efforts to control the American government, political debate, and the media. Jews should and hopefully will stand up as warriors of principle when they are told, once again, that Jews are the cause of the world’s greatest dangers because they reside in a certain geographic area, and that the Jews’ assertion of their own rights threatens world order.
Here is a memo to Amanpour and CNN: the days are over when Jews remain silent in the face of such hostile accusations and distortions. We cannot remain silent because we know from bitter experience that such falsifications can lead to anti-Semitism, and that anti-Semitism can lead to violence and to corruption and perversion of civilized values.
Amanpour’s shameful six-hour special is nothing more than propaganda, meant to scapegoat the Jews for the violence in the Middle East.
Decent and principled Americans should protest with conviction when anyone uses poor judgment and irresponsible journalism, as Amanpour did in her CNN special, to promote such toxic views.