60 Minutes on the Holy Land’s dwindling Christians

This is a very significant moment in American television history. Over a year back Bob Simon of CBS’s 60 Minutes had provided first glimpses to an American mainstream audience of the Palestinian lives being disrupted by Israeli occupation. He now returns to the Holy Land to debunk Israeli claims (made most recently by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren) about the thriving Christian presence in the historic lands. If you can ignore Simon’s statements about the security allegedly being provided by the wall, you’ll find the last couple of minutes, where he makes the generally composed Michael Oren squirm by confronting him over his attempts to suppress the 60 minutes investigation, quite satisfying. You can measure the significance of this segment from the fact that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself got involved in attempts to pressure CBS into abandoning the investigation; it has since been described by Israeli officials as a ‘strategic terror attack‘, and ADL has issued an official condemnation.

Meanwhile, our friends at Jewish Voices for Peace have launched a campaign to thank 60 Minutes for its hard-hitting coverage. We’d encourage all readers to take a few minutes to sign their petition.

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America’s nightly news: Watching us watching you

When the journalist David Barsamian asked Indian writer and political activist Arundhati Roy about her travels in the United States, she admitted that she was amazed how insular a nation America really was. “When you live outside it, and you come here, it’s almost shocking how insular it is. And how puzzled people are — and how curious, now I realize, about what other people think, because its just been blocked out.”

Thus, Roy may not be surprised that when the Tyndall Report broke down the nightly newscasts of the three main networks in the US (ABC, NBC, and CBS), the top Indian story was the appearance of two uninvited guests at the White House dinner for Manmohan Singh.

As the IPS noted this weekend, much can be learned about America’s news diet from the Tyndall Report’s review of 2009 which ranks the airtime given to various issues on the nation’s top three nightly half-hour news broadcasts.

So what were Americans watching? Health care reform and the H1N1 virus dominated the airwaves. Afghanistan received more coverage than Iraq for the first time since the invasion of Iraq (735 minutes to 169 minutes). The international focus was certainly on the Middle East as Israel and Palestine were given 132 minutes (102 of those during the siege of Gaza). Iran’s election and nuclear program was also a central international story with 194 minutes and Ethiopian piracy garnered a considerable amount of press with 112 minutes.
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