NEW YORK (Jun. 11)
The American Jewish Congress declared today that the CBS re-broadcast last Sunday of its Feb, 16 television portrayal of the condition of Syrian Jewry and on the destruction of Kuneitra on the Golan Heights, included reference to complaints about the original program but that the network’s reply was “inadequate, self-serving and grudging at best.”
The AJCongress, which filed a complaint on June 3 with the National News Council, a nonprofit agency which investigates complaints about the media, also said, in a letter to the news council today, that its complaint about the original “60 Minutes” program “stands, and we look forward to a finding in support of our charges by the National News Council.”
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, AJ Congress president, declared that CBS had “failed to respond to the major thrusts of our criticism” and had failed to “set the record straight and to deepen understanding of complex issues.”
CHARGES WALLACE OMITTED FACTS ON FAMILY
Rabbi Hertzberg said that Mike Wallace, who conducted the original program and the rebroadcast, had failed in the re-broadcast to report facts about the Nusseri family he interviewed in Damascus which the AJCongress said Wallace knew and which made it clear that Nusseri’s testimony “could not be believed.” Rabbi Hertzberg said that Wallace “certainly knew by June 8 that two of the Nusseris’ sons had fled Syria” and that members of the Nusseri family had been held for “interrogation” in a Syrian jail for more than a month.
Rabbi Hertzberg said Wallace’s promise on the June 8 re-broadcast to return to Syria for another look at Syrian Jewry was unhelpful because “no accurate picture of the Syrian Jewish community can emerge if it depends for its information on interviews held within Syria,” adding that “no Jewish family inside Syria can speak freely.”
Rabbi Hertzberg said that if CBS News wanted to “redress the imbalance,” it should arrange for Wallace to do what the AJCongress proposed in conversations and a letter–”interview a Syrian Jew who has managed to escape within recent months and is now beyond the reach of Syrian authority.” Rabbi Hertzberg said this was the only way to correct “the distorted picture of Syrian Jewry broadcast to millions on Feb. 16 and repeated again on June 8.”
DESTRUCTION OF KUNEITRA NOT FULLY EXPLAINED
The AJCongress said Wallace in the June 8 re-broadcast repeated statements attributed to unidentified sources that Syrian President Hafez Assad had made a “calculated decision” to end the persecution of Syrian Jews. Wallace “merely repeated a rumor and left his audience with a clear impression that it was a fait accompli.”
On the first program, the AJCongress said, Wallace had declared that Kuneitra had been destroyed, not by war, but by Israeli bulldozers in 1974. On the June 8 re-broadcast, Wallace conceded that Kuneitra “had been partially destroyed in the wars of 1967 and 1973,” but “this reluctant admission still left viewers with the impression that Israeli troops had seized a viable city and levelled it.” The agency charged that Wallace “again failed to make clear” that Kuneitra had been a ghost town and that any levelling had been done to buildings empty of their original residents for eight years.
By the standard of “fair and responsible presentation to the American public of the truth about the Jews of Syria,” Rabbi Hertzberg said, CBS “failed in its original broadcast of Feb. 16 and failed again on June 8 after its initial report had been called into question. CBS made no amends by its re-broadcast; it compounded the error.”