NEW YORK (Dec. 10)
Jewish organizations are up in arms over a report on the Temple Mount killings broadcast on the CBS television program “60 Minutes.”
But correspondent Mike Wallace strongly defends his report, which aired Dec. 2.
The most extensive charges were leveled by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, which claimed the segment “failed to meet journalistic standards.”
ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said “60 Minutes” “engaged in unprofessional techniques which demonstrated bias and a prejudicial attitude” toward Israel’s handling of the Oct. 8 incident, in which 17 Arabs were killed by Israeli police as they tried to control huge riots.
Specifically, ADL pointed out that Wallace’s interviewing method was marked by “leading questions and essentially telling his subjects what to say.”
The report cited as an example Wallace’s interview with Fatima Abu Hadir, a wounded Palestinian. Wallace interrupted her account to say, “And then as the ambulance pulled away, it was shot at gain and tear gassed.”
Wallace responded that the interview “was a highly emotional one. She was still in an emotional state in the course of the interview and I tried to get as clear a picture as I possibly could.”
Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, called the coverage “one-sided and incomplete.”
Ruth Hurwitz, public affairs chairman for Hadassah, wrote a letter to the show critical of its report, which said that no one was hurt and that the attack by the police was unprovoked.
“There were approximately 30 Jews wounded by rocks and treated at two Hadassah hospitals,” she wrote in the letter. “What is the number of injuries you consider provocation?”
Beth Wohlgelernter, national executive director of Hadassah, said, “The only way to combat this type of program is to answer them with facts. I would hope that in the future they would attempt to be more evenhanded.”
‘A NEW LOW OF UNRELIABILITY’
Arnold Wagner, chairman of the national executive committee of the Zionist Organization of America, said that “60 Minutes” has “launched a new low of unreliability.”
In a letter addressed to Don Hewitt, executive producer of the show, Wagner also questioned the lack of an interview with a member of the Israeli commission that investigated the incident.
Wallace responded that “we tried over and over to meet with them. We attempted to speak with members of the commission, police, border police and the Government Press Office. None would meet with us.”
When asked if he felt that this lack of official cooperation by the Israelis contributed to the result of the report, Wallace responded, “100 percent.”
ZOA further wrote, “You would like to have the audience believe that the many Arabs gathered by the Western Wall that day had only peaceful intentions, but were provoked to violence. Mr. Wallace, even your viewers who are not knowledgeable will not accept this affront to their intelligence.”
ADL charged that no official Israeli perspective was offered to counter the claims made by “60 Minutes.” According to ADL’s report, although clips did show Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, they were from an interview broadcast Oct. 8, the day the incident took place.
Wallace said the clips were taken from an interview with Netanyahu that took place on Oct. 14, well after the incident.
B’tselem, the Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, criticized the segment for not including any mention of an investigation conducted by its members.
“I have nothing but praise for their actions and the report,” Wallace said in response, “but many things did not make it to the segment.”
ADL also charged that “60 Minutes” failed to give historical and political context for the incident, and that Wallace failed to challenge any Palestinian statements.
According to Foxman, a CBS spokesperson said the network had received many letters criticizing the report. Two such letters were read on the program’s Dec. 9 broadcast: one from Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, who said his views had been taken out of context, and the other from Israel’s consul general in New York, Uriel Savir.