E-mail storm blows Jerusalem back into Israel

NEW YORK, Aug. 3 (JTA) — For the online Jewish community, the outlook for CNN’s weather Web page is now partly sunny.

After faxes, e-mails and letters from a number of Jewish groups, the Cable News Network returned previously removed Jerusalem to the Israel heading on their online weather page, but with an asterisk.

Since February, Jerusalem had stood alone on CNN’s weather site for the Middle East. Other Israeli cities were listed underneath the Israel category.

CNN spokeswoman Edna Johnson said that its decision to place Jerusalem back in the Israel category this week was “not a political statement, nor is it indicative of a change in CNN policy toward Jerusalem or Israel or any other country. We don’t take those kinds of stands. Our goal is to be objective.”

The restored Web page now contains an asterisk next to “Jerusalem, Israel,” with a note on the bottom that reads, “The status of Jerusalem, the seat of Israeli government, is the most contentious issue in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Palestinian and Arab leaders consider part of Jerusalem the capital of the prospective Palestinian state.”

“We hope” the note “leads to some understanding of our position,” said Johnson.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that the ADL is “disappointed that CNN.com continues to find a need to qualify the status of Jerusalem with a gratuitous politically oriented explanation.”

CNN Interactive, which removed Jerusalem from under the Israel category back in February, had denied that it was taking sides in the Middle East conflict, and said the move was part of a network-wide decision not to refer to Jerusalem as a part of Israel.

“Jerusalem is a city that is under dispute, and this is something we don’t want to be considered taking sides on,” Scott Woelfel, president and editor- in-chief of CNN Interactive, said earlier this week. The decision was made after examining how other organizations, including the United Nations, refer to Jerusalem, he said.

Israel captured eastern Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War, but the United Nations has not recognized Israeli sovereignty over the eastern part of the city.

More recently, Jerusalem was cited as the main sticking point in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and the reason for the failure of the Camp David summit.

The online weather sites of The Weather Channel and MSNBC both refer to Jerusalem as part of Israel.

Many people learned about the action after an e-mail campaign encouraged readers to contact CNN through their online feedback address.

On Thursday, CNN told those who had sent e-mails that the network had returned Jerusalem to the Israel category.

CNN added, “CNN.com is a nonpartisan global newsgathering organization. We do not have an editorial position on this or any other political issue.”

CNN had yet to respond to questions about whether the reversal would affect the entire network.

Phil Baum, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, who wrote a letter to CNN, received a phone call Thursday notifying him that the page had been changed.

“Israel has sovereign jurisdiction over Jerusalem, and it’s not up to CNN to challenge the quality of that sovereignty,” Baum said.

His phone call from CNN contained no mention of the asterisk and added note, which he later found on his own. He said the note “certainly takes away” from their decision.

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