(JTA) – Thousands of Christian and Jewish supporters of Israel have bombarded CBS executives with complaints about a "60 Minutes" segment that blamed Israel for the exodus of Christians from the West Bank and Jerusalem.
In the segment that aired Sunday, correspondent Bob Simon, Palestinian Christian leaders and others blame Israel and the settlements for Christians leaving cities such as Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
The Jewish Federations of North America and Christians United For Israel asked their members to send messages to CBS executives to complain about the segment. JFNA’s action alert, sent before the segment aired, read: "We hope that CBS will be flooded with responses through their inboxes, Facebook, Twitter and mail after the program to express discontent if it is as biased as we anticipate."
CUFI told its supporters in a Twitter message Monday that "Sunday night ’60 Minutes’ blamed Israel for Christian flight from the Middle East. Join me in telling them the truth." CUFI tweeted later in the day that more than 22,000 supporters had contacted "60 Minutes" over the segment.
In the segment, Simon says that "Palestinian Christians, once a powerful minority, are becoming the invisible people, squeezed between a growing Muslim majority and burgeoning Israeli settlements. Israel has occupied the West Bank for 45 years."
The segment quoted Israeli journalist Ari Shavit as saying that "Israel is not persecuting Christians as Christians. The Christians in the Holy Land suffer from Israeli policies that are a result of the overall tragic situation. And this, of course, has consequences for everybody."
Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren is quoted as saying that Christians are leaving the West Bank due to Islamic extremism. The segment takes Oren to task for calling Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of "60 Minutes," before the segment ran to make sure that the story would not be a "hatchet job."
"It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East, are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding," that ’60 Minutes’ would focus on Christians in Israel," Oren told Simon in the segment.
Simon said that "I’ve been doing this a long time. And I’ve received lots of reactions from just about everyone I’ve done stories about. But I’ve never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn’t been broadcast yet."
"Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob," Oren responded.