“60 Minutes” story about Gaza war is a perversion of journalism

By | July 27, 2015

UPDATE: although the email address “60m@cbsnews.com” is published by CBS, when you try to use it, it bounces. This should tell you how much 60 Minutes actually cares about receiving feedback from its audience. I resent this message to “evening@cbsnews.com”, asking them to pass on the message to 60 minutes and also to the people who can actually do something about the invalid email address. I’ve received no acknowledgment of that email after several days, though at least it didn’t bounce. I also just tweeted at them about the bouncing address. I’ll update this posting with any response I get.

To: 60m@cbsnews.com
Subject: “The Lesson of War” May 3 segment

To the producers of 60 Minutes:

I’m a bit behind on my podcasts, so I just listened to your May 3 story, “The Lesson of War”, today. To say I found it appalling would be a massive understatement. Rife with implicit falsehoods, lies of commission and omission, and false moral equivalences, it painted an astoundingly inaccurate picture, thereby doing a grave disservice to your audience and to the cause of peace.Make no mistake, I agree entirely with your premise that peace will elude the region until a generation of children on both sides of the border is raised with a desire for peace rather than war. However, your story oddly failed to mention that on the Israeli side of the border, children already want and are taught peace, whereas in Gaza and the West Bank, children are indoctrinated by their parents, government, television and radio programs, news media, books, and schools, that there is no higher calling than to die as a martyr while helping to kill Jews and destroy Israel.

False equivalence: Naftali Fraenkel vs. Mohammad Abu Khdeir

What happened after the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Fraenkel and his two friends? The murderers were hidden by their neighbors and praised by the government. Candy was handed out in the streets by Palestinians celebrating the three boys’ kidnapping. People called for more kidnappings.What happened after the kidnapping and murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir? The murderers were arrested and put on trial. A few extremists expressed support for their actions, but the vast majority of Israelis and Jews worldwide were appalled and said so. Many Israeli Jews paid condolence visits to his Abu Khdeir’s family.Generally speaking, the Palestinian government gives lifetime financial support to the families of “martyrs,” i.e., terrorists, erects monuments in their honor, and names soccer fields, schools, and squares after them. In contrast, Israeli terrorists are widely condemned, arrested, and prosecuted.

I do not mean to suggest that there are no Israelis who support anti-Arab terrorism. They are, however, a small, radical minority that is rejected by the government, whereas their Palestinian counterparts are not only the majority, but actually in control of the government. To imply, as your story did, a cultural and moral equivalence in this area between the two sides of the conflict is outrageously false and misleading, nothing less than journalistic malpractice.

The cause of the war

The kidnappings may have been a trigger for the 2014 war, but they were not, by any rational examination of the facts, the cause of it. Between 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza, and the war, Palestinian terrorists fired more than 11,000 rockets into Israel, targeting civilian areas. Of these, 450 were fired in the first half of 2014. Israel’s 2014 offensive against Gaza was Israel’s third attempt to put a stop to the rocket fire. Even if Fraenkel and his friends had not been kidnapped and murdered, Israel still would eventually have had to enter Gaza to defend itself against the ongoing rocket attacks.

In addition to its rockets, Hamas terrorists constructed a massive, advanced network of tunnels into Israel intended to be used for carrying out terror attacks. These tunnels were a grave threat to Israel, and yet you devoted in your story a grand total of a sentence and a half to them: “Hamas burrowed tunnels under the blockade for trade and terror… and Israel invaded Gaza to destroy the tunnels.” The few words you did say were inaccurate and inadequate.

The tunnels which Hamas dug into Israel where unequivocally not intended for “trade.” Only the tunnels into Egypt were used for smuggling. The tunnels into Israel were intended for one thing only: terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. And indeed, Hamas made numerous attempts during the war to use the tunnels for terrorist attacks. Furthermore, during the war, the Israelis uncovered Hamas plans to use these tunnels to execute a massive, simultaneous terrorist attack against Israel during the Jewish High Holidays. It is unquestionable that if Israel had not entered Gaza in 2014 to destroy these tunnels, many Jewish lives would have been lost to terrorists. You said not a word about this.

You reported, “Israel responded [to the Hamas election] by sealing the borders and bankrupting Gaza’s economy… Hamas attacked Israel to lift the blockade and Israel invaded Gaza to destroy the tunnels.”

Oy! So many lies in two simple sentences!

Gaza’s border with Israel is not, and has never been, “sealed.” People are allowed to move into and out of Gaza at security checkpoints. Literally tons of goods enter Gaza from Israel every single day; this was true even during most of the war. Israel has secured the border with Gaza so that Hamas cannot smuggle in weapons with which to attack Israel, and so that Hamas terrorists cannot enter Israel to attack it; all of this is a proven necessity, since weapons are regularly discovered and confiscated during inspections of cargo entering Gaza, and numerous terrorists have been thwarted at the border.

As I noted above, the tunnels which Hamas constructed for trade were into Egypt, not Israel. While those tunnels were operating, a huge amount of commerce between Egypt and Gaza took place. Then Egypt decided to shut down those tunnels by flooding them with sewage, after which there were far more goods entering Gaza every day through Israel’s border with Gaza than through Egypt’s. Logically speaking, if Hamas’s goal were truly to lift the blockade, it would have attacked Egypt, not Israel. But that’s not what happened, because in fact Hamas’s goal, which they spell out explicitly in their charter and are hardly shy about proclaiming at every opportunity, is the destruction of Israel. You said nothing about this in your story.

Questionable casualty figures

You reported, “The Palestinian Health Ministry says civilian deaths in Gaza came to 1,492… Gaza lost more than 500 [children].”

You reported these figures as fact despite the fact that you are surely aware that Israel strenuously disputes their accuracy, a fact you surely should have mentioned if your goal was accurate reporting, as opposed to unquestioningly parroting the Palestinian narrative.

UNRWA as unbiased source

The UNRWA in Gaza is widely regarded within Israel as under the thumb of Hamas. It is not hard to understand why, when the UNRWA official you interviewed parroted the Hamas narrative about lifting the blockade, which, as I’ve already illustrated above, is a lie. Not only did you treat the UNRWA as an unimpeachable source during your story, you offered not a single word of opposing viewpoint from the Israeli side.

Not to mention that while you mentioned briefly — half a sentence — that Palestinian militants were caught during the war hiding “weapons” in UNRWA schools, you neglected to mention three crucial details about these discoveries:

  1. they were not “weapons,” they were missiles intended to be fired at civilian targets within Israel;
  2. it is widely believed that the UNRWA knew about the weapons cached stored in their schools; and
  3. when the weapons were discovered, the UNRWA gave them back to the militants.

Palestinian vs. Israeli targeting

It is unequivocal and undisputed that Hamas fires missiles indiscriminately at civilian targets within Israel. It is unequivocal and undisputed that the Hamas tunnels dug into Israel were intended to be used for attacks on civilians. Even Hamas admits that these statements are true; they brag about targeting civilians. They are proud of it.

Furthermore, even the UN — hardly a bastion of pro-Israel sentiment — admits that Hamas positioned its missile launchers in civilian areas, hid weapons caches in schools, apartment buildings, hospitals, and other civilian facilities, and actively prevented civilians from leaving areas targeted by Israel for legitimate military reasons (the civilians knew that these areas were targeted because Israel warned them and told them to leave before attacking).

In contrast, just as in every other war Israel has ever fought, the Israeli armed forces made herculean efforts throughout the 2014 war to attack only legitimate military targets and, as noted above, warn away the “human shields” employed by Hamas whenever it was feasible to do so. Often, avoiding civilian casualties was done at the expense of increased risk of casualties to Israeli soldiers.

Yes, civilians died; civilian deaths are inevitable in a war. Yes, mistakes were made; mistakes are inevitable in a war. But not a single shred of credible evidence has been produced to prove any sort of systemic effort by Israel to attack civilian targets.

Your story said not a single word about this. Instead, you implied an offensively false equivalence between Hamas’s indiscriminate firing of missiles at exclusively civilian targets within Israel, and Israel’s destruction of civilian buildings which were being used by Hamas to shield militants and weapons, thus making them legitimate and necessary military targets.


I’d venture to say that if I read over the transcript of your story again, I’d find even more to criticize, but I’m sure by now I’ve more than made my point.

Benjamin Netanyahu once said, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” More than fifty years earlier, Golda Meir said, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” Nothing has changed.

In all that time, Israel has always wanted peace, and the Arabs have wanted to destroy Israel and kill all the Jews. Israel has always defended itself, and the world has always blamed Israel for the “sin” of doing so. During the Jewish Sabbath, Israelis have always prayed for peace (literally, it’s right there in black and white in our prayer books), and during the Muslim Sabbath, Imams in the West Bank and Gaza have always called for the slaughter of Zionist pigs and the destruction of Israel.

“Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” This basic idea could have formed the basis of an honest, accurate 60 Minutes story about the real obstacle to peace in the Middle East. What you produced instead was a perversion of journalism of which you should be ashamed.


Jonathan Kamens

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