Hebron and CNN
August 28, 2007
Hebron and CNN
Following screening of the CNN production “Warriors of G-d”, including a 2 hour segment dealing with Judaism and Israel, I think it appropriate to post the following two letters, between myself and Mr. Jonathan Klein, President of CNN/USA. The two letter are, I think, self-explanatory.
I must note, that following my ‘revelation,’ I notified a number of people who had, like myself, agreed to participate one way or another, with CNN. Some of them immediately ceased all contact with CNN and refused to take part in the program. Others decided to continue.
Each person can draw their own conclusions.
From: Hebron [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 5:44 PM
Subject: Cnn production of Religion and politics – produced by Andy Segal
Dear Mr. Klein,
A couple of months ago I was approached by one of your Israeli correspondents about participating in a program produced by CNN, dealing with politics and religion in Judaism. He introduced me to Mr. Andy Segal, who is producing the program, and we had several lengthy conversations, first by phone, and later in person, here in Hebron, in Israel. Our conversations were quite open and frank – I saw no reason to hide my suspicions about cooperating with CNN – the network’s reputation concerning Israel is less than positive. We discussed this at great length, and at one point Andy requested to center the program around Hebron and the Hebron Jewish community.
Following much thought and conversations with colleagues of mine, I decided to refuse Andy‘s request, but did agree to participate in a more minor role in the program, basing our response to each request on its own merits.
A couple of weeks ago Andy again made contact and we spoke of several possibilities. He was interested in speaking to a family which had experienced terror first-hand, and had chosen to remain in Hebron, despite their loss and the dangers involved. I decided to try to assist and introduced him to Mrs. Tzippy Shlissel, whose father, Rabbi Shlomo Ra’anan, was killed by terrorists in Hebron some eight and a half years ago. He met with her three times: first an introductory meeting, followed by an in-depth interview, and followed, earlier today, by a filmed interview and filming of the family, home, etc.
So far so good.
When we first discussed this project I asked Andy who was responsible for writing the script. He told me that he would be working on it, but there would be others involved. To the best of my recollection, my impression was that he was ‘in charge’ and for the most part, would determine the outlook of the script and would be ‘on top’ of the entire project.
This afternoon, that illusion shattered when he mentioned to me that in a few months, the chief international CNN correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, would be coming to Israel and would probably also want to speak with Mrs. Shlissel. Almost in shock, I asked him what her role is in this project. He told me that she is the narrator. I asked if she would have anything to do with writing the script and was told that “I will write the first draft.” “Will she have anything to do with writing the final draft?” “Yes.”
I then told Andy that had I known she was involved with this project I would not have had anything at all to do with it.
I am personally familiar with Christiane Amanpour. A number of years ago (about 10 years ago) she interviewed me. I had the dubious pleasure to have her yell and scream at me on camera. She obviously wanted me to scream back, so as to show her viewers ‘an extremist from Hebron’ exploding on camera. I refused to play into her hands and answered all her questions with a relaxed, calm smile on my face. However, I never forgot the interview. I haven’t been yelled at, on camera, by too many journalists.
How can CNN produce an ‘objective program’ about Israel and religious settlers, when one of the prime elements of the program is known to be vehemently ‘anti-Israel’ and certainly ‘anti-settlers,’ so to speak? Her reputation is so blatantly prejudiced. For example: http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/anderson.cooper.360/blog/2006/03/from-terrorism-to-trash -collection_28.html
So when people ask: “Why did the Palestinian people elect a terrorist group?” The answer is because they see them as a lifeline.
Each time I go to the Palestinian territory of Gaza, I am shocked by the reality on the ground. On a recent visit, I passed through a short tunnel from the First World in Israel and emerged into the Third World that is Gaza. The poverty there is among the worst in the world.
Hamas officials told me they did not expect to win the election as overwhelmingly as they did. They say their main priority now is to meet the demands of the people for a better life.
But that may be impossible, because Israel and the United States refuse to deal with Hamas and have already cut funding to the new Palestinian government.
Posted By Christiane Amanpour, CNN Correspondent: 11:03 AM ET
A woman who justifies and backs Hamas is going to deal ‘fairly’ with Jews in Hebron, or anywhere else in Judea and Samaria? She is going to present us as ‘religious nuts and fanatics’ who are endangering world peace. She is certainly not going to present anything that could be considered positive concerning us, our lifestyles or our beliefs. She is certainly not going to present a balanced, objective program dealing with religious Jews and Eretz Yisrael.
I basically told Andy that I was out – and wouldn’t have anything more to do with the project. I put a rather large degree of trust in Andy – I believed that he had the possibility to present an object, balanced program. However, I cannot have any trust whatsoever in Christiane Amanpour, whose reputation stands before her.
Andy Segal told me that you are responsible for this project, that you initiated it. Without being presumptuous, I think it fair to demand that Christiane Amanpour be removed from this project. I cannot imagine that such a biased person could have anything to do with a project dealing with religion and politics in Israel. The results are a foregone conclusion, even before the cameras start rolling. The question is whether the program you are producing is to be an interesting objective account of religion and politics in Israel, or another CNN-produced Israel (settler)-bashing?
I await your reply and hope, very much, to learn that Ms. Amanpour will no longer have anything to do with this project.
The Jewish Community of Hebron
From: Klein, Jon [mailto: mail?view=cm&tf=0&to=Jon.Klein@turner.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 13, 2007 6:41 PM
Subject: Response to your email dated January 30, 2007
February 13, 2007
Mr. David Wilder
The Jewish Community of Hebron
February 12, 2007
Dear Mr. Wilder,
Let me begin by thanking you for your comments. I am sorry that the Jewish Community of Hebron has chosen not to be represented in our documentary. Our mission is to produce a program that goes far beyond what is normally seen in daily news broadcasts so that our viewers can better understand the people who risk their lives — and their children’s – to live on land they believe is their birthright: Jerusalem and the West Bank. Our goal is not to find fault or fix blame — but to simply understand. To that end, I believe that you are missing a prime opportunity to be heard, not only in the United States, but in 180 countries around the world, and I would ask you to reconsider.
Regardless of your decision, I stand by CNN’s reputation as a fair and impartial source of information. On conflicts as heated and long-standing as that between Israel and the Palestinians it is not surprising that “both sides” are at times unhappy with our reporting. We often hear that we are biased towards the other side, and that may be the surest indication of our impartiality.
Christiane Amanpour is one of our most talented and prominent international correspondents, and she is supported by a team of our strongest producers. In fact Andy Segal, our senior producer, is one of the best. As you probably have discovered, Andy comes to the table prepared. He is fair, honorable and ethical – a journalist who takes his work very seriously. He has produced a number of award-winning documentaries. Andy and his team are researching, producing and writing this documentary, and you can be assured that his reporting will shape the final program. As a spokesman for a prominent organization, I am sure you appreciate the need for others input before you represent the positions and views of Hebron’s Jewish community. The same is true at CNN – not only will Ms. Amanpour have input, but so will editors and executives, to insure journalist standards and practices are met. In the end a program like this will be fully vetted and sourced.
I can honestly say that if you decide not to contribute to this program – perhaps the fullest exploration of this issue ever seen on western television – you may regret missing the opportunity to let millions of viewers understand your story. I hope you will reconsider your decision, but if not, you can be assured the program will meet the highest standards of journalism.
President, CNN U.S.
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New York, NY 10019