By Peter Hart
July 28, 2014 “ICH” – “FAIR” – Recent controversies over coverage of Gaza suggest that reporters can get into trouble over appearing too sympathetic to Palestinians (NBC‘s Ayman Mohyeldin) or too critical of some Israelis (CNN‘s Diana Magnay).
But some opinions are perfectly acceptable. On his July 27 show, CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer went on a rant about Palestinians:
In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause, a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters.
Last week, I found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel’s early leaders, which might have been said yesterday. “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children,” she said, “but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”
When he uttered these words, Israeli attacks on Gaza had killed over 1,000 people, the vast majority of them civilians, including several hundred children.
To suggest that Hamas desires that Palestinian children be murdered is offensive and irresponsible in the extreme. It’s the basic mistake of worldviews like antisemitism and Islamophobia: assuming that the people you hate lack basic human motives and instead are driven by their inhuman, alien perspective.
When Schieffer notes that this Hamas scheme “might actually be working, at least in some quarters,” he clearly means to exclude himself. As we noted earlier (FAIR Blog, 7/15/14), Schieffer expressed serious concern for Israelis who feel threatened by Hamas rockets–but no similar concern for the Palestinians who were dying due to Israeli attacks.
Perhaps Schieffer does not exhibit any concern for Palestinian lives because to do so, in his mind, would be to help Hamas win sympathy. Instead he refers back to Israeli icon Golda Meir’s callous assertion that Israel is forced to kill Palestinian children–a comment that would be only cited, one would hope, to demonstrate how political leaders should not react to the killing of children.
This is not the first time that Schieffer has exhibited this kind of attitude towards Palestinians. Back in 2006 (FAIR Action Alert, 7/19/06), Schieffer likened the conflict to an old fable:
Finally today, when the war broke out in the Middle East, the first thing I thought about was the old story of the frog and the scorpion who were trying to cross a river there. The scorpion couldn’t swim, the frog was lost. So the scorpion proposed a deal, “Give me a ride on your back, and I’ll show you the way.” The frog agreed, and the trip went fine until they got to the middle of the river, and then suddenly the scorpion just stung the frog. As they were sinking, the frog asked, in his dying breath, “Why would you do that?” To which the scorpion replied, “Because this is the Middle East.”
In Schieffer’s scenario, Palestinians are the scorpion, stinging the helpful Israelis. As he explained, Israel had withdrawn from Gaza, just like the Palestinians had demanded, and yet decided to start a war anyway: “Why would fundamentalists in Gaza and Lebanon choose to provoke this war at this time? There is no real answer except this is the Middle East.”
As FAIR pointed out, Schieffer’s sketch of that history was totally misleading: Israeli did not withdraw from Gaza, but simply redeployed its forces around its border, controlling access via air, sea and land to maintain a devastating blockade.
But to him the history clearly doesn’t matter. What matters is that CBS viewers know that Palestinians want their children to be killed–because this is the Middle East.