Published in The Jewish Press
Those who for years perceived and complained about a media bias against Israel in the Arab –Israeli conflict by CNN now have extraordinary proof straight from the mouth of its Bureau Chief and Senior Middle East Correspondent for the last three years, Mr. Walter Rodgers.
Last December I had the opportunity to have an hour long interview with Mr. Rodgers for my radio show in Kansas City, Missouri at the CNN Bureau in Jerusalem, Israel.
Despite Mr. Rodgers repeated denials of bias against Israel in his reporting, his personal anti Israel and Pro- Arabist views and opinions can explain why Mr. Rodgers is not a journalist who does not have a ”dog in the fight”, as he insists , but rather a journalist advocate who has immense power to adversely affect Israel’s public image in the world with serious international repercussions.
In response to my questions of bias in CNN reporting , Mr. Rodgers got angry, firmly denying the allegations, stating, “We hold up a mirror to Israeli society and if you don’t like what you see, well don’t break the mirror because all we are is the mirror.”
But his personal interpretations of Jewish and Israeli history and the nature of the Arab- Israeli conflict are so shockingly out of the mainstream and so skewed that Mr. Rodgers is anything but a mirror.
“ If you look at the history of the conflict, there have been so many lies and distortions,” Mr. Rodgers said. “ For example, the Israelis say Jerusalem has been their undivided capital for 4,000 years. That’s garbage. So many empires have come through this part of the world that Israel once was Egypt, was once part of the Roman Empire, the Greek Empire and the Syrian Empire. Everybody has a right to claim a portion of this area, depending on what period of history you’re in.”
“I get letters from people here ( Israel) saying it is a fact that God gave the land of Israel to the Jews and that’s it. My rejoinder to that is, “Well, if that is such a sure fact, why did God take it a away from the Children of Israel and give it to the Romans., Greeks or the Babylonians for awhile?”
“…Don’t use history as a basis for real estate claims,” Mr. Rodgers added, “That’s like people saying” The Bible says…The Bible says , you should stone your own children if they talk back to you. Do you do that? That being the case, you don’t settle real estate on the basis of the Bible.”
Referring to the history of modern-day Israel, the CNN Chief Correspondent claimed that , “Israel started more wars with the Arabs than the Arabs started with Israel,” stating,” In 1948 , the Arabs started the war, but the Israelis were quietly anticipating and preparing for a war and that’s why they won in 1948. The Israelis started the 1967 war. The 1973 war the Israelis did not start , but they benefitted enormously. The Israelis started the 1982 Operation Peace for Galilee, as the Israelis call it, on a total false pretense.”
In addition to these comments about history, Mr. Rodgers attributes most of the blame for the lack of real and warm peace between the Israelis and the Egyptians, Jordanians and Palestinians to the lack of Israel’s spirit of good will.
“Warm relationship are very difficult when you have a Prime Minster like Mr. Netanyahu who boasts privately, “I know these Arabs. The only thing they understand is power and I am going to give them a taste of power.” Well, that being the case you don’t have kind of peace when you go around humiliating people and the Palestinians have been badly humiliated.”
“The Egyptians, “Walter said, “have a problem in establishing a warm peace with Israel because they are afraid of Israel. They have been beaten by Israel over and over again in wars. They have been humiliated. Until you can help them out of that sense of humiliation, you are not going to have a warm peace.”
Mr. Rodgers concluded by pointing a finger of blame at Israel with a stereotypical comment about the greedy Jewish businessmen. “ The problem with Shimon Peres’ ideas of a Middle East common market is the Arabs are so afraid after being humiliated by Israel over and over again that they don’t trust Israeli business men because they think the Israeli businessmen are going to come in and take all the profits and use them as slaves and then run off with their money and there is nothing in it for the Egyptians or the Jordanians.”
When I responded to this comment by saying that Israel gave land to the Arabs and that most countries didn’t give anything after wars, such as the United Sates, which didn’t give Texas or New Mexico back to Mexico, Mr. Rodgers responded that Israel didn’t give a “darn thing” to Jordan and gave the Sinai back to Egypt that it took from them in the war. He added that
he” wouldn’t think of comparing Israel’s record toward conquered people with the Americans because the Americans were far more magnanimous and far more generous and rebuilt Japan and Germany into economic powerhouses.”
“Count the Marshall Plan dollars and then show me what Israel poured into any Arab area that is the equivalent thereof.”
In response to my claim that Israel is so little and does not have such resources, Mr. Rodgers replied that he does not buy such claims and that Israel should stop hiding behind the phrase that Israel is such a small country.
“Israel is a regional superpower with nuclear weapons, a huge chemical and biological warfare stockpile , 4000 tanks and has the sixth largest air force in the world and a huge army…If you think Israel is little, talk to the Arabs. They feel scared and intimidated by mighty Israel.”
Lastly, he disagree with my assertion that the Hezbollah fighters in Southern Lebanon are terrorists, saying, “Hezbollah are indigenous Lebanese Shiite guerrillas who want to evict the Israeli army from South Lebanon…Israel is occupying South Lebanon and that is their homeland. Are they terrorists if they try to throw out a military occupation force being the Israeli army..?”
“What was it when Israel shelled Kana last year and killed 113 or 115 Lebanese with artillery shells? There are many kinds of terror. If Israel occupies a foreign country and kills people up there for whatever reason, is that state terrorism?…”
CNN is seen in well over a hundred countries and is one of the most watched and relied upon news organizations in the world. It is essential that such an organization’s reports from such a sensitive and potentially explosive region as the Middle East be objective. Media manipulation can change public opinion which then pressures leaders to implement bad, even dangerous,politics.