View from America: CNN's false symmetry

'God's Holy Warriors' asks viewers to pretend Christian, Jewish and Muslim extremists are connected.

tobin 88 (photo credit: )
tobin 88
(photo credit: )
Critics of religion like to claim that the source of most of the world's ills can be traced to believers who wage wars in the name of their distorted, fanatic faiths. Indeed, in the past year this thesis has led to a spate of new books advocating atheism and deriding religion. Needless to say, critics of this trend have pointed out that the vast majority of the deaths incurred by conflicts in history's bloodiest century - the 20th - were caused by fanatical non-believers in traditional faiths in the name of their Communist, Maoist and Nazi faiths. But it must be admitted that violent religious extremists are, at this moment in time, the primary threat to the peace of the world. The only problem with this unpleasant fact is that the opprobrium rightly aimed at the perpetrators of this faith-based violence cannot be neatly distributed across the board to practitioners of the three major monotheistic religions. Though present-day Jews and Christians are not all saints, there is no getting around the fact that neither of those religions has sprouted a contemporary movement aimed at world domination to be achieved by terror and war. That honor is reserved for the Muslim faith, among whose adherents Islamist terror movements have found a home in the mainstream of its culture. NOT ALL Muslims are Islamists. Most American Muslims are nothing of the kind. But the notion that supporters of al-Qaida, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other assorted anti-Western and anti-Jewish terror movements are a tiny minority in the Arab and Muslim world is a delusion. However, in this age of political correctness to single out one group for the sins of a large number of its members is considered unfair and perhaps even racist. So, instead, we are asked to pretend that there is an intrinsic connection, or even symmetry, between Christian, Jewish and Muslim extremists. That was exactly the premise of a widely heralded three-part series on CNN last week. Titled God's Holy Warriors and fronted by famed international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, it was a tryptich across the globe to highlight the danger from Jewish, Muslim and Christian extremists, who are all given the same treatment and air-time in the guise of even-handedness. Thus, by its very structure of equating the three different situations, the series was nothing short of a brazen lie. Though all parts of the series were problematic, the first, devoted to the threat from extremist Jewish settlers and the entire network of support for the State of Israel in the US, was as classic an example of a dishonest piece of biased programming as anything that has been broadcast on a major network. Though a tiny fraction of the settlement movement, which itself commands the support of only a fraction of Israelis, has committed isolated acts of violence, the notion that this group is in any way analogous to al-Qaida is nothing short of bizarre. If anything, Jewish settlers and ordinary Israelis living inside the pre-1967 borders have themselves been the victims of the intolerance, fanaticism and violence of their Muslim neighbors. That the broadcasts' view of international law on the question of the legality of the Jewish presence in the territories is one-sided is an understatement. A strong case can be made that the Jews living in those places have every right to do so. Moreover, the idea that their living in these places constitutes the primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East is nothing short of fantastic, especially given the events of the past several years, which have shown how uninterested the Palestinians are in peace with Israel, no matter where its borders are. Even worse, the show seemingly accepts the discredited canard of Israeli and American Jewish control of American foreign policy put forth by such risible figures as former president Jimmy Carter and academic John Mearsheimer, whose views were treated with respect rather than journalistic skepticism. As such, the worldwide news network lent itself to a line of argument that has rightly been termed a modern intellectual justification for anti-Semitism. EXTREMIST MUSLIMS are a genuine threat to both peace and the West; while most settlers are no threat to anyone and are, if anything, among the primary victims of Muslim terror. As for Evangelical Christians, who were the targets of Amanpour's third program, most American Jews may disagree with most of their political positions but, to date, they have launched no terror attacks, nor do they plan any. Any analogy between them and Islamists is the figment of Amanpour's fevered imagination. If anything, their main sin, in the eyes of many Western apologists for the Islamists, seems to be their support for Jewish victims of Arab terror. CNN cannot be allowed to get away with this sort of despicable bias. Decent persons of all faiths need to speak out against this network and make sure that it, and its arrogant star Amanpour, are made to hear of our outrage at every possible opportunity and in every way possible, including the use of economic leverage by both sponsors and viewers. The writer is executive editor of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.