CNN negates Palestinian victims and international law

Bowing to strong Israeli pressure, CNN is to broadcast a special series profiling Israeli victims of terror. Ha’aretz newspaper reported on June 24th that:

“After months of gnawing agitation over what they perceive as the pro-Palestinian bias of the international media, Israeli officials, and not a small portion of the public, were able to rub their hands with some glee Sunday as the mighty CNN news network appeared to be succumbing to the latest round of anti-media pique in Israel.”
“Since January 2002, about 225 Israeli citizens have been killed in terrorist attacks, suicide bombings or shooting rampages targeting innocent civilians at home, on buses, on city streets, at weddings, in discos or pizzerias,” says the CNN website introduction to the series which will be televised over several nights.

“Living with the fear and pain of terror has become a part of daily life for Israelis in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Netanya and in neighborhoods in the West Bank and Gaza,” continues CNN.

This description — which labels illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip merely as “neighborhoods”—reads exactly like an Israeli government press release, rather than the reporting of a responsible and objective media organization.

Continuing directly from the standard Israeli government script that compares Israel’s ongoing and violent colonization of the Gaza Strip and West Bank (including East Jerusalem) to the United States ‘War on Terrorism’, CNN states:

“One of every 26,392 Israelis has been killed in a terrorist attack in the past six months. The same ratio applied to the population of the United States would equate to 10,888 American citizens. That’s more than three times the number of people killed in the September 11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and aboard United Airlines Flight 93.”
Palestinians excluded

Astonishingly, neither the website nor the planned series profile any of the more than 1,000 unarmed Palestinian civilians—one quarter of them children—killed or any of the 19,452 Palestinians injured in the past 21 months by Israeli occupation forces.

Six-year-old Ahmed Abu Aziz was one of three Palestinian children killed in Jenin on June 21 when Israeli tanks opened fire on a marketplace with tank shells for the purpose of crowd control. CNN’s series “Victims of Terror,” does not see fit to tell the story of Ahmed, or any of the hundreds of other Palestinian children who have been killed in similar circumstances.

The blatant omission of Palestinians is a clear indication that CNN accepts Israel’s arguments that Palestinians killed in their bedrooms, streets, refugee camps, and fields by heavily armed Israeli occupation troops are neither innocent nor “Victims of Terror.”

In recent weeks, CNN anchors have identified openly with Israel. On June 19, following news of the latest suicide bombings a CNN on-air anchor told Israeli Cabinet Minister Natan Sharansky:

“This is brutal, this is brutal, and we send our condolences.”
While many viewers share those sentiments, we have not been able to find a single example of a CNN anchor describing any of Israel’s actions as “brutal,” even though international human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have used the term ‘war crimes,’ let alone offering the network’s “condolences” to any Palestinian spokesperson on any of the innocent Palestinians killed by Israel.

CNN under pressure

The CNN cave-in came after more than a week of renewed Israeli pressure and threats over its alleged ‘pro-Palestinian’ bias.

The latest accusations were sparked by comments made by CNN founder Ted Turner saying that by targeting and killing innocent civilians, both Israelis and Palestinians were using “terrorism.”

These statements were followed by threats from Israel’s main cable TV distributor “Yes” to pull the plug on CNN, as well as on the BBC, also accused of bias. Israel’s Communications minister Reuven Rivlin, was quoted in Ha’aretz saying that he would “not object” to such a blatant measure of blackmail and censorship against the international media.

Yet, while CNN caves in to charges of ‘pro-Palestinian’ bias, at least one of Israel’s top public relations officials said that he has found no pro-Palestinian bias. Alon Pinkas, Israel’s Consul-General in New York, who sometimes appears on US television six or seven times per day, said in an interview in Ha’aretz that:

CNN has different stations. There were certain coverage problems with CNN International, which is what people in Israel see. The American CNN, in contrast, is balanced, and so is CNN Headline News, which is more informative. I ran into Walter Isaacson, the president of CNN, at a social event, and he told me that they are aware of the criticism and are trying to keep things balanced, and he asked for my opinion. I monitor the programs of Aaron Brown, Paula Zahn, Larry King and `Crossfire.’ No one can tell me that there is a pro-Palestinian bias on those programs.”
Pinkas dismissed as “nonsense” charges made by pro-Israeli groups such as CAMERA, that CNN and other networks are ‘anti-Israeli’:
“Despite all the complaints, I think that overall, the American press is balanced and fair. Since September 11, there has been much more of a pro-Israel than anti-Israel tendency in the American media. I don’t see any increase in pro-Palestinian tendencies.”

Source: “Don’t blame the messenger,” Ha’aretz, 21 June 2002.


1. Innocent victims - It is unacceptable that CNN should run a series on the innocent victims of only one of the two communities in this conflict. It is not problematic that CNN wishes to run a series on Israeli victims. It is problematic that no comparable series is offered for the many thousands of Palestinians that have been killed and injured during the last 21 months, or that Palestinians are not included as part of the series.

Since the Palestinian uprising started in late September 2000, more than 1,500 Palestinians, and more than 500 Israelis have been killed, the vast majority on both sides being unarmed civilians. Most of the deadly violence against innocent civilians, therefore, has been committed by Israeli forces and has been directed at Palestinians.

Physicians for Human Rights USA which investigated the high number of Palestinian deaths and injuries in the first months of the Intifada, concluded that:

“the pattern of injuries seen in many victims did not reflect IDF [Israel Defense Forces] use of firearms in life-threatening situations but rather indicated targeting solely for the purpose of wounding or killing.”

Source: PHR USA, 22 November 2000.

Reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and others confirm this pattern.

2. Misrepresenting reality - Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land are a violation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states:

The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Israeli settlements are grave violations of international law. The phrase “neighborhoods” obfuscates this reality.

CNN’s adoption of 9/11 analogies acts to justify Israel’s ongoing destruction of the Palestinian civil infrastructure. Destroying Palestinian school records, shelling and burning shops, widespread looting, the demolition of electricity and water infrastructure, permanently holding 3 million civilians hostage under siege and regularly putting 2 million civilians under curfew are hardly actions aimed at “rooting out the infrastructure of terror” as claimed.

During the Oslo peace process, the Intifada, and the recent Israeli incursions, Israel’s ongoing land confiscation and settlement on Palestinian land has not ceased for a single day. This is not a defensive “war against terror” but an ongoing and illegal process of colonisation.


Write to CNN ombudsman Rick Davis [action item now closed]:

1. Citing CNN’s, Victims of Terror series.

2. Asking what CNN will be doing to profile Palestinian victims of Israeli violence. Were we to port the statistics to America, since the beginning of the Intifada more than 100,000 unarmed Americans would have been killed and around 3,000,000 Americans injured.

3. Stressing that CNN’s use of the term “neighborhoods” to describe Jewish settlements in the occupied territories obsfucates their illegality under international law (Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention) and fails to recognise that many settlements are, in essence, military bases.

4. Noting that Israel’s continuing colonisation of the West Bank and Gaza throughout the entirety of the peace process and Intifada continues to be the primary driving force behind the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Any linguistic normalisation of the status of these illegal settlements does a disservice to viewers that CNN presumably seeks to inform.

5. Please write an original letter and do not simply copy and paste the information above. As always, be brief, polite, quote accurately, and include your name, address, and telephone number (which most publications require to ensure publication).

This action item (#29, 25 June 2002) was prepared by Michael Brown, Ali Abunimah, and Nigel Parry.