"Sixty Minutes" Scores Twice with Coverage of Israeli Torture, Jerusalem

By Holden, Kurt | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, February 1997 | Go to article overview

"Sixty Minutes" Scores Twice with Coverage of Israeli Torture, Jerusalem


Holden, Kurt, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


"Sixty Minutes" Scores Twice With Coverage of Israeli Torture, Jerusalem

The most-viewed news program on U.S. television, "Sixty Minutes," also is the most fearless when it comes to bringing up the ugly side of Israel -- an otherwise near total taboo on both U.S. network and public television. On Dec. 15 Bob Simons, a regular CBS correspondent in Israel but not a regular on "Sixty Minutes," hosted a 20-minute segment on the financing by American Jewish millionaires of West Bank settlers and the extremist Ateret Cohanim organization, which is implanting Jewish institutions and individuals in the Christian and Muslim quarters of Jerusalem's Old City.

The program focused on Dr. Irving Moskowitz, described in the July issue of this magazine as a "sleaze strip czar" (p. 63), who transfers his profits from a bingo parlor in a tiny suburb of Los Angeles through tax-exempt U.S. Jewish organizations to fund activities that six other U.S. presidents, and now even Bill Clinton, have called "obstacles to peace."

Alleging that Moskowitz has donated $2.3 million to American Friends of Ateret Cohanim "and millions more to other organizations with the same purpose," Simon interviewed former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benveniste. "[Moskowitz] should know the price that ordinary people in this city are paying for his deeds," Benveniste said angrily.

He pointed out that it was Moskowitz, through his U.S. tax-exempt donations, who paid for the opening last September of the tunnel connecting the Western Wall, sacred to Orthodox Jews, with Arab quarters of the Old City, setting off rioting in which 60 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers were killed. Moskowitz actually was the guest of honor at the surreptitious opening of the tunnel by Israeli soldiers in the middle of the night, as film footage shown on the program proved.

"Your government is supporting all the friction and violence because it's tax deductible in the United States," Benveniste charged. Simon bore out the charge, pointing out that in its tax filings the U.S. organization through which Moskowitz funnels his donations to Israel says its purpose is to "support Yishivas (Jewish religious schools)" but in its fund-raising literature it boasts that its purpose is "to purchase and restore former Jewish properties in the Old City."

Two weeks earlier a 20-minute segment narrated by "Sixty Minutes" regular Steve Croft pointed out that Israel is the only country in the world where the use of torture in police interrogations not only is practiced extensively, but where its use actually is authorized in the legal code. Interspersing clips of an Israeli official denying that his government sanctions the use of torture with interviews with Palestinians who had been tortured, and with extracts from the law specifying exactly how much torture may be applied in specific circumstances, the program made a dramatic case for the paradox that Israel is the largest recipient of foreign aid from a country that supposedly denies foreign aid to countries with bad human rights records. …

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