'60 Minutes' Chides Israeli Envoy for Interfering in Segment

Sunday's segment discussed exodus of Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and West Bank; veteran reporter Bob Simon tells Israel's Washington envoy that he had never received a reaction to a story that hadn't been broadcast yet.

Natasha Mozgovaya
Natasha Mozgovaya
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Natasha Mozgovaya
Natasha Mozgovaya

WASHINGTON - A correspondent on U.S. news program "60 Minutes" has scolded Israel's ambassador on air for trying to influence a segment by phoning the show's executive producer while reporting was still underway.

Sunday's segment discussed the exodus of Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem and West Bank cities such as Bethlehem. Veteran reporter Bob Simon tells Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, that he had never received a reaction to a story that hadn't been broadcast yet.

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. Credit: AFP

"There's a first time for everything, Bob," Oren said, adding that "I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador."

Oren said it seemed to him "outrageous, completely incomprehensible" that the network, CBS, was airing its story at a time when "Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred .... You got me a little bit mystified."

A senior Israeli diplomat told Haaretz that "the relationship between Israel and the Christian world is our strategic interest, and when we received several months ago information about this report and that it was planned for broadcast without any reaction by Israeli officials, Ambassador Oren did what a diplomat is supposed to do to prevent serious damage."

According to the diplomat, "The final result was simply a biased report touching on several familiar issues that should be resolved between Israel and the Palestinians."

Reactions over the blogosphere varied widely - from praises that Simon "exposed the way the Israeli government tries to silence everybody," to complaints that the story was biased as Israel said it was.

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