- ZNN (Zionist News Network)
Follow the recent story in reverse-chronological order:
Control at CNN
By Wajih Halawa
June 30, 2002
Telling the truth is difficult in these days of phony wars. Take,
for example, the case of media mogul Ted Turner, the man who brought
us the ubiquitous Cable News Network, which he built into a media
conglomerate to be reckoned with by any journalistic standard. In
an interview with Britains prominent newspaper The Guardian,
Turner attempted to shed some fairness on the issue of Palestinians
civilians suffering from the inhuman practices of the Israeli army,
arguing that both sides are engaged in terrorism.
Although Turner himself has no role in CNNs coverage of any
news items, uproar ensued against CNN immediately, with the networks
Jerusalem bureau being flooded with hate mail and threats from Israelis.
Local Israeli cable channels have decided to air Fox News instead,
and threatened to take CNN off the air for supposedly being biased
against Israel. Apparently, if the Israeli army bulldozes Palestinian
homes, or kills unarmed Palestinian civilians in cold blood using
tank shells (usually labeled a mistake by the Israeli
army), reporting on such actions is deemed biased, anti-Israel,
CNN immediately flew its top executive to Israel after Turner apologized
in an interview with Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, and the network
hastily compiled a weeklong series focusing on the victims of Palestinian
terror. An apology was also issued because an interview with the
family of a Palestinian suicide bomber received more programming
time than interviews with the family of two of his victims. According
to Eason Jordan, CNNs president of newsgathering, this was
by airing extensively the interview with the
On Monday, CNNs web site was plastered with news items about
Israeli victims of terror, a timeline of terror (mentioning
only acts of violence conducted against Israelis), and the requirement
for ousting Yasser Arafat. Number of news items discussing Palestinians
victims of Israels relentless shooting, shelling, demolitions,
arrests, torture, land confiscation, and other human rights abuses:
zero. Tuesday featured a spotlight on an Israeli paramedic, and
the stress that EMTs go through in their fight to save lives
and respond quickly to attacks on Israeli civilians (no mention
of how the Israeli army fires at Palestinian ambulances at
least Israelis are allowed medical care). Wednesdays spotlight
is on Israeli bus drivers facing terror.
A Palestinian man and his son running for cover from Israeli fire;
such images were never reported by CNN
In a final insult, yesterdays analysis of George
W. Bushs peace plan for the Middle East was moderated
by a panel consisting entirely of right-wing figures known for their
anti-Arab stances. The panel consisted of Rev. Pat Robertson, the
vehemently anti-Arab and anti-Muslim founder of the Christian Coalition;
Raanan Gissin, Ariel Sharons adviser; Rep. Tom DeLay
(R-TX), House majority whip and projected successor to Richard Armey
(who recently defended ethnic cleansing of Palestinians); Rich Lowry
of the National Review, probably Americas most right-wing
magazine; Robert Novak, right-wing political analyst for CNN; and
Carl Jeffers, a syndicated columnist.
Besides the fact that there were no representatives of the Palestinian
side to balance the exaggerations and misleading statements of Raanan
Gissin, Robert Novak was the only person to blatantly say that Bushs
speech pandered to all of Ariel Sharons demands. The panel
highlighted CNNs desperate attempts to pick up the mess left
by Ted Turner, with a lunge to the far right to avoid being abandoned
for Fox News in Israeli cable markets. Eric Alterman of MSNBC states
clearly, when the Israelis and their most right-wing supporters
rule the roost
nobody even notices the egregious bias in the
CNN deserves congratulations for stooping to a new low in unethical
journalism. It proves what weve known all along: that Israels
influence on US media and foreign policy are so great, they can
distort and hide any semblance of the truth.
Challenge CNNs Middle East Coverage
By Tom MacMaster
June 30, 2002
Atlanta, Georgia - On Sunday June 30, a sweltering summer day in
Georgia, a crowd of 150 people gathered along a busy Atlanta street
across from CNN (Cable News Network) headquarters in downtown Atlanta.
Chants of CNN Stop Lying, Palestinians are dying,
and CNN-half the story, all the time echoed along Marietta
In the aftermath of Ted Turners recent comments to a British
newspaper, Atlanta Palestine Solidarity (APS), a recently formed
Palestine advocacy group, called the demonstration in response to
what they consider to be CNNs, apparent caving in to
political and financial pressures from Israel and its supporters
in the U.S. Ted Turner, the billionaire founder of CNN, recently
accused Israel in an interview to the Manchester Guardian of engaging
in "terrorism" against the Palestinians. Though
he later apologized for his comments, the company he founded in
1981, distanced itself from him and responded by producing a five-part
documentary series on Israeli civilians killed since September 2000
titled, Victims of Terror. In addition, CNN has
created an online memorial on its website with pictures and brief
biographies of only the Israelis killed during the current Palestinian
In a statement issued by APS on June 24, the group demanded that
CNN dedicate equal coverage to the Palestinian victims killed by
Israel in an equivalent five part series. They also demanded
a complete tally of every single child, woman, elderly or innocent
Palestinian civilian be included on CNNs web page. Speaking
about the protest, APS member Adam Levenstein said, For a
fledgling group that organized this protest in less than a week,
this is pretty damn good. Levenstein also referred to
the many groups who had joined APS in sponsoring this demonstration.
These included Al-Awda - Palestine Right to Return Coalition, Palestine
Media Watch, Refuse and Resist Atlanta, Islamic Association
for Palestine, Arab-American Christians for Peace, International
Action Center and the Georgia chapter of the American Arab Anti
Tracey Green who had come with Refuse and Resist explained why
her group endorsed the call, We stand with the people around
the world and not with what the US government is doing by supporting
Israels genocide of the Palestinians.
When questioned about allegations that Israels killing of
Palestinian civilians is not equivalent to suicide attacks by Palestinian
militants, local Al-Awda organizer, Yosef Abuneaj said, Every
major human rights organization such as Amnesty International, Human
Rights Watch and B'Tselem has said that Israel targets civilians
for political purposes. Not one human rights organization
supports the ludicrous notion that Israel does not target civilians.
Since far more Palestinian civilians are thus killed by Israeli
forces than the other way around, it is clear that the Israeli army
is engaged in far greater terrorism than anything Palestinians are
capable of doing.
When questioned about CNNs current coverage, Rani El-Hajjar,
the Atlanta regional coordinator of Palestine Media Watch also objected
to CNNs adoption of what he called Israeli terminology.
El-Hajjar said that CNNs exclusion of Palestinians and
its referral to exclusively Jewish settlements as neighborhoods
is a distortion of facts; these settlements are in contravention
of internationally accepted legal norms. People are being
mislead and this must end.
The organizers of the protest promised to coordinate with other
groups around the country in a national demonstration next spring
if CNN persists in what they consider to be blatantly racist,
WITH A GLOBAL REACH
28 June 2002
If anyone was in any doubt about who was going to emerge victorious
from the public relations battle between an American billionaire
media mogul and the Israeli government, the answer was reliably
delivered by Cable News Network (CNN).
The American 24-hour television channel filled the screen with
a short message brought to the viewers in big red type: "Ted
Turner's views are his own and they do not in any way reflect the
views of CNN."
The row that followed CNN founder Ted Turner's comparison last
week of Israel's military actions in the occupied territories with
Palestinian suicide attacks -- saying both were forms of terrorism
-- was an object lesson in the intimidatory practices now routinely
employed by the Jewish lobby and the Israeli government against
the foreign media.
The only difference on this occasion was that the target of the
criticism was a television channel whose Middle East coverage is
widely seen as taking an overly sympathetic line towards Israel.
Palestinians sometimes sarcastically refer to CNN as ZNN, or the
"Zionist News Network".
Turner's comments to the London-based The Guardian newspaper, although
extreme by the standards of political opinion in the United States
and Israel, were a fair reflection of the views of the Israel-Palestinian
conflict prevalent in the rest of the world.
But as CNN officials hurriedly and repeatedly pointed out, Turner
had absolutely no editorial control over the channel.
It is a sign of how far the Israeli consensus has moved to the
right in the past 21 months of the Intifada that the Israeli government
chose to use Turner's unguarded comments as a pretext for mounting
an assault on the channel and a more predictable whipping-boy, the
The charge was led by Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin, a
member of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Likud Party, who announced
that CNN news reports were "evil, biased and unbalanced".
He added ominously: "We are considering what to do with the
CNN's chief news executive, Eason Jordan, responded by dashing
to Israel to meet Rivlin and try to damp down the fire. He apologised
for "errors" such as the decision to give more air time
to the family of suicide bomber than the mother of the child he
Yet, it was left-wing Israeli media commentator, Aviv Lavie, who
pointed out that the decision to give priority to the killer's family
satisfied all normal journalistic criteria.
In an interview with the right-wing English-language daily newspaper
The Jerusalem Post, Jordan also promised that the families of suicide
bombers would no longer be shown on the channel "unless there
is a compelling reason to do so".
This was followed by an apparently unrelated decision to begin
a five-part series called "Victims of Terror" which will
examine the way Israelis deal with the fear of suicide attacks.
Jordan was too late, however, to stop the Yes satellite company
from adding Fox news to its channel list, in what was widely interpreted
as a punishment. Rupert Murdoch, a staunch friend of Israel, is
known for interfering editorially.
Rivlin also indicated that he would approve any decision by Yes
and the consortium of three cable channels to remove CNN from their
packages. The channels said they were not planning to ban CNN or
the BBC, although some board members very publicly pressured for
a boycott. The Israeli government meanwhile appeared happy to leave
the threat of a ban hanging in the air.
An editorial in Israel's liberal Haaretz newspaper opined: "It
is difficult to avoid the impression that the meeting between Communications
Minister Reuven Rivlin and CNN's director of news was meant to prepare
the groundwork for closing the channel in Israel, whether now or
in the future."
It is a view shared by Filastin Ismael, director of the Ilam Centre
in Haifa which monitors the behaviour of the Israeli media. "It
is absurd that CNN has been pushed on to the defensive over its
coverage of the conflict when the whole Arab world, and much of
the rest of the world, sees it as sycophantically pro-Israel.
"Israel has been very quick to condemn Arab regimes for cracking
down on dissenting opinion and boast about its own democratic credentials.
But which Arab countries are threatening to ban major international
news channels like CNN and the BBC?"
The Israeli government, points out Ismael and others, has not only
been trying to threaten foreign news providers. Its own journalists
have been feeling the heavy hand of government intimidation in recent
For example, the new director general of the Israel Broadcasting
Authority, Yosef Barel, an appointment personally approved by Sharon,
has banned the use of the terms "settlement" or "settlers"
on radio and television broadcasts.
The instruction came shortly after Environment Minister Tzachi
Hanegbi objected to the frequent use of the terms in broadcasts.
Camelia Suleiman, an assistant professor of communications at Ben
Gurion University in Beersheva, is highly critical of Barel and
the government mindset he represents. Barel, she says, was a key
figure in Israeli television and radio's Arabic broadcasting, which
was directed at the Arab minority, from the 1960s.
"What Arab citizens were offered was a diet of Zionist propaganda.
Now that he is in charge of Hebrew programming, one could say he
is inflicting on Israel's Jewish journalists what its Arab journalists
have had to endure for decades."
Suleiman resigned in January from the committee overseeing the
development of Israel's first Arabic satellite channel, which was
launched this week. As the only Arab member of the committee she
was outspoken in her criticisms of the channel's programmers, who
she says had no respect for Arab culture.
She added: "The atmosphere in Israel now is one of intolerance
of different arguments. Television is becoming more and more closed
- there is just a single view of the conflict presented right across
the media. The attack on CNN is just a small part of a bigger picture
about what can and cannot be said in Israel at the moment."
Media Watch Alert]
CNN's blatant double standards: Palestinian victims do not get the
same attention as Israeli victims
June 24, 2002
In the most blatant display yet of double standards in its treatment
of innocent Palestinian and Israeli civilian victims of the violence
in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, CNN has decided to air a five
part special all this week focusing on the toll the violence has
had on Israelis and Israeli society (See: http://www.cnn.com/2002/WORLD/meast/06/23/vot.terror.one/index.html
) without any sign that it has anything similar in the works
about Palestinian victims.
In the page on its website announcing the series, CNN writes: "If
you went to a baseball game tonight and looked around, and say,
half the stadium was filled, you would see about 25,000 other fans.
If you were living in Israel, it is likely that one of you would
be killed in a terrorist attack in the next six months."
The page comes complete with heart-rending depictions of some of
the innocent victims, personal information, their background, and
two side-by-side pictures of 5 year old Gal Eisenman and her grandmother,
Noa Alon, both victims in one of the latest suicide bombings.
What is important to note is that the new series comes immediately
in the heels of a huge controversy sparked by Ted Turner, founder
of CNN and vice chairman of AOL Time Warner, for saying in a June
18, 2002, interview to the Guardian (UK): "The Palestinians
are fighting with human suicide bombers, that's all they have. The
Israelis ... they've got one of the most powerful military machines
in the world. The Palestinians have nothing. So who are the terrorists?
I would make a case that both sides are involved in terrorism."
In response to the firestorm that ensued from pro-Israeli groups
who accused Turner of equating Israeli actions against Palestinians
with terrorism, CNN came out with the following statement on June
19th: "Ted Turner has no operational or editorial oversight
of CNN. Mr. Turner's comments are his own and definitely do not
reflect the views of CNN in any way." Mr. Turner himself "clarified"
his statement by saying: "I regret any implication that I believe
the actions taken by Israel to protect its people are equal to terrorism.
... I believe the Israeli government has used excessive force to
defend itself, but that is not the same as intentionally targeting
and killing civilians with suicide bombers."
However, it is clear that neither CNN's repudiation of Turner's
comments nor Turner's penitent retraction have been deemed sufficiant
by the pro-Israeli forces. Indeed, as reported on a June 23 Haaretz
article (see full article below):
After the founder of the 24-hour news network, Ted Turner, last
week described IDF actions in the West Bank as "terrorism,"
and reports emerged Sunday that the YES satellite company was
considering taking CNN off the air as a result, the Atlanta-based
company hastily dispatched a high-level official to Jerusalem.
Over the weekend, it also suddenly began airing a promo for a
five-part series on the Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide
bombings. "A special CNN series will take you inside everyday
life in Israel and introduce you to the people whose lives are
turned around by the fear and the violence," the promo announces.
"In part one - living the nightmare of losing a loved one."
In addition to the five-part series, CNN has gone all the way and
has published on its web site the names/pictures/bio of every single
Israeli killed over the past two years, and a "special report"
on Israeli victims of terror.
In its attempt to convey the magitude of the impact of the violence
on Israeli society, CNN notes:
"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
The crucial next question now is: given that CNN cares deeply about
the effect of violence and terror on ordinary, innocent civilians,
will it have a five-part series on innocent Palestinian victims
of Israeli shelling and killing, probe into the effect of such violence
will have on Palestinian society, Palestinian childre, and will
it have the equivalent web site set up for those victims? Will we
see, for instance, the picture, name, and background info for every
single Palestinian child, woman, and elderly killed, and male civilian
who had nothing to do with the militant resistance?
Will CNN explain that
"one of every 3,648 Palestinians (713
total) has been killed in an Israeli military attack or Israeli
terrorist attack in the past 6 months. The same ratio applied
to the population of the United States would equate to 78,773
American citizens. That's more than 26 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"?
And will they note that: By the time the first Israeli was killed
from a suicide bombing in March 1, 2001 -- more than 5 months into
the second Intifada -- over 400 Palestinians had been killed by
Israeli soldiers, police, and armed settlers?
Will they also note that according to the Associated Press, there
have been a total of 242 Israeli deaths due to suicide bombers.
In the month of March, 2002, alone, the Israelis killed 248
These questions are not a rhetorical, and they need to be asked
honestly and urgently of CNN.
Below are phone numbers and email addresses for you to use in asking
the question. You can also use the interface below to send your
letter to all the main addresses in CNN (including the ones lister
For Previous alerts on CNN double standards:
CNN's pathetic pandering
Complain about CNN to The RADIO-TELEVISION NEWS DIRECTORS ASSOCIATION
CNN's Paula Zahn is no objective journalist http://www.pmwatch.org/pmw/db/alerts/display_message.asp?mid=244
CNN's outrageous glaring double standards http://www.pmwatch.org/pmw/db/alerts/display_message.asp?mid=242
CNN's new policy: Gilo is a "Jewish neighborhood" http://www.pmwatch.org/pmw/db/alerts/display_message.asp?mid=205
CNN's true colors showing http://www.pmwatch.org/pmw/db/alerts/display_message.asp?mid=197
Some contact information:
Address One CNN Center, Box 105366, Atlanta GA 30303
Email email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
CNN Washington Bureau
Address 820 First St NE, Washington DC 20002
DC Bureau Chief Kathryn Kross
DC Booking Unit (Political) Jill Neff
email@example.com 202-898-7926/7667 , Mark Allen
Address 820 1st St NE, Washington DC 20002
Anchors Howard Kurtz firstname.lastname@example.org
202-334-7535 , Bernard Kalb email@example.com
Senior Producer Jennifer Avellinio
Palestine Media Watch http://www.pmwatch.org
*The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Results of the First
Palestinian Census, September 17, 2000, (21 May 2001).
*Palestine Red Crescent Society
*The World Bank (West Bank and Gaza Strip)
*Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator (UNSCO)-Gaza
*Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza
blinks first in battle with Israeli officials
By Peter Hirschberg,
June 23, 2002
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.
After the founder of the 24-hour news network, Ted Turner, last
week described IDF actions in the West Bank as "terrorism,"
and reports emerged Sunday that the YES satellite company was considering
taking CNN off the air as a result, the Atlanta-based company hastily
dispatched a high-level official to Jerusalem.
Over the weekend, it also suddenly began airing a promo for a five-part
series on the Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide bombings. "A
special CNN series will take you inside everyday life in Israel
and introduce you to the people whose lives are turned around by
the fear and the violence," the promo announces. "In part
one - living the nightmare of losing a loved one."
Ahead of his scheduled Sunday evening meeting with Eason Jordan,
CNN's chief news executive, Communications Minister Reuven Rivlin
announced that he would not object if Israel's cable companies submitted
a request to remove the BBC - considered by many Israelis to be
the most hostile of the TV networks - and CNN from the basic broadcasting
package, with the stations being offered only to those viewers willing
to pay extra for them. Later, Rivlin said the satellite broadcaster
YES was in fact planning to submit a request to the Cable and Satellite
TV Council to cease airing the BBC and CNN.
"CNN's reports are not only anti-Israeli but also encourage
terrorism," Rivlin said. "If Turner had made these foolish
remarks in Israel, he would have been declared persona non grata,
and we are considering what to do about the network's correspondents."
Seizing the opportunity, other politicians also weighed into the
international media Sunday, with Tommy Lapid venting his wrath on
the British press - considered by many Israelis to be the most antagonistic
toward the Jewish state. "Newspapers like the Independent and
the Guardian are working in the service of the Hamas," Lapid
IDF spokesman Ron Kitri insisted all the networks were guilty of
uncritically presenting the Palestinian viewpoint. "When Saeb
Erekat accused Israel [on CNN] of massacring 500 Palestinians in
Jenin, no questions were asked," he said. "But when we
said that a few dozen were killed, we were immediately asked to
back up our claim."
While Kitri said he was opposed to pulling the plug on CNN and
BBC, he did offer alternative punitive measures: "If I have
an exclusive interview to offer," he said, "I can give
it to one network and not to another."
The YES satellite company denied the reports Sunday it was planning
to submit a request to the Cable and Satellite TV Council to cease
airing the BBC and CNN stations, but immediately after Turner's
comments were published last week, it did add Fox News - perceived
by many to be unabashedly pro-Israel - to its menu of news stations.
Army Radio ran a recorded section from a Fox program in an effort
to illustrate the contrast between Fox and CNN: "Two suicide
bombings in Israel in the last two days," announced the anchor.
"Where do the people who do these horrible deeds get the money
to do these horrible deeds?"
For all the refined talk about journalistic ethics and balance,
it also emerged Sunday that the cable companies acute sensitivity
to the public's dislike of the news networks coverage appears to
have a strong economic component - their sense that they are paying
CNN an astronomical sum for broadcast rights. "We pay CNN millions
of dollars every year," said Ran Belnikov, the director-general
of the cable companies. "This sum is over the top and unjustified."
Belnikov did submit, though, that linking the two issue "might
be a little problematic."
CNN's Jordan, though, did pick up some ammunition over the weekend
which he might well choose to utilize in his meeting with Rivlin.
In his meetings with Palestinian officials over the weekend, he
discovered, residents in the West Bank appear to be as peeved with
CNN as their Israeli counterparts.
Asked about how he views CNN coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, Ahmed Sief, a lecturer in communications at Bir Zeit University,
offered an explanation that sounded uncannily like the Palestinian
version of Rivlin: "CNN covers the Israeli point of view and
tends to ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian
side is considered less important from the news point of view and
the language of the broadcast is pro-Israeli.
chief news executive in Israel
to hear complaints
Israel Radio report (7am)
June 23, 2002
The chief news executive and news gathering president of CNN cable
television network, Eason Jordan, will meet with Communications
Minister Reuven Rivlin today.
He will hear from Rivlin about Israel's complaints regarding the
nature of the coverage the network gives to events in Israel.
Jordan said that that CNN correspondent Wolf Blitzer was assigned
the preparation of a five part series on the victims of terror attacks
Yesterday, Minister Rivlin said that he would not object to taking
CNN off the air, if he receives such a request for financial reasons
or according to requests by viewers. He said that the Yes satellite
company is about to submit a request to the Cable and Satellite
Broadcast Board to remove BBC's news channel from its basic viewing
In a radio interview, the communications minister said that should
he receive such a request, BBC executives will be called in for
a hearing, and his ministry would not object to removing the channel.
Rivlin said he would consider allowing people who wish to watch
the channels to pay for it separately.
WE WON'T BROADCAST PALESTINIANS' SUICIDE TAPES
by Hagai Krauss and Gabby Kessler
June 23, 2002
Executives at CNN have asked the correspondent Wolf Blitzer to
prepare a series of programs that will present the stories of five
families who were hurt by terrorism.
CNN executives are deeply concerned about the public mood in Israel
regarding their coverage of events in Israel and the territories.
Network executives have taken very seriously the threats by the
cable companies to stop broadcasting their channel in Israel, claiming
that such a measure would be in response to viewers' requests.
The director of the network's news division, Eason Jordan, is to
arrive in Israel today. Jordan is to meet with media and public
relations executives in Israel in the course of his urgent meetings.
The reason for his visit is the complaint about a lack of objectivity
in the network's coverage of the events and the statements made
by the founder of the network, Ted Turner, who equated between IDF
activity in the territories and the suicide bombers. Jordan is also
to meet with Communications Minister Ruby Rivlin this evening. Rivlin
said yesterday that the possibility of taking the BBC off the air
was also being examined. He said that any subscriber to cable television
would be able to receive the BBC as part of a package.
Prior to his departure, Jordan announced that CNN would not broadcast
any more video cassettes left behind by Palestinian suicide bombers
before their mission. Jordan said: a distinction needs to be made
between being fair and being balanced when youre talking about
terror. Naturally, all the parties need to be given an opportunity
to be heard, but we won't give terrorists and their supporters the
same air time we give the victims of terror, said Jordan.
Jordan instructed his editors not to broadcast the tapes left behind
by suicide bombers or the reactions of their relatives unless there
is an unusual reason. CNN officials said that similar instructions
were received about bin Laden's tapes.
The satellite television operator, Yes, began to air Fox News on
Thursday. Fox is considered to be pro-Israel and is particularly
appreciated by American Jews. Fox is considered to be CNN's most
bitter enemy and, for the first time since going on the air in 1996,
last January its ratings exceeded those of CNN.
Ted Turners original comments in the Guardian:
chief accuses Israel of terror
Oliver Burkeman in New York
Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
June 18, 2002
Ted Turner, the billionaire founder of CNN, accuses Israel today
of engaging in "terrorism" against the Palestinians, in
comments that threaten to lead to a further decline in the news
network's already poor relations with the Jewish state.
"Aren't the Israelis and the Palestinians both terrorising
each other?" says Turner, who is vice-chairman of AOL Time
Warner, which owns CNN, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.
"The Palestinians are fighting with human suicide bombers,
that's all they have. The Israelis ... they've got one of the most
powerful military machines in the world. The Palestinians have nothing.
So who are the terrorists? I would make a case that both sides are
involved in terrorism."
His remarks were last night condemned by Ariel Sharon's government,
which called them "stupid". Andrea Levin, director of
the American pro-Israeli media watchdog Camera, said the comments
were a "reprehensible" attempt to "blur the line
between perpetrator and victim".
In his first British interview since the September 11 attacks,
Mr Turner - who broke philanthropic records in 1997 when he donated
$1bn to the UN - argues that poverty and desperation are the root
cause of Palestinian suicide bombings.
But Daniel Seaman, a spokesman for the Israeli government, said:
"My only advice to Ted Turner is if people assume you are stupid,
it is just best to keep your mouth shut rather than open your mouth
and confirm everyone in that view."
Mr Turner also admits that he was wrong to call the September 11
hijackers "brave" in a speech in Rhode Island that sparked
outrage. "I made an unfortunate choice of words," he says,
adding that his ownership of the Atlanta Braves baseball team meant
the word was never far from his mind. "Look, I'm a very good
thinker, but I sometimes grab the wrong word ... I mean, I don't
type my speeches, then sit up there and read them off the teleprompter,
you know. I wing it."
Mr Turner is moved to tears at one point in the interview by the
"depressing" combination of conflicts like that in the
Middle East and the state of the environment, which he says demands
massive global attention - "or, you know ... it's goodbye".
A senior minister in Yasser Arafat's cabinet told the Guardian
he welcomed Mr Turner's comments. Many Palestinians complain just
as bitterly of a pro-Israeli bias in CNN's coverage - mocking it
as the "Zionist News Network" - as Israel complains of
a pro-Palestinian one.
"I feel it reflects a more consistent approach," said
Ghassan Khatib, Mr Arafat's newly appointed labour minister and
until recently director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications
Centre, a Palestinian media monitoring unit.
"One of the problems in trying to reduce the violence has
been the focus of so much international attention on Israeli rather
than Palestinian civilian deaths, although four times as many Palestinians
have been killed."
CNN has been a punchbag for both sides. A widespread perception
of bias among some Israelis and US supporters of Israel has prompted
several boycotts by pressure groups, urging viewers to switch to
Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel. But three months ago, in an interview
with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Mr Arafat slammed down the phone
after accusing her of anti-Palestinian bias. "You are covering
with these questions the terrorist activities of the Israeli occupation
and the Israeli crimes," he said. "Be quiet. Be fair.
Thank you, bye-bye."