Exclusive: The Real Story of CNN’s Firing of Jerusalem Bureau Journalists

February 22, 2012 10:48 am 19 comments

CNN center newsroom. Photo: Altair78.

CNN’s decision to fire four Jewish Israeli journalists from the cable network’s Jerusalem bureau earlier this month was due in part to their religion and nationality, and to their perceived inability to operate freely throughout the Middle East, the Algemeiner has learned.

“The fact is, just Jewish Israelis were fired from CNN,” said a source who was directly involved in the layoffs and who requested anonymity. While reports said CNN had fired all its Jewish workers from the bureau, the source told the Algemeiner that “they left 2 Jewish Israeli journalists but here’s the catch, they’re each  working one shift a week for 8 hours.”

According to the person involved in this matter, CNN’s belief, including that of bureau chief Kevin Flower, was that Jewish Israelis would not be allowed or welcomed into Gaza, the West Bank and other countries in the region, so it made the most sense to cut those who might become a problem.

The source charged that CNN is considering replacing the fired staff members with hires in other countries in the region.  The person said “I understand they are planning on changing their coverage, it might be that the staff won’t be based in Israel even, and if a story happens in Israel, they will take the first flight and cover it, and so an Israeli is a pain in the neck for them.”

On February 15th, Turner Broadcasting, the parent company of CNN, posted a job listing, with the following description:

The Jerusalem photojournalist is responsible for recording images and sound to illustrate CNN news events and stories as well as editing and feeding video.

The location for the position is posted as “United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi.”.

In early February, soon after CNN announced it was reducing its headcount in Jerusalem by firing four of its 10-person staff there, the network denied reports that it was cutting only Jewish Israelis because of their background. At the time, the Atlanta-based media outlet issued a statement saying, “CNN strongly rejects any suggestion that the reorganization in the Jerusalem bureau is in any way based on the small number of contract employees concerned being Israeli, particularly given CNN’s long history of working with locals in the region.”

The current staff of CNN’s Jerusalem bureau consists of bureau chief Kevin Flower, Flower’s administrative assistant, who is Jewish, an Israeli Arab producer, a Spanish correspondent with Israeli identification and the two Jewish Israeli’s working one shift each per week, according to the source. “One Palestinian producer remains at the bureau but he has Israeli identification,” this person said, charging that the Arab Israeli from East Jerusalem is “working for the Palestinian cause.”

At the time of publication, CNN’s public relations office in Atlanta and their bureau  in Jerusalem had not responded to The Algemeiner’s requests for comment on this story.

Moreover, according to the source at least one of the people who was let go was informed by phone, a practice that is illegal in Israel. Yair Green, a lawyer at the Moshe Kahan law firm in Tel Aviv, said that in Israel, before someone is fired, “an in person hearing needs to be conducted.”

The source quoted Kevin Flower as saying that the bureau was cutting its staff to conform with other bureaus. But the person quoted Flower as telling staffers that “we need journalists but we will need journalists that are able to go to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and to all the Middle East.”

Part of CNN’s statement in response to the backlash from this incident spoke about “operational and technological efficiency”.

“CNN has recently reviewed its worldwide operations, an exercise we do regularly to ensure operational and technological efficiency in everything we do. As part of this exercise, we have reorganized the CNN bureau in Jerusalem.”

The source made it clear that CNN’s decision to downsize was understandable. “From my point of view, they were fired because they are Israeli,” this person told the Algemeiner.

19 Comments

  • HonestReporting – http://honestreporting.com/cnn-falls-victim-to-internet-smear/

    …From here it was only a small step towards serious accusations of anti-Semitism. But since bloggers are not held to the same professional standards of fact checking as the mainstream media, we at HonestReporting felt ethically bound to dig deeper into the story.

    From our own base in Jerusalem, we have seen for ourselves many foreign media outlets downsizing, mainly due to budgetary considerations but also as the Middle East story starts to move elsewhere. We contacted our own sources in the local media and CNN itself to get to the bottom of the story.

    A little fact-checking led us to the original downsizing story, published as far back as January 23. The Walla article raised legitimate concerns about potential consequences for balanced reporting in the CNN bureau but did not cross the line into accusations of anti-Semitism.

    If CNN really had deliberately targeted Jewish employees based solely on their ethnicity, surely this would have been a scandal that would have made far bigger waves in the Israeli press at the time as well as beyond?

    There is further incorrect speculation that the Jewish employees we have are in low level positions. The highest level positions after the bureau chief are our two producers, one of whom is an Israeli Jew.

    This obviously contradicts the Internet rumor that only Arab staff remained after the downsizing.

    This, however, raises a possibility that some bloggers have failed to consider. In Israel, the rights of contract workers (or lack of) have recently come to the fore. In any downsizing of an organization or company, it is the higher paid workers who may be most at risk. It is entirely possible that CNN’s Jewish employees were on higher salaries than their Arab co-workers.

    This raises other issues of inequality within Israel, which is a genuine problem – but not the one that CNN is accused of.

    HonestReporting holds the media to account when it promotes stories based on hearsay, speculation or faulty analysis that fits a preconceived framework. Faced with the evidence that we have seen and our own conversations with media professionals based in Jerusalem, we have concluded that the charges laid at CNN’s door are speculative at best.

    Update: Making sense of the numbers

    A number of readers have raised valid points concerning the balance of the CNN bureau following the downsizing so, based on CNN’s information, we’ve done the math.
    • There were originally 11 members of staff, 8 of whom were Israeli Jews.
    • There are now 4 Israeli Jews left in addition to the non-Jewish bureau chief Kevin Flower out of a total staff of 7.
    • Based on these numbers there are potentially only two Arab members of staff – the same number that existed before the downsizing.

    • The issue was made By the French journalist grumberg
      Which was what the journalist staffing numbers remaining in the Israel bureau may mean to reporting. THAT

      1) CNN evaded the question and did Not answer questions that would illuminate
      2) that it appears despite the 7 staff there are not journalists among the remaining Jewish Israelis working there.

      If grumbergs report is an accurate representation of his conversation with CNN
      Then
      4)” honest reporting “- no offence to their hopefull sincere moniker of intent; has only further obfuscated and confused what Grumberg’s account makes obvious

      CNN feels it is a proxy for the news that should be obeyed, without questioning.
      There are no Jewish reporters likely representing the CNN Israel Bureau
      Yes it is apparent a literal employee number error was made. It. Was/ is not the point.
      Excerpted below

      To the question: “How many Jewish journalists and how many arab journalists are left in the bureau now? Are you going to replace the four israelis that were fired by four arabs, or by no one? An Arab and an Israeli used to work with each other on subjects, is this still going to be the case? How will you achieve that without Jewish journalists?”
       
      CNN’s response was: “There are 4 Jewish employees out of 7. One bureau chief. This information should be reflected in your piece. And we repeat that there is no basis for your question below about “no Jewish journalists”. Please amend your piece accordingly.”
       
      I restated my question -again-: “Again, out of the 4 Jewish employes now, how many are journalists?”
       
      That was three days ago, and guess what: she never got back to me. And if I did not get an answer, it is because the answer would have unmasked CNN manipulative narrative, and confirm my first article.
       
      Now here is the new scoop. I found the answers that CNN hid, and I give them to you as an exclusive.
       
      True, there still are four Jewish employees at CNN after they expelled four prominent Jewish journalists.
       
      There is one Field producer, full-time.
      The second person is an engineer, he deals with computers, satellites, and live broadcasts transmission.
      The other two are eight hours per week desk employes, ie answering the phone, and typing cables.
       
      The outcome of this story is that CNN PR, and CNN Spokesperson lied to me, playing with words to make me believe that Jerusalem bureau has four Jewish journalists, and they tried to apply pressure with this deception so that I would censor my article.
       
      CNN: In which closet are you hiding Israeli journalists to ensure honest reporting on the Arab-Palestinian conflict? Who is delivering the propaganda packaged now?
       
      Reproduction is authorized, and even actively encouraged, with the following information and html link below:

  • This whole thing may be different than what “a source who was directly involved in the layoffs and who requested anonymity” said to the Algemeiner reporter. Honest Reporting has a differerent take on this matter: http://honestreporting.com/cnn-falls-victim-to-internet-smear/

  • Brad Brzezinski

    Although CNN’s move counts as discrimination by today’s PC standards, the fact is that it is extremely inconvenient to have employees that come with restrictions, as do Jews in this case.

    What makes CNN truly culpable is that they tried to hide what happened and additionally, their reporting tends to cover up the fact that Jews still suffer discrimination because of blatant antisemitism in the Arab and Muslim arena.

  • Steve Bronfman

    I don’t think the article is clear enough. As I understand it there were originally 8 Journalists at the CNN office there. 4 Arabs and 4 Jews but now the 4 Jews have been fired leaving only the Arabs.

  • Sergio HaDaR Tezza

    The REAL reason for the disappearance of Jews among foreign (and not only) journalists covering the Middle East and Israel for major news networks, is the FACT that they are giving-in to terror organizations and regimes who discriminate against Jews and do not allow them in or endanger their lives; which is tantamount to say that being a Jewish journalist in the Jewish State and not only, is a DANGEROUS DISADVANTAGE.
    In fact, Jews are BANNED from entering most Fatah or Hamas controlled areas, and in case they are allowed to do it because of a non Israeli passport, they are dissuaded by facts on the ground, among which the presence of EXCLUSIVELY ARAB stringers which ALL the news organizations use to do their work in the territories under palestin-ist control.
    Stringers MUST have the OK of Hamas or Fatah to be able to work there.

  • I am the French Israeli journalist who first published the story, and I was right to translate it in (not so good) English, because my French article did not impress anyone, but my English version had CNN to react, and CNN PR to contact me several times.

    This article mentions reflect my findings. I had most of the information, but I was asked not to reveal when I broke the story, because one of the fired journalist was afraid.

    One or two important remarks.

    The two remaining israelis are not journalists at all, they are desk people, ie answering the phone, typing cables, and they work 8 hours a week.

    CNN said they needed to hire non israelis so they could cover arab countries, but one of the fired journalist used to go there, and he told me he did not find their explanation to be honest.

  • Wow! There is a strong, solid message being sent by this action that completely contradicts what CNN typically likes to broadcast. They have acknowledged that EVERYONE can move around safely in Israel and won’t be a “problem” which contradicts the so-called Israeli apartheid that anti-Israelites have been telling everyone about. In addition, they have acknowledged that Jewish people may face discrimination and possibly danger in other areas surrounding Israel which confirms that there is a PROBLEM in the other areas, not in Israel. Way to go CNN!! But give those people back their jobs. They are NOT the problem!!

  • Perhaps they will hire Moslems… they are welcome all around the area and I am SURE they will give a straight down the middle news report… I wonder if in the Mecca or Medina news office they fired all the Moslems…

  • There is no way on earth that dismissing only Jewish staff in Israel is NOT discriminatory. If only journalists who are “welcome” in non-Jewish areas of the Middle East are going to continue working for you, that means that in much of the area, your company will also not be allowing FEMALE journalists.
    I am not Jewish, but, I am a woman and a journalist. I find such racist, protectionist, sexist, discriminatory policies and their implementation to be abhorrent. It is quite clear to anyone whose eyes are open and has been alive at any time in the last 2,000 years that favoritism is alive and well at CNN.
    One of the first and most important rules of REAL journalism is that reporting be done honestly, accurately, and without personal bias of any sort. Any so-called journalists you have left in that bureau are apparently not going to be able to do their jobs without bias of some sort.
    I am only one person, but I have a big mouth and a bigger pen and keyboard. The best advertisement is a satisfied customer; however, for every one satisfied customer, there are ten who are unsatisfied, generally speaking. In my experience, a dissatisfied customer is going to tell everybody she knows, and urge them to spread the word.
    This comes from the woman who has been boycotting Taco Bell, Burger King, and now Nike products for over two years because they are corporate sponsors of the Philadelphia Eagles, who had the bad judgment to bring back Michael Vick after his dog-torturing debacle. As far as many of us with consciences believe, if a “man” will do that to dogs, he will do it to human beings.
    You should be ashamed to call yourselves a news agency. Why not just go ahead and call yourselves a bought-and-paid-for propaganda agency? With the bias you are exhibiting towards Jews and, indirectly, toward women, that is all you are.
    After sending this to all my friends, I will be blocking CNN on all the televisions in my home.

    • I just want to say THANK YOU! You said it better than could have.
      I’ve been uncomfortable with CNN for quite some time now, but this action proves it!
      And they say Fox News is biased! Huh!

  • REALLY CNN are Anti Jews i live in USA FOR 45years i never WATCH CNN THE NEVER TEL THE TRUE ALL LIES I HERE THE OWNER OFF CNN IS MUSLIM THE KING FROM SAUDI HE BUY CNN
    I NEVER WATCH BEFORE OH NOW/JUST IGNORE CNN . THE BEST NEWS ARE FOX NEWS

  • Pray, remember, Clap: Discrimination against Jews isn’t really discrimination. And Hitler was really just a misunderstood nice guy.

  • Then women need not apply either. They are not free to move around Arab countries. Then only reporters who promote their cause need apply. Then only those who are placed into the jobs by the Muslim Brotherhood need apply.

    Might as well rename CNN……PRAVDA.

  • Strange that the UK Guardian, the propaganda station for the extreme anarchist irrational radical left has not related to this story.

    If the ‘let go’ staff had all been Palestinians, there would have been at least 4 articles decrying blatant discrimination.

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