For Christmas, CNN Regifts Antisemitism
Christmas Eve is normally a festive evening — full of joy, love, and kindness. Unfortunately, CNN chose to taint the holiday by erasing Jewish history and airing blatant antisemitism.
On Friday evening, the network re-aired its miniseries “Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury.”
As has been detailed, the series is replete with factual errors and omissions that work to downplay and outright erase Jewish history — disconnecting the Jewish people from the Land of Israel and portraying Palestinian Arabs solely as victims. The series even includes the network broadcasting an unchallenged statement by a Palestinian professor comparing the Jewish State to a “cancerous disease,” as if Jews haven’t dealt with enough antisemitic propaganda over the centuries associating them with diseases and cancers.
The timing of CNN’s rebroadcasting of the miniseries is hard to ignore.
The accusation of Jews having committed deicide has led to the massacre of untold numbers of Jews in the Christian world. Christmas has long been exploited by antisemites to incite against the Jewish people. A Yiddish proverb even exists for it — nitl iz a beyzer layd, or “Christmas is a severe burden.” Over the centuries, Jewish communities developed traditions to try and protect themselves on Christmas, such as staying up all night, keeping the lights off, or reciting prayers to ward off danger.
Today, of course, this type of Christian antisemitism is but a shadow of what it once was. As one recent study in the United Kingdom explained, “significant attempts have been made by Christian leaders to rid its theology of any trace of antisemitism.”
But that hardly means that antisemitism has disappeared. Rather, it has evolved. As the late Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks pointed out, “when people have sought to justify antisemitism, they have done so by recourse to the highest source of authority available within the culture.” Whereas in the Middle Ages that authority was religion, today that kind of authority is an increasingly Rorschach-like idea of “human rights.”
Canada’s former Justice Minister and Attorney General Irwin Cotler once explained that modern antisemitism “attacks primarily the collective Jews, the state of Israel,” which starts “a chain reaction of assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions.” Rather than being centralized in Christian Europe, this new brand of antisemitism became decentralized and “communicated globally by the new electronic media,” according to Rabbi Sacks.
CNN, despite having been repeatedly informed of the antisemitic content of the series and the plethora of factual errors and omissions at the expense of the Jewish people, has chosen to become a willing participant.
This is not to say that the network is an antisemitic institution, but the alternative isn’t any less concerning.
Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ expert on freedom of religion, recently explained that there is a “bubble of denial about antisemitism, especially left-wing antisemitism that mobilizes what are ostensibly human rights frames to disseminate antisemitism.”
When CNN broadcasts and leaves unchallenged the statement, “The whole of Palestine continues to be eaten up like a cancerous disease,” the network is using an ostensible human rights frame to disseminate antisemitism in the form of dehumanization, which also calls for Israel and Jews to be eliminated.
When CNN erases the existence of the hundreds of thousands of Jews and their ancestors who lived throughout the Middle East, including in the Land of Israel, seemingly to negate Jewish indigeneity and portray Jews as foreign colonizers, that is using a false human rights frame to rewrite history in a way that would uniquely deny the Jews their right to self-determination in their homeland.
When CNN tells its viewers that Palestinian Arabs were the real victims when the Jordanian army shelled the Jews but failed to drive them from Jerusalem, that’s using a particularly perverted human rights frame to normalize violence against Jews.
And CNN’s refusal to respond to the many letters it has received on this issue is, at best, the network living in a “bubble of denial about antisemitism.” Considering the network has since boasted about the program being one of its top-watched shows, it appears more likely that CNN consciously decided to sell out its Jewish viewers and the truth, in return for ratings and profits.
Intentionally or not, CNN’s decision to re-air this series on Christmas Eve works to update the old forms of antisemitism used to hijack Christmas, with the new forms articulated by Cotler, Shaheed, and Rabbi Sacks. What a shame that on a night when millions of Americans were embracing the true spirit and meaning of Christmas, CNN instead chose to embrace hatred and profit.
David M. Litman is a Research Analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA).