CNN: God’s Warriors are hurting us

As promised, here is a review of the first installment of CNN’s series God’s Warriors hosted by Christiane Amanpour. The topic for tonight is “God’s Jewish Warriors.” I raised the question Monday of whether the series would engage in moral equivalency by lumping together extremists (or God’s warriors) from Christianity, Judaism and Islam. As one reader asked, where are the Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism?

Overall I am very glad that CNN is airing this type of show in prime time. The producers clearly spent some serious time putting this together and CNN has done a good job getting the news out about the show. It’ll be interesting to see the show’s ratings.

But that’s neither here nor there. What follows is a running commentary as the show aired.

Spooky Lost-style music raises on scenes of people raising their hands to the heavens, on a cross and a man saying that scripture is the foundation of society. They say God is the answer, but there are people saying that Islam is a threat, religion is too involved in politics and suicide bombers are scary.

Amanpour introduces the series and insinuates that “God’s warriors” in Christianity, Judaism and Islam all believe that violence could fix society’s problems.

The first story, in an attempt to show how some Jews believe that parts of the Middle East are for the Jews to settle, shows a woman whose father was killed by Palestinians. The family continues to live in the West Bank despite the conflicts.

The show transitions nicely into showing how the Jewish people who believe they have a right to the West Bank inflame sentiments in the Islamic world.

Now we’re seeing a nice history of the Six-Day War and the recapture of the Old City.

And now we’re at our first commercial. “Later, Jewish settlers turn to terror … and a plot to destroy one of Islam’s holiest sites.”

And now we’re back. Tanks, soldiers, machine guns, and more on the 1967 Six-Day War. The result of the Six-Day War — the West Bank settlements — is now the focus of the series. Scenes from conferences and fundraisers for building up the Jewish settlements are amusing from a Michael Moore investigation style.

Now we’re off to another break. Coming up, a Jewish warrior of God tells CNN that the proper response to terrorism is revenge.

Once again we’re back in America talking about how the $3 billion provided by the U.S. is something members of Congress could never vote against. I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that so much focus is on what’s going on in the U.S.

Now we’re being told that President George H.W. Bush was nearly a hero for taking on the Jewish lobby. But he backed down just before the 1992 GOP convention. Now we’re talking about a hero of the show, President Jimmy Carter, and his efforts to address the matter.

Now we’re off to another break and I just accidentally hit the publish button, so everything after this comes after my initial publishing.

The story is now coming full circle as evangelical Christians are introduced as financial backers of the Jewish settlement movement. Portrayed are members of a supposed evangelical church (whatever that means these days) that takes their Jewish heritage so seriously that they worship sometimes on Friday nights. They also dance around in blue dresses and bang on tambourines.

Oh and if you didn’t know, the alliance between evangelical Christians and Israel is growing! Lots of money is raised from Christian Zionists to fund bad stuff in Israel and the West Bank. More Americans are supporting Israel by moving there.

Overall the failure to better define “some evangelicals” is a major failing of the show. Evangelicals are not monolithic on anything related to Israel and Judaism.

We’re dealing now with more history of the agreement between Egypt and Israel to give back the Sinai Peninsula. I think I like the history portions of this show the most. The plot to destroy the Dome of the Rock gets little attention these days. I’m glad this is being discussed.

An advertisement for Anderson Cooper 360° comes up. Did anyone know Hurricane Dean is coming?

Now we’re being told that the Jewish man who killed Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, because of Rabin’s to his efforts to make peace with the Palestinians, is in the same moral category as suicide bombers.

Another break and I’m thankful for DVR because it’s getting late.

Things are getting pretty violent as we see Muslims and Jewish terrorists going at it. The rising violence results in support to the radical right ring of Israeli politics. Jewish terrorists are now planning to attack a Palestinian school for girls with a homemade bomb. “Jewish terror to match Palestinian terror,” Amanpour says. Bomb makers are stopped and sentenced to prison. Not all Jews condemn the criminals.

After what I hope is the last break (my alertness is fading), it’s interesting to see that what was yesterday’s news is now part of history. The evacuation of the Gaza settlements seems so fresh in my mind, and it’s fascinating to see how it played out in relation to the last 50-plus years.

The violence between the Jewish settlers and the Jewish military and police is amazing to watch. I don’t remember this being reported in U.S. media. Does anyone else remember how much coverage it received?

And concluding with the statement that people all over the world are fearful that modern society — whatever that is — is trampling on their religious beliefs, Amanpour wraps up the first in this series and I’m off to bed.

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  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    The show was overall very well done. I found myself interested in each story covered. And I thought that a broader spectrum of opinion was presented than you would usually find. Not even all the pro settlement people came across as being on the same page.

    I did, however, find some disturbing elements. The phrase “God’s Jewish Warriors,” repeated over and over again, made me wonder. I suspect we will be hearing “God’s Muslim Warriors” and “God’s Christian Warriors” a lot in coming episodes. Is this a good thing?

    Now it can be argued that the people shown may have asked for such a moniker. But does the label not also tar non-militants among the religious? That is what I could find offensive. I don’t think I should have to work hard to distance myself from the Religious Right, and I think perhaps a show like this would have many religious Jews worried that they are being lumped in with fanatics.

    A single use of the term is not the problem. It is the way repetition is used to draw things together.

  • Jerry

    Amanpour introduces the series and makes statements that insinuate that “God’s Warriors” in Christianity, Judaism and Islam all believe that violence could fix society’s problems.

    Substitute “God” for “violence” in the above quote and you’d have what I heard. The clear message of this segment and I suspect the other two is that many believe that they must act on what they see as God’s commandments to them. The segment on the “Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock” clearly showed how both sides believe that God gave them that spot and that ends the discussion.

    The show was actually better than I expected with more time given to a historical view of Israel. Certainly the presentation ranged from the deliberately dramatic to the sensational, but this, after all, is TV which demands such a presentation. And a ghost in the story is the excluded middle – believing Jews who are not settlers. I expect the other two segments to be a typical point-counterpoint presentation excluding any who don’t fit on the two points involved.

    This media “bipolar disorder” means interesting questions such as what the boundary between strong faith and fanaticism does not get explored. I suspect part of the answer to that question involves humility, a virtue prized by all religions but in sadly short supply.

  • http://sccos.blogspot.com KKairos

    I’m not sure if it’s intentional but talking about “God’s Jewish / Christian / Muslim Warriors” (depending on the section) almost seems an attempt to mock the views of people who are more exclusive in their views of faith, view of God/salvation etc. And for the record, if that is the case, I think it’s a bad thing.

  • http://sccos.blogspot.com KKairos

    Additionally, in the interest of fairness, I have not seen this series yet. I may attempt to catch it this time around, depending on how much time I have.

  • Rodney

    Wait until Bill Maher documentary tentatively titled, “Religulous”, as in “RIDICULOUS”. This will look like a religious fluff peace:)

  • http://queuevee.blogspot.com/ Gordon

    For those of us who don’t have cable, thanks for the rundown.

  • Stephen A.

    I’m also glad you “live blogged” this show. Thanks. I ended up watching the later edition at midnight.

    It wasn’t as “over the top” as I expected it to be, though there were some flaws.

    The sinister mood music and the “document montage” and bold graphics to “prove” points like funding for the settlements were all a bit odd, but par for the course for CNN and other news networks. But if the intent was to equate them with US non-profits that have been caught funding Islamic terror groups, they were off base seeking equivalency there.

    For the most part, those shown as extremists were, well, extreme in their views. Though not all were violent.

    Going after AIPAC was kind of brave, frankly, and I’ve never seen a negative story on it or it’s partners in “The Lobby” before. It’s hard to argue that they hold a great deal of sway over politicians in DC, though there’s a general propensity in America generally to protect Israel from harm, and I think it’s easy for CNN to overstate things and make this influence seem sinister. Gee, now I can’t wait for their expose of the power and influence of the AAPR elderly lobby. Somehow, I think their bravery will falter a bit there, dontcha think?

    As I was thinking of this segment, it occurs that this part will “sell” well to their European audience, which leans heavily pro-Palestinian.

    I wonder how much the fact that this could be broadcast worldwide counted in the determination of what got in and what gets left out. I wonder if this will be shown in Israel, and what the reaction will be, there.

    Having said that, covering tacit US support for illegal settlements that really do seem to be long-term stumbling blocks to peace is legitimate to cover and explain. Was it explained fairly, I wonder? I don’t know. It seemed balanced.

    The destruction of that settlement by Israeli officials did indeed make the TV news in the US at the time. That day, I happened to come across LIVE coverage of the main building (synagogue?) being attacked as dozens of people were on the roof and inside. Very dramatic. I guess that’s why it’s covered. It was good TV. What wasn’t explained was why some people apparently are still living there, but in trailers. Aren’t they still breaking the law? Or was it simply that the permitting process triggered the arrival of bulldozers, but occopancy of the land wasn’t part of the lawsuit? More information would have been helpful, but this was a great illustration that the settlers are essentially “squatters.”

    Thanks for discussing TV coverage of religion here. Sometimes, it gets lost in the mix, and it’s a very important medium with an immediacy and emotion that print often lacks.

  • Julia

    The confrontation between settlers and Israeli troops was a big deal on live cable news, but I didn’t see it on the regular evening news channels.

    I thought, all in all, that the show was informative and allowed a lot of different viewpoints to be expressed. In particular, I was glad for the observation that Israel now has the West Bank as a consequence of the 7 Days War; you don’t see that mentioned much in the press or news coverage. Also it was interesting to see that even though Israel gained control of East Jerusalem, the govt did not kick the Muslims out of the Temple Mount. The disagreement between secular Jews and the settlers was set forth very well.

    I TiVo’d it to watch again once all three have been aired. It will be interesting to see how she presents the Muslims and then the Christians.

  • Stephen A.

    Julia raises a point I meant to mention. The ouster of the settlers was covered wall-to-wall on cable TV news, but not much mention was apparently made on the old network TV news shows. I don’t know if this is because cable shows thrive on controversy – and this was both controversial and violent – or whether it was simply a dramantic development that deserved coverage, which it surely was.

    Whatever their motive, the cable news networks covered the event well, and added a lot of context to the event, as I remember it. This CNN show did a fairly good job of doing that, too, though necessarily in abbreviated form.

  • johnb

    I think her show was very well done and balanced but I think her title was wrong I thinkthe word warriors gives those people she interviews too much credit I think she should have called it gods deluded followers sheesh get religion out of politics and vice versa enough already all religious nuts should move to antartica or somewhere the hell else and leave us normal people alone

  • Stephen A.

    Johnb: The danger with the media, of course, is that they will not make the distinction between true “religious nuts” (i.e. those who are violent or threaten violence as a means to expand their faith’s reach or influence) and those who simply believe strongly in their faith and are peaceful in sharing and practicing it.

    Not that your opinion, or anyone’s, matter to this news-content discussion group, but I do hope you, and those in the news media, can make that (usually) obvious distinction. I believe that concern what prompted the original blog entry on this CNN documentary, and given some in the media’s apparent hostility to all things religious, it’s legitimate to expose the bias and deal with it openly.

  • Stephen A.

    But Larry, how’d you like the CNN show? Was it accurate? Biased? Incomplete? Slanted pro/con? Where’s your analysis, since that’s what we do here.

    I’m still watching the late showing of it. It looks like a rather straightforward expose of Iran’s extremists, as well as some rather fervent expressions of their faith, which frankly are not extreme or violent, just different. Big difference.

    There is a tradition of self flaggelation in Christianity, and some groups (Opus Dei) still practice this in a very limited way.

  • Nimisha

    I have so far seen both one and two parts to this series, and I find it to be incredibly enlightening and incredibly accurate. People fail to realize how similar Judaism, Islam, and Christianity is. They evolved from each other. I’m not really sure how to react to Mr. Houle’s comment. What he says, and with his nifty capitalization, is true. Islam is based on glorification and reward by murder. I do not see how human beings who claim to “love life”, kill non-Muslims for the sake of their own salvation.

    However, let us not forget that there are extremists everywhere. That is the point of this series – to show the similarities between the followers of these religions. Christianity has a basis for killing in the name of religion, too, Mr. Houle. Civilizations of the past have been wiped out before us in the name of God. Take the conquistadors, for instance. The Aztecs, the Mayas, the Incas. Europeans killed Native Americans for not converting. The British killed Indians in India for not converting. This was Christianity’s past and is it’s background now. I’m not saying Christianity and Islam are the same in such ways of violence and murder, but at the core they are similar in their ways of threats.

    So, yes, warriors of Islam bring about violence in the name of their religion. This is wrong. But Christians threaten damnation and have in the past killed, too. This is also wrong.

  • Meir K

    Please correct me if i’m wrong! I feel that the episode “Gods Jewish Warriors” seems more like a documentary questioning Israel’s right to exist, rather than delving in to the reasons why were there in the first place. I watched the documentary “God’s muslims warriors”. Christiana was focussing way more on separating the Islamic ideology from terrorism and Jihad. In fact she took way more of areligious perspective by giving examples from text’s and religious rituals. While on the other hand in the documentary “God’s jewish warriors” Christiana is really investigating Michael Moore style the right of Israel’s existance by law. For example she went so far to check in to IRS reports on taxes and donations to jewish settlements, and even going so far as to interview former president carter and have him talk about how difficult it is for politicians to critisise Israel because Jew’s in America are so powerful. These are just to of many examples that i think Christiana’s backround affected her reporting in these documentary’s. If Christiana’s reasoning makes any sence legally speaking towards jews setteling in the west bank… then she might as well say that American’s cant live in the U.S because it was occupied by indians beforehand… The episode should have been named “Israel’s right to exist?” Rather than “God’s Jewish Warriors”. Coming from one of CNN’sbest reporters i would have expected more.

  • Jerome Garcia

    I found this particular piece, the one on God’s Jewish Warriors rather weak. Ms. Amanpour seemed to discuss only whether Israelis have a right to the Old City of jerusalem and the West Bank under a thin film of the motivation of certain settlers rather than a real analysis of the feelings, sentiments and beliefs of Jewish ultra-othodox warriors. Maybe because there really aren’t all that many and they haven’t done that much which can be pumped up to sell air time. The Jewish warriors simply don’t offer the fun and excitement of the Islamic warriors, so she had to fall back to tired old discussions of who is right and wrong in Israel and Palestine. Maybe the first show should have been only half an hour and focused on the topic at hand rather than scrounging to fill two hours with lurid tales of conspiracy.

  • http://doctrineofjustification.blogspot.com jco

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  • Brian Boru

    Meir K, with all due respect, I think you need to chill out. This is 2007 not the 19th century. The UN Security Council didn’t exist in the 1800′s. We have to work with international-law as we find it now rather than reinvoking obsolete theories of how it applied before the UN was established. The UN enforsed the coming into being of the State of Israel, but within certain boundaries. It didn’t and shouldn’t give Israel a blank-cheque to expand to its heart’s content. We have already had 2 World Wars as a result of countries that were constantly trying to expand their national territory, and build settlements. German colonisation of Poland in World War 2 being an example. While I am not saying Israel is a Nazi state, I think it is an imperialistic state, and I also think that it is equally legitimate to criticise it as any other country. If criticising someone simply because of their ethnicity is wrong (which it is), then placing a country above criticism is equally wrong. Without the accountability of others being allowed to criticise a country, a country can get out of control. The settlements are illegal and this is 2007 and we have to work with the legal-framework of today not the past.

  • Robert Isy

    Brian-

    While you are absolutely right that we can’t compare Israel in modern times with America and the Indians, you are way off the mark on some of your other points. First of all, comparing Israel’s capturing of the territories in a defensive war, when they were surrounded by enemy armies on all sides, with countries that have aggressively planned to take over other countries is not apples to oranges. Second, as far complaining that Israel shouldn’t be placed above criticism, can you name another country in the world who has received more criticism over the past fifty years than Israel? While hundreds of thousands are slaughtered in the Sudan and dozens of countries are ruled by brutal dictatorships, did you know that in any given year Israel has more U.N. resolutions made against it than all the rest of the countries of the world combined? Finally, if Israel is such an evil, imperialistic state, then why do about a million and a half Arabs chose to continue to live there; Arabs, who I might add, enjoy full citizenship and even serve in Israel’s parliament.

  • LisaB

    Meir and Robert, I agree with the two of you. One has to simply research history to know the facts of the land ownership in Israel. The first episode did not provide any history as of the war and made the Jewish nation seem as it was the perpetrator. Also, it did not go into any “cultural” history of the Jews and their claim to the Holy land, making it appear as though they just “up and stole the land one day”.

    The first episode also should have been called the “God’s Jewish-Christian Warriors” as it tried to make Christians complaisant in the violence perpetrated by the Palistinians because of the fund raising.

    The second episode appeared to try and explain away certain Islamic behavior, although Amanpour did a fairly even job on holding them accountable for the most extreme situations.

    Then again in the third episode, Christians were again taken to task for the fund raising issue. America’s issues were made to seem either black or white, all sinning or all against the sinners. I think as a country over all, America was very much neglected. To the non-American we seem like a country of one religion, all white, power and political grabbing. Nowhere did Amanpour point out that in America there is a choice to belong to a certain faith. She did not point out that literally millions of people live side by side day by day, with not a drop of blood shed due to religious difference, a big lesson that could be learned the two other nations.

  • Rick Rowe

    I too am a believer. But my beliefs should never be forced on anyone. The politicalization of all three religions will be a force for world discord and bloodshed as it historically has been. The crusades, the thirty years war in Europe, the Irish debacle, the Catholic and Protestant support of the Nazi regime, and many other religiously inspired episodes of violence lead me to the conclusion that religion is failing us. Amanpour’s presentation is, I hope, only the beginning of a deeper expose of the exploits of tarnished religion. I certainly will keep my religion. But I hope those religions that foment war and terror will be halted.

  • Duff

    Robert Isy,
    Perhaps so many arabs continue to live in the confines of the the current state of Israel because they have lived there for centuries. Would that be possible? Why would they not choose to live where their ancestors have lived for a couple of thousand years. Give me a reason.

  • susan

    There are many things about that episode that are one sided.
    There was no Jewish violence mentioned outside of Israel, and there were no Jewish extremist political views mentioned outside of the US regarding the zionist movement. The LACK of Jewish militancy in Europe and other nations speaks even louder than the middle east conflict, especially in comparison with Tuesdays episode. The attempt at making the three religions equally dangerous is a bit laughable. The main issue regarding the Jews involves the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. So when questioning the extremist attitudes of the Jews, it is only fair mention that the official palestinian Hamas government has the call to genocide against all Jews in their charter. It is on public document and easy to find. The context of the Hamas goals needs to be kept in mind anytime the intolerence of Israelis against the palestinians is mentioned.


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