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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Wallace’

Mike Wallace’s Palestinian Mentor

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
   Over the years, two Jewish journalists – Thomas Friedman and Mike Wallace – have been the subject of particularly intense vituperation in the letters and e-mails received by the Monitor, and both gentlemen have been scrutinized here on several occasions. One of the most popular columns, in terms of reader response, was a July 2002 piece on Wallace – actually, it was part of a series on Wallace the Monitor ran that summer – which looked at the possible genesis of his troubling attitude toward Israel.
   Wallace had recently appeared on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and expressed his admiration for a certain Palestinian terror chieftain. He also confessed to having had his perceptions about the Middle East permanently altered many years back through an encounter with another Palestinian he came to admire.
   Here’s part of the transcript of that show:
   Wallace: ….I became a self-hating Jew to the Israelis for a while.
   King: Self-hating Jew, yes. I know you have known Arafat for 25 years. What do you make of him…?
   Wallace: You know something, Larry, I came to – I came to admire Arafat beginning back in 1977 in Egypt and then in Lebanon on a couple of occasions, and then went to Tunis with him and then even to Gaza. As far as – and then finally Ramallah, I guess, a month or six weeks ago. He has made mistakes along the way as all of us do….
   A little later in the interview, Wallace made the following rather startling confession when King asked him whether it’s tough for a Jewish reporter to be objective about Israel.
   “It shouldn’t be if you’re a professional reporter…. I was fortunate enough as a young, much younger reporter back in the 50′s, I met a man by the name of Fayez Sayegh who was a Palestinian, and he was really a Palestinian to his roots, and he helped to let the scales fall from my eyes about the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, between Arabs and Jews. And you take on quite a chorewhen you go against your own religion, go against what you learn, what I learned from my folks growing up, but if you are a professional reporter, you do it [italics added].”
   Wallace provided a little more detail about this Palestinian who “helped to let the scales fall from my eyes” in his 1984 memoir Close Encounters. The book was co-written with Gary Paul Gates and its chapters alternated between Wallace’s first-person reminisces and Gates’s third-person narrative. Here’s Gates on the evolution of Wallace’s thinking and the lasting influence Sayegh was to have on it:
   “As a Jew growing up in America, [Wallace] had been taught to believe that the gospel according to Israel was almost as sacred as the Torah itself. Yet the more deeply he delved into the savage desert politics of the Middle East, the more he came to recognize that the Israeli view of the region’s past, present and future was not the only defensible position.
   “This shift to a more balanced perception of Israel’s historic dispute with its Arab neighbors was gradual and evolved over many years. In the course of that time, Wallace made a dozen or so trips to the Middle East, where he interviewed almost every major leader…. But no interview on the subject had was more important, in terms of its effect on Wallace’s own thinking, than one he conducted in New York back in 1957. For that was his first serious encounter with a spokesman for the Palestinian cause and it left an enduring impression on him.
   “The individual who impressed him so greatly was an Arab scholar named Fayez Sayegh whom Wallace had first met when he was a guest on [Wallace's program] ‘Night Beat’ . Wallace was so impressed and stimulated by Sayegh that he invited him home to dinner the following week, a social courtesy he seldom extended to guests on the program. The two men talked for several hours that night, first over dinner, then over coffee; or to be more accurate, Wallace listened as Sayegh elaborated on the tragic dilemma of the Middle East from a Palestinian point of view.”

   Sayegh’s lesson obviously made a lasting impression on his interviewer. If they ever erect a hall of fame for Jews in the media who most harmed Israel’s cause, Mike Wallace, self-described admirer of Yasir Arafat, would merit not just a place of prominence but a wing all his own.

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Mike Wallace: A Ham-And-Cheese On Yom Kippur Kind Of Jew

Wednesday, August 21st, 2002
This week the Monitor concludes its extended look at the anti-Israel proclivities of “60 Minutes” stalwart Mike Wallace. As we’ve noted in our earlier installments, Wallace has always displayed a palpable ambivalence – some would say that’s too charitable a word – when dealing with Jewish issues, never more so than when he downplayed the plight of Soviet Jewry in the 1980′s and Syrian Jewry in the 1970′s.(By the way, the contretemps over Wallace’s reporting from Syria yielded a wonderful anecdote thanks to a delicious little dig delivered to Wallace’s boss, Don Hewitt, by Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, who served in the mid-70′s as president of the American Jewish Congress.

(Hertzberg and several other AJC officials, incensed at Wallace and “60 Minutes” for what they considered an out-and- out whitewash of Syrian anti-Semitism, paid a visit to Hewitt’s office. As they were being introduced, Hertzberg dryly remarked, “Hewitt? Hewitt? I imagine there’s a Horowitz under there somewhere.”

(Hewitt was taken aback, and Wallace later expressed his dismay at Hertzberg’s unexpected temerity, but Hertzberg was on to something: Hewitt’s paternal grandfather had indeed changed the family name, from Hurwitz to Hewitt, in the early 1900′s.)

We’ve already seen how Wallace’s tough-guy persona melts away in the presence of murderous thugs like Syria’s Hafez Assad and the PLO’s Yasir Arafat. But there was one more Arab dictator who could make Wallace swoon like a silly little schoolgirl.

Writing in his memoir Close Encounters of a 1978 interview with Anwar Sadat, Wallace gushed that he “had become an unabashed admirer of” the Egyptian president. “I respected him as a statesman, a leader of his people, and in my personal dealings with him (and this was our third interview in less than a year), he came across as an honest and sensitive man who was endowed with considerable charm and a fine sense of humor.”

Now, Sadat may have been a tad more cultivated than your run-of-the-mill Third World despot, but a despot he was - a dictatorial ruler who did not hesitate to arrest and jail his political opponents, a one-man junta who never won an honestly contested election in his life. Slap Sadat into a Chilean army uniform and call him Pinochet, and you can bet Wallace would view him with nothing but distaste and condescension. But Sadat was a strongman of the Arab variety, in whose presence Wallace’s spine and kneecaps couldn’t help but turn to guava jelly.

One last thing about Wallace. The Washington Post’s Lloyd Grove reported last September that Wallace was spotted ordering a ham sandwich on Yom Kippur at a popular Capitol Hill restaurant. When Grove asked him about it, Wallace nonchalantly confirmed that, yes, “I had a cheddar and ham sandwich.”

Pressed further by Grove, Wallace turned smarmy: “I am a Reform Jew,” he said. “The best thing I can do is serve my master.”

Ordinarily the Monitor wouldn’t bother with the level of religious observance on the part of journalists, but Wallace seems to have this curious need to publicly flaunt his disregard of Yom Kippur. Let’s turn back to Wallace’s memoir Close Encounters, where he recounts a September 1967 meeting with Leonard Garment, a close associate of Richard Nixon, who was then just beginning to put together his ultimately successful 1968 presidential campaign.

“Perhaps,” wrote Wallace, “I should mention that it was not just any day in September but Yom Kippur, and although both Len Garment and I are Jewish, it did not deter us from breaking forbidden bread together while our more pious brethren observed the traditional rites of prayer and fasting.”

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Any further questions?

Next Week: The Monitor’s “Friends” List - reporters and columnists who refuse to be swayed by Palestinian propaganda.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com  

The Wallace Files (Part III)

Wednesday, August 14th, 2002

“You and your friends won’t like what you’ll see on my program in a couple of weeks,” Mike Wallace told an acquaintance in Jerusalem in November 1990, referring to a forthcoming “60 Minutes” report on the Temple Mount riot staged by Palestinians earlier that fall.

It’s hard to miss the smugness and anticipatory glee inherent in that statement, recounted by former Jerusalem Post editorial page editor David Bar Illan in his thorough dissection of Wallace’s anti-Israel bias in the Feb. 1991 issue of Commentary. Eleven years later, Bar-Illan’s piece retains its timeliness as surely as Wallace retains what strikes many viewers as a clear animus toward Israel and an adversarial stance on a range of issues that concern Jews.

Bar-Illan managed to touch on all the low lights of Wallace’s “60 Minutes” career up to that point, and taken as a whole the article amounted to about as damning an indictment of a journalist as one is likely to find.

“When he first went to Syria in 1975,” Bar-Illan reminded us, Wallace “missed no opportunity to lionize Syria’s ‘cool, strong, austere, and independent’ leader, Hafez al-Assad, whose -unrelenting aim is to retrieve the rich farmland of the Golan taken from him by the Israelis’ (emphasis added).”

And Wallace, added Bar-Illan, “gave a clean bill of health to Assad’s treatment” of the Syrian Jewish community. “He was particularly delighted to show that the Jews of Syria - though suffering from some travel restrictions – were quick to declare on camera that if they could only join the Syrian army they would be eager to fight against Israel.”

Bar-Illan turned next to Wallace’s contribution to Americans’ understanding of the plight of Soviet Jewry: “From 1980 on,” he wrote, “Leonid Brezhnev claimed that no Jews wanted to leave the Soviet Union. But pesky Jewish organizations in New York and that intolerably intransigent government in Israel kept insisting that 400,000 of them, risking jobs, jail and family safety, had applied for visas to Israel.

“Again Wallace knew whom to believe: standing in front of the Kremlin, he announced, with an arrogance only celebrated TV know-nothings can muster, that all the Jews who wanted to leave the Soviet Union had done so and the rest were getting along just fine.”

Bar-Illan also revisited Wallace’s demolition job on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). “In a program whose tone was egregious even for him, Wallace portrayed the ‘Jewish Lobby’ as an insidious, all-powerful, multiheaded Washington Svengali manipulating the U.S. Congress and administration. Any congressman who voted against arms sales to Arab countries, implied Wallace, had been bought by Jewish money.”

In a particularly devastating portion of the article, Bar-Illan focused on an interview Wallace conducted with then-Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek during the report on the Temple Mount riot mentioned above. Note how Kollek appears to be endorsing a point made by Wallace:

Wallace: The Israeli government…tried to persuade the world that this was an unprovoked riot by the Palestinians.

Kollek: We have an ideological government, and I think wherever you have ideological governments you run into trouble.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? The problem, as Bar-Illan informed his readers, was that Kollek’s reply had not been given as an answer to that question. “It was,” explained Bar-Illan, “part of a long exchange during the interview in which Kollek, as is his wont, expressed his blunt opinion of the government.”

In other words, Kollek’s statement was spliced completely out of context in order to “create the impression that Kollek agreed the riot was provoked.”

Upon viewing the program, Kollek lodged a sharply-worded protest with CBS in which he complained of having been deliberately used by Wallace.

We’ll conclude our extended look at Mike Wallace next week. As mentioned last week, the Monitor has begun compiling the Media Good Guy list (Wallace didn’t make it), which means that readers who haven’t yet done so are running out of time to send in their nominations.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com  

Mike Wallace, Loathsome Again

Wednesday, July 10th, 2002

Readers will recall that a few months back the Monitor had words of uncharacteristic praise for Mike Wallace, who had just conducted an interview with Yasir Arafat that was far more skeptical than the fawning media treatment usually accorded the Palestinian leader.

Alas, the Monitor must report that the “60 Minutes” mainstay has reverted to his familiar pro-Palestinian stance with alarming alacrity. As if to make up for that momentary lapse with Arafat in Ramallah, Wallace has been doing the PLO proud on a recent round of radio talk-show appearances and, most strikingly, during a media forum at Washington’s Brookings Institution.

It was at the latter event that Wallace’s animosity toward Israel was made transparently clear, and more than once. First, the forum’s co-moderator, Stephen Hess of Brookings, brought up an interview Wallace had done with the late Menachem Begin. (Co-moderator Marvin Kalb of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center at least offered a theoretical defense of Begin, though he was quick to point out that he himself did not necessarily agree with it.)

Hess: You asked [Begin] whether he, thirty years ago, was not the Yasir Arafat of today.

Wallace: That’s correct.

Hess: And what did he say?

Wallace: ….He was stunned and angry at me. But the fact of the matter is that Menachem Begin and the people of the Stern Gang were terrorists back then in their efforts to find themselves a free Israel. It infuriated him to be compared with Yasir Arafat, but if you look into the history of what Menachem Begin did, it is not, to some degree, dissimilar.

Kalb: Let me pick that up. It’s kind of interesting you raise the point. Begin took action … against the people who were governing the land he wanted. Arafat took action by hijacking airplanes … filled with people who had nothing to do with the land that he wanted for a Palestine. So it seems to me that one could argue – I wouldn’t, but one could argue ? that the question is totally unfair and ahistorical.

Wallace: He made his point and let’s move ahead. [Laughter]

Having airily dismissed Kalb’s observations without even a perfunctory rebuttal, Wallace settled in for some relatively innocuous chit-chat. And then came a question from an audience member about how, in the wake of Sept. 11, American journalists were coping with the pressure of balancing patriotism with objectivity. Though the questioner mentioned neither Israel nor the Palestinians, here’s how Wallace chose to respond (Marvin Kalb, to his credit, again attempted to interject some balance):

Wallace: I will say, for instance, would it be unpatriotic if I were to do a story about the Palestinians, let’s say, and say about the Palestinians, hey, you know something?….these people who are blowing themselves up have spent the last 30 years…living in refugee camps, living in abominable conditions. Even some of the, and there’s fear of this in Israel now, some of the Palestinians who live inside Israel itself are treated as second or third class citizens. Whether it’s schools, tours, roads, etc. This is well known….When you go to, I was in Ramallah to talk to Arafat two months ago. When you realize that they cannot go from one Arab place to another in the West Bank ?

Kalb: They can go.

Wallace: They can go? They can go, Marvin, but they cannot go the way you that even you and I might be able to go. They are stopped, they are searched, they are regarded as guilty until proved innocent. It is impossible – it is impossible – I know that this is absolutely true. The Israelis have seen to it that there is no real body of Palestine, so to speak, there is not sufficient ability to go from one, from Jenin to Bethlehem to Ramallah to whatever.

All I’m suggesting is that a suicide bomber is giving up his or her life to a certain degree because of brain wash – to a certain degree because – And if you – We tried to tell those stories, we tried to tell that story…. I do not believe, I don’t think that we fully understand here in America, and particularly in the Palestinian/ Israeli business, we don’t understand the situation over there sufficiently.

(Continued Next Week)

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

A Job Well Done By Mike Wallace

Wednesday, March 13th, 2002

Surely any but the most obtuse regular visitors to this space will understand just how painful it is for the Monitor to extend even the slightest praise to “60 Minutes” hatchet man Mike Wallace.

But praise we must, because Wallace conducted a refreshingly hard-hitting interview with Yasir Arafat that aired this past Sunday night. Some excerpts for those who missed it:

Wallace: You say you want peace. Correct, Mr. President?

Arafat: Yes.

Wallace: But you incite Palestinians, especially young Palestinians, to violence. Just this past week you said publicly, “Millions of holy warriors are on their way to Jerusalem. Jihad, jihad, jihad, jihad, holy war, holy war, holy war, holy war.” What does this mean?

Arafat: I am repeating some of holy Muslim words, not more.

Wallace: On your state controlled television a few months ago, a cleric. Here’s what he said on your television: “Whoever can fight them with his weapons should go out to battle. Nothing will deter the Jews except the color of their filthy people’s blood. Nothing will deter them except for us voluntarily detonating ourselves in their midst.” I find that hard to believe.

Arafat: I did not hear it.

Wallace: Four out of five Palestinians in a recent poll, 83 percent actually, said they believe that the Palestinian Authority is corrupt; that there is money that has been stolen consistently, that your people – I mean, look. Around here, they have money, they have jobs, they have cars. The Palestinians who live out here in Ramallah, where the unemployment is 36 percent, and down in Gaza, where it’s 48 percent, they don’t live the way that you do. It’s a comfortable life for you and your colleagues.

Arafat: Do you want to see my bedroom?

Wallace: Do I wanna see your bedroom?

Arafat: Yes.

Wallace: I, I’m not sure that I understand the invitation. But what about your bedroom?

Arafat: Every penny is under the control of the IMF.

Wallace: The International Monetary Fund.

Arafat: All what you are mentioning is one of the part of the Israeli attacks against us.

Wallace: The Israelis are persuading your fellow Palestinians that you’re corrupt?

Arafat: Yes.

[Voiceover:] On another subject, the Israelis have persuaded most of the world that Arafat tried to smuggle in a boatload of high powered weapons. But Arafat still insists he knew nothing about it.

Wallace: Chairman Arafat, look. Omar Akawi, the captain of the captured arms ship, told the press that the arms in the ship were destined for the Palestinian Authority, that senior PA officials had organized the consignments. The fact of the matter is that not just Israel, the United States, George Bush, the world community…

Arafat: First of all.

Wallace: Knows that you made a mistake.

Arafat: Colin Powell had mentioned that there is no relation with Arafat, this ship.

Wallace: No relation?

Arafat: Relation.

Wallace: Colin Powell said?

Arafat: Yes.

[Voiceover:] Actually, that’s hardly what Colin Powell said. And the secretary of state’s spokesman emphasized to us that in Mr. Powell’s Capitol Hill remarks…he did not exonerate Chairman Arafat.

Wallace: You’re telling me that you had nothing to do with that ship?

Arafat: Definite.

Wallace: Who did? Who did the ship?

Arafat: You have to ask the Israelis.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

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