I am attending the Israel Venture Association annual conference in Tel Aviv and was introduced to Andrea Koppel from CNN as we were waiting for Prime Minister Sharon and Secretary of State Powell to finish their discussion Sunday evening at our hotel.
While we were chatting, an American-born Israeli joined us to tell Andrea about his perception of media distortion in that the press that stresses moral equivalence between Israeli civilian deaths caused by Palestinian terror and Palestinian civilian deaths caused by Israeli military actions. He argued that Israel has tried to engage in a peace process since Camp David and has been double-crossed over and over by the Palestinian Authority. Further, he argued the civilian deaths caused by Palestinians are intentional, whereas the deaths caused by Israel are mostly the tragic, unintentional results caused by Israel trying to defend itself.Andrea replied, "So when Israeli soldiers slaughter civilians in Jenin, that is not equivalent?"Israeli: "What are your sources? Were you in Jenin? How exactly do you know there was a slaughter?"Andrea: "I just spoke with my colleagues who were there, and they told me of the slaughter."Israeli: "Did they actually see the shooting, the bodies?"Andrea: "Palestinians told us about the slaughter."Israeli: "And you believe them without evidence. Could they possibly be lying and distorting facts."Andrea: "Oh, so now they are all just lying??" [sic]The Israeli became emotional in describing that his children are afraid, his friends have been murdered, and if this goes on, "We could lose our lives or we could lose our country."Andrea, "Yes, you will lose your country."At this point, I interrupted the two of them and asked Andrea Koppel, "Did I just hear you correctly-- that you believe the current crisis will lead to the destruction of the State of Israel?"Andrea: "Yes, I believe we are now seeing the beginning of the end of Israel."Needless to say, I was stunned to hear a senior CNN correspondent express this extreme "world-view". It was very disturbing for obvious reasons, and I was particularly upset by her extraordinary geo-political conclusion that the State of Israel is bound for destruction. I asked her how she came this conclusion-- what was her background scholarship in Middle East history or military geo-strategy?Andrea: "Well, you know, I took a course on the Middle East when I was at Middlebury College, and our professor assigned us five books on the history of the conflict. So I first read a book written by an Israeli, and I thought all the land belongs to the Israelis. Then I read another book by a Palestinian and thought all the land belongs to the Palestinians. There are many points of view, and it is just so complex!"Her background scholarship and intellectual depth on the subject duly noted, I turned to consider what to do next.
1) Complain to CNN management? (see below)
2) Expose this to other press (say Fox or 60 Minutes, letters to the editor?)
3) Try to educate her towards a more realistic understanding of Israel's geo-political position?
4) Tell the Israeli Foreign Ministry and let them deal with it?
5) Do nothing? (I hope not)CNNI don't know what do to about this, but I thought you may have the right suggestion. Feel free to forward this to your family and friends.
1 CNN Center
Atlanta, GA 30348
Phone: (404) 827-1500
Fax: (404) 827-1593, (404) 827-1784
David J. Blumberg
From: Richard Bookstaber
Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 12:37 PM
To: Boaz Vega
Cc: David J Blumberg
Subject: FW: Tel Aviv meeting with CNN's Andrea Koppel
I sent this to Walter Isaacson, the head of CNN. This is his response.
From: Isaacson, Walter, CNN
Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 2:15 PM
To: Richard Bookstaber
Cc: Davis, Rick
Subject: Re: Tel Aviv meeting with CNN's Andrea Koppel
Sid Bedingfield, who has gone to Israel to oversee coverage, just asked Andrea about this. She says the conversation was not at all as recounted. She did not use the word slaughter, she says, and would not have done so because the allegations are in dispute. CNN has been very careful about how we report these allegations, and we put them in context. She says it was a brief conversation with an Israeli who was emotional about the situation facing the nation. She agreed with him that this is indeed a dangerous time for Israel, something Sharon and others have said. She says that she, of course, shares the hope that Israel will live in peace and security. She really regrets the conversation was misunderstood, but insists the quotes in this e-mail are inaccurate. Thanks. Walter
From: David J Blumberg
Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2002 3:52 PM
To: 'Richard Bookstaber'; 'Walter Isaacson'
Subject: David Blumberg responds: Tel Aviv meeting with CNN's Andrea
Dear Mr. Isaacson,
Yes, it was a brief conversation, but there was no misunderstanding. I shouldn't have used quotation marks throughout my email, as I was indeed paraphrasing in part, but the themes, phraseology, terms and conclusions I noted were contemporaneous, genuine and accurate. Also there were two other witnesses - parties to the conversation, 1) the Israeli debating with her and another bystander with whom I spoke briefly later. The second fellow later told me that it was no use talking with her; she wouldn't listen - her mind was already made up. True, I only excerpted from our discussion as it went on for 5-10 minutes, and I only focused on highlights. Ms. Koppel made what I considered other controversial points, but let's keep focused on the remarks I reported.
First, I regret that she now is trying to change her story. She absolutely used the word "slaughter". I remember specifically because the press had generally been using the word "massacre" or "alleged massacre". So when she said "slaughter", I noted the distinction with keen interest in her perspective and listened intently for her sources or evidence.
Second, whether she used the word slaughter or massacre or mass killing, is beside the main point. More significantly, I presented her repartee with the Israeli fellow correctly. She brought up the Israeli Army causing civilian deaths in Jenin, not him. She seemed to accept without hard evidence that such killing had occurred, and she was indeed making the moral equivalence argument the fellow was trying to debate. I noted this with such astonishment because my understanding of journalism would have reversed the roles. As the journalist, she should have been the questioning skeptic, asking for evidence and sources. Instead the Israeli fellow was the skeptic, with her "defending" the allegations as more than that.
Third, I don't doubt that she hopes Israel lives in peace and security, but twice in what she describes as "a brief conversation" she said the country is headed for destruction. That is what I found so naive and astounding coming from a senior political correspondent. Sure she believes it is a dangerous time for Israel and she agreed with the Israeli who said Israel was at mortal risk. But let me repeat, I quoted her verbatim, "Yes, you will lose your country...Yes I believe we are now seeing the beginning of the end of Israel."
Please note that I started chatting with her not even thinking of discussing politics. I thought she might be interested in the high-tech venture capital aspect of the Israeli economy since we were at a venture capital conference. So when the Israeli fellow came up and began speaking, I was listening to their dialogue with no malice aforethought, nor any antagonism towards Andrea - rather the opposite. This may be why I was so shocked by her words and conclusions.
I am sure she is a well-meaning person and of course we all make misstatements and mistakes. This is not so much about Andrea Koppel as it is about the practice of journalism. Her comments in our conversation are emblematic of a larger problem with journalism in general, TV journalism more specifically and coverage of the Middle East in particular. It is the "talking headization" of journalism. I am concerned about content and context. How can someone with her lack of understanding accurately report on the issues involved in this ancient and multifaceted, nuanced part of the world? Today, the power of such voices as Andrea Koppel magnifies the potential for misleading conclusions born not necessarily from malice, but from broad conclusions based on shallow knowledge edited for a short TV time-slot. To be fair, I have not heard her say on air what she said to us on Sunday evening, but I will find it hard to listen to her with much credibility henceforth.
I would be pleased to meet with or speak with Walter Isaacson, Sid Bedingfield or Andrea Koppel to discuss this further.
Best regards, DJB
David J. Blumberg
Then, in response to another email seeking confirmation of the veracity of the account, Adam Ruskin, whom I described as the American-born Israeli, wrote,
I am writing you at David Blumberg's suggestion. I initiated the conversation with Andrea Koppel and am the American Israeli that he writes about in his email. What David wrote is correct. It is exactly the way that I remember the conversation (there were a few other parts, but nothing that David wrote is incorrect). I was quite taken aback by Andrea Koppel's claim that David in any way misreported our conversation with her. This is entirely untrue. David and I are both highly educated individuals and have memories that are at least as good and Andrea Koppel's.
Zichron Yaakov, Israel