In April 2012, Carol Hylkema, who at the time was serving as the moderator of IPMN, sent a letter to Jeffrey Fager, then chairman of CBS News (he has since stepped down to return as Executive Producer of “60 Minutes”), to thank him and commend reporter Bob Simon for a news story which had aired that year about Christians in the Holy Land.
In that letter, Carol said that “Mr. Simon’s reporting laid bare the unreasonable requests of the Israeli government. To hear Ambassador Oren explain that he was against the story being broadcast because ‘he had information that it was a hatchet job’ tells the public that Israel wanted to censor the story before they even knew what the content would be… they expected CBS News to concede, but were surprised that you did not.”
The letter goes on to “commend CBS News on its decision to do the investigation, the reporting and the story.”
At the time, I was serving as IPMN’s Advocacy Committee chairperson and like many who watched the program I was simply amazed at the courage of Bob Simon, the 60 Minutes staff, and CBS News in general for allowing this story to be broadcast on a major American network. People in the United States are rarely presented with this type of coverage of the illegal occupation.
These past couple of weeks have been tragic on a number of fronts, with both the untimely and/or violent deaths of people both known and unknown to us. It is especially poignant that Bob Simon died tragically in a car accident on a U.S. highway after spending so much of his career in some of the most dangerous places in the Middle East and around the world, honestly reporting the news. Today, violence in the Middle East still rages on, fueling ideological and religious struggles across the globe. Bob Simon has been unafraid to cover the Israel/Palestine conflict truthfully and has braved baseless accusations of anti-Semitism many times. His stories have dared to tear the mask from Israeli government propaganda, and for that we have been both humbled and thankful.
In his story about Christians in the Holy Land, Simon interviewed important Palestinian partners with whom the Israel Palestine Mission Network has had long and meaningful relationships. One of our key partners, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem summed up the Palestinian struggle for Simon this way:
If you see what's happening in the West Bank, you will find that the West Bank is becoming more and more like a piece of Swiss cheese where Israel gets the cheese that is the land, the water resources, the archaeological sites. And the Palestinians are pushed in the holes behind the walls.
After making reference to Bethlehem, now completely surrounded by the Israeli apartheid wall, as an “open air prison”, Simon interviewed Christie Anastas, whose family home and souvenir business is hemmed in on three sides by that wall.
Bob Simon: How do you live with this?
Christie Anastas: Well, it’s not easy, naturally, but you get used to it because you have to.
It was painfully obvious for viewers that innocent victims of an unjust and illegal occupation, which has been in place now for almost 50 years, should never have to “get used to” being separated from friends and family, as well as the outside world, simply because of their place of birth and their ethnic origins.
Bob Simon will be greatly missed because he had the courage to air stories that revealed truths that those in power continue to deny and ignore. He will be missed because he was a reporter so well respected and trusted that his voice could not be silenced, even though powerful forces sometimes tried.
We encourage you to follow this link in order to watch Bob Simon’s fearlessly insightful reporting: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/christians-of-the-holy-land/2/.
And once again, as we did in 2012, The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) commends and thanks Bob Simon and CBS News for prophetic truth-telling in the face of ongoing injustice and oppression in the Holy Land.
We reiterate Moderator Hylkema’s important point made to CBS in 2012: “We hope to see more informative stories in the near future on this subject in the great tradition of outstanding 60 Minutes investigative reporting.”
And finally, with both appreciation and affection we say: Rest in Peace, Bob Simon.
Jeffrey DeYoe, ModeratorThe Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)