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February 10, 2010: Twisted Media

May 16, 2010

On Tuesday, I heard a talk at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs delivered by Tom Gross — a well-respected journalist, as well as a media analyst — who addressed the subject of media distortion of Israel.  

That it’s bad is no surprise, but according to Gross, it’s even worse than we think.  A situation that has been going on for years is growing in intensity: the sort of defamation of Israel that was once found mainly in Arab and hard left sources has now found its way into the mainstream; he displayed some hair-raising examples that provide evidence of this. 
Mention of Israel creeps into articles on other subjects (a review of a film that is not about Israel, a financial report, etc.).  Anti-Israel cartoons show up in mainstream papers in Spain, and Greece and Italy, as well as elsewhere.
Why is this happening?  Two obvious answers are endemic (and growing) anti-Semitism and a well orchestrated Arab PR campaign.  But Gross offered an additional explanation: The left seeks causes around which to rally.  Right now the two causes that the left has embraced are global warming and the Palestinian Arabs.  Support for these issues becomes like a religion, not rational and very much exaggerated.
Unfortunately, the media bias in favor of the Palestinian Arabs fuels their maximalist demands, and encourages them to expect the world to pressure Israel.
According to Gross, bias in British media is most significant because it is global. This is particularly true of the BBC, which has websites in several languages and, for example, currently has up on its Persian language website a picture of human organs that Israelis allegedly “harvested.”
Gross explained that the standards to which Israel is held by the media are not simply higher than those applied to other nations, they are impossible standards. An example: a soldier pushing — pushing, not shooting and not beating — a Palestinian Arab at a checkpoint, behavior that would get no notice in another context, but might be featured in a front page photo because it’s an Israeli soldier.
Thus, while other nations may get by with an occasional error or slipshod management of a media or PR situation, Israel does not have that luxury.  And, as most of us are aware, Israel often falls short in this department.  Gross made some very constructive comments with regard to how Israel might improve — use of people who truly understand the inside and complex nuances of the media world, and of people who are absolutely fluent in various languages.  Within the last year, there has been an increased awareness within the foreign ministry of the problems with some spokespersons, but more work needs to be done here. Happily, Gross does not just give lectures on this subject, at least on occasion he’s in touch with pertinent persons inside our government, in order to provide his perceptions.
My own comment here is that each of us, in his or her own way, is able to help combat bias against Israel simply by promulgating the facts.  Probably the most important thing these postings do is to combat falsehoods about Israel, providing not just current facts but background.
As you share this information broadly, and utilize it for such things as writing letters to the editor and to your elected officials, you are doing your part to help keep Israel strong.
An IDF soldier, First-Sgt. Ihab Khatib, 26, who served in the Kfir Brigade and was from the northern Druze village of Marar, was killed by a terrorist today at Tapuach Junction, in Samaria. He was sitting in his open jeep, in a traffic back-up, when his assailant came at him and stabbed him in the chest through an open window; when he tried to drive away, his jeep over-turned.  Brought to the hospital, he succumbed to his chest wounds.
The terrorist, please note, was a PA police officer from Yabed.  According to reports, the IDF, who has him in custody, has identified him as Mahmoud al-Hattib. (Yes, I’ve noticed the similarity of this name to that of his victim, and checked several sources.) He was prevented from fleeing the scene when a security officer on the scene hit him with his car. 
Sgt. Khatib has been praised by his family as someone who had a heart of gold, who was very proud to serve in the IDF.  Serving is part of the family tradition; an uncle was killed in action some years ago.
PA prime minister Salam Fayyad denounced the attack, saying it “conflicts with our national interests.”  He said he would continue to endorse “peaceful resistance,” however.
The fact that the terrorist was someone who had ostensibly been trained to fighting terror as part of the PA security forces provides a warning of things to come, writ large.
Again, it must be asked how the world can expect the IDF to pull back and allow PA forces to take control, when it is clear what the dangers are.  There is a history of PA security forces turning on the IDF.
After its major meeting in Philadelphia last week, “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street was talking about how it was expanding the definition of “pro-Israel.”
A Dry Bones cartoon, which I was unable to reproduce here, says it better than anything I could write on the subject of how J Street defines “pro-Israel.” “J Street is not dropping its “pro-Israel label, it is simply expanding its definition to include ‘anti-Israel'” 

But I include here as well a link to an article by Lori Lowenthal Marcus on the lack of integrity with which J Street leadership conducted itself with regard to parameters of their event.

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