The epidemic of fake news started here, with the media failure to uphold professional standards of journalism in covering the conflict, as reporting of events last week in Gaza proved.
The Israel Defense forces has been extremely successful over recent weeks in preventing Hamas terrorists from penetrating Israel’s border and murdering Israelis, as they openly declared. The military success though is marred by a public relations fiasco that so often happens. And while the government is certainly guilty of being MIA, the cause of the vitriolic campaign against Israel lies elsewhere.
In an editorial in the Jerusalem Post, editor Yaacov Katz addressed the issue and offered the following: “… It was an unfortunate failure with barely even a single mainstream news organization adopting the Israeli narrative of what happened in Gaza … [the IDF] was not prepared for what happened and … again failed to appreciate the significance of the images it was collecting along the border and fell into the same trap it always does, by failing to recognize the importance of the foreign press on international relations.”
Katz is absolutely correct in his criticism. Except, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office is responsible only for the matters pertaining to the military and its relations with the press. Responsibility for public relations issues of the state is with the “Information Directorate”, that operates within the Office of the Prime Minister. It is precisely their role to anticipate such events and lay out a plan for a coordinated government response.
If the IDF knew to prepare militarily in advance for the events in Gaza, the Information Directorate was also aware of what was going to happen. They were responsible for the preparation of operative plans for a united PR effort, and failed to do so.
Yet, while it is obvious that more could have been done by the IDF and the government Information apparatus, the media cannot be absolved of its responsibility for the warped reporting. Reporting which is tantamount to collusion with a terrorist organization.
No member of the public, as well as any of you reading this article, are on any IDF or government mailing list. None of us received announcements regarding the events that occurred in Gaza. None of us were briefed on the statements by Hamas leaders. And yet, somehow we all knew what the facts and realities were. We know what Hamas is. We know about their murderous ideology and goals for Israel, just as well as we know about the abuses they reap upon their own people.
We didn’t need to receive a memo, because Hamas has been around for 41 years. They have a very consistent track record. They are open and vocal about they’re goals. One does not have to own a doctorate degree in Middle East Studies to know what Hamas are about. All one has to do is simple journalistic work like Pierre Rehov did with his brilliant documentaries “behind the Smoke Screen”.
Foreign journalists are stationed here. With few exceptions, they live here for many years. They are as familiar with the circumstances and the realities as any one of us. They are also all connected on social media, from Facebook to Twitter, the great equalizer. They were exposed to the volume of materials about the intentions of the Hamas weeks in advance. So they cannot use the excuse of an “immediate news cycle” which makes them report events without verification and cross checking. To deny knowledge of all that was going down and why is simply dishonest.
The Hamas, whose violations of every human right in the areas under its control is well documented, cynically employs human rights terminology in the dispensing of their propaganda. Political organizations disguised as Human Rights groups pitch in to add an element of credibility to the charade.
The media is a key tool – often a willing accomplice – to this strategy. The manipulation of the rhetoric by human rights groups is all too often typeset in the media, and thus chiseled into history. Massacres are proclaimed where there have been none; terrorists cowering behind civilians remain hidden from the public eye.
The foreign media has been reporting on the conflict here for over 50 years. They should, in the very least, maintain a measure of caution when reporting on events. If only because of the numerous examples of reports over the years on atrocities and abuses supposedly carried out by Israelis that eventually were exposed as false.
Reports that rival age old canards against the Jews have sprung to life in news headlines. Children poisoned from water in wells; Strange injuries caused by mysterious “DIME” weapons; Supposed massacres such as in Jenin, Mavi Marmara or Kfar Cana; Killing of children such as Mohammad Al Dura. All these events, when independently and seriously investigated, were easily disproved. But the damage to Israel was done.
The epidemic of fake news started with the media failure to uphold professional standards of journalism in covering the conflict here. The Cradle of Religions is also the Cradle of “Fake News”.
Besides the insinuation and innuendo, an important aspect of the fake accusations is that they are accompanied by simple “visuals” that are emotionally powerful. Often staged photos that have a lasting impression and have a strong affect on our memory. They literally stamp the imagery into our brains and frame our perceptions of the events. The Israeli refute is always verbal and with no powerful image with lasting impression.
When events are reported about from abroad by journalists who were not even here – that is irresponsible journalism. It may be comical but when we are talking about journalists it is embarrassing.
Much worse is when media outlets with journalists stationed here over years lend credibility to Hamas and support its actions of subversion against Israel. It is simply criminal.
The media know what the Hamas is, know the history of deception and lies, and abuse of its people. Events of the past have proved all this. And yet they chose to quote them and advance their narrative maliciously. It is criminal, because it ends up costing lives. They do so often for political motives or reflexive sympathy for the underdog as they perceive it.
Honest Reporting did its usual outstanding job in summarizing the media’s faulty reports on the events in Gaza, with Simon Plosker’s excellent article Gaza Border Coverage: Shame on the Media.
When looking back on the decades of reporting, you find that no matter what Israel does, it is criticized. The use of crowd dispersing measures against rioters such as rubber bullets or tear gas, is “too harsh”; The building of a barrier and in some areas a wall, proven effective against homicide bombers, is an act of “apartheid”; Roadblocks to expose terrorists en route to attack Israelis is “disruptive of the lives of the Arabs”; Closures are “collective punishment”; Last year, metal detectors at the entrance to the Temple Mount were “offending the Muslims”; Even the use of the Iron Dome was criticized for giving Israel an unfair advantage.
Israel is criticized for surgical preemptive strikes, such as against the nuclear reactor in Iraq, or when responding to assaults on its cities by Hamas or Hizbollah; Nothing we can do is legitimate. Similar actions by other countries are met with silence.
What it comes down to is that principles such as the protection and the sanctity of borders, the right to self defense and use of military force to defend one’s country, that are a matter of fact anywhere else, are rights that Israel is denied.
This is a travesty when accompanied by journalists who openly support one side in the conflict and claim objectivity. A Reuters event in Jerusalem features a known Arab terrorist in a comic role; BBC reporter weeps on air for terrorist leader – these are but two examples of the conduct of the foreign media covering the Arab-Israeli conflict.
For years the media failed to accurately cover Arab terror while romanticizing the “Palestinian” narrative. Many of them fraternized with terrorists and willingly complied with censorship demands by Islamic extremists, and in so doing contribute to advancing the cause of extremists around the world. Feeding the phenomena of “Fake” news.
Until the emergence of social media, the public had no alternatives for getting information outside of the media. The public drew all the knowledge about the world from journalists. This gave journalists an almost religious standing, similar to the clergy of the Catholic Church of the past. Very much like the Church, the media chose to abuse their power. They broadcast whatever they liked according to their political beliefs.
The false idols are being smashed and the public are getting the truth from other sources. Much like the Reformation, we are today witnessing a rebellion against what were once considered trusted sources yet are now abusing that trust.
Daniel Seaman is the editor of the English edition of Mida.org Online magazine
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