|Israel's Second Front: The Propaganda War|
1. Israel's Record
Violence was the first front of the al-Aksa Intifada. But the battle is also being fought on a second front: Anti-Israel Propaganda - a powerful weapon in the battle for world opinion. Through the combined use of violence and the media distribution of their messages, the Palestinians are seeking to achieve two goals: to manipulate world opinion and to impose their solution to the conflict upon Israel.
Israel's Second Front is her hardest battle.
Israel's inability to fight this war is nearly habitual. Its reasons can be found in the psyche of the country.
The anti-Israel lobby, however, fights their Propaganda War on a number of fronts, which we shall explore from our own definitions:
Click on each to find out how they work - and how to combat them.
2. Creating Myths
Most of these anti-Israel messages have repeating themes, which have been established as illusions of fact. These myths are put with great skill to the general public by experienced anti-Israel advocates. First, we shall look at the form of the myths and then explore how to address them in terms of content and technique. (See also: Excerpts from the Address by Hanan Ashrawi to The World Conference Against Racism and Chapter III.)
We include below some links to other helpful online resources and then provide a few sample statements with guidelines on input.
Myth 5: Violence is an understandable and legitimate reaction to Israel's policies.
Myth 6: Israel is a terrorist state.
Note: This also appeared in Arafat's recent UN-GA speech as "Israel sponsors state terror" .
Myth 7: Israel adopted a policy of assassination.
Look up "assassination" in the dictionary: the sensational term is used to create a no-win equation if you respond in those terms.
Myth 8: The Mitchell Report made clear that Israeli settlement policy is equally responsible for the breakdown of the peace process as the Palestinian violence, and that a settlement freeze is necessary to end the violence.
Distortion of facts to a partially informed audience. Read the Mitchell Report and its major findings.
Myth 9: The Palestinians have observed the cease-fire negotiated by CIA Director, George Tenet
Did you read the Tenet document? It includes far more than a cease-fire arrangement.
Go To: Activity IV.1. Countering the Myths: Speech Analysis
3. Is the Media Biased?
For a really good perspective on how the media's different working features come together to create both circumstantial and agenda bias in reporting from the Middle East, please visit this Aish Hatorah page by Lenny Ben-David, then continue with our presentation (including the suggested activities).
Television is a visual medium, whose purpose is entertainment. Pictures produce emotional impact, rather than providing context or content, so viewers can identify what they feel, but don't necessarily learn any facts. When Israeli soldiers are "shown" shooting at children:- are they shooting at the children themselves, or at the gunmen standing behind the children, outside the frame of those images?
Context is key. Click here for diagrammatic examples
When surrounded in the context of A and C, the letter in the center is a B. When surrounded with 2 and 4, the central figure becomes a 3.
Television abstracts and synthesizes issues; whatever cannot be shown in pictures, goes unreported and the pictures will reflect the understanding, motivations, practicalities of the situation.
More important still: Ideology, beliefs, and motivation are untraceable, since they cannot be filmed or photographed.
Are Journalists biased?
In open, western societies, the media is predominately commercial. Television has to make a profit, so information has to be entertaining to guarantee ratings. If the audience finds detailed, historical analysis dull, it is unlikely that it will be offered to them. Information needs to be sensationalized and simplified into "info - tainment." Moreover, international news must be perceived as more exciting or attractive than domestic. In such a situation the journalist will concentrate on the superficial, the sensational, and the titillating.
Journalists are "tourists"
The journalist is a tourist. Sudden, "big" stories bring in journalists in herds, especially: experienced high-ratings reporters, who are household names in other arenas of political reporting and newer reporters, who want to create and establish their names in the news world. Unfamiliar with the background to a story, they will want to be "brought up to speed" as quickly as possible. In such a situation, they are open to manipulation.
Speed, not Accuracy
Today, news is virtually instantaneous. When newspapers were the dominant medium of communication, the "news cycle" was daily, or even weekly. Electronic broadcasting media then brought the cycle to the daily level. "All news" channels and the online media have reduced the cycle to an hourly update.
On the day of the Sbarro Pizzeria suicide bombing (Jerusalem, 9th August 2001), most of the news stations reported a second bomb in Jerusalem. In reality, it turned out to be a burst tire on a bus.
Under the pressure to produce more and more stories, the journalist becomes increasingly dependent on sources - and less critical of them.
Palestinian intimidation of journalists
In the current violence, journalists often favor the Palestinians because they are intimidated into doing so.
After their networked real-time transmission of the brutal Lynch of two Israeli soldiers in Ramallah on October 18 2000, a representative of Italian state television (RAI) issued an apology in Arabic - and promised to cooperate more fully with the Palestinian Authority in the future.
Viewers love the Underdog
Since the Biblical story of David killing the giant Goliath, armed with only a slingshot, the small guy appears to be right. The West loves the perceived underdog, so the rules of this game mean that whoever is perceived as underdog wins. Despite the terror directed against it, Israel does not come over as the persecuted victim, but as the oppressive force.
It might be important for the future to analyze whether this powerful negative image resulted because Israel refused to portray itself as the victim of attack, or failed in its attempts to do so.
The world applies a double-standard of morality to Israel
As consumers of the media, we may often feel that:
To a considerable extent, feelings of inequity may need to be set aside: the media has the last word, while politicians and world powers have other interests guiding their judgement. The only way to change policy is through effective lobbying, using well-reasoned arguments about the short and long-term interests of these figures or powers - together with organized media access, and ensure these messages are heard.
Now read the next chapter on Action Ideas.