'Lots of spokesmen, lots of footage making a difference'
US pro-Israel groups give gov't top grades for media handling of Gaza operation.
By HILARY LEILEA KRIEGER, THE JERUSALEM POST, WASHINGTON
January 2, 2009 00:05
1 minute read.
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American pro-Israel advocacy groups say the Israeli government has done a better job in reaching out and being responsive to the foreign press during the current Gaza fighting than in other recent conflicts.
With Israel's attacks on Hamas featuring prominently on newspaper front pages and the 24-hour news cycle, the Foreign Ministry and its representatives in the US have made officials available for scores of interviews and briefings, as photographs and video clippings from the scene have been distributed. The government has also been trying to use new media to reach out to the American public, including Twitter and Youtube.
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project compared the current situation to that during the second Lebanon war in 2006, when the IDF delayed releasing photos of bombing sites that could have showed Israeli actions in a more positive light.
"You've got a lot of Israeli spokesmen, a lot of footage and photos [put out] in a systematic, organized way," she said. "It's making a very big difference."
"There's been a much more abundant amount of information," said Andrea Levin, executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. "That's very valuable in terms of clarifying what Israel's up against."
She added that the government had evidently "taken to heart" the calls for more and better media outreach that accompanied previous Israeli conflicts of the past decade.
What's happening in Gaza, Levin continued, has been more transparent than the situation in Lebanon, where Hizbullah was deliberately obscuring the number of its men that had been killed.
At the same time, she said that while initial reporting provided a good amount of context and background about the current fighting - for example, that Israel had been facing years of rocket attacks before taking this action - that information was harder to find as the media rushed to keep up with the unfolding events.
Though Mizrahi has succeeded in holding recent events with Israeli officials in which hundreds of journalists have participated, she also expressed frustration that the larger context for Israel's actions was often being lost with the day-by-day coverage.
"The unfortunate thing is that people in the news business tend to cover only what's new today," she said.