Bloggers welcome chance to visit with BICOM

New media journos meet with Israeli and PA officials during four-day tour with UK-based group.

By
March 2, 2012 02:20
2 minute read.
view of the west bank

view of the west bank. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

 
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Despite criticisms by pro- Palestinian bloggers and tweeps, new media journalists from the UK welcomed the opportunity to visit Israel this week as part of a four-day tour organized by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Center (BICOM).

“The trip exposed us to a wide variety of views, including from within the establishment and those who are anti-establishment, as well as meetings in the West Bank,” commented Jonathan Isaby, political director of the Taxpayers Alliance and co-editor of the website Conservativehome.com.

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“Overall the trip was very well rounded and I now have a much more informed view of the politics of this country,” he added.

Isaby was among six new media pundits brought by the British organization in order to gain a better understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the nuances within Israeli society.

Among those that met with the group were the prime minister’s spokesman Mark Regev, British Ambassador Matthew Gould and MK Isaac Herzog, as well as some of the activists behind the J-14 social justice movement. The group also spent a day in Ramallah meeting with Palestinian Authority officials and others.

“This trip really brought to life some of the people and places that we only hear about in the news in Britain and issues that are often discussed in the House of Commons [British Parliament],” said Isaby, adding that he now realizes “there is no such thing as a typical Israeli.”

BICOM’s chief executive, Dermot Kehoe, explained that this is the first time the organization arranged a trip to Israel for new media professionals and bloggers, even though in the past it has brought mainstream journalists here.

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“Social media is becoming much more influential in the UK,” he explained, pointing out that all those who came on the trip are highly influential politically in the British online scene.

Perhaps due to their high profiles, the trip was attacked last week by pro-Palestinian activists who criticized the bloggers for falling prey to Israeli or Jewish hasbara, public relations.

Blogger Richard Angell, from Progressonline.org.uk, dismissed the criticisms however, saying “one of the great things about new media is that we are not trying to hide anything and we see all angles as part of the online conversation.”

He said that the highlight of the four-day trip was gaining a sense of the wide variety of different views in Israel, especially in terms of the country’s international relations and how the Jewish state sees the recent upheaval in the Arab world.

“The Arab spring has changed the map in the region but Israel’s reaction to it is very different to how we have understood in Britain,” observed Angell, adding that from the outside Israel seems like a “homogeneous group” but in reality there is real diversity.

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