(photo credit: AP [file])
Deputy Foreign Minister Majallie Whbee on Sunday criticized international media outlets who were not giving sufficient voice to Israel's take on the fighting in Gaza.
"Some of the foreign media are not getting the Israeli side into their reporting," Whbee told The Jerusalem Post. This means the international media have often failed to report on the pervasive Kassam attacks that preceded the [current] violence, he said.
"Instead of showing who these terrorists [Hamas] are and how Israeli children are hiding in bomb shelters afraid to leave," the media outlets are showing Hamas's side of the conflict, he said. He did not name the media organizations.
Nevertheless, Whbee insisted, "the media battle isn't lost, because as long as we avoid extreme events, such as a dramatic civilian hit, we can continue the Gaza activities in a regular fashion."
Despite repeated requests, the Post could not obtain a response from international media bureaus in Israel, including the BBC and Al-Jazeera.
The assault on Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, under way since Saturday, was accompanied by an "unprecedented" media operation in which official spokespeople from the government and army have made Israel's case in dozens of major foreign media outlets, according to Foreign Ministry officials.
"Every Arab channel that respects itself has invited an Israeli speaker to comment on the situation," said Ofir Gendelman, acting director of the ministry's Arab Press and Public Affairs Division, who himself has given 25 Arabic-language interviews in 48-hours since Saturday.
"We have a massive presence in the Arabic media, in television and radio outlets that reach tens of millions of people each. It's a larger presence than any other Foreign Ministry dealing with a similar situation, such as the Americans in Iraq or British in Afghanistan," Gandelman said.
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter was interviewed several times in Arabic, while Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave explanations in English. Even Welfare and Social Services Minister Isaac Herzog gave interviews to the British media.
As the military operation got under way Saturday, Livni's office appointed former ambassador to the UN Danny Gillerman as the "coordinator" for the media effort.
The move did not escape criticism. Though he is considered a good spokesman for American audiences, Gillerman's appointment caught Foreign Ministry officials by surprise, the Post has learned.
One official said it was not clear what his responsibilities were, or why it was necessary to appoint another "chief" in addition to the likes of the director of the National Information Directorate, Yarden Vatikay, or the Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for media and public affairs, Aviv Sharon.
Gillerman's name appeared on a list of spokespeople sent to the international media, but he was not listed as a "coordinator."
President Shimon Peres also got into the media effort on Sunday, launching a series of meetings, phone calls and media appearances.
"The president is trying to use his strong international standing for an explanatory effort with the news media and important world leaders," a spokeswoman for Peres told the Post. Peres was scheduled to speak to almost 50 media outlets and dozens of world leaders in the coming days, she said.
"In all Israel's history, I don't remember a war so pointless and irrational as the one begun by Hamas," Peres said in a statement, adding that "the people of Israel are united behind the IDF's operation."
"Hamas is bringing about a grave disaster to its own people. The firing of rockets against innocent civilians within our borders is a situation no other country would have tolerated," the president said.
He called on the Arab world to blame Hamas's actions for the current situation.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.
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