World media: Israel 'endangers roots of our civilization'

From Turkey to 'Time,' foreign press outlets have Israel in their sights.

January 12, 2009 21:51
3 minute read.

survey_gaza_media_war. (photo credit: )


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At the outset of the Gaza war, Israel and the IDF were eager to promote their media campaign, which they believed would help preserve Israel's image abroad, allowing the military to do its job at home. But that may have been wishful thinking. As Israel's third week in Gaza marches on, the media coverage is beginning to go sour. Leading the charge is Time magazine, the most recent cover of which prominently features a Star of David behind barbed wire, a startling and disturbing image that seems to suggest a parallel between the Gaza war and the Holocaust, presumably not to Israel's credit. The cover is a lead-in for the magazine's top story, headlined "Can Israel Survive Gaza?" Commenting wryly in his blog for Time competitor The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, a Jewish journalist who has spent time reporting in Gaza, said, "It got me thinking: Which one will last longer - Israel, or Time magazine? I'm betting on Israel." Prof. Eytan Gilboa of Bar-Ilan University was less kind. A media analyst who has specialized in popular American attitudes towards Israel, he was quick to say that Time "has been anti-Semitic for a long time." "When [Menachem] Begin won his election in 1977, Time called him a 'superhawk,' and compared him to Fagin," the morally reprehensible Jewish character from Dickens' Oliver Twist, Gilboa said. Anti-Semitic sentiment, he added, had plagued the magazine ever since. Speaking of its recent cover art, Gilboa pointed out that Time "likes to use Holocaust imagery that hints that Israel is doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to the Jews." In his opinion, Time bears responsibility for "a history of not only anti-Semitism, but systematic distortion of what is happening [in Israel]." But with the current war, the magazine's sensationalist approach is all but matched by other publications. The unusual relationship of international media to Israel was described as being subject to "four cardinal sins: obsessiveness, prejudice, condescension and ignorance" by Hanoch Marmari, the former editor of Ha'aretz. If newspapers around the world are any indication, Israel's image may once again have failed to escape those sins in the popular press. Sunday's international edition of the Miami Herald carried what was perhaps the most extreme headline of the daily newspapers, its front page dominated by the words: "Israel tells Gaza to brace for a bloodbath." That the word "bloodbath" was only used by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and never by any Israeli source, does not seem to have fazed the Herald's editors. But minimizing the damage, the Herald carried a different front page in the US, and it was one of the few American newspapers to devote any front page coverage at all to the ongoing war. Only the New York Times gave top billing on Sunday to the Gaza action - most other papers had turned their attention to the recession, or president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. Outside of the US, Gaza coverage remained more of a priority. Two Canadian newspapers, the Edmonton Journal and the Halifax-based Chronicle Herald, both ran front page headlines on the war which referred to Israel's "attacks" on Gaza. Elsewhere, Turkey's Today's Zaman found a more apocalyptic tone, running a front page blurb stating "Reckless Israel Endangering Roots of Our Civilization." Perhaps most incredible of all, the United Arab Emirates' Gulf News proclaimed, across five columns of its front page, that Israel had "set sights on reoccupying Gaza" - contrary to Israel's direct statements. Gulf News also featured a prominent count of Gaza casualties, though it might mislead the reader into believing in an additional 350 dead. Gilboa was not eager to condemn Western media universally. "Violence, in general, motivates newspapers and magazines to take extreme positions," he said. "The question is, why are these always attributed to only one side?"

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