SEATS NORMALLY occupied by the United States delegation are empty one day after the US announced its withdrawal from the UN’s Human Rights Council, at the United Nations in Geneva on June 20, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Over the years, addressing varied audiences in different parts of the world, Jewish and non-Jewish, in an endeavor to present the Israel I know and love, the consistent question is “Why is Israel’s hasbara [public diplomacy] so poor?” Depicted often as an “occupying” power whose size, in the minds of many, is on par with Russia or the United States, Israel is made responsible for all the ills of the Palestinians.
Should we be surprised at the increase in antisemitism when Israel is projected as the epitome of evil?
How do these negative concepts permeate the thoughts and minds of the bystander?
Is it the politicians who mold the view of their constituents? Or are there other factors at play?
The answer is clear. We live in times where instant news is available 24/7, the more instant the more effective. It is not the respective governments alone which project a view; far more influential is the message conveyed by the media. Unfortunately we in Israel have every reason to question its authenticity as time and again what is presented as fact turns out to be fiction.
A recent example was the international viewing of hundreds of mourners accompanying the funeral procession of eight-month-old Gaza baby Layla Ghandour. The baby’s parents claimed she was killed by Israeli tear gas when her 12-year-old uncle took her to the Gaza/Israeli border while participating in the “March of Return” riots. Aside from questioning what kind of parents would allow a baby to be taken into a war zone accompanied only by a 12-year-old, the cause of Layla’s death was far different from that transmitted worldwide.
Mahmoud Omar, arrested during a border riot, told his investigators that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar paid the family of Layla NIS 8,000 to tell the media that the child had died from tear-gas inhalation rather thanJ from a congenital medical condition also responsible for the death of an older sibling.
The fact that proof existed to show that the parents had lied about the cause of their child’s death is of little significance because the damage had been done. Pictures relayed internationally of this dead eight-month-old child had played their part in the demonization of Israel.
Another example of how the media can manipulate the truth is its reaction to the US’s recent decision to leave the UN’s Human Rights Council, which US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called a cesspool of political bias. She went on to say, “For too long the HRC has been a protector of human rights abusers who continue to serve on and be elected to the council.... The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape its scrutiny and the council continues politicizing scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in its ranks.”
Haley cited as a major cause for the US’s withdrawal the disproportionate Item 7 on “Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.” Since 2007 it has appeared as a permanent fixture on the HRC agenda exclusively devoted to discussing the so-called human rights abuses by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while the rest of the world’s abuses appear collectively under Item 4.
Countries such as Syria – where at least 500,000 people have been killed and a number have died as a result of chemical warfare – are spared such intense scrutiny.
The reality that nine of the 29 HRC members are well-known human rights abusers – Burundi, Egypt, Rwanda, Cuba, Venezuela, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – has zero impact on either the council or the media worldwide.
Following the US’s announcement of its departure from the HRC, Boris Johnson, at the time the UK’s foreign secretary, addressed the opening of the 38th HRC session where, while regretting the departure of the US from the council, he said the following, “We share the view (with that of the US) that the dedicated ‘Item 7’ focused solely on Israel and the Occupied Territories is disproportionate and damages the cause of peace, and unless things change, we shall vote next year against all resolutions introduced under Item 7.”
My search for this part of Johnson’s statement in the UK media proved to be in vain. All that was spoken of was the UK’s regret at the departure of the US from the HRC.
The above is a perfect example of how the media manipulate news by being selective in its choice of what it leaves in and what it leaves out of its reporting.
LET’S RETURN to who is truly responsible for the sorry state of affairs in the West Bank and Gaza. Without doubt one of the most revealing articles appearing recently in The Jerusalem Post was penned, under a pseudonym for fear of his life, by a Palestinian living in the West Bank. The title “From the inside: The Palestinian Authority’s suppression of protests and free speech” cites chapter and verse of how escalating violence by the PA leadership against the Palestinians opposing its policies or criticizing PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s decisions is horrifying. The Palestinian Police Forces attacked hundreds of Palestinians protesting Abbas’s inhumane policy of punishing Gaza by forcing collective economic sanctions on its population. At the same time Israel continued the supply of humanitarian aid, food and medicine, in spite of the horrific attacks on its Eshkol region communities, destroying acres of nature reserve and agricultural land and a barrage of rockets fired on its Southern-based citizens.
The author concludes his article with examples of how Abbas’s leadership follows that of his mentor Yasser Arafat in the violent suppression of any form of protest that attacks the PA. He questions how Western journalists who live in or visit frequently Ramallah choose not to report on the PA’s blatant inhumane acts against those who protest what is happening to their brethren in Gaza (because of the PA’s policy) as well as the denial of the basic right to oppose their leadership. Conversely these same journalists never miss an opportunity to condemn Israel outright, often without prior investigation as to where the truth lies.
Having depressed ourselves with the above let’s conclude with positivity.
The year 2018 produced good news for Israel. The US moved its embassy to Jerusalem. Then came along Netta Barzilai with her song “Toy,” winning this year’s Eurovision Song Contest and, finally, Israel welcomed the first official visit from a member of the UK’s royal family. Prince William spoke movingly about his experience at Yad Vashem. He highlighted the importance of the ongoing cooperation between Israel and Britain in the fields of security, scientific and hi-tech cooperation, and even visited the Western Wall.
One can but hope that contrary to the journalists who, too often, choose to tell only half the story thereby vilifying the one Jewish state, William, Duke of Cambridge, returned home with a view of Israel that is dramatically different from that often projected by his country’s media. The writer is public relations chair of ESRA, which promotes integration into Israeli society.