The Foreign Press Association in Israel represents, according to its website,
“some 480 journalists who... report from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Our membership includes international journalists based in the region, as well
as dozens of Israelis and Palestinians.”
The FPA makes an effort to
introduce Israel to its members, especially for those who are new to this
On its web page, “Blogs & Links,” this professional
association lists just over 30 external sites as references for its members,
including four mainstream media sites (Ynetnews, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz
English and Ma’an News
) of which only one can be described as centrist, while
two are to the Left and the one represents the Arab population which sees itself
But there are additional resources there, including
Gush Shalom (English and Arabic), Machsom Watch, Givat Haviva Jewish Arab Center
for Peace, Corresponsalisraelpalestina and other extreme left wing political
activist groups whose primary agenda is “anti-occupation.”
International is included, along with but one Israeli academic institution:
The list does include centrist groups such as
MEMRI and NGO Monitor, but the overall tone is clearly identifiable.
FPA would presumably claim that these sites provide a partial component of life
in Israel and so are important for a good journalist who wants to present the
whole picture. This would be a credible position if the FPA indeed provided a
But this is not the case. Their list does not provide
adequate insight into the vast majority of Israeli public opinion. It ignores
events and incidents that are usually only reported by sectorial outlets. As we
know, the majority of foreign correspondents arrive with little knowledge of the
complex history of Jews, their connection to the Land of Israel, the background
of the Israel-Arab conflict and even less of the Hebrew language.
many cases, they arrive with prejudices about who is right and who is wrong, who
is the victim and who is a criminal. The makeup of the websites recommended by
the FPA only serves to deepen the antipathy towards us.
There is another
section at the website, called “Useful Contacts.” It includes the names and
contact details of official spokespersons from government ministries, office
holders, the IDF and Palestinian Authority offices.
This section is
somewhat more representative.
Included are IBA NEWS (English), IDF Radio,
Channel 2 and Channel 10 TV as well as Israel Hayom
. Israel National News (Arutz
7), though, is missing, as is the Tatzpit Photo Agency.
The FPA also
provides a list of “civil rights” NGOs.
These include some of the most
extreme and/or unreliable NGO’s in Israel such as Adalah, LAW, Al-Mezan Center,
B’Tselem, Musaawa, Physicians for Human Rights and the Palestinian Center for
In the “General” category, one can find only four groups
that we would consider as not identified with the Left: JCPA, Israel Resource
News Agency, MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch.
Another half-dozen are
proactively involved in furthering a left-wing agenda, including the Israel
Peace Initiative, Ir Amim and MIFTAH.
Someone at the FPA is either
incompetent or perhaps worse, is using the FPA as a mouthpiece for Israel’s
The narrow-mindedness of the FPA, providing only
a limited picture of Israel, is not just theoretical. Too frequently, foreign
journalists are not able to competently understand, analyze and report on
Israel’s political, social and cultural landscape. These limitations are then
Last week, The New York Times
had to issue a correction
for a profile piece on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The correction
revolved, though, around the personality of his wife, Sara. The original article
had noted that she had a “purported temper [which] has been widely faulted.” In
addition it suggested that her child-rearing methods were faulty.
later corrected version the tone changed, to “Ms. Netanyahu is a respected child
reported that the author of the article, Jodi
Rudoren, had sent a letter of apology to Sara Netanyahu claiming that it was an
“embarrassing failure of the editing process.”Haaretz
’s Barak Ravid
pursued the matter and was told the apology was initiated the Times
that the article contained an error and that “there was no pressure from the
Prime Minister’s Office.”
correspondent declined to disclose to
Ravid the contents of his letter of apology.
The article, however, also
claimed that Prime Minister Netanyahu is “isolated” in his Iranian sanctions
policy. This was published at a time when public opinion polls indicate he is
well-supported by Israel’s citizens.
Where is the Times
information from? Could this be indicative that some foreign correspondents are
too well-bedded down with interested parties on the Israeli fringe? Do they
listen only to politicians from the opposition? On October 27, Glenn Greenway,
of Edward Snowden fame (or infamy), wrote to the Times’ former editor and
current writer Bill Keller and expressed this view: “All journalism is a form of
activism. Every journalistic choice necessarily embraces highly subjective
assumptions – cultural, political or nationalistic... and serves the interests
of one faction or another.”
Such a journalist, we suspect, would
surrender accuracy in favor of his personal outlook. And that is done here in
Israel by too many of the foreign media.
Recently, we learned of an
incident in which a film crew from NBC accompanied a group of Jews inside the
Temple Mount compound to report on the restrictions on prayer by Jews there.
Threatened by the Wakf authorities, the police, pressured by the Muslim
religious trust representatives, removed the media team from the Temple
In the past, Israel has been negatively profiled when it was
perceived as having interfered with the freedom of the press. In the past the
FPA itself was active in denouncing Israeli limitations.
Not having seen
any report in the foreign media concerning the matter, not even in a search of
NBC news itself, we directed a query to the FPA.
The response we received
was: “We have asked the GPO (as we always do) to speak to the relevant
authorities after a similar incident recently. Our aim is to enable foreign
journalists to cover the news without impediment.”
This is a remarkably
reserved and low-key reaction.
The denial of freedom of the press on the
Temple Mount is not on the agenda of the foreign press or the FPA. The Wakf, an
extreme, religiously obscurantist institution, was “given a pass” or, to be
blunt, a double standard is being practiced against Israel in favor of its Arab
Is the bias of the FPA an immutable law of nature? We believe
not. Too many government officials engaged in contacts with the international
media are not doing their job.
It is much easier to let things be than to
struggle to change them. Bureaucratic complacency has to be replaced. A
concerted effort by the government, Zionist NGOs and the public at large can
change the situation.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and
chairman of Israel’s Media Watch (www.imw.org.il).