March 3: Who's credible in the information war?

When Israel tries to justify the defense of its citizens, however, it is termed "hasbara," or "propaganda," or "PR," or "image-building" and therefore without credibility.

letters 88 (photo credit:)
letters 88
(photo credit: )
Who's credible in the information war? Sir, - Compare "Israel prepares world opinion for assault on Gaza" (February 29) with the behavior of the Palestinian government and press. They never announce any hasbara campaign; in fact, they don't have any hasbara or propaganda - only educational and informative messages and op-eds and television programs that tellthe "truth" about Gaza and defend "the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people." They explain that Gaza is undergoing a cruel siege, that people have to use candlelight, that sick people are dying in hospitals for lack of medicines, that Israel is committing war crimes worse than a Holocaust, that Hamas "martyrs" are "defending the Palestinian people against the occupation," that Israel is killing women and children, and that the "heroes of the resistance" are firing Kassam rockets against military targets in the "settlement" of Sderot. All of this is presumed to be absolutely factual reporting. When Israel tries to justify the defense of its citizens, however, it is termed "hasbara," or "propaganda," or "PR," or "image-building" and therefore without credibility. AMI ISSEROFF Rehovot Sir, - Where is your spokesperson explaining in simple, clear English just why Israel is doing this, and for just how many years the Israeli public has been suffering? For goodness sake, are you going to let the Arab propaganda machine win again and again and again? Insist on putting a well-educated English speaker on TV news stations around the world. You knew there would be a backlash - and you know the spin always goes against Israel. Fight the media war as well as, and in tandem with, the actual war ("'It's war,' PM declares as Gaza violence spirals," March 2). HAZEL SEAGER London Sir, - Once again the British and other media are busily proving their anti-Israel credentials with their slanted coverage of Israel's bombing of the Gazan rocket-terrorists. There has been almost no mention of the causes behind Israel's raised offensive in Gaza. And we must face it: Nothing is going to change their attitudes. But there are dozens of very wealthy Jewish people whose hearts are with Israel. I am not including Steven Spielberg because I do not know where he stands, but there are plenty of others. Could not Ehud Olmert gather enough money from these super-rich Jews and set up an Israeli TV news service in several European languages to give the news from Israel's position? We Jews have the money and can muster more TV talent than the rest of the world put together. DAVID LEE London Sir, - In the course of my practice as a lawyer in the UK, a pious Muslim Pushtu woman once assured me that for a Muslim it is the equivalent of the Jewish mitzva to lie to infidels. Steven Emerson's "Having it both ways on suicide bombers" (March 2) illustrated a fundamental truth that Western media simply cannot internalize. LESLIE PORTNOY Netanya With friends like these... Sir, - Thank you, Gerald Steinberg, for listing the European countries supporting Gisha, the Israeli NGO so concerned about interpreting international law to help Palestinians even if they are against us ("Exploiting the rhetoric of international law," Letters, February 10). It would be very helpful for the Israeli public to know how many more of our NGOs are funded by our so-called "friends" only in order to interfere in the internal affairs of Israel, mainly to our detriment. It is high time we had a law similar to the US, where those who receive funding from foreign governments, directly or through their NGOs, must register themselves as "agents" for those countries. Most Israelis believe that organizations such as Peace Now and Yesh Gvul are "grassroots," when in fact they are funded by foreign governments and foundations. EMANUEL FISCHER Jerusalem Sir, - Things are not going to get better for Israel until the Temple is rebuilt. OK DONG Wichita, Kansas Cowboy politicos Sir, - History shows that force and violence never, ever led to a long-term period of peace, nowhere in the world! When Barak and Olmert announced their latest plan to attack Gaza, they clearly proved they were unable to take a lead in the political arena. But, while force does not lead to victory, playing the political game does; talking, building alliances, keeping friends close, and enemies even closer. Barak and Olmert clearly believe that using more and more violence will help them. Israel's only ally among the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas, has turned his back on Israel. What else could he do? Cowboys, please go back to the desert and make room for men and women who can take the lead in politics! ("World to press for calm after PA freezes peace talks," March 2.) AMOS MESQUITA Amsterdam Actions speak... Sir, - In "Habash was no role model" (Editorial, March 2) your hand-wringing over the pervasive state of disloyalty and subversion on the part of Israel's Arabs didn't seem to rise above the level of a whine. Why not propose doing something about it? It's totally ridiculous for Israel to have an anti-racist law to prevent violent Jewish Arab-haters from sitting in the Knesset while permitting violent Arab Jew-haters to sit there - as though it is somehow preferable that the object of the hatred be Jews. Has Israel forgotten that the first priority of any government is the protection of its own citizens? If Israel is a Jewish state, then those who seek to destroy it have no place in it. DAVID KATCOFF Jericho, Vermont ...louder than words Sir, - Thank you for posting the great story about immigrant officer Asaf Kagan ("From pre-med in Texas to IDF officer," February 21). It's wonderful to see this trend of olim serving in higher ranks in the IDF. It should be noted, however, that this is not an unexplained phenomenon. Kagan, like many others now bravely serving in uniform, are alumni of the Young Judaea Year Course and other similar gap-year programs in Israel. In contrast to short stints in Israel, such programs give Diaspora Jews a long-lasting, real connection to Israel that oftentimes leads to a successful aliya and, as in Asaf's case, an honorable tour of duty in the IDF. ARI NAHMANI Tel Aviv All fired up Sir, - As an occasional visitor to Ashdod, I too have been shocked by the advertising campaign for a hospital in the city. It uses emotional blackmail in a very provocative way ("Ashdod bid for hospital offends neighboring medical centers," March 2). However, having last week sat in a coffee shop in the town's Sea Mall, I understand. In flagrant disregard of the law against smoking in public places, some customers were sitting doing just that; when I spoke to the manager and asked him to remove the ashtrays and stop his customers smoking, I was told: "The law is not enforced in Ashdod - what, do you want us to throw our customers out?" So now I see why city residents are so desperate for a hospital. They know how much their smokers are going to need it. I wonder how many of the Ashdod residents who, according to the campaign, "died because there is no hospital in Ashdod" were smokers? ELLIE MORRIS Asseret