Eisen: Israel not losing media war

Says support for Israel had declined internationally, but support for Hizbullah had fallen drastically.

miri eisen 88 (photo credit: )
miri eisen 88
(photo credit: )
Israel is succeeding in getting its messages across in the international battle for public opinion that is part of its war against Hizbullah, according to Miri Eisen, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's incoming spokeswoman for the foreign press. Speaking to an audience from the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey at Jerusalem's Inbal Hotel last week, Eisen said that support for Israel had declined internationally since the start of the war, but support for Hizbullah had fallen drastically. "In this war, there is greater international understanding of Israel than in many previous conflicts," she said. "That doesn't make [the way the world perceives Israel] good but it does make it less bad. I don't expect to win the media war, but I don't intend to lose. We have managed to hold our own with our messages." Eisen said the main messages that she had tried to get across in countless interviews with the foreign press since the war began on July 12 were that Israel wants a diplomatic solution but until there is one, it will continue defending itself and that the world is threatened by "Hizbullah = Syria = Iran." Success for Israel in the media war, according to Eisen, would be if the name of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah became as synonymous internationally with terrorism as the name of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat was. She said Israel is fighting a "bloody visual war" on international English-language TV channels in which the pictures have been mostly of death and destruction on the Lebanese side. She said that during interviews with Israelis, footage of destruction in Lebanon has been shown simultaneously, making it difficult for viewers to internalize the words they hear. Israel has been handicapped, according to Eisen, because of the lack of pictures of the terrorists in Lebanon in the act of firing rockets. She said Hizbullah had been smart in not allowing coverage of the funerals of some 400 terrorists killed in the conflict, which would have projected weakness. Eisen said the good news in the media war has been that Israeli spokesmen have been getting 50 percent of the airtime, which has not happened in previous conflicts. She said this has led to the world - and even Lebanon - accepting Israel's objectives in the war. "In these four weeks, the diplomatic situation of Israel in the international community has changed 180 degrees," she said. "It is the first time since 1982 where there is broad, wall-to-wall international backing for the disarmament of Hizbullah and the deployment of the Lebanese army. Four weeks ago, no one gave a damn, but now the Lebanese government has agreed to what it refused six years ago. It's a huge change." Eisen, a native Californian who is set to replace Olmert's former foreign press spokesman Ra'anan Gissin on August 20, said that all Jews worldwide have opinions on how Israel should present itself and everyone would speak on behalf of the country if they were given the opportunity. "The media is a battlefield that affects Jews worldwide," she said. "There is a strong connection between Israel's public image and Jews worldwide, so it can't be ignored."