Hebrew U: Israel's image hurt since pullout

New study shows media representations of Israel have worsened since disengagement carried out.

disengagement 224.88 (photo credit: Associated Press [file])
disengagement 224.88
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
Israel's image in the international media deteriorated after the pullout from the Gaza Strip, despite Israeli expectations that the unilateral withdrawal would boost support for its policies, according to a study released Thursday. Hebrew University researchers found that Israel was represented in a more negative light in both the United States and Britain media after the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, compared to the period that preceded it, and that the improvement in Israel's image occurred only during the disengagement itself. "We found that one of the main reasons for this phenomenon is that Israel continues to be viewed by the world as a conquering state," said Hebrew University political scientist Dr. Tamir Sheafer, who carried out the study. "We also found that the demands from Israel for territorial concessions in the territories not only were not lessened following the disengagement, but actually became stronger." Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, and the forced removal of 9,000 Israelis was billed by the government of then-prime minister Ariel Sharon as a move which would improve the country's international standing. The study was based on thousands of on-line articles that appeared in the UK and US media, as well as on statements by American and British leaders on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sharon's foreign press spokesman, Ra'anan Gissin, said Thursday that the survey suffered from "a basic methodological error" in that it did not take into account a host of intervening variables following the disengagement, primarily the Second Lebanon War. "You can't pin it on disengagement," Gissin said, adding that the survey's conclusions did not jibe with the overwhelming support Israel had in the world press from the disengagement to the eve of the Lebanon War. "It is the last news that makes the most impact," Gissin said, arguing that Israel's image would have been "totally different" had it clearly won the 34-day war in Lebanon, and not been perceived as weak. The study, which found a high correlation between the US and UK governments policies and their respective media, also found that the Palestinians were unsuccessful in improving their image as a result of their 2006 elections, which brought Hamas to power. "Although the Palestinian Authority tried to market the elections... as positive and democratic, the elections were ultimately portrayed in a negative light in the foreign media due to their strengthening of Hamas," Sheafer said.