Media Comment: The orphaned success

In Israel’s media, even success can remain orphaned.

pro-Palestinian activists at Brussels airport 370 (photo credit: Reuters)
pro-Palestinian activists at Brussels airport 370
(photo credit: Reuters)
The past week was a good one for our media in terms of news-to-be-reported. Two incredibly important events took place. The first was Sunday’s “flytilla,” the second was the damning video clip of Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner hitting a Danish “activist.”
To appreciate how these events were covered by our media it is necessary to backtrack a bit.
Only two years ago Israel had to deal with the “Gaza Flotilla.” The results for Israel were bad – nine “activists” were killed. The Israel haters all over the world reveled and our media was extremely critical of the IDF’s handling of the affair.
Mr. Ron Ben Yishai, a veteran journalist, made the following points in an article published on Ynet in the wake of the flotilla affair: “In the present international climate, anything that Israel undertakes to explain is assured in advance of failing... The army, Mossad and Secret Service should minimize the public demonstrations. It is advantageous to employ covert operations which will prevent or destroy the plans of the provocateurs when they are only at the planning stage.”
Professor Yehezkel Dror, a member of the Winograd Commission which was formed in the wake of the Second Lebanon war, was also very clear: “One must consider both optimistic and pessimistic scenarios.
Preparation for the pessimistic is the ABC of decision making. ...One should use a critical mass of forces which will be able to overcome unexpected resistance. ...The makeup of the forces and their weaponry must be able to deal with possible scenarios of engagement.”
It would seem that indeed the government and the army took heed and followed these recommendations to the letter when dealing with the flytilla. The results were impressive. The action ended in total failure of the participants, most of the demonstrators were thwarted in their home base and the few that made it to Israel were quickly arrested and taken away from the scene.
How did our media react to this success? Consider the learned words of the IBA’s legal commentator Moshe Negbi on his weekly radio program: “I cannot but remember the... statement used by the traffic safety authority – don’t be right, be smart. One can also cite the... proverb of the French diplomat Talleyrand who said ‘it is worse than wickedness, it is stupidity.’” Negbi then continues: “Isn’t it wiser to demonstrate the deep gap between us and Iran and Syria whereby in contrast to them, we are not afraid of people visiting Israel and discussing the issues with them.... The way to deal with criticism is not to stifle it but to tackle it and question it.”
Mr. Negbi, who did not deny Israel’s legal right to prevent the provocateurs from entering Israel, would have preferred that they enter massively and that we would then “convince” them how wrong they are.
Negbi’s was not a lone voice in the darkness. Israel’s media’s description of the successful preventive operation was at best neutral. Meirav Miller on IBA’s Channel 1 TV opened her description of the events as follows: “Instead of 1,000 left-wing activists in the pro- Palestinian flight action, only a few tens reached Ben- Gurion Airport and were immediately arrested. A few were sent back without any scuffles, and all was done far from the eyes of the media.”
Channel 2’s headline was: “Only a few tens of activists managed to arrive at Ben-Gurion airport. The central confrontation took place between Israeli leftand right-wing activists.”
Channel 10’s correspondent Idan Roth noted that the assumption that 1,000 activists would arrive was exaggerated. In his eyes: “At the end of this tough day it is difficult to know who was the victor in the public opinion arena. The activists succeeded for a whole week to challenge Israel from every possible stage, yet Israel prevented 90 percent of them from arriving, and all this on one of the most crowded days at the airport which somehow passed in peace.”
The media of course interviewed some of the “activists,” allowing them to “explain” why they came. They were allowed to present themselves as the innocent European do-gooders who were only coming to protest “the occupation” and help the Palestinian people. The idea that perhaps one should interview some of our security people who monitor passengers and often face impossible situations and pressure, questioning people who seem to be innocent, did not occur to anyone. The human aspect of providing security for passengers, while remaining civil, was not deemed to be newsworthy.
ISRAEL’S MEDIA could not bring itself to describe the events positively. The words “success,” “victory,” “achievement” were conspicuously not employed. But this brings us to the second great media event.
A Palestinian reporter put on the web his version of the events that took place in the Jordan valley. This is not the first time that Israel’s enemies provoke, film, edit and then publish. Do we not remember the case in Silwan when David Be’eri, the leader of the City of David project, almost ran over a Palestinian youngster? It was only a couple of days later that the full film came out showing that the whole event was set up.
Relying upon video segments selected by pro-Arab activists is a gift to the rioters and a stab in the back of IDF soldiers. And it is unethical journalism.
Yet no one on Israel’s mainstream media found it necessary to put such video clips, which are far from presenting the objective events, in their true context. When reporting on these sad events, the media did not hesitate to describe them as Israel’s failure, defeat, debacle, etc.
Interestingly, as noted by Shlomo Toren in a letter to Israel’s Media Watch, two incidents of a similar serious nature that occurred over the weekend somehow went unreported . One was the beating of a nine-year-old Jewish child by a Border policeman in Hebron near the disputed Machpela House and the subsequent arrest of a couple of “settlers” for intervening to prevent further harm to the child. The second incident was the uprooting of an acre vineyard by Arabs near the Jewish community Achiya.
It would seem that the music of the past week is deafening. When a Jewish soldier, with a kippa on his head, errs and under stress beats up a European activist (who was hardly injured), the crescendo dominates. When a Jewish child is harmed by a Jewish soldier the silence is deafening. When our security forces succeed, the media cacophony is limited and at best low-key. In Israel’s media, even success can remain orphaned.
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch,