The media boomerang effect

The Media Effect: Israeli public aware that its press is too often a suppressor of democracy instead of its staunch supporter.

Photojournalists photographers journalists reporters 311 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Photojournalists photographers journalists reporters 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Boomerangs, as we know, go out and then, in theory, come all the way back. In marketing, it happens when, in making too strong a pitch, the subject’s attitude becomes negative and they decide not to purchase the product.
There is a “boomerang effect” with regard to the Israeli media, too. It occurs when local media exploit their connections with the foreign press to impact Israeli society.
Danna Weiss of Channel 2 TV traveled to Washington to be present at the Saban Center Conference. There, she conducted a panel discussion on US-Israel relations which included Tom Friedman of The New York Times, Martin Indyk of CNN and the Saban Center, and in-house commentator Ehud Yaari.
The event was broadcast in two parts, on December 10. Part one was the pre-recorded panel discussion. Ms. Weiss, through her questions and remarks, was indistinguishable from the panelists and involved herself most intensely in the anti- Netanyahu and anti-Israeli government rhetoric.
Next up was a live broadcast with Dr. Yoaz Hendel, head of the Prime Minister’s Office National Information Directorate. His presence provided some semblance of balance to the Washington panel, but he was simply outnumbered. Even in this discussion, Ms. Weiss took advantage of her position as moderator to pose anti-government questions.
The Saban conference was indeed a left-wing affair, but our media reported extensively on the conference, presenting it as if it was an objective intellectual exercise whose conlcusions supported the theme that the Netanyahu government is impeding the supposedly very necessary two-state solution.
THERE IS a darker aspect of Israeli media reporting on foreign events. It is the sound of silence. The media hides from the Israeli public events and news that do not fit in with the politically correct media agenda.
David Barnett and Professor Efraim Karsh, director of the Middle East Forum and a research professor at London’s King’s College, published an article in the Forum’s Middle East Quarterly magazine entitled “Azzam’s Genocidal Threat.” They had discovered the original source of the infamous declaration of Abdul Rahman Azzam, the Arab League’s first secretary-general, that the establishment of a Jewish state would lead to “a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.”
Barnett and Karsh discovered that Azzam’s threat was made prior to the November 29, 1947 UN partition resolution.
This patently negates the notions of New Historians such as Tom Segev who claim that the Jews in Palestine were not really threatened at the time by the Arab world.
Dr. Segev found it necessary to publish an article in Hebrew and English in Haaretz, attempting to downplay the Barnett-Karsh discovery. This led to another article by Professor Karsh, entitled “Haaretz: The Paper for Thinking People?” In this last article, Karsh says he emailed a reply to Segev’s column within three days, but it took another six weeks of haggling until Aluf Benn, Haaretz’s editor, grudgingly agreed to publish an abridged version of the response, and then only in Hebrew.
Karsh’s criticism of Segev is harsh. He accuses him of distortion, besmirching those who brought the Azzam article to public attention, inverting the truth and failing to help “his country reclaim the historical truth after decades of relentless distortion.” He charges Haaretz with engaging “in the shoddy business of truth suppression and mouth shutting at a time when it self-righteously fights an alleged attempt by the Israeli government to do precisely that.”
IT WOULD be hard to overstate the ramifications of this important academic debate on Israel’s narrative of the 1948 war or its impact on our schoolbooks. Unfortunately, however, the issue did not even come close to becoming a media issue. The boomerang here operates in the other direction, abroad. If Haaretz locally suppresses historical fact, why shouldn’t the same history be distorted abroad?
Nor is the Karsh case an isolated incident. Has anyone in Israel heard about a US organization called ACT! for America? The founder, one Brigitte Gabriel, is a Lebanese immigrant to the US, an expert on terrorism and the author of two books. She describes herself as “a survivor of Islamic terror who lost her native country of Lebanon to the hegemony of radical Islam and vows to make sure her adopted country of America never falls to the same fate.”
In a recent speech she describes the self-hate being promoted on American campuses, especially by academics in the Social Sciences. She decries recent Islamic propaganda being taught in American public schools, which she claims is in blatant contradiction with the hallowed American principle of separation between church and state.
Sound familiar? It should. We seem to have similar problems here. Yet this type of American thinking is way off the radar for the Saban Conference, despite the direct ramifications it has on issues involving Israel. As such, it does not “deserve” coverage by Israel’s media. It just doesn’t fit the “acceptible” narrative.
Prof. Alan Dershowitz recently visited Israel, inter alia, to receive an honorary Menachem Begin Prize. In an interview with the editor-inchief of The Jerusalem Post, Steve Linde, the Harvard professor said “all sides [of the media] have engaged in hyperbole and overstatement about these issues....”
In an interview with Yaakov Ahimeir on Channel 1, Dershowitz later noted the disparaging remarks about Israel and Zionism made by Israeli media stars including Uri Avnery and a plethora of Haaretz columnists. He asserted that this type of strident rhetoric provides strong ammunition for those hostile to Israel and makes it most difficult for defenders of Israel even to highlight the simple facts.
But at the end of the day, the real boomerang effect hits back at the Israeli press. The Israeli public is well aware that its press is too often a suppressor of Israel’s democracy instead of its staunch supporter. Isn’t it time that we stop supporting those who undermine our Zionist existence?
The authors are respectively vice chairman and chairman of Israel’s Media Watch.