Deja Vu

Olmert: Our image was impaired in a sphere where we have grounds for pride.

'Unfortunately, we failed signally in handling the media once the fighting began. We didn't succeed in adjusting to changing circumstances. We still thought and behaved in conventional patterns, and the result was that we lost a fine opportunity to achieve a greater understanding... "We lacked the capacity to provide a sufficiently convincing argument against the charge that we had overreacted in Lebanon and overdid our use of force, thereby wreaking havoc among the civilian population. That's really awful, because the charge is patently false. "Our image was impaired in a sphere where we have justified grounds for great pride. Our army is a humane body of men and our soldiers have shown a great sense of moral responsibility in a battle against an evil and murderous enemy. Nonetheless, a totally different impression has taken root in world public opinion. If that's not a failure, I don't know what is... "It isn't because we don't have a separate Information Ministry. Indeed, I see no need for one... Regrettably, in the heat of war, we failed to be properly organized and to break through routine patterns of work... [When the foreign TV networks started broadcasting unbalanced scenes of destruction from Sidon and Tyre, Israel issued a statement of denial.] Words don't suffice in this case. Pictures have to be answered with pictures... "We hesitated and mumbled. By the time we got going telling the facts, the false image had become embedded in people's minds... "I realize that there is latent anti-Semitism in the world, and that from time to time it bursts forth in various forms. There's little we can do with newspapers and TV stations and correspondents who a priori treat us as the enemy. But we can do much, much more to persuade those who are more open-minded... "Perhaps there is a lack of awareness at the top political level of the need to wage an information campaign parallel to the military operation. In the end, we lose out by this, as has been proved in the present war. "I fully appreciate the need to meet the requirements of the Israeli press, but the main problems are with foreign information, and we must do our best to rectify those mistakes with an eye to the future." Likud Knesset member Ehud Olmert, briefly touted by prime minister Menachem Begin as a deputy minister for information during the Lebanon war, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post's political correspondent Mark Segal on July 30, 1982.