Arab and Left wing organizations now receive, escort and brief the media who arrive in Israel to cover Israel’s fiftieth anniversary year, with little competition from anyone on the other side. Arabist “briefers” dredge up every possible myth and any possible negative fact of Israel: the “expulsion of the Arabs in 1948”, etc.
At this point in time, no outfit exists to receive, escort and brief the media who arrive from abroad. Israel’s Government Press Office at Beit Agron is now only a place for the visiting journalist to receive a press card.
Few briefings take place at Beit Agron any more. The 1996 removal of the boxes from Beit Agron is one of the factors that made it something less than a hub of journalist activity.
Meanwhile, the GPO and the IDF spokesman do provide an excellent beeper/e-mail system for the correspondents who are permanently based in Israel.
However, the temporary reporter is not plugged into that beeper/telemesser system that does exist.
That does not mean that the visiting reporter will not use the facilities of the GPO or the IDF spokesperson.
However, the visiting reporter often uses Israeli government and army facilitities at the instruction, direction and/or counsel of the Arabist media lobbyist who “got to the reporter” at the hotel or at the journalist’s home bureau.
The fact remains that while “Arabists” distribute a wealth of material to news bureaus abroad and to the reporters when they arrive in Israel, the well researched/well prepared reports of the GPO are posted on the internet and not proactively marketed and distributed.
Materials on past or recent Israeli history or Israel’s views on subjects such as refugees, settlements, human rights and the Intifada are simply not marketed effectively to the foreign media, let alone the local Israeli press.
What is made readily available to the media are an assortment of tendentious materials provided by Arab lobbyists, Peace Now, Bitzelem, Uri Avneri’s Gush Shalom, Meron Benvenisti, Shimon Peres.
If the visiting reporter were not antagonistic or biased to begin with – and the vast majority of reporters are simply not informed or knowledgable – the reporter often winds up with a bias against Israel that the journalist learns while in Israel.
Suggested Solution: A Systematic Media Strategy
Israel coped with a similar although less extreme situation in 1987-88, at the 40th anniversary of the state. At that time, Shamir’s press spokesman, Avie Pazner, initiated every activity possible for the visiting foreign press, and placed every possible information resource at their disposal. That resulted in hundreds of good media clips for Israel in 1988, which counterbalanced the first year of the Intifada.
What is sorely missing is any systematic effort to orient visiting journalists who arrive in Israel. Even if they were all given special GPO/IDF beepers, the human element would be missing.
What exists is a well-funded “amuta” (non-profit organization) to provide programs for Israel’s 50th anniversary. Doron Shmueli, the new amuta director, reported to the Knesset that he has more funds than he knows what to do with.
Here is what that amuta for Israel’s fiftieth anniversary could do to ameliorate the situation of visiting journalists:
Proactively recruit, receive, brief, and escort journalists who arrive in Israel, working in cooperation with the IDF spokesman, the GPO and the Foreign Ministry, to catalyze the following:
- Formation of a “moetzet ziknei hasbara” (elders of Israeli political history) that would help orient journalists concerning Israeli history. People like Yoash Tsidon, Shlomo Hillel, Rafi Horovitz, Lova Eliav, Yechiel Kadishai, Geula Cohen would be drafted to provide personal briefings for reporters concerning Israel’s seemingly unknown and exciting history.
- Tours for all visiting journalists, academics, embassy personnel to places of Israeli history.
- Timely briefings for reporters at Beit Agron and Beit Sokolov, combined with systematic outreach to journalists at the hotels where they stay.
- Effective promotion/advertising of informative Israeli websites, with specific referrals to the material concerning blatant PA violations of the Oslo accords and links to Israeli history.
An impossible task.
Theodre Herzl, 1897