“They may have won all the battles. We had all the good songs”
Tom Lehrer, That Was The Year That Was – 1966.

“When you promote our cause, never say that it is a military struggle to liberate Palestine. Say that it we are a movement designed to achieve the human rights and civil liberties of the Palestinian people” – Huwaida Araf, a trainer in a training session for Palestinian activists provided in September, 2001 by PASSIA, The Palestine Association for the Study of International Affairs in Jerusalem, in a course sponsored by the US AID, the United States Agency for International Development, which reports directly to the White House.

It would be an understatement to say that any cause or movement that defines itself and projects itself as a civil liberties or human rights movement will earn an obvious edge in its fight for media sympathy, if it is pitted against the image of a highly mechanized and professional army,

The media professionals of the PLO began to adjust the way in which they market themselves to the world press during the time of the Lebanese war in 1982, when the Red Crescent, under the direction of Dr. Fatchi Arafat, Yassir’s brother, issued daily situation reports from the field. Even if the claims of casualties seemed wildly out of proportion (“10,000 dead, 600,000 made homeless during the first week of the war”), the very couching of such a report in the context of a humanitarian organization made all the difference.

In 1984, a Palestinian Arab media professional, Ramonda Tawill, who six years later would become Yassir Arafat’s mother-in-law, pioneered the concept of a Palestinian Press Service, based in Jerusalem and working in coordination with the other organization founded by Tawill, the Palestine Human Rights Information Center. Tawill began to slowly change the image if not the reality of the PLO, from a catchy “liberation” movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s to that of a human rights concern. Everything would now be couched in terms of human rights, and the media would be targeted for relationships.

Meanwhile, Arafat’s trusted assistant, Abu Iyad, spent a year in Hanoi learning the lessons of the Vietnam conflict from the victorious General Giap, where Abu Iyad studied how the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese had transformed their movement in the eyes of the west and particularly in the eyes of American public opinion from that of a terror group to that of a heroic and popular movement. “It is all a matter of working well with the media”, was how the Vietnamese summarized their training sessions with Abu Iyad, who managed to coordinate his Arafat’s media efforts in Tunis with Tawill in Jerusalem

One of the first successful training projects that Tawill pulled off was the way in which she handled the freed prisoners from the Jibril exchange in May, 1985, when Israel freed more than 1100 convicted PLO terrorists in exchange for seven IDF troops held by PLO operative Achmed Jibril. 600 of these freed convicts returned to their homes in the west bank and Gaza, and Tawill conducted a training course for them to learn how to market themselves to the media, by discussing their allegations of Israeli torture in Israeli jails, so as to distract reporters from asking about their crimes. Tawill’s trainees also learned the art of media relations, and many of them assumed key roles in the organization of the PLO rebellion, known as the Intifada, which broke out in December,. 1987.

It would be hard to say that the PLO commitment to civil liberties and human rights would represent a pure approach to human rights and civil liberties.

Perception is everything, however. When a Palestinian by the name of Dr. Mubarak Awad opened the Center for the Study of Non-Violence in the mid-1980’s, he was received with adulation by the media and by western diplomats alike. However, Dr. Awad, whose office was decorated with pictures of Dr, Martin Luther King and Dr Muhatma Ghandi, told me in a taped interview in January, 1988 that he favored a coalition of violent and non violent organizations that would advocate the Palestinian cause.

When Dr Awad was asked how his approach differed from the pure approach of non-violence advocated by King and Ghandi, Awad responded that he was “more pragmatic than they were”. Awad, an American Palestinian, and often described as the tactical leader of the Intifada, was deported from Israel in June, 1988.

This interview with Dr. Mubarak Awad was commissioned by Tikun magazine in the US. The above questions were left out of the March 1988 published interview.

The editor of Tikun told me on the telephone that “this was not the Awad we know.

The second PLO Intifada, which broke out out in September, 2000 was also well orchestrated with the media.

John Burns, visiting correspondent for the New York Times, witnessed the preparations for that war in a front page story that he filed for the Times on August 3, 2000.

Burns desribed how the PLO’s Palestinian Authority had dispatched 25,000 Palestinian children to summer camps to “learn the art of war” and to acquire skills such as the preparation and explosion of molotov cocktails and combat with Israeli troops, in the war that was going to break out following the collapse of the Camp David summit.

The article that Burns wrote was unique, since most Israeli and foreign news stories continued to relate to the PA as a peace partner that had abandoned the path of violence ever since the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House Lawn in September, 1993. That perception of the PLO embarking on a new path to peace was reinforced by the policies of the Israeli government at the time, which strongly disapproved of any news reportage which reflected a PA or PLO message of war in Arabic

Indeed, when the Institute for Peace Education Ltd began to produce videos of Arafat’s speeches which continued to support Jihad holy war and the continuation of violence, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres implored the Israel TV (there was only one channel then ) to not air any of Arafat’s speeches in the Arabic language.

In September, 1995, before The US House Committee of International Relations held hearings in which committee members watched videos of Arafat urging his people to war during the height of the Oslo peace process, Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovitch implored the congressional committee to cancel its hearing.

The reluctance to share Arafat’s message of war in the Arabic language continued during the Netanyahu administration, 1996-1999, despite the Likud ties of Mr. Netanyahu. And during the Barak administration, the clause that required a cessation of incitement was dropped in the accord that was brokered between Arafat and Barak by US Secretary of State Madalyn Albright on September 4, 1999.

In other words, key Israeli and US decision-makers chose to ignore the consistent message of the PA in its daily calls on official PBC radio and PBC TV which carried a daily message of a renewed war against Israel.

The PLO was not sitting on its hands, however.

The PA organized an intricate media operation from the time of its inception in 1994, in anticipation of a full scale conflict with Israel. That network included:

1. The aforementioned PASSIA, working on a 1.034 million dollar grant per annum from the US, which covered more than 80% of its working budget. In 2001 alone, PASSIA shows that it was able to run 16 courses for Palestinians to learn the art of lobbying the media and elected officials abroad. (Passia can be found on the net at: www.passia.org). No counterpart yet exists on the Israeli side.

2. The JMCC, the Jersualem Media and Communications Center, run by Arafat intimate Dr Ghassan Khatib, and funded through grants from the Ford Foundation and the western European governments that comprise the European Union, the EU. The JMCC coordinates press services for the hundreds of visiting correspondents who visit Jerusalem, selling them daily press bulletins, Stringers and tours of Jerusalem and the areas under the control of the PA.

There are altogether more that 100 Palestinian stringers who provide per diem services to the media. No counterpart to JMCC yet exists on the Israeli side.

3. Union of Palestine Medical Relief Committees, run by Dr. Mustafa Bargouti, whose public relations department, funded with a US AID grant of close to $300,000. The UPMRC, in coordination with the Red Crescent, whose pr department if also funded through US AID, issues consistently wild reports concerning medical neglect and torture. The UPMRC is the organization responsible for spreading the rumored news item that Israel has developed special poisonous tear gas for use against Arab children, and that Israel has developed special methodologies of dumping waste in Arab villages so as to cause Arab villagers to come down with mass dysentery. No counterpart yet exists on the Israeli side to contradict the claims

Israel Resource News Agency assigned its student interns to the courses provided by Mrs. Tawill and later to the courses provided by PASSIA and the JMCC. One of the themes of the courses was the instruction to constantly repeat the terms that connote occupation, illegal settlements, human rights abuses, right to go home, while teaching them to emulate the leaders of the twentieth century who came to power through acts of violence

The fact that the PLO provides the media with stringers and cameramen through the good offices of the JMCC, in addition to minibuses and vans, has helped the PLO to form the reporting environment for the hundreds of foreign reporters who come to cover the middle east crisis.

The PLO is generally not heavy handed with the media, except in a few glaring instances such as the instance on October 12, 2000 when an Italian TV crew had to provide the PLO with a written promise that they would never again dispatch footage that was not first approved by Palestinian authorities, following their coverage of the lynching of two Israeli soldiers at the PA police station in Ramallah.

The PLO has developed a successful working relationship with the media arm of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the organization that actually runs the Palestinian Arab refugee camp, charged by UN resolution #194 with the task to operate the “temporary shelters” of the Palestinian Arab refugees, under the premise and the promise of the “inalienable right” of Palestinian Arab refugees to return to the homes and villages that they left in 1948. While the architect of the Oslo process. Dr Yose Beilin, declared in December 1993 that the first act of the PA would be to absorb these refugees, the PA decided in its opening session in May 1994 that all Palestinian refugees must remain in their camps until they are repatriated to their homes and villages.

UNRWA, which now maintains a news service and Television agency, has cooperated with the media services of the PLO and with the PBC, the Palestine Broadcasting Corporation, to provide the visiting Press with any and all services that present the plight of the refugees who wallow in their squalor.

Awaiting their return to their homeland. It did not surprise the PLO or UNRWA when President Clinton made his speech of July 1, 1999 which indeed endorsed the Palestinian right to “return to their homeland”, since the US covers $90 million of the $400 million per annum budget of the UNRWA camps.

As a result, The PLO media professionals coordinate their work with human rights organizations that operate in the areas under the control of the PA. These human rights groups rely on “eyewitness” testimony that confirm human rights abuses. Some of these human rights groups are actually Israeli based organizations, such as “Btselem”. The news story that accompanies this article concerning Btselem will speak for itself

Staging Events

The PA does everything possible to stage events. Their attempt to project the image of a massacre after the fact at the UNRWA refugee camp in Jenin simply did not work. The IDF filmed PLO media professionals bringing dead carcasses of animals to the scenes where reporters and UN officials were likely to visit the camp. The IDF also filmed a staged funeral where the “body” actually fell off of the stretcher and jumped back on en route to his “burial”.

Other “flashpoint” events worked however. The most famous event which was shown around the world was that of a boy, age 11, named Muhammad Dura, who was seemingly shot dead while his father hovered over him at a road junction near Gaza. Dura became the martyr of the first stage of the PLO rebellion, even though a German TV crew would later prove that all the firing that came in the direction of the little boy was from the Palestinian side. Yet there is even a more macabre side to this, and that is that the Palestinian TV crew that actually did the filming of the incident has made the out takes of the not shown b-roll, which conveyed yet another message. The film shows two Palestinian journalists laughing as they arrange for the same Palestinian ambulance with the same license number to come to the scene of the riot to pick up the same wounded people each time, at three minute intervals, which would not have been enough time to take the “wounded” to the Shifa hospital in Gaza. And the barrel where Muhamad Dura and his father were supposedly fired upon for 40 minutes is shown to have only one or two bullet holes. In other words, the Muhammad Dura death was also staged

Dr. Mike Cohen, a Jerusalem based strategic communications analyst who serves in the IDF reserves with the rank of captain the IDF Spokesman’s office, believes that it is the PLO’s ability to manipulate The images for reporters that is proving to be the crucial factor, much more so than any innate Bias that the journalist might have. In the words of Dr. Cohen: ” I do not believe that the media is anti-israel or anti-semitic or pro-palestinian. From my experience, with many in the international media I would unscientifically rank the reasons as thus:

50% lack of background and knowledge of the entire picture on the part of the reporters and editors and lack of time and desire to take a deep look at the facts
25% fear of losing access if coverage was truthful
15% fear of loss of revenue if coverage was balanced
5% anger at the Israeli pr establishment
2% rooting for the underdog
2% editorial policy
1% or less built in bias

Yet in the view of senior American journalists who are permanently based in Israel. The Jewish State has not really lost the PR war

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one senior American journalist made the following observation:

“The numbers show that Israel has won the war hands down. Support for Israel in the US is overwhelming, and it’s about the same it’s always been in Europe, which is to say, not very good. We tend to home in on the negative articles, but there are papers full of positive ones, and even the papers we believe have a bias also run articles explaining our side.

‘When it comes to hasbara, Israelis are clobbering the Palestinians. Israeli spokespeople are good, clear, concise (some of them) and most of all, available. I trip over them. I practically have to have a receptionist to keep them lined up and orderly outside the office. It’s true, whenever I need a Palestinian to comment on something, I can get a senior official easily, but this government has matched that and made its people much more available for TV. Where Israel is falling down is in the inevitable TV image conflict and by making stupid decisions like keeping reporters out of places. Had reporters been in the Jenin camp, the world would have read, heard about and seen a battle, and rumors of a massacre would never have taken hold. They also would have seen some nasty things in Ramallah, because Israel did some nasty things. But in the end of the day, the pictures of destroyed buildings and wailing Palestinians (they do that so well) overwhelm any attempt to explain why. Of course, it would have been nice if the army had provided or allowed a cover shot to show that only a small corner of the Jenin camp was destroyed… It took them two weeks to get around to that”.

And not all journalists based in Israel thing that the PA ultimately controls information and images that emanate from areas under the control of the PA.

Another reporter made the following observation:

“I think it’s crucial to understand that Israel is the one that “controls” (read bans) information and images coming from the territories. There have been a few incidents of Palestinian police confiscating video and film and intimidating reporters, but the IDF closed the whole West Bank to reporters during Defensive Shield and left the area wide open to wild rumors, planted skillfully by Palestinian spokesmen taking advantage of this horrible Israeli mistake. We had no way to check out the rumors (massacre, human shield, etc etc), and so many of us had to report it in a he-said, she-said format. And, of course, when TV networks put Palestinian spokesmen on live to make their charges, then it’s out there and we have to deal with it”.

To say that Israel could do better with its media relations is the understatement of Zionism.

As this article is being prepared, at least five different aspects of Israeli officialdom meet with the media independently of one another – the IDF, the foreign ministry, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Defence Ministry.

Everyone gives a different message.

No one provides any real creativity in their Respective approaches to the media

Since the Israeli government is doomed to continue in its dysfunctional way of dealing with the press, the time has come for private enterprise to take the reigns of Israel’s public relations – To provide systematic bus tours, seminars with experts, interviews with the families of terror victims and independent news investigations that will help provide Israel with a chance of conveying its message to the media.

The following ten questions, developed by Jerusalem radio journalist Yoram Getzler, could easily form the basis of a quiz show that could which could counter some current popular assumptions that have seeped into the consciousness of the media and public opinion, in Israel and abroad:

1) What is the percentage of Palestinians living under Palestinian autonomy and sovereignty since the withdrawal of the IDF from Arab populated areas of in the West Bank & Gaza in 1995 Answer: – 95%, according to Dr. Kalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research (Berzeit University)

2) Did The Oslo “peace process” (1993) halt Palestinian terror attacks on Israel?

Answer: In 1994 ’95 ’96 & 1997 while Israel was implementing the Oslo agreement & withdrawing from the occupied territories – 134 Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

3) What did the Israel Defense Forces destroy in retaliation for the lynching of two of its IDF troops who had wandered into Ramallah?

Answer: one; the police station in which the lynching took place, after the IDF warned the Palestinians that it was going to attack so that it could evacuate the building.

4) Ariel Sharon declared a unilateral cease-fire how many days before the June 1 2001 suicide bombing at the Tel Aviv Dolphinarium.

Answer: 12 days, (from May 20 2001)

4b) What did the IDF destroy after for the murder of 20 young people in the suicide bombing of the Dolphierioum Disco in Tel Aviv

Answer: five buildings of the PA security services in Gaza

5) Who first offered the “Saudi Proposal” (exchanging all land captured in 1967 for peace)for ending the Israel / Arab conflict?

Answer: Israel, one month after the 1967 war

7) What was the official response of the Arab League to the Israeli 1967 proposal to exchange all the land occupied in the 1967 war for peace – in Khartoum, Sudan on November 22, 1967

Answer: No recognition (of Israel)
No negotiations (with Israel)
No peace ( with Israel)

8) What did Israeli government confiscate from the Palestinian Authority in response to the bombing of the Sabarro Pizza parlor in which 16 Israelis were murdered?

Answer: The Orient House, which was the de facto PLO headquarters in Jerusalem

9) How many Israels were murdered by terrorists between the signing of Oslo accords, September 13 1993, to September 2000 (outbreak of current violence)


10) In 1967, was the West Bank conquered by IDF Army from the Palestinians?

Answer: The West Bank was captured from the Hashamite Kingdom of Jordan which had ruled there since 1948 – Gaza was captured from the Egyptians.


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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.