Among the praise for “A mild sign of hope”

“An excellent piece”
-- Barry Rubin, Yasser Arafat’s biographer

“The failing Palestinian intifada has always relied on international media to promote its cause and whitewash its war crimes, credulously reporting every hysterical Palestinian claim as if it were fact. Today in the Jerusalem Post, commentator Tom Gross asks if the media intifada is also beginning to show signs of fatigue”
-- Charles Johnson, on Little Green Footballs

“Tom Gross argues in the Jerusalem Post today that there appears to have been a slight improvement in the media’s attitude towards Israel recently. As he is the first to acknowledge, this is to start from an extremely low base; but even so, any movement in the direction of sanity and decency is to be noted and welcomed”
-- Journalist Melanie Phillips, on her website

A mild sign of hope in the media?

Is the ‘media intifada’ running out of steam?

By Tom Gross
October 20, 2004


As Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians continued – albeit at a reduced rate – and the Intifada entered its fourth year in the fall of 2004, it seemed that the world media were finally beginning to give Israel a fairer deal.

Whatever the reason – coverage of terrorist attacks elsewhere, such as the school siege in Beslan, or the brutal beheadings in Iraq – at least some of the journalistic community finally began to tacitly admit that Israel might have a right to self-defense, and stopped comparing the Jewish state to al Qaeda, Pol Pot or the Nazis.

Sensing that they were no longer automatically getting the highly sympathetic coverage they have come to expect from from the Western media, Palestinian terror groups started to kidnap journalists as a warning to others to toe the line.

-- Tom Gross


IS the international “media intifada” against Israel, like the intifada on the ground, beginning to run out of steam?

To judge by the reporting of Israel’s recent Gaza operation, this just might be the case.

Of course, there is still plenty of negative coverage. There was the usual emotive and skewered reporting (“Two girls, two shots to the head,” read the Guardian’s headline; “The harvest of death in this most dispossessed of refugee camps continued,” began Mitch Potter’s news report in the Toronto Star.)

And there were also the usual outright lies. Agence France Presse, for example, reported last week (in a story reprinted in newspapers throughout the world) that the majority of the 111 Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza over the last two weeks were children.

But overall, the reporting on Israel’s incursion against terror bases Gaza – dubbed “Operation Days of Penitence” – was not nearly as fierce, nor as bad, as it has been on several past occasions.


Pol Pot…

When, for example, Israel launched a similarly-sized counterterrorist operation in Jenin in 2002 (and actually killed comparatively few civilians in doing so), Israel-baiting in the European media reached hysterical levels. Israel was invariably compared to the Nazis, al-Qaeda, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and the Taliban.

The Guardian said Israel’s actions were “every bit as repellent” as the 9/11 attacks. The (London) Evening Standard called them acts of “genocide” and, for good measure, accused Israel of the “willful burning of several church buildings.”

And even supposedly pro-Israel newspapers like Britain’s Daily Telegraph said “hundreds of Palestinian victims” had been “buried by bulldozers in mass graves.” Palestinians in Jenin, Telegraph readers were told, were “stripped to their underwear, bound hand and foot, placed against a wall and killed with single shots to the head.”

… and some of his victims

During recent weeks, by contrast, not only has there been a slight easing of pressure against Israel in media coverage, but some European reporters have actually taken the unusual step of speaking out against their Israel-hating colleagues.


In Paris on Saturday, several journalists at “Radio France International” slammed the station’s news director, Alain Menargues, for his “unacceptable” remarks during an interview concerning his book “Sharon’s Wall” on Radio Courtoisie last week.

Menargues told listeners that we knew from the Book of Leviticus and from 2000 years of history that Jews wished to separate themselves from “impure” non-Jews.

Radio France International
Director Alain Menargues:
Made “anti-Semitic comments”

He added that Jews had deliberately created the world’s first ghetto in Venice “to separate themselves off from the rest.”

And in London on Sunday, fellow journalists publicly condemned the notorious Robert Fisk, The Independent’s Mideast correspondent (and a previous winner of journalist of the year award for, among other things, his anti-Israel tirades). The associate editor of the (London) Times said Fisk’s coverage “masquerades as reporting but is, in fact, polemic”.

Bill Newman, ombudsman for The Sun, Britain’s most popular newspaper, said Fisk’s coverage of Israel was so bad that he found it “distasteful.”

A further sign of change is the displeasure the terror groups themselves have expressed now that they are no longer automatically getting the sympathetic coverage they have come to expect from western journalists. They have recently started to kidnap journalists (French ones in Iraq, an Israeli Arab working for CNN in Gaza) as a warning to others to “toe the line”.


There are several possible reasons why there may have been a slight easing in attacks on Israel recently, at least in some parts of the media:

* The media are presently preoccupied with the US elections.

* For the time being, Iraq has become the main focus of Mideast reporting.

* The ferocious nature of terror attacks like those in Beslan and Madrid might finally have persuaded some European journalists to consider the possibility that Israel is justified in the steps it has taken to defend itself.

* The recent beheadings perpetrated by hostage-takers in Iraq have, for the time being at least, given their fellow “militants” in Gaza a bad name.

* Even the most liberal of the pro-Arab media are finally tending to treat Yasser Arafat in a negative light.

Ben Wedeman of CNN:
Hamas is a “resistance” organization

* Perhaps, even though they are unwilling to publicly give credit to Ariel Sharon, commentators realize that Israel is intending to do what the international community has demanded of it for decades and withdraw from Gaza – and yet in response, far from making conciliatory gestures, Palestinian groups have murdered Israeli children in Sderot and Beersheva. Some journalists are now less enamored of Hamas. (There are exceptions, of course; both Orla Guerin of the BBC and Ben Wedeman of CNN have recently started referring to Hamas as “the resistance.”)

* Improved public-relations efforts on behalf of Israel: not the lamentable efforts of Gideon Meir, Israel’s PR guru at the Foreign Ministry, but those of private groups such as HonestReporting.

* Perhaps, too, there is a belated realization that – even if it isn’t acknowledged in public – the Israeli army makes honest and sustained efforts to avoid civilian casualties, of a kind that have very seldom been taken by other armies.

However, experience suggests that this mild improvement in media comment and coverage is likely to prove only temporary. Negative opinion about Israel, especially in Europe, has become so entrenched in broad sections of elitist opinion that there is little chance of Israel receiving fair coverage on a consistent basis – not until there is full recognition in Europe and elsewhere of the nature and threat of Islamic fundamentalist terror.

(The writer is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.)