New record in 2002 for media obsession with Israel

January 04, 2003

CONTENTS

1. Israel was the subject of more cumulative airtime than the next nine stories combined
2. "Doubts as to the very credibility of their reporting"
3. "Israel sets new highs in media interest" (NY Jewish Week, Jan. 3, 2003)
4. Op-ed by Daniel Seaman (Yediot Ahronot, Dec. 30, 2002)



ISRAEL WAS THE SUBJECT OF MORE CUMULATIVE AIRTIME THAN THE NEXT NINE STORIES COMBINED

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach two articles concerning the international media obsession with Israel, with a brief summary of each first:

1. "Israel sets new highs in media interest" (NY Jewish Week, January 3, 2003). According to a study by one of American's leading research institutes, in 2002 Israel attracted an unprecedented amount of media interest. Between the end of March and the end of June Israel's war was the subject of more cumulative airtime on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news than the next nine stories combined, including America's own war in Afghanistan.

Most of this coverage was in America, as in the rest of the world, greatly slanted against Israel. For example, The New York Times (Dec. 29) log of events in 2002 had these highlights: March 28, "Arab world agrees to relations with Israel if land is returned" (a non-event that could have been true any day for the past 20 years) followed directly by March 29, "Israel invades Yasser Arafat's headquarters, 5 Palestinians, 1 Israeli die," leaving the sequential illusion that the Arab peace offer was met with nothing but Israeli violence. In fact, on March 27 (marked only as the death of Milton Berle, by the Times) twenty-nine Israelis were murdered at the Netanya Passover hotel bomb, something the Times mentioned not in the calendar but in a footnote.

“DOUBTS AS TO THE VERY CREDIBILITY OF THEIR REPORTING”

2. Op-Ed by Daniel Seaman, Director of Israel Government Press Office (Yediot Ahronot, Dec. 30, 2002). As in previous years, the Government Press Office has made considerable arrangements and efforts for the convenience of the foreign journalists pouring into Israel, including importing 25 bulletproof cars into the country, says Seaman. "Every foreign journalist knows that GPO employees will help them at all times of the day and night, seven days a week, including the Sabbath and holidays," despite "the coordination of mendacious reports [by some foreign correspondents] and links with senior Palestinian Authority officials, the nature of which raises doubts as to the very credibility of their reporting."

Yet, says Seaman, "some members of the foreign press" based in Israel have greeted this hospitality, by "turning to slander" and threatening to "send" the Director of the GPO "to hell." Seaman says it is high time that certain foreign journalists stopped "discussing the Palestinian struggle in the first person" during their private conversations.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

ISRAEL SETS NEW HIGHS IN MEDIA INTEREST

Israel sets new highs in media interest
By Jonathan Mark
The (New York) Jewish Week
January 3, 2003

Israel never suffered from a lack of attention, but in 2002 the Jewish state attracted a surge of public interest surpassing anything in the past decade.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center for the Public and the Press, released at year's end, Israel's civil war was "one of the most closely followed international stories in Pew's 16-year history of measuring news attentiveness."

Additionally, there was a stretch in 2002 when Israel attracted more TV attention that can be expected for any story not directly involving Americans. The final tally on the year's television stories has yet to be concluded, but a preliminary finding by the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) found that between the end of March and the end of June corresponding to the mass murder at the Netanya seder and Israel's retaliatory actions Israel's war was the subject of more cumulative airtime on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news than the next nine stories combined, including such major stories as the Catholic sex abuse scandal and America's own war in Afghanistan. This was before attention shifted to the Washington-area snipers, the debate over Iraq, and America's own war against terror.

(The sniper shootings was the No. 1 story of 2002, according to Pew's survey of public interest, followed by Iraq; the Pledge of Allegiance debate; homeland security; U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan; child kidnappings; the Israel-Palestinian war; FBI-CIA knowledge of 9-11; the first anniversary of 9-11; and the September terrorist alert. Israel was the only "non-American" story in the top 15).

Interest peaked in the spring, said Pew, when more than 44 percent of Americans said they tracked Israel's war "very closely," and another 33 percent "fairly closely," but in December the most intense interest slipped to 29 percent, still unusually high. And all this despite the fact that 2002 was, in a sense, just more of the same there was no change in government, war was in its second year, and death became all too routine. Nevertheless, 2002 dwarfed all previous events. The historic Oslo peace agreement had only 23 percent of Americans paying very close attention, and interest in the first intifada ranged only between 11-18 percent, according to surveys at the time.

According to Israel's government press office, there are now 800 foreign journalists based in Israel, and 2,500 visiting journalists received Israeli press cards in 2002.

But if heightened interest in Israel was documented by Pew as well as the CMPA, two other year-end summations averted its glance at Israel's key moments. The Associated Press, for example, ran an on-line poll to determine their top 10 stories for 2002.

The bombing in Bali was among the AP's top 30 suggested candidates but the bombing of the Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya was not. This, even though the Pew study showed that Americans more closely followed the Kenya attacks than the one in Bali.

And The New York Times (Dec. 29) log of events in 2002 had these highlights: March 28, "Arab world agrees to relations with Israel if land is returned" (a non-event that could have been true any day for the past 20 years) followed directly by March 29, "Israel invades Yasser Arafat's headquarters, 5 Palestinians, 1 Israeli die," leaving the sequential illusion that the Arab peace offer was met with nothing but Israeli violence. In fact, on March 27 (marked only as the death of Milton Berle, by the Times) more than a dozen [twenty-nine, TG adds] Israelis were murdered at the Netanya seder, something the Times mentioned not in the calendar but in a footnote.

 

“THERE ARE FOREIGN JOURNALISTS WHO DISCUSS THE PALESTINIAN STRUGGLE IN THE FIRST PERSON”

Op-Ed by Daniel Seaman, GPO Director
Yediot Ahronot
December 30, 2002

In the past year, the Government Press Office (GPO) issued approximately 800 press cards to foreign journalists who are permanently stationed in Israel. Approximately 2,500 visiting journalists received press cards within on average fifteen minutes of arriving at the GPO. The GPO is constantly dealing with requests for entry visas for foreign journalists, their families, their household employees and child-minders. There is also a long list of additional arrangements undertaken for the convenience of the foreign journalists, including importing 25 bulletproof cars into the country. Every foreign journalist knows that GPO employees will help them at all times of the day and night, seven days a week, including the Sabbath and holidays.

This has been the situation for many years. But now, some foreign journalists have begun to complain about the service they receive, and a recent Ha'aretz editorial claimed that, "foreign journalists are being treated with a hostile attitude by the GPO."

The source of all this, apparently, are two decisions taken at the beginning of 2002: Not to issue press cards to residents of the Palestinian Authority and to require foreign film crews to obtain employment visas from the Employment Service prior to receiving a press card. These decisions were made after it became clear that the previous relevant procedures were exploited.

Over the years, the foreign press made numerous requests for press cards for residents of the Palestinian Authority, who had no connection to their work. Since press cards ease travel restrictions between Judea, Samaria and Gaza and Israel, and considering the present security situation which has been forced on us, there was no alternative but to reevaluate the situation and impose the necessary restrictions. On the other hand, following complaints by Israeli camera crews, it became clear that foreign crews, brought in at the invitation of the foreign press, are depriving Israelis of their livelihood. To the best of our knowledge, there is no nation in the world that permits such a situation to exist, and therefore we ensured that our camera crews come first.

The Foreign Press Association demanded that we rescind these two decisions and openly threatened to condemn and vilify Israel throughout the world if its demands were not met. We were told that our sensitivity to Israel's image in the world would force us to surrender. The Foreign Press Association also turned to President Moshe Katsav, Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar and the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. All these investigated the matter and found that the GPO was right.

In the next stage, the complainants attempted to enlist the aid of the Israeli media, and there they were disappointed as well. In a number of interviews, substandard working methods by foreign journalists were exposed: dependency on Palestinian employees who had been recruited to the services of the Palestinian Authority (beginning with the staging of the tragic event of the boy, Muhammad Al-Dura and including the smuggling of wanted fugitives from the Mukata compound); the coordination of mendacious reports; and links with senior Palestinian Authority officials, the nature of which raises doubts as to the very credibility of their reporting.

This exposure caused some of the members of the foreign press to turn to slander. In an interview published in Ma'ariv two months ago, one of them actually said that on the day that an article is published which is replete with slander against the Prime Minister (over this issue), his men will renounce the Director of the GPO and "send him to hell." Next was an investigative report full of half-truths and inaccuracies in Ha'aretz, where the Prime Minister was accused of making the professional decisions of the GPO.

There are foreign journalists who discuss the Palestinian struggle in the first person, there are those who find justification for terrorism against Israeli citizens, there are those that cast doubts on the reliability of every Israeli statement but quote verbatim every Palestinian accusation as truth, and there are those who question Israel's very right to exist. But let us not get caught up in generalizations. The GPO will continue to provide all regular services to foreign journalists, and will also continue to stand guard on the interests of the State of Israel. Indeed, there is not always an overlap between these interests and the wants of every foreign journalist, but we have no doubt as to what takes precedence.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.