If only a fraction of this number of reporters were covering Darfur...

August 10, 2005

* Political strategist George Birnbaum: “It’s a shame the media doesn’t focus this much attention on other important issues. If they reported on Darfur like this, the issue would be resolved.”

This is part of a three part series on the upcoming disengagement. This dispatch contains information on the media. The second dispatch concerns the Israeli debate on the withdrawal, and the third with Palestinian preparations and reaction.

-- Tom Gross

 

CONTENTS

1. The big story of this summer
2. Haim Yavin, an Israeli Walter Cronkite?
3. August will be a good month for TV advertisements in Israel
4. A note about letters to the The New York Times
5. “The coming media frenzy” (Jerusalem Post, June 5, 2005)
6. “Jew-vs.-Jew showdown attracting media circus” (WorldNetDaily, August 1, 2005)
7. “PA journalists urged to celebrate Gaza ‘retreat’” (Jerusalem Post, July 27, 2005)

 



[Note by Tom Gross]

THE BIG STORY OF THIS SUMMER IS THAT ENORMOUS TERRITORY CALLED GAZA

An astonishing 4,000 foreign journalists are expected to cover the removal of the 8000 Jews living in Gaza, as well as the destruction of four Jewish communities in the West Bank. Both events are slated to start next week.

Simon McGregor-Wood, ABC’s bureau chief in Jerusalem and the chairman of the Foreign Press Association in Israel, says that the disengagement is “the big story of this summer” for the world’s media.

NO BUDGET LEFT TO COVER ETHNIC CLEANSING IN WESTERN SAHARA?

TV crews from Belgium and China, from Japan and Sweden, from Hungary, Russia, Bulgaria, and so on, have already arrived. News organizations are slicing into their annual budget to cover this event, while failing to cover wars, famine, destruction and massacres elsewhere in the world. Ai Kim, from Chinese television, said his network is paying $7,000 for a small apartment in the Gush Katif town of Neve Dekalim. Anne Bernard, Middle East bureau chief for the Boston Globe, is reportedly set to rent a private home for about $5,000.One major news service is spending $23,000 to rent an attic that can accommodate fifteen staff.

There seems to be no budget left, for example, to cover the Arab settlers that the Moroccan government has been bussing in to take the land of the indigenous Saharawi people in the Western Sahara.

The IDF’s (Israeli army’s) Spokesman’s Office has established a media center near to the small communities of Gush Katif, in which representatives of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defense Ministry, the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency), and the police, will be on hand to assist the media with developments. Some journalists have already been embedded with army units involved in the disengagement.

HAIM YAVIN, AN ISRAELI WALTER CRONKITE?

In Israel, coverage in the run-up to disengagement has stirred much controversy. Haim Yavin, a veteran 72-year-old news anchor, who has been reading the news on Israeli government-controlled Channel 1 since 1968, made a documentary series titled “Land of the settlers” which caused huge uproar.

Yavin was deeply critical of the settlers and of Israeli policy in his series. He said: “Since 1967, we have been brutal conquerors, occupiers, suppressing another people.”

Many others, for example, journalists at Ha’aretz have said similar things. But the views of Yavin carried much more weight. He has been compared to the American news anchor Walter Cronkite, who produced a series about America being mired in Vietnam. His portrayal of the settlers led the chairman of the Yesha settlers’ council Benzi Lieberman to demand “that left-winger Haim Yavin be fired”. By contrast, there are others in Israel who claim that Yavin did the left a disservice, by only now expressing his views.

Given Yavin’s stature, his swinging criticism of his own country has been covered in detail by many of western media, including The New York Times, BBC, NBC, Sky News and ZDF (German news).

ISRAELI DEBATE, PALESTINIAN “INSTRUCTIONS”

There has been heated and protracted debate within Israel over how to cover the unilateral withdrawal. Some are worried that if anything goes wrong, some in the European media will again call for Ariel Sharon to be charged with war crimes. Prominent television commentator Amnon Abramovitch, said, “I think we need to protect Sharon like an etrog [a citron fruit used by religious Jews on the Sukkot festival which requires special care and protection] ... We need to protect him not only from political obstacles, but also from legal obstacles too.”

Other journalists, such as Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post have criticized the Israeli press for not sufficiently analyzing the disengagement plan. “Ever since Sharon revealed this plan in December 2003, the media accepted it as a done deal – without discussing its pros and cons, and concentrating only on superficial issues… There was no long-range discussion of the issues,” wrote Glick, who is a subscriber to this email list.

This open debate within Israel contrasts with the attitude of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the Gaza Strip, who have ordered Palestinian journalists to publish reports that “reflect the civilized and shining face of our struggling people,” and to avoid reporting on acts of violence by Palestinians.

AUGUST WILL BE A GOOD MONTH FOR TV ADS IN ISRAEL

In view of the withdrawal from Gaza many advertising executives in Israel expect TV ratings to go up, making the second half of August an attractive month for television commercials.

One CEO of an advertising company told Globes (the leading financial newspaper in Israel), “It’s possible that we’ll even benefit on days with unsympathetic sights are shown on the screen. Viewers will decide to watch advertisements as a kind of welcome time-out.”

“THE COMING MEDIA FRENZY”

The internal debates within Israel over how the media should portray a story with virtually no precedent in the Middle East shows how difficult this summer will be for both Israeli and foreign journalists.

The first two articles below discuss “the coming media frenzy”; the third article concerns Palestinian directives for covering the withdrawal.

I attach three articles with summaries first. Before that there is a note about letters to the New York Times.

-- Tom Gross

 

AN ADDITIONAL NOTE ON NEW YORK TIMES LETTERS

Robert Friedman, a subscriber to this email list, wrote the following letter today to the Public Editor of the Times, who receives complaints on the Times’ website. I reproduce it here because using Chomskskyites to vilify other Jews and Israel is becoming an increasingly prevalent method by the Times in its campaign to delegitimize the state of Israel.

The Erlanger story referred to in the letter was carried earlier this week, and reprinted in papers around the world, as the Times sought to sow doubts over whether Jerusalem had ever had a Jewish Temple. As one letter writer (unpublished by the Times) put it in a letter to the editor: “If there was no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, where exactly was it that Jesus chased the moneychangers from?”

-- Tom Gross


Dear Mr. Calame,

The following letter appears in today’s Times,

To the Editor:
Bravo to the Presbyterians for threatening to divest from companies that sell arms that Israel uses against the Palestinians.

It was predictable they would be accused of anti-Semitism. Anyone who criticizes the Israeli government is quickly labeled an anti-Semite. That’s why even the most liberal members of Congress are scared to do it. That’s why Jews like me have to speak out.

John L. Miller
Cornwall, Conn., Aug. 6, 2005

The statement “Anyone who criticizes the Israeli government is quickly labeled an anti-Semite” is utter nonsense, and an outright lie - not a legitimate opinion. Anyone? Is labeled by who?

Most criticisms of Israeli’s policies in the last two weeks are from Israeli Jews and Americans Jewish and non-Jewish, who are against the Gaza Plan. No one is labeling them anti-Semitic. Why would the Times print such a letter?

If the letter was about blacks, gays, Arabs or Muslims - for example: “Anyone who criticizes gay activists is quickly labeled a homophobe” or “Anyone who criticizes the Koran is quickly labeled a bigot”, statements just as false as the one above, would the Times print it? Somehow, when it comes to Jews it’s OK.

No, I am not saying the Times is anti-Semitic. Far from it. But what the Times allows to be said about Jews and Israel compared to what it allows regarding any other minority is scary and wrong. And more and more people are noticing this.

I certainly am, after the article about the Biblical Archeology last week in which Steven Erlanger uncritically gives credence to the Arab propaganda about there being no Jewish historical presence in Jerusalem.

I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,
Robert Friedman

 

SUMMARIES

THE COMING MEDIA FRENZY

“The coming media frenzy” (By Uri Dan, The Jerusalem Post, June 5, 2005)

... It is estimated that more than 4,000 foreign journalists and film units intend to cover the events of the withdrawal and destruction. I don’t think such a number of media representatives was present in Israel even during the bloodiest days of the Palestinian terrorist war against the Jews...

... [As a reporter] in Kosovo, I was a step ahead of about 1,000 journalists who arrived with the NATO forces invading from Macedonia... in 1982/83, I [worked] in Lebanon... However, I have never seen such a media onslaught as that awaiting us now in Gaza...

... Many journalists are too scared to cover a real war, and the IDF and police operation to evict Jews from their homes and flourishing settlements in the Gaza Strip seems to them to be less dangerous.

Above all, Jews fighting among themselves is excellent journalistic material for the many outlets, in Israel and abroad, that have reviled the settlers for years. Even some of the Israeli media, who long ago joined the Palestinian camp, is eagerly waiting for the moment when IDF and police personnel will break the settlers’ arms and legs.

No one knows how the cruel separation of the Jews from the Gaza Strip will play out. Will Hamas accompany the uprooting with shooting to prove the truth of its claim that it has evicted the Jews? Will most settlers leave of their own accord, thus avoiding a civil war between the Jews?

The most important thing: The journalists should all be required to sign an undertaking that any bodily injury or material damage caused them is their sole responsibility; they will thus be unable to submit claims against the Israeli authorities afterwards...

 

JEW VS JEW SHOWDOWN ATTRACTING MEDIA CIRCUS

“Jew-vs-Jew showdown attracting media circus” (By Aaron Klein, WorldNetDaily.com, August 1, 2005)

... Media stationed in Katif include televisions networks from the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Belgium, China, Japan, Sweden, Hungary, Russia, Bulgaria, and a host of other countries; journalists from over 75 major U.S. and European newspapers; and radio correspondents from across the globe. Over 200 freelance photographers and cameramen, and nearly 100 Israeli journalists are present as well.

Why is the world’s media centered on Gush Katif?

Katif resident and IsraelReporter.com blogger Shlomo Wollins said, “Because it’s hair raising. You have two massive forces charging at each other, and neither will be deterred. On one side, you have Sharon and his people, even though some don’t want to, who are swooping down to evict the Gush Katif Jews. On the other side, you have the residents and their many supporters from around the country who will do what it takes to stop this plan.”

According to prominent political strategist George Birnbaum, “it’s because it’s Jew versus Jew. So of course the world is interested. If you uprooted a group of people from their homes anywhere else it would be a war crime, but might not get attention. Here, it’s just considered fascinating. It’s a shame the media doesn’t focus this much attention on other important issues. If they reported on Darfur like this, the issue would be resolved.”

... Many reporters are renting rooms, including basements and attics, in private Gush Katif homes for large sums of money. The housing demand and the number of reporters from networks with sizable budgets has driven to record highs the cost of housing in an area that may be bulldozed next month. Landlords are asking for six months of rent up front...

 

PA JOURNALISTS URGED TO CELEBRATE GAZA “RETREAT”

“PA journalists urged to celebrate Gaza ‘retreat’” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, The Jerusalem Post, July 27, 2005)

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the Gaza Strip has called on Palestinian journalists to take part in celebrations over the Israeli “retreat” from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

“To all Palestinian journalists – let’s prepare for the day of joy that is approaching,” the syndicate said in a directive to its members...

... It said the media should not report on, photograph or film armed clashes and demonstrations and stressed the need to “publish activities that support national unity and protect the internal front.”

 



FULL ARTICLES

THE COMING MEDIA FRENZY

The coming media frenzy
By Uri Dan
The Jerusalem Post
June 5, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1117937889545&p=1006953079865

I advise the new chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, to permit maximum media coverage of the evacuation and uprooting of the settlements in the Gaza Strip. First priority should be given to the Israeli media, since this is a matter of vital national importance, but the international press should also receive full access.

It is estimated that more than 4,000 foreign journalists and film units intend to cover the events of the withdrawal and destruction. I don’t think such a number of media representatives was present in Israel even during the bloodiest days of the Palestinian terrorist war against the Jews.

As a journalist I have covered many military campaigns, from the period of the reprisals, through the parachute attack on the Mitla Pass in 1956, to the crossing of the Suez Canal in 1973. I saw the well-oiled American organization in 1970 when I covered the war in Saigon, and the confusion in Cyprus during the successful Turkish invasion in 1974.

In Pristina, Kosovo, I was a step ahead of about 1,000 journalists who arrived with the NATO forces invading from Macedonia. As an employee of the Ministry of Defense in 1982/83, I authorized journalists to cover the IDF on the battlefield in Lebanon. In fact, few availed themselves of the privilege, since they were too afraid, preferring to concoct imaginary accounts.

However, I have never seen such a media onslaught as that awaiting us now in Gaza.

The media explosion resulting from the Internet and local TV networks throughout the world can explain the waves of media representatives flocking to Israel. The Government Press Office should make sure that suitable applicants for an Israeli press card receive one, giving priority to the American media, the most important as far as Israel is concerned.

Many journalists are too scared to cover a real war, and the IDF and police operation to evict Jews from their homes and flourishing settlements in the Gaza Strip seems to them to be less dangerous.

Above all, Jews fighting among themselves is excellent journalistic material for the many outlets, in Israel and abroad, that have reviled the settlers for years. Even some of the Israeli media, who long ago joined the Palestinian camp, is eagerly waiting for the moment when IDF and police personnel will break the settlers’ arms and legs.

No one knows how the cruel separation of the Jews from the Gaza Strip will play out. Will Hamas accompany the uprooting with shooting to prove the truth of its claim that it has evicted the Jews? Will most settlers leave of their own accord, thus avoiding a civil war between the Jews?

The most important thing: The journalists should all be required to sign an undertaking that any bodily injury or material damage caused them is their sole responsibility; they will thus be unable to submit claims against the Israeli authorities afterwards.

The withdrawal from Gaza does not resemble the uprooting of the Yamit region that, despite being very difficult and painful, permitted massive media coverage. In this case the majority of the Jews decided to destroy the dream of idealistic settlers, realized in Gush Katif, in return for the illusion of a certain future in Ramat Aviv, Herzliya Pituah, Savyon and Talpiot.

If the new CGS gives orders, despite all the difficulties, permitting full media exposure, he will avoid the creation of dangerous rumors of conspiracy should the situation degenerate into bloodshed. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has publicly warned that “there exists an atmosphere of civil war” and that he will do everything to prevent it.

It will also be necessary to be careful of agents provocateurs amongst the ranks of the journalists, belonging to both the extreme Left and Right and liable to spread rumors, intentionally or unintentionally, that will fan the flames during this unprecedented period in the history of the renewed State of Israel. Consequently the Israeli authorities should not rely on the efforts of self-appointed spokesmen, but should set up a control center that can constantly check the veracity of published information and react accordingly.

The hundreds of cameras and thousands of journalists will be able to determine whether the thousands of soldiers and policemen who arrive in convoys many kilometers long, will actually be capable of carrying out their missions, despite all the plans and exercises.

 

JEW VS JEW SHOWDOWN ATTRACTING MEDIA CIRCUS

Jew-vs-Jew showdown attracting media circus
Thousands of reporters descending on Gaza to cover plan to oust residents
By Aaron Klein
WorldNetDaily.com
August 1, 2005

www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=45536

With about two weeks until Israeli forces attempt to uproot the Jewish communities of Gaza, media outlets from around the world are hunkering down here anywhere they can find space, as the potential for Jew versus Jew conflict remains high.

There are currently about 1,500 reporters in Gush Katif, the slate of Gaza’s Jewish communities scheduled for evacuation Aug. 17. That’s almost one reporter for every six Katif residents. An estimated 400 more journalists and photographers are expected to arrive in the coming days.

Media stationed in Katif include televisions networks from the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Belgium, China, Japan, Sweden, Hungary, Russia, Bulgaria, and a host of other countries; journalists from over 75 major U.S. and European newspapers; and radio correspondents from across the globe. Over 200 freelance photographers and cameramen, and nearly 100 Israeli journalists are present as well.

Why is the world’s media centered on Gush Katif?

Katif resident and IsraelReporter.com blogger Shlomo Wollins said, “Because it’s hair raising. You have two massive forces charging at each other, and neither will be deterred. On one side, you have Sharon and his people, even though some don’t want to, who are swooping down to evict the Gush Katif Jews. On the other side, you have the residents and their many supporters from around the country who will do what it takes to stop this plan.”

According to prominent political strategist George Birnbaum, “it’s because it’s Jew versus Jew. So of course the world is interested. If you uprooted a group of people from their homes anywhere else it would be a war crime, but might not get attention. Here, it’s just considered fascinating. It’s a shame the media doesn’t focus this much attention on other important issues. If they reported on Dafour like this, the issue would be resolved.”

For Anita Tucker, a Katif spokeswoman and a longtime area resident, the media attention is heartening.

“The world is fascinated because this is the land of the Bible. This is where it all began. I think people around the globe look at us as heroes, standing up against an immoral plan to throw us out of our homes. We’re fighting against terrorism even when our own government fails to do so itself. This is a story of good versus evil. And everyone wants to know how it will all end, which side will prevail.”

With large numbers of people living in Katif on solidarity missions, housing is very tight. Journalists have been resorting to creative measures to find suitable accommodations, with few options remaining. Katif’s only hotel, the Palm Beach Hotel, is off limits. The site became an Israeli Defense Forces outpost in June following the forced removal of nearly 200 anti-withdrawal protesters. Even some community centers are filled with families who streamed in to protest the withdrawal.

Many reporters are renting rooms, including basements and attics, in private Gush Katif homes for large sums of money. The housing demand and the number of reporters from networks with sizable budgets has driven to record highs the cost of housing in an area that may be bulldozed next month. Landlords are asking for six months of rent up front.

Some networks scouted the area in mid-June and reserved their space early. A cameraman for a major news syndication service told WND the company is spending $23,000 to rent an attic that can accommodate fifteen. Ai Kim, from Chinese television, said his network is paying $7,000 for a small apartment in the Katif town of Neve Dekalim, where most reporters are living.

A reporter from an Israeli newspaper is sharing a room in a private home with a U.S. correspondent for $5,000. WorldNetDaily paid a similar amount for a small attic.

Eli Fastman, Jerusalem bureau chief for Fox News Channel, told WND his network is spending “several thousand dollars” for places inside and outside Gush Katif.

Some reporters are still struggling to find living space. Anne Bernard, Middle East bureau chief for the Boston Globe, is among those searching for a place to stay. Her options include a few rooms in a private Katif home for about $5,000.

“The difficulty is of course partly because of the demand. But it’s also hard to find housing because the people here are going through such a difficult time, and many just don’t want outsiders in their midst,” Bernard told WND.

Reporters shouldn’t get too comfortable in their new Gaza digs. As WND reported, despite multiple promises media access to Gaza’s Jewish communities would not be restricted during the upcoming withdrawal, Israel recently demanded as condition for entering the area that journalists first sign a contract they will depart before the evacuation.

Following the July 15 closure of Gaza, which was declared a military zone, the IDF spokesperson’s office faxed contracts to media outlets in Israel conditioning entry into the Gaza Strip on reporters agreeing to vacate three days prior to the withdrawal.

The contract, to be signed by individual reporters, states, “I am aware that in any case, I must leave [the communities slated for withdrawal] no later than Aug. 14, 2005.”

The agreement also requires reporters to coordinate their travel with the IDF, provide the IDF with continuous contact information, and agree to “leave the Restricted Area, without delay, immediately after being told to do so by the authorized IDF officials.”

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has taken issue with the restrictions. Glenys Sugarman, executive secretary of the Foreign Press Association, told WND: “We think the agreement is entirely excessive. If the settlers can stay until the 17th, why can’t the media? The obligations required by the forms represent an attack on journalistic freedoms and free movement of our members and disregard ongoing negotiations between us and the authorities to permit a core number of journalists to remain inside the area during evacuation.”

An IDF spokesman told WND that while reporters will not be allowed to stay inside Gaza’s Jewish communities during the evacuation, there will be daily media shuttles to the area. He would not say whether journalists would be allowed to travel freely once inside, or whether the shuttle would go to areas being evacuated or communities already emptied.

“There also may be some opportunities for reporters to be embedded with army units. We’re still working on that,” said the spokesman.

Still, some journalists are privately vowing to defy IDF regulations and hide out in Gush Katif. But they may have technical difficulties filing their reports. WND broke the story that in the first few days of the Gaza evacuation, Israeli forces led by the Southern District Police Command may shut off utilities, including electricity and phone lines, and block cell-phone service from Gush Katif to affect area residents who refuse to leave on their own accord.

“I was planning to send in my stories by e-mail,” said one Israeli correspondent who said she will attempt to stay during the withdrawal. “If that didn’t work, I thought I could read it off to our office on my cell phone. Now I don’t know what I will do.”

 

PA JOURNALISTS URGED TO CELEBRATE GAZA “RETREAT”

PA journalists urged to celebrate Gaza ‘retreat’
By Khaled Abu Toameh,
The Jerusalem Post
July 27, 2005

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1122344277313&p=1101615860782

The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday called on Palestinian journalists to take part in celebrations over the Israeli “retreat” from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank.

“To all Palestinian journalists – let’s prepare for the day of joy that is approaching,” the syndicate said in a directive to its members.

“The moment of the beautiful truth for the Gaza Strip is nearing. Let the occupation leave our dear land in humiliation.”

The syndicate, which reaffirmed its ban from last week on covering clashes between rival Palestinian groups, urged Palestinian journalists to display “national and professional responsibility” in reporting on the disengagement.

“Let’s reflect the civilized and shining face of our struggling people,” the directive said.

“Let’s prove to the world during the retreat that our people, who sacrificed the blood of their women, children and elderly, are entitled to a special status.”

It said Palestinian journalists should report only on stories that boost the morale of the people.

“Let’s stop writing about our differences and let’s push toward enhancing national unity,” the syndicate added. “Let’s sing in praise of the victory and unity and let’s not forget the martyrs, the wounded and the widows.”

Last week the syndicate announced that Palestinian journalists would face “penalties” if they continued to cover clashes between Hamas gunmen and PA security forces in the Gaza Strip.

It said the media should not report on, photograph or film armed clashes and demonstrations and stressed the need to “publish activities that support national unity and protect the internal front.”


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