Gil Hoffman, Executive Director of Honest Reporting (HR), an organization that combats ideological prejudice in journalism as it impacts Israel, spoke to a February 13th Middle East Forum Webinar (video) about Israel's portrayal in the media and HR's battle to set the record straight. The following is a summary of Hoffman's comments:
With over two decades of experience as the Jerusalem Post's former chief political correspondent, Hoffman believes the "fairest fight" for Israel is to win on the "media battlefield." Success there is the "key" to winning on the military battlefield, where Israel has the advantage, and on college campuses, where Israel is at a great disadvantage. Israel's communication lag after destroying Gaza's "CNN Tower" in May 2021 supports his view. Although it gave advance warning to avoid casualties, a month passed before Israel finally made the case that its destruction of the building, which was used by Hamas as its "cyber tower," actually "saved lives." Because of the communication lag, Israel lost the media advantage. The Jewish State learned its lesson in August 2022's Gaza war after lives were lost in the Jabalia refugee camp. Generally, military bureaucracy is slow to release information, but the decision to fast track the release of proof that Israel was blameless in that incident enabled Israel to quickly win that global media contest.
Currently, the media battle is "only getting harder" because "the truth doesn't really matter anymore" to a media that promotes the false narrative that Israel is an "aggressor, foreign colonial power [that] indiscriminately targets and kills Palestinians." The recent murder of three Israelis by a Palestinian terrorist's car-ramming attack resulted in media outlets displaying their biases devoid of any "historic perspective." Ramot, where the terrorist struck, has been an established Israeli neighborhood since the 1970s and is situated within the city limits of Jerusalem. Although most of Ramot is located on land Israel liberated from Jordan's control in the Six-Day War, many global media outlets reported that Ramot is a "settlement." In essence, the media blamed the six-year-old, his eight-year old brother, and the twenty-year old newlywed for their own deaths in an "occupied" area instead of reporting the truth about the victims — that a Palestinian terrorist targeted civilians by using his car as a weapon to kill Jews waiting in an Israeli bus shelter.
The West's late arch nemesis, Osama bin Laden, said the "key to winning a war is winning the media war." Israel's enemies have noticed HR's investigative success on social media. Accordingly, 350 Palestinian journalists signed a letter "condemning" the organization. Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran's round-the-clock propaganda channel, Press TV, broadcast video reports targeting HR. Press TV went so far as to show an image of Hoffman and his child in an effort to "intimidate" him. Undeterred, Hoffman persists in his message that "blatant" antisemitic journalists who glorify terror cannot report objectively on Israel, and HR is committed to exposing them.
At present, Israel's proposed legal reforms are getting "bad press," with the media giving short shrift to the "two sides" of the debate. While there are valid concerns that the reforms will affect the "checks and balances between [Israel's] executive, legislative, and judicial branches" and harm democracy, the other side also makes a valid point in claiming the Supreme Court has had "too much power over the last 30 years." Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu maintains that the reforms will "improve the Israeli economy, strengthen it and strengthen our democracy," but the fact remains that Israel is "under a microscope more than anyone else in the world," and HR is cognizant of global media's "increased scrutiny."
With its limited budget for technological software, its record of successes, and the dedication of its small staff, supporting HR as a force multiplier on the media battlefield is a critical part of Israel's ongoing struggle to restore deterrence on the military battlefield as well as on North America's college campuses.
To report anti-Israel coverage in the mainstream and social media, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
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Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.