These days, turning on the TV news or opening the newspaper is too often an exercise in frustration. Journalists portray Israel as a brutal oppressor and occupier. They talk about the “cycle of violence”, thereby absolving the perpetrators, and they seem unaware of the history and source of the conflict. They appear unwilling or unable to put the situation in the context of the world’s struggle with extremism.
News agencies are the organisations that supply the media with their news stories. Many of the reports we read in the media are generated by news agencies, like Reuters and the Associated Press and nine Palestinian news agencies, which are hardly impartial. A recently-established news agency within Israel is finally attempting to right the wrong.
TPS (Tazpit News Agency) is the brainchild of Amotz Eyal who now serves as Director General of the mostly volunteer organisation. TPS photographers across Israel are the first to arrive on the scene of any attack or event, and their photos and reports are sent to media around the world. Currently, TPS works with news outlets in more than 50 countries and is branching out every year to more countries, such as Brazil, Colombia, Germany. They are expanding in Canada and the U.S. and their material is translated into 20 languages.
News, footage and on-the-ground reports provided to newspapers, magazines and TV by TPS show the Israeli side of the story and will, in time, prevent the incessant stream of anti-Israel reportage from being virtually the only source of information about Israel.
TPS was established in 2010 and now has more than 200 volunteer photographers across Israel. As TPS puts it, “in the world of instant media, the first to send out the information will have the greatest impact on the international coverage of the event”, and so they have made it their priority to be the first source to distribute news to the international media.
Some will insist that anti-Semitism is endemic and includes a reflexive bias against Israel, and that efforts like this are futile. Jews come by their pessimism honestly. There is an old Yiddish saying, “If I dealt in candles, the sun would never set”.
The truth, though, is that a pessimist, as one writer expressed it, is someone who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street. It is enough to look for danger where it does lurk; we don’t have to look for it where it does not. There are countless friends who need more reliable and truthful information and there are uninformed, impartial people who can be persuaded to understand what is really happening.
TPS has already has found a positive reception. Media do accept their work and publish it or broadcast it. We cannot complain that the ‘world’ is against us and not seize the great opportunity to promote our view. If the ‘world’ has been persuaded by one side’s persistent and continuous flooding of the media, then it is reasonable to expect that a steady stream of honest and factual information will have a salutary effect.
TPS receives no government support since it does not want to be portrayed as a propaganda arm of the state.
It is hard to remember that there was a time, before and after the Six Day War, when Israel was the darling of the world — a plucky, small group of pioneers and refugees from the Holocaust draining the swamps, making the desert bloom and forging a nation with only steely determination and the sweat of their collective brow. It was a time of heroic deeds and Abba Eban’s eloquence chronicling their achievements, devastating their opponents with his dazzling wit. It was he who wrote that “if Algeria introduced a resolution declaring that the Earth was flat and that Israel had flattened it, it would pass by a vote of 164 to 13 with 26 abstentions”. There is no spokesperson like Eban today, but there are opportunities to tell our story and this needs to be done with great alacrity and urgency.
Dr. Paul Socken is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Waterloo