CBS and how to handle it-pt.2

Nothing is better in these days, than having the pleasure of waking up for great news, in fact exhilarating news, but it is exactly what happened today. The Independent newspaper is closing down its print edition, and will stay in business [not for long… I Hope] only on line. To those who raise their eyebrows, this is the worst anti Israel newspaper in Britain, maybe all over Europe. The embodiment of everything wrong in media coverage of the Middle East and Israel, with the veteran anti Israel propagandist Robert Fisk being the ”expert”. Could not have happened to a nicer paper… though some may argue that the Guardian is as bad. Who remembers that the Guardian was once the Manchester Guardian , and under the legendary Wickham Stead was the most pro-Zionist paper in the land of Balfour and D’Israeli . Those were the days. One is left to wake up for news of the closure of this propaganda paper, and it is in the pipeline, as their losses mounting. Much to their chagrin, Arab money in England is invested in soccer teams, not in newspapers. That said, the solution to our problems with the Western media is not by them all closing down. Wish it was to be, but it would not.

Nor is the solution by threatening them with depriving their press credentials in Israel. The Foreign Ministry and the Government Press Office[GPO] issued such warnings in the wake of the latest CBS outrage, and they were perfectly right in doing so, but this is the ultimate weapon and should be used in extreme occasions. Such was the case in 1991. Your humble servant was then Director of the GPO and I did not like the coverage of CNN , what a surprise. Things came to a head when CNN came out with a story that ”settlers” in Ariel unleashed dogs infected with HIV at Palestinians! crazy story by all accounts, dogs with HIV???. But yes, they aired it, nothing short of a blood libel against the Jews. Too much by all accounts. We protested, and accompanied the protest with a lot of supportive documentation about other outrages. CNN officially apologized in writing, and replaced their entire Jerusalem bureau. Not surprisingly, the chief producer was Jewish. A team came, a short honeymoon followed , but old habits die hard, and CNN returned to its old, bad habits. I personally was still on their invitees list, being during the Madrid Peace Conference in November 1991, the first Israeli government official to debate with Hanan Ashrawi. However, my days of grace there were over in 2006, when I confronted live Jim Clancy, an American version of Robert Fisk. That was during the Israel-Hizballah war. So, yes , you can elicit apologies from them, but this is not the long term, fundamental solution.

Nor is it to expect any other wonders from the Israeli Hasbara machine, which , in my mind, is an hopeless case, something which I touched upon in some of my previous articles in this blog. So, what can be done? if there is something which is
A solution, not THE solution, it is to move from the national level to the local level. Another words, not to wait to the reaction from Israel , or to that of the national American Jewish organizations. It is to have local voluntary watch dogs. You know that the local paper is publishing the weekly anti Israel column of their ”expert”, flood the editor with calls and letters. Do it when you know about the radio talk show when they announce the next discussion of the ME , and Israel in particular. Do the same when any of the big networks broadcast an outrage like CBS did, but
call not just the national headquarters , also the local affiliate. On the local level, pressure can be much more effective. In short, let us privatize Israeli Hasbara. Power to the people , to the grass roots. not to the professionals and the big guys in NYC and DC . Their heart may be in the right place, but they are always SO busy, and”somehow”, have no time to deal with the issues in REAL time.

Will all that help?. Somewhat, not changing the overall picture, but it is about time, that the media realizes that there is a pro-Israel community, it has a voice, it is a significant one, and it cannot just be easily dismissed. The BDS are those who operate exactly like that. That may be the only thing , that we can learn from them.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina