There are two sides to every war and the war of perceptions is no exception. This has been particularly true during the war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. Last week during a conference in Sun Valley, ID, Ari Shavit, Israeli author of My Promised Land, bemoaned the fact that Israel was losing the war of perceptions. It seems that the pictures showing dead and dismembered children, destroyed homes, damaged hospitals, and anguished relatives have overwhelmed Israel’s efforts to control the message. The U.S. government and main stream media have tried to include in every press release and article Israel’s talking points that the war started as Israel tried to defend itself from thousands of Hamas rockets while ignoring the events that led up to the conflict. A good example of this is this week’s NY Times article which concluded “More than 1,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting that began July 8 with an aerial campaign that Israel said was meant to quell the rocket fire and led to an Israeli ground offensive.” A look at the chronology of the run up to war reveals a different story.
6/12 – Three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered near Hebron in the West Bank, an area controlled by Israeli security forces,
6/13-14 – Israel accuses Hamas and arrests Hamas members in the West Bank, many of whom were released following the cease fire agreement in 2012.
6/16 – Hamas began firing rockets in response to the crackdown
6/20 – Israeli security forces kill a 15 year old boy while searching for the three teens
6/30 – Israel finds the bodies of the three teens and arrests more than 400 Palestinians. It turns out that Israel knew the teens were dead much earlier but prevented reporting. (See here) Three militant groups, including al Qaeda, claim responsibility. Netanyahu insists that it was Hamas.
7/7 – Israel begins Operation Protective Edge.
Clearly the war was a calculated war of choice designed to weaken Hamas in Gaza, but straying away from the officially sanctioned storyline can be hazardous to the professional health of journalists. Respected NBC Gaza correspondent,Ayman Mohyeldin, was relieved following his compelling reports of four Palestinian children killed on a beach by Israeli shelling. (After a social media outcry, he was reinstated.) CNN reporter Diana Magnay was transferred after she tweeted her frustration at watching Israeli’s cheering the bombing of Gaza as though at football game. This is not CNN’s first episode. In 2010, twenty year Middle East veteran, Octavia Nasr, was fired after she tweeted her respects following the death of Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah, a spiritual guide for Hezbollah.
I have had my own run in with message control. This week I received an email from the publisher of my upcoming book, Fault Lines regarding his contacts with major book distributors. He said, “One was a large distribution company and one of the key buyers told me that their leadership are “strong supporters of Israel” and that the message on Israel was too controversial. The buyer later told me that the leaders are Jewish. The second conversation was with a distinctly Christian group that told me they wouldn’t push anything that didn’t support Israel since they were ‘Christians’.”
I guess that it goes with the territory.
Photo by thekingmaker.me