Friday, May 13, 2005

New Director of Israel Gov Press Office strikes back at pro-terror media

This is indeed welcome, albeit a bit too late. The Palestinians have used the press and the press has allowed itself to be used, with real reporting being the casualty.

What is particularly shocking isn't just the bias that the foreign media displays, but their active collusion with terror.

Let's hope that this has an effect.

Under direct orders of Yasser Arafat, foreign media representatives such as Reuters, AP, CNN, ABC, and CBS have for years employed Palestinian editors and directors who determine news content.… Palestinian efforts to control the news are not new and go back to the 1980s when they began to nurture young Palestinians to work with the foreign press.”

Dani Seaman, Director of the Israel Government Press Office (GPO) – which is responsible for licensing and assisting the foreign media in Israel – is taking a new approach to the seemingly insurmountable challenge presented by prejudiced reporting in the foreign media about Israel. Otherwise even-tempered and personable, Seaman is ticked off by one thing: the systematic maligning of Israel and biased reporting in the foreign press.

In recent interviews with Israeli papers, Seaman – a veteran immigrant from the US with over ten years of frustrating experience liaising with the foreign media – has decided to lay bare the truth about the underhanded activities of foreign representatives of the fifth estate. Seaman charges that under direct orders of Yasser Arafat, foreign media representatives such as Reuters, AP, CNN, ABC and CBS have for years employed Palestinian editors and directors who determine news content. According to sources that Seaman will not reveal for fear that they would suffer professional and perhaps personal retribution, Palestinian employees of these news outlets are fully coordinated. Three were in constant contact with the now-apprehended Tanzim commander Marwan Bargouti regarding the repeated machine-gun and mortar fire attacks which he ordered against the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo. Bargouti would advise the Palestinian employees of coming attacks and the Palestinian directors would be sure to broadcast only the Israeli responsive fire and not the Palestinian fire. These employees also counseled Bargouti how best to present the Palestinian case, according to Seaman. Three of these employees have been directly implicated in terrorist activities including the smuggling of radios, phones and satellite dishes to Arafat while he was trapped in the Muqata and assistance to terrorists trying to escape the Israel blockade, and the transport of armed terrorists in cars marked “TV”. Equally frustrating is the fact that even Palestinian spokesmen who have repeatedly lied to the foreign media, such as Saeb Erekat (e.g., repeated comments about the Jenin “massacre” and the Karine-A interception) remain unquestioned sources for the foreign press. Seaman also charges that foreign press outlets had requested in the past – and received – press cards for Palestinians in return for information and favors, even though they were not journalists.

Seaman intends to fight this battle in a number of ways, first by strictly adhering – albeit years after it should have been implemented – to the standing law that mandates that any Palestinian employed in Israel carries a valid work permit – a step which will drastically decrease the number of Palestinian working with the foreign press in Israel. This move will have a secondary result of opening up these jobs to Israelis. On security grounds, he also revoked the press cards of all Palestinian reporters who were misusing them as entry permits into the country. In another measure, Seaman targeted four of the most egregious foreign offenders – Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian (UK), Lee Hockstader of the Washington Post, Sandro Contenta of the Montreal Star, and Gillian Findlay of ABC News – with a cooperation blackout. All four have been reassigned and replaced, although their bosses vigorously reject the notion that this had anything to do with the GPO’s measures. As another case in point, Seaman also notes Rula Amin, CNN’s Palestinian mouthpiece, who was reassigned to Baghdad, despite understandings with the cable outfit that she would be fired from the station.

Palestinian efforts to control the news are not new and go back to the 1980s when they began to nurture young Palestinians to work with the foreign press. According to Seaman, all are graduates of a media manipulation course at Bir Zeit University and, as long suspected by discerning viewers, the now-famous Muhammad A-dura case was a PA manipulation utilizing Palestinian cameramen employed by foreign stations. Over the years this policy paid off for the Palestinians as the foreign media began to romanticize the their struggle and adopted their narrative. Until 1993, the foreign press was free to cover the territories, but ever since Arafat was given control, it was made clear by Palestinian heavies that they will receive access only if they employ Palestinians. At times, Palestinian pressure on the foreign press became heavy handed, such as when an Italian reporter was forced to flee the country after it was revealed that he was the only person brave enough to publicize footage of Palestinians wildly lynching two Israeli soldiers who mistakenly entered Ramallah. Photographers have routinely had their film confiscated by PA security forces when they suspect that unflattering pictures had been snapped. But by and large the press has been ready to play by the Palestinian rules.

Seaman makes no bones about it: the foreign media took advantage of a very liberal Israeli attitude but succumbed to become Arafat’s mouthpieces.


Although Seaman should be viewed as a new hero in the fight for fair reporting about Israel, not everyone in the Israeli hasbara establishment – on the defensive after an unflattering state comptrollers’ report – agree with his tough approach. There are those who want to continue to use kid gloves with institutions that long ago decided to throw their support to the Palestinians and disregard the fundamentals of journalism: truth, fairness, context, and objectivity. Seaman’s approach might cost the Jewish State nasty editorials in the days to come, but in the long run Israel’s self-respect will be well served.
UPDATE: It appears that, although I just saw this posted this week at IsraPundit, Seaman was appointed and quoted in 2002.