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Friday, November 05, 2010

Israel's departing Press Office director lets loose

The Jerusalem Post has an amazing interview with the outgoing director of the Israel's Government Press Office, Danny Seaman. It is way too long to reproduce here but here are some highlights:

Part of my problem with the foreign press – and I’ve been accused of being combative and feisty in fighting them – is that you have journalists coming in here not having the faintest idea of what is going on.

They live off what they get from their colleagues; they meet certain people who come from the same social-economic background; they live off of one newspaper, Haaretz. They don’t make an effort. When you have a conversation with them, you find that they have a complete lack of knowledge of the elementary issues.

This didn’t used to be the case.

Journalists from the ’70s, ’80s, who were here during the beginning of the ’90s, were very knowledgeable, very experienced. This is a different generation.

The narrative has shifted. They’ll adopt the Palestinian narrative. That has become the bon ton. They’ll talk about “the Palestinian right of return.” There is no such thing. They talk about what the Palestinians call “Israel’s violations of Oslo.” What exactly are they talking about? They have no knowledge about the facts.

Today, if you bring in, say, an expert on international law [to hold a briefing for foreign journalists], they delegitimize the person based on what they perceive to be his political opinions. This is unacceptable, especially for a journalist. We the people, in a democratic society, rely on them to provide us with the information for us to make an educated decision on a particular issue. In this case, many journalists are failing in their duty. The media outfits that employ them are giving them automatic backing. And when the media doesn’t exercise its checks and balances, they’re failing in their job.

...Israel is always active. Other things just “happen.” Missiles “rain down” on Israel. But where Israel is concerned, and I’m quoting from some media reports, they even adopt Nazi terminology: “Israel's blitzkrieg.”

Always using negatives and very aggressive terms.

By contrast, the suffering Israel endures is always caused by some obscure [force]. It’s never quite clear what’s happening, and who is responsible. The number of ways that Israel is depicted negatively is, astoundingly, much greater than with Hizbullah. Hizbullah is a terrorist organization! It is considered so by every country in the world, including the United Nations. [Yet I found foreign media] to be taking their word, their narrative as fact.


For the war in Gaza about 400 additional reporters showed up here. They seem to have no knowledge of what is going on. They don’t understand what they’re seeing.

They don’t understand urban warfare. They’ll see some phosphorus or they’ll see some smoke, and they’ll immediately adapt [what they’re told about it] without understanding from the military perspective why it’s being done. [In Gaza, they were fed] misinformation, and they gave credibility to sources who time and time again have been disproved, sources who are very credible in the Western world, such as doctors.

In the Western world doctors are given a very particular [credibility].

But that same attitude was given to Palestinian doctors, and more than once they deliberately misled and lied to the journalists. And instead of the journalists saying, “Ok, once, twice. The third time they’re not going to be lying to me anymore,” they keep turning to these sources.

Some journalists did the job they were supposed to be doing, and went to objective experts and asked them about false claims [that Israel was using illegal weaponry, or had weaponry that purportedly melted the skin, or that Israeli weaponry was causing] these kinds of injuries. [One specific reporter] did the legitimate thing. He went and he asked an expert. And he was told, “What you’re talking about is science fiction.

These weapons don’t exist.” So, in this case, the story should have been over. But no, he reports [the false allegation and the firm dismissal], giving legitimacy to the actual accusation.

You want to compare that to something? Go back to the old blood libel.

Imagine the Jews are being accused now of using blood to make matza.

Some of the foreign media would “go to the experts,” maybe one of these cooking shows on television, who’d dismiss the idea, of course.

But the very report itself would give legitimacy to this absurd kind of accusation. Some people watching would say, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire, so there must be some truth to it.” [The foreign media] would not do this to any other country.


The Palestinians are not stupid.

They have 20-30 years of experience of telling the journalists how high to jump. They know what makes modern media tick.

[With inexperienced journalists going into the West Bank], you’re taking somebody who doesn’t know the history. They’re moving from Israeli society, where we do everything to maintain normalcy.

You’ll have a suicide bombing in the morning, and by late afternoon there’s no indication of it any more. With the Palestinians, the moment you cross over, at the roadblock, people automatically have a negative reaction to the figures of authority. I get complaints [from journalists] saying there’s no human contact [between soldiers and Palestinians at checkpoints].

I try to explain to them there’s no human contact because when there was human contact, some [terrorists] saw that as an Achilles’ Heel and attacked the Israeli soldiers [at the checkpoints]. We’re trying to protect our lives. It’s the same with the security barrier. We protect our lives.

[Visiting journalists] don’t see it that way. They experience what it is like to be a Palestinian to a certain degree. When they come to our side, you have to start with the historical explanations. It’s very hard, because the life we have here seems very similar to their lives at home. They don’t understand the day-to-day things that we go through.
Read the whole thing.
(h/t Daled Amos via email)