I’ve always maintained that playing by the rules that the opposition sets down for us is a mug’s game. You are bound to lose, since they hold the rule book close to their chest with a pencil and eraser at the ready.
Countering, Not Apologizing to a Lying Media
Yesterday at the Damascus Gate the Israeli Border Police briefly detained journalists William Booth of the Washington Post and Sufian Taha, the WaPo’s West Bank correspondent. The incident was reported in the context of the affront to the media, the insult to the journalists, and the Israeli government’s apology. The Government Press Office (GPO) groveled and apologized for the “unnecessary” detainment and reaffirmed its commitment to freedom of the press.
According to the Times of Israel, Booth and Taha were approached by a local with an offer:
“An Arab woman allegedly told Booth that if he paid some of the bystanders, they would provoke the nearby police officers and start a violent demonstration, Jerusalem Police spokesperson Asi Aharoni told The Times of Israel.”
A bystander who heard the offer of staged incitement for compensation reported it immediately to the Border Police who were guarding the area. The reporters were briefly detained. How did the woman know Booth was in the market for a bleed-and-lead story? Was the suspicion of collusion on the part of the reporters justified?
The mainstream media have an attack of indignant self-righteousness if anyone accuses them of the well-documented, longstanding journalistic bias they have demonstrated, yet their operating methods guarantee bias. Journalists arriving in Israel rarely possess Hebrew or Arabic language skills. Local handlers who speak English or French, etc., provide the answer. PA- or Hamas-linked handlers present receptive reporters with slanted or fictionalized ready-made stories and guarantee that foreign press can operate safely in dangerous areas such as Gaza. The foreign press as a whole is a willing consumer of Palestinian productions.
There are three major problems, firstly, bias on the part of media organizations, and reporters, clearly choosing sides. As the demonstrably-biased Reuters terminology handbook notes: “One man’s ‘terrorist’ can be another man’s ‘freedom fighter’”. In one case in the 1990s a Reuters reporter accompanied a band of Arabs armed with knives and axes on its way to attempt an attack aimed at mostly women and children at a small outpost.
Secondly, reporters’ personal and job security is dependent on reporting the “right” story—showing Israel in a negative light. Conversely, stories which show Palestinian misbehavior are conveniently buried. Contradicting the PA or Hamas narrative is dangerous.
Thirdly, the system allows the media to report Pallywood-concocted stories. The Muhammad a-Dura case depended on collusion by France 2 television. Selective editing furthered a narrative of Israelis purposely killing children. The raw footage and later analysis revealed the child was not killed, but blood libel/child murder is an accusation still hurled at Israel.
In the early intifada, stonings were staged for the media. Only after the army arrived to defend injured Israeli citizens did the cameras begin rolling to record the Israeli “aggressors” attacking young “freedom fighters”.
This successful model of smear journalism has changed little and persists today. Honest Reporting was created after a widely-circulated photo of a “bleeding Palestinian on the Temple Mount” was proven to be a Jewish young man at a gas station who had been attacked by Arabs. Only recently CBS ran a headline citing Palestinians killed, omitting that they were shot while attacking Israelis. Post facto corrections have little impact.
When the media demonize Israel repeatedly, and there is a continuous danger of stabbing attacks at Damascus Gate, is it any wonder that the police detained the reporters? Preventing incitement to violence is their job. The Border Police act as a first line of defense in the current Knife Intifada, bravely defending against numerous attacks in the Old City.
The suspicion and detention of the journalists were fully justified. What was completely out of line was the Israeli government forgetting to insert its spine and instead apologizing to the Washington Post, which has advocated ending Jewish sovereignty in Israel, among other anti-Israel reportage. The foreign press corps has acted as an antagonistic force both on the ground and in the media, actively aiding in demonizing Israel, while promoting double standards.
Biased reporting, and serving up cooked stories are not journalism, they are propaganda and collusion. The Israeli government should stand its ground, support the actions of law enforcement and contextualize its actions. Israel stands behind freedom of the press, but incitement and lies should not be tolerated.
As I noted last week, diplomacy is ineffective. Coddling influential demonizers of Israel is a mistake. Brief questioning by police is nothing compared to the damage caused by incessant smears by the press. Expecting Booth will “play nice” because we said we are sorry is delusional. It is time to push back against media actors that incite hatred against Israelis and Jews everywhere. They must be shamed and stripped of credentials for promoting misrepresentations and outright lies.