Israel and the Media
Some tips for Israeli spokespersons...
Israel cannot afford to lose another public relations war with jihadists, as it did during the Lebanon war. And so the first point Israeli spokespeople need to emphasize is that this is not just a war between mighty Israel and a ragtag militia, but part of an ongoing war with shifting fronts between Israel and its jihadist enemies, directed from Teheran.Already, the media are playing into Hamas' hands. On CTV Newsnet, they spent about 10 minutes talking to an Egyptian journalist this afternoon, without any comment from an Israeli. On CNN, they repeatedly emphasized the number of Gazan casualties, without ever mentioning that the Palestinians PURPOSELY target civilians - in fact, they wish they could deliver more Israeli casualties...but alas, they can't.
The second point Israeli spokespeople must make is that the accusation against Israel of using disproportionate force is intended by many critics to prevent Israel from protecting itself. Tens of thousands of Israeli citizens have been terrorized for eight years by Hamas's rockets--and it doesn't matter if those have mostly inflicted only physical and psychological wounds rather than fatalities. In allowing the attacks to continue for so long--even after Israel withdrew to its 1967 border with Gaza--Israel has risked losing its deterrence against its enemies and the faith of its citizens in the country's viability. One recent cartoon in the newspaper Ma'ariv showed an Israeli family lighting the menorah and singing a Hanukah song extolling the heroism of the Macabees while outside their window Qassam rockets fell with impunity. For Israelis living within rocket range from Gaza, it is the government's shameful non-response to attacks that was disproproitionate.
Next, Israel's spokespeople must challenge the easy notion that the conflict in Gaza is the latest expression of a "cycle of violence." Israel has accepted the principle of a two-state solution; Hamas's goal is the destruction of Israel.
Finally, Israel's spokespeople need to be firm in the face of the sentimental journalism that empowers the jihadists by placing accidental civilian Palestinian casualties at the heart of the story. Dead civilians are not an Israeli interest but a Hamas interest: In Hamas's calculation, the more Palestinian victims, the more the world pressures Israel to stop its operation. Israel's greatest fear is an accidental shell fired at a Palestinian hospital or school--and that's precisely Hamas's fondest hope. Journalists are obliged to tell this story in all its anguished detail. But they aren't obliged to reward Hamas's cynicism by turning the story of Israel's war against genocidal jihadism into a contrived Israeli war against Palestinian civillians.