The Economist: Role of Media

The Economist:The role of the media; “It has conquered the American
House of Representatives, too, which voted on January 9th by 390-5 for
a bill declaring “unwavering commitment” to Israel. “

“Israel is now better prepared. The tactics it deploys on the media
front are as cunning and punchy as those its army has been wielding
against Hamas in Gaza.”…

“It has conquered the American House of Representatives, too, which
voted on January 9th by 390-5 for a bill declaring “unwavering
commitment” to Israel…A Rasmussen poll taken on December 31st showed
that while 44% of Americans were still for Israel, 41% were against
it, a relatively high figure. And that was before the bloody attack on
a UN school and other such incidents….”

The role of the media
A war of words and images

Jan 15th 2009 | CAIRO AND JERUSALEM
From The Economist print edition
Despite devoting unparalleled attention to the media, Israel is losing
the propaganda war

AFTER their last controversial war, against Lebanon in 2006, Israelis
commonly blamed the press for sapping morale by covering the carnage
too closely. Israel is now better prepared. The tactics it deploys on
the media front are as cunning and punchy as those its army has been
wielding against Hamas in Gaza.

Back in November, few outside the region noticed when Israel suddenly
blocked foreign reporters’ access to the crowded Strip. But the
information prong of Israel’s Gaza offensive involves far more than
the tight control of press access. Israel has fully utilised its
expertise at hasbara, a Hebrew word meaning literally “explanation” ,
but referring more broadly to image promotion. Platoons of on-message
spokesmen are available to foreign reporters in Israel at all hours of
the night and day. Israel’s army has also launched a website featuring
selected videos that is dedicated, it says, to documenting the “humane
action and operational success” of Israeli forces. Israel’s foreign
ministry, assisted by scores of pro-Israel groups worldwide, has
enlisted thousands of volunteers, supplying them with regularly
updated talking points to nudge editors, journalists and commentators
to see the news from Israel’s perspective.

Gaza itself has been subjected to an intense “psy-ops” campaign. As
well as air-dropped leaflets, propaganda that blames Hamas for the
violence is beamed out via hijacked Palestinian radio broadcasts, text
messages and direct calls to mobile phones. Some Gazans report
receiving calls from apparently sympathetic fellow Arabs, who then
turn out to want suspiciously specific information about Hamas
operatives in their area. Meanwhile, the destruction of Gaza’s
electricity grid makes it hard for those trapped inside the territory
to communicate with each other or the outside world.

Israel’s campaign has succeeded on the home front, with its own Jewish
citizens remaining broadly enthusiastic about a war mostly portrayed
in admiring terms. It has conquered the American House of
Representatives, too, which voted on January 9th by 390-5 for a bill
declaring “unwavering commitment” to Israel. And it has even won over
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, an American everyman who won brief
celebrity in the presidential campaign for his forthright views as
“Joe the Plumber”. Dispatched by Pajamas TV to report from Israel, he
declared that its ban on war coverage was a good thing.

Yet wider support among the American public for Israel in this
conflict appears to be less robust than usual. A Rasmussen poll taken
on December 31st showed that while 44% of Americans were still for
Israel, 41% were against it, a relatively high figure. And that was
before the bloody attack on a UN school and other such incidents.
Global public opinion has also probably shifted against the Jewish
state. Even inside Israel, human-rights groups, concerned that much of
the normally outspoken local press has turned largely jingoistic, have
launched a website to expose the mounting tragedy inside Gaza.

They suffer no lack of heart-rending material. Here, denying access to
Gaza to all Western correspondents might have backfired on Israel. The
result has been that it is Gazans themselves, including some 300 local
journalists, who have kept the world focused on their plight. More
significantly, the most watched Arab television news channels are all
in Gaza, giving saturation coverage to the conflict, even three weeks
after its start.

The English-language sister channel of al-Jazeera, with two reporters
in Gaza, has flourished in the absence of Western competitors, such as
CNN. Its coverage has been graphic but sombre in tone. This contrasts
with the hyperbole on many Arabic-language networks, where charges of
Israeli “genocide”, mixed with unsubstantiated reports of Hamas’s
military successes, have been frequent, accompanied by dramatic music
and filler material looping pictures of dead children.

Hamas has been largely sidelined from this effort, although its
television still beams feebly, airing martial pomp and pre-recorded
speeches. The group has even tried its hand at phoning threatening
messages to Israelis and posting propaganda on the internet. But what
has really turned the tide is the ceaseless stream of appalling
imagery that fills the Arab satellite channels. Their passion is
certainly not always professional, but the gore, distress and misery
they portray are all too real.

http://www.economis t.com/world/ mideast-africa/ displaystory. cfm?story_ id=12953839