Thursday, September 14, 2006

Report on Panel Debate: Israel and the Media

I attended an interesting Panel Debate last night hosted by the American European Institute at Norris Lea Synagogue. Panelists included Melanie Phillips, Louise Ellman MP and Eric Moonman. There was a lot of implicit criticism (from both the audience and some panelists) of how 'organised Jewry' failed to argue Israel's case effectively during the recent war. There was pressure on the representatives from both the Board of Deputies and the Zionist Federation to defend themselves against the accusation of doing nothing (with the exception of the ludicorously misconceived ‘JFS Rally’ which was deservedly ridiculed by just about everyone). For the ZF Eric Moonman muttered on about all the ‘behind the scenes work’ being done around the clock and also made a bizarre statement about how ‘quality’ newspapers like the Times did not publish biased or inaccurate articles (what planet is he living on - he should take a look at some of the cases like this that I have documented previously on this blog). But the most ridiculous comment of the night came from Vivian Wiseman of the Board of Deputies; when challenged to provide examples of specific things the Board had done to address the media assault on Israel he clearly struggled to think of one but then came up with a single example which, bizarrely, was the BBC interview with Smadar Haran. He did not say what ZF’s claimed role was, if any, in setting up the interview but he stated that this was an example of how they had helped Israel get its case across. He clearly was unaware that this turned out to be an example of exactly the opposite, namely the BBC cynically finding a way to ensure that the Hezbollah terrorists got their view across instead (as revealed on my blog and followed up by Honest Reporting)

Notwithstanding the fact that the ZF and Board of Deputies were confirmed to have been pretty useless during the War, the event suggested that there are a lot of people sufficiently angry at the media lies to be motivated now to do something about it. There were also some interesting anecdotes. Shmuel Ben Tovin told the story of a friend who wanted to book a holiday in Dubai and phoned the UAE embassy to ask if it was OK to bring his girlfriend who was black. The embassy person ridiculed his friend for even thinking that it might be a problem given their determination to make Dubai the number one holiday destination. But then the friend said that his girlfriend was a black Israeli originally from Ethiopia. At this point the Embassy person was silent before hanging up the phone.

Another interesting discussion point during the evening was the role now played by NGO’s like Christian Aid, Save the Children and War on Want in demonizing Israel. I believe there is actually something very simple people can do about this and it is related to Ben Tovin’s story. A lot of these charities ran campaigns during the war asking for money for the suffering refugees/children in Lebanon and Gaza. I rang all these charity hotlines to offer a donation on the condition that it went to the suffering/displaced children in Israel (incidentally the Red Cross was one notable exception in that they explicitly included Israel in their appeal). The responses I got were quite amazing. The people I spoke to were never hostile in any way but were simply ignorant. They had no idea that there were any people suffering in Israel during the war. Interestingly, although I always left my number for somebody more ‘senior’ to call me back to clarify why Israel was excluded from the Appeal I never got a single call back. The point I am making is that if 500 people made similar calls it might at least have an impact.

No comments: