The Seventh Eye Covers CAMERA Symposium

The Israel Democracy Institute’s Hebrew-language publication on journalism,  The Seventh Eye (Ayin Hashviit),  recently covered a symposium held by CAMERA’s Israel office. The topic of the symposium was the problematic media coverage of the 2014 Hamas war  and the IDF’s military campaign dubbed Operation Protective Edge, to stop Hamas rocket and tunnel attacks on Israel.  Below is CAMERA’s translation of the article by reporter Oren Persico.  Click here for the link to the original article in Hebrew.

In The Service of Global Jihad

Representatives from the organization CAMERA,  along with outside experts, drew a gloomy picture this week in which the global media severely transgressed in its coverage of “Operation Protective Edge.”

by Oren Persico

The screening of a film clip showing Hamas’ leader talking about the media’s contribution to the defeat of the [IDF’s] “Protective Edge” campaign opened an evening symposium on the media’s coverage of the campaign, held this week (9.11.14) by the CAMERA organization at Jerusalem’s Begin Heritage Center. “We are in the midst of a war,” said the emcee, Arnold Roth, who made it clear that war is war: There are “no innocent bystanders.” IDF soldiers, Hamas fighters and journalists – they all have a role in the conflict, as do media consumers.

CAMERA, an acronym for Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, has been critiquing the American media for three decades.  Over the years, it has expanded to include sub-groups that focus on different media arenas around the world, and several years ago also started to fund the Israeli subsidiary, Presspectiva, which focuses on the local media.

At the evening symposium, representatives from CAMERA, along with outside experts, drew a rather gloomy picture in which the global media severely transgressed in its coverage of “Operation Protective Edge.”

Tamar Sternthal, director of the Israel office of CAMERA, invoked the Hamas Interior Ministry’s guidelines to social media users posting content about Operation Protective Edge. Among other things, Hamas instructed them to be sure to claim that those killed were innocent civilians, to avoid posting photographs of people firing from residential areas or of armed militants, and to always cast doubt on the Israeli version of events. “These directives permeated and shaped news coverage in the US,” claimed Sternthal.

As an example, Sternthal showed the audience a photo presentation published in the Los Angeles Times during Operation Protective Edge. In all 99 photos included in the original presentation, Sternthal said, not even a single Hamas man appears. Moreover, there is no reference at all to the word “Hamas” in the photo captions.

Photos of tunnels dug by Hamas under Israel’s border were accompanied by captions that raised doubts about the purpose of the tunnels, added Sternthal, even after they were used in attacks. She also noted that the photo presentation included only two photographs of Israeli civilians and she commented that this was “exactly the same number of photos as those that were included of animals who suffered as a result of the conflict in Gaza.” Only after CAMERA complained to the Los Angeles Times. she said, were photos added of Hamas fighters and rockets that Gaza fighters fired toward Israel.

“On the one hand, Haniyeh was right,” said Sternthal, “In many cases, Hamas succeeded in getting the media to report the numbers it distributed of [Palestinian] fatalities, to ignore certain photos and to question the Israeli version [of events]”. But on the other hand, she added, during “Protective Edge” it was evident that there was also a counter-current.

Unlike previous rounds of violence, claimed Sternthal, this time there were many more reports in the global media about issues Hamas tried to avoid. Thus, for example, Sternthal noted the relatively widespread discussion on the numbers and identities of those killed, which, she said, followed from an article published by a CAMERA analyst in Time magazine. This article, she said with pride, was quoted extensively in a variety of different media outlets and led to the report published in The New York Times.

Gidon Shaviv, an analyst for Presspectiva, put the emphasis on the Israeli media’s role in creating a distorted worldview that reaches global news consumers. According to Shaviv, the global media demonstrates a poor understanding of Israeli society. A clear example of this is its reliance on the Haaretz newspaper and its citing of articles published there, as if these were representative of Israeli public opinion in Israel,  even though in Israel itself, less than 5% of the population is exposed to Ha’aretz(according to a TGI survey).

The journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, who recently published a book where an entire chapter is devoted to “The Industry of Lies” of Ha’aretz, also spoke at the event and stated that he had just returned from the United States, where he had signed a contract to translate the book into English.

Hadar Sela, editor of BBC Watch, a site operated by CAMERA in order to monitor the British network’s news broadcasts, discussed the BBC’s biased coverage throughout the military campaign.

According to Sela, the BBC website published 416 reports on “Operation Protective Edge” last summer, but the majority of the headlines and content dealt with events in Gaza and with what was defined as the “crisis” that was taking place there. Regarding the impact of the operation on civilians, she added, the coverage ratio was 3:1 in favor of the Palestinians compared to Israelis. Moreover, in the last 20 days of the operation, there was no reporting on what was happening in Israel.

An analysis of the photographs that accompanied the BBC reports also indicates bias, she said. During the seven weeks of the operation, only one photo of a Hamas activist was published, and he was not an armed fighter, but a lookout; Instead of weapons, he was holding a walkie-talkie. By contrast, the network posted many graphic images of dead Palestinians, straight from the Gaza morgue. “Had such raw material been filmed in Britain, it would never have seen the light of day at the BBC. The BBC does not publish photographs of dead bodies in the UK, it only presents them when they are taken in Gaza,” said Sela.

In response to complaints sent to the BBC, added Sela, the media outlet denied that coverage of the operation was influenced by Hamas pressure on journalists in Gaza. “My guess is that Hamas didn’t have to put any pressure on the BBC,” said Sela.

Professor Richard Landes of Boston University devoted the bulk of his remarks to Hamas’ intimidation of media representatives in Gaza. He claimed that it is not surprising that Hamas denied threatening journalists because one of the basic laws of intimidation is a code of silence about its existence.

Landes introduced Italian journalist Gabriele Barbati’s tweet when he left Gaza during Operation Protective Edge as an unusual example of breaking the code,, and from this one learns about its existence and p
urpose.

In the incident about which Barbati tweeted, children were accidentally killed by Palestinian fire, explained Landes, claiming that the minute it became clear to the media that Israel had no connection to these killings, they stopped reporting about the incident.

‘The immoral behavior of the media that denied intimidation by Hamas even as it succumbed to it, fabricating reports and presenting them as true, is a disaster not only for the Israelis and the Palestinians but for the democratic world,” said Landes. Such behavior, he emphasized, is nothing more than a service to the organizations of global jihad.