Here and There: The missing link

Over the years, addressing varied audiences in different parts of the world, Jewish and non-Jewish, in an endeavor to present the Israel I know and love, the consistent question is “Why is Israel’s hasbara [public diplomacy] so poor?” Depicted often as an “occupying” power whose size, in the minds of many, is on par with Russia or the United States, Israel is made responsible for all the ills of the Palestinians.

Should we be surprised at the increase in antisemitism when Israel is projected as the epitome of evil?
How do these negative concepts permeate the thoughts and minds of the bystander?

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Is it the politicians who mold the view of their constituents? Or are there other factors at play?

The answer is clear. We live in times where instant news is available 24/7, the more instant the more effective. It is not the respective governments alone which project a view; far more influential is the message conveyed by the media. Unfortunately we in Israel have every reason to question its authenticity as time and again what is presented as fact turns out to be fiction.

A recent example was the international viewing of hundreds of mourners accompanying the funeral procession of eight-month-old Gaza baby Layla Ghandour. The baby’s parents claimed she was killed by Israeli tear gas when her 12-year-old uncle took her to the Gaza/Israeli border while participating in the “March of Return” riots. Aside from questioning what kind of parents would allow a baby to be taken into a war zone accompanied only by a 12-year-old, the cause of Layla’s death was far different from that transmitted worldwide.

Mahmoud Omar, arrested during a border riot, told his investigators that Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar paid the family of Layla NIS 8,000 to tell the media that the child had died from tear-gas inhalation rather thanJ from a congenital medical condition also responsible for the death of an older sibling.

The fact that proof existed to show that the parents had lied about the cause of their child’s death is of little significance because the damage had been done. Pictures relayed internationally of this dead eight-month-old child had played their part in the demonization of Israel.

Another example of how the media can manipulate the truth is its reaction to the US’s recent decision to leave the UN’s Human Rights Council, which US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called a cesspool of political bias. She went on to say, “For too long the HRC has been a protector of human rights abusers who continue to serve on and be elected to the council…. The world’s most inhumane regimes continue to escape its scrutiny and the council continues politicizing scapegoating of countries with positive human rights records in an attempt to distract from the abusers in its ranks.”

Haley cited as a major cause for the US’s withdrawal the disproportionate Item 7 on “Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.” Since 2007 it has appeared as a permanent fixture on the HRC agenda exclusively devoted to discussing the so-called human rights abuses by Israel in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while the rest of the world’s abuses appear collectively under Item 4.

Countries such as Syria – where at least 500,000 people have been killed and a number have died as a result of chemical warfare – are spared such intense scrutiny.

The reality that nine of the 29 HRC members are well-known human rights abusers – Burundi, Egypt, Rwanda, Cuba, Venezuela, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – has zero impact on either the council or the media worldwide.