By Larry Gordon
This Sunday it was wall-to-wall Bibi on all the news shows. Over the previous few weeks it seemed that Israel’s prime minister found several surrogate spokespeople who were doing a fairly nice job of stating Israel’s case to the media. But then Sunday arrived and the rockets kept falling while the cease-fires kept failing. It appears Bibi decided to take matters into his own hands.
I observed that he was not his usual chipper self on those weekend appearances. Thankfully, there were a few others who, for a change, were able to pick up the slack by representing Israel’s position with articulation and intelligence under rather hostile and harsh media conditions. So let’s review and analyze what Israel needs strategically on the battlefield of the television screen, as this war seems to be settling into our armchairs and dens and on the big screen for the long run.
First, nothing is as real or brutal as the battlefield. The cold-blooded killers who are Hamas have brought the battle to the Israeli heartland. It is difficult, even unfathomable, to think where we would be today without the success of the Iron Dome. Unfortunately, some of the Israeli spokespeople seem a bit uncomfortable with the success of the anti-missile mechanism, which has saved hundreds and perhaps thousands of lives. In an odd way, they seem uptight with the lack of proportionality in Iron Dome’s success. When asked about it, they hem and haw and utter some kind of disjointed explanation about the success of this brilliant American-sponsored technology.
The good spokespeople have no problem with Israel’s success. If people were honest with themselves, they would quickly be able to put things in the proper context. Israel is the good guy here. Hamas and its Muslim supporters in Turkey and Qatar are the bad guys who need to be defeated, and that is what this war is all about. This is so obvious I should not even have to write it. But there I am, stuck in that same media quagmire as the rest.
In addition to the erudite and articulate Bibi, what are we dealing with here? I don’t know who composed the line, but when uttered by Prime Minister Netanyahu it encapsulated the essence of the conflict into a pithy and cogent statement. He explained that while Israel uses its missiles to protect its citizens, Hamas uses its citizens to protect its missiles. That is a great statement that says it all. The problem, believe it or not, is that it is too good a statement, too much to the point and on the mark. It is almost poetic and is therefore dismissed with a wave of the hand or a shrug of the shoulders by world leaders and opinion-makers.
One of the refreshing personalities featured recently on Fox News, on the Sean Hannity show, was defense attorney Benjamin Brafman. He articulated Israel’s right to self-defense, which, in and of itself, is a subject that I believe those interviewed should just pass when asked about. Being asked whether Israel has a right to defend itself is offensive, insulting, and undeserving of a response. I asked Brafman his thoughts on the matter and he said: “To me it is astonishing that Israel’s absolute right to defend itself from murderous rocket attacks needs to be repeated again and again, and even when repeated is not fully recognized by the media, Europe, or even the president of the United States. The right of Israel to use deadly force against terrorist attacks is a fundamental right that every country in the world has, but only Israel is ever criticized for doing so. This is raw anti-Semitism in its ugliest form.”
One of the best media encounters over the last three weeks was between Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, and CNN weekend anchor Erin Burnett. As with so many other anchors, reporters, and interviewers on mainstream media outlets like CNN, there is a standard hostility on display when speaking with Israeli representatives. In this case, Dermer cut Burnett down to size, which resulted in a lost look on her face for all to see. In all likelihood, she was bailed out of the situation by her producer in the control room advising her in her earpiece how to navigate out of a humiliating situation.
And all Ambassador Dermer did was tell it like it is. His appearance immediately followed a live report from a journalist in Gaza who talked only about the civilian casualties and specifically 16 children who were killed earlier that day by what was most likely an errant Hamas missile. Of course it was too soon for the honest and forthright ambassador to say definitively, but that was the preliminary finding of the IDF. Still, in all fairness to the much-maligned truth that is abused by Hamas and its supporters at the UN, Dermer had to say that he was not sure at that point.
Prior to doing that, however, Ambassador Dermer cut to the chase, telling Burnett that she, her reporter, and her network were doing a disservice to viewers by not allowing them to judge objectively what was going on in this round of the Gaza War. It was at that point that Burnett said the most ridiculous thing I have heard from a newsperson over the last few weeks. She asked Dermer why the IDF could not send someone in to see if there were children there, if indeed it was IDF fire that caused the deaths. Dermer is too much of a diplomat and a gentleman, but I would have liked to see him ask her if she or one of the CNN reporters was available to go into a building to check who was inside the next time the IDF was presented with this type of situation.
Another cool and pragmatic voice for Israel that we hear regularly on the radio airwaves in New York is that of the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein. These days, in addition to his regular Thursday-night stint on WABC Radio’s John Batchelor show, Hoenlein is heard almost every night sharing his thoughts and impressions on the continuing Gaza chaos. Hoenlein is at an advantage over other personalities in this role, because John Batchelor is an honest and objective moderator who understands what it means for Israel or any country to fight terror.
For his part, Hoenlein said in an e-mail on Tuesday that he has to concur with Mr. Brafman that not only should Israel not have to argue about the legitimacy of its right to defend itself, but that questioning that right contains significant elements of old-fashioned anti-Semitism and should not be tolerated.
Most of the others—that is, those not on Fox—are usually hostile to anyone defending Israel’s position. It goes without having to mention it that aside from CNN and MSNBC, the worst offenders are the BBC and Al Jazeera.
Israel’s economics minister, Naftali Bennett, has shown himself to be thoughtful, articulate, and scrappy in handling journalists with an anti-Israel agenda. In response to a reporter on Al Jazeera who asked him what to do about so many children dying in Gaza, Bennett calmly told the reporter that the first and best thing to do is to get the Qatar dictator who owns Al Jazeera to stop supporting terrorist groups like Hamas. Bennett pointed out that Qatar provided Hamas with $250 billion just over the last few years. And Qatar is home to archterrorist Khaled Mashaal.
Bennett, Netanyahu, Dermer, and the others have all made an impression and a definitive point that Hamas is responsible for the civilian deaths in Gaza. It is quite possible that the message has not gotten through to the world yet, but the message is getting there slowly but surely.
And I cannot do a piece on people who have spoken up without mentioning former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, or Hillel Neuer of UN Watch in Geneva, or Knesset member Danny Danon. Bloomberg not only hopped on an El Al jet to fly into Tel Aviv when the world was trying to say that Israel is not a safe place to fly, but he took on an antagonistic Wolf Blitzer live on CNN.
Why truth, honesty, and rightness have such a bad name is beyond comprehension. Why does evil seem to have an edge and flourish as naturally as the grass grows and the winds blow? There seems to be a downward momentum that signals around the world that it is OK to hate Jews and Israel.
Israel has to take the gloves off on the battlefield and in the media. This Obama/Kerry-inspired idea to fight terror to a draw is absurd. An IDF commander told an Israeli newspaper the other day that the political echelon is hesitating about dealing Hamas a fatal blow. “This is not a reality TV show,” he said. “Ratings should not matter.” ϖ
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.