Israeli Media Criticized for Coverage of Gaza Conflict

The latest round of fighting between Israel and Gaza militants was covered around the clock in Israel. Media outlets largely adopted the government's narrative and justifications for the offensive. Leftist Israeli bloggers and netizens, while criticizing the government throughout the operation, also attacked what they saw as a biased coverage of the events.

Israeli leftist tweep Uri Horesh chastised a Jerusalem Post reporter who was assigned to write a story about the suffering of pets in southern Israel. Here's the exchange between them:

‏@sharonudasin: Does anyone have pets who are freaking out because of the rocket sirens? If so, please contact me today for a story. Thanks! #jpost

@urihoresh: @sharonudasin Are you writing for The Onion?

‏@sharonudasin: @urihoresh no, this is a real concern for southern dog and cat owners in Israel!

@urihoresh: .@sharonudasin Children are being murdered in #Gaza, and the Jerusalem Post is running a story about puppies in Ashdod afraid of sirens. OK.

Channel 2 Military Correspondent, Roni Daniel, was widely criticized by leftists for what they consider to be war-mongering. Journalist Alexandra Belopolsky wrote in her Saloona blog [heb]:

“הגיע הזמן להפסיק עם הפינצטה”, קבע דניאל בקולו הרדיופוני שאין עליו עוררין, תוך שהוא מנסה “לחנך” את צה”ל לפעולה הנכונה לדידו. “הגיע הזמן להוציא את הפטיש הכבד. בשלב מסוים צריך לעבור למשהו יותר קשה ואלים”.

קל לפספס בתוך זרם הברברת המגויסת לדגל, נטולת הביקורת, הממלאת את המסכים בימים האחרונים, את עוצמת הזעזוע שאמור לייצר משפט כזה. ודווקא משום כך, אסור בשום אופן להקל בו ראש. מצב שבו עיתונאי בכיר, שאמור להעניק לצופים מידע ופרספקטיבה, קורא באופן בלתי מוסווה לאלימות צבאית באוכלוסיה בלתי-לוחמת הוא מצב שאסור בשום אופן לעבור עליו לסדר היום.

“It's time to stop with the precision attacks,” stated Daniel in his radio-phonic and authoritative voice as he tried to “educate” the IDF on how they should act. “It's time to bring out the heavy hammer. At some point, we need to something more harsh and violent.” In the stream of the patriotic, unquestioning babble that has been filling our screens in recent days, it is understandable why this sentence did not shock many. And exactly because of this, it should not be taken lightly. We should not accept a situation in which a prominent journalist, who is supposed to provide viewers with information and perspective, clearly calls for military aggression against a civilian population.

Leading leftist blogger Yossi Gurvitz tweeted:

התקשורת הישראלית, באופן שבו היא מדווחת על האירועים ברצועה, חזרה שני דורות אחורה, לימי פעולות התגמול. שוב היא שופר של מערכת הבטחון.

In the way it is reporting about the events in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli media has moved backwards to two decades, to the era of the Reprisal Operations when it served as the mouthpiece of the military establishment.

Analyzing the symbiosis between the IDF Spokesperson Unit and Israel media, Daniel Argo and Shiri Eiram wrote on the blog of the media watchdog Keshev [heb]:

במלחמות הקודמות צה”ל היה “מזרים” מידע לכתבים הצבאיים, ומזין מערכות תקשורת בחומר וידאו ובהדלפות מהשטח. את החומרים שנאספו היו מערכות התקשורת “מעבדות” בצורה זו או אחרת, ומשדרות את מה שהתאים, או לא התאים, למהדורה. בקיצור – צה”ל היה זקוק לעיתונאים כשם שהם נזקקו למידע של צה”ל. אבל במבצע הנוכחי משהו השתנה…. התהליך בו הופך צה”ל לכלי התקשורת המרכזי, ולבעליו של המידע הבלעדי החשוב ביותר, הוא תהליך שבסופו המידע שמגיע לאזרח – מגיע משובש. חלק גדול מהאחריות במקרה זה נופל גם על כלי התקשורת בישראל – אלו שבוחרים לשדר את ידיעות דובר צה”ל מבלי לבדוק ומבלי לשאול שאלות. בסופו של דבר הם אלו המחויבים לאתיקה ולכללי עבודה עיתונאיים. דובר צה”ל, למרות שקל לשכוח זאת, מחויב לא לאמת אלא למטרות המבצעיות של צה”ל.

In previous wars, the IDF would ‘feed’ military correspondents with information, and provided media outlets with video material and leaks from the field of combat. The media would process this material in one way or another, and air what fit their broadcasts. In short – the IDF needed the journalists just like the journalists needed the IDF's information. But in the current operation something changed… The process in which IDF becomes a media outlet of itself, and the owner of the exclusive and most important information is a process in which the information that is transmitted to the citizen is inaccurate. Part of the responsibility for this falls on Israeli media outlets that choose to air the statements of the IDF Spokesperson without fact-checking and without asking questions. At the end of the day, it is the journalists who are obligated to follow the rules of proper and ethical journalistic work. On the other hand, the obligation of the IDF Spokesperson, although it is easy to forget this, is not to the truth, but to the IDF's military objectives.

1 comment

  • The coverage of this recent crisis in the Israeli media was excessive. There was indeed a need for broadcasting vital information to citizens around the clock, but most of the time, most media outlets broadcast or published idle talks with politicians and former high-ranking army officers. The upcoming elections in about two months encouraged editors to “play fair” and have interviews with politicians from all major parties, which made these idol talks even longer and less interesting.

    Information from the other side, namely Gaza, was scarce, because Israeli journalists do not reach their sources there as easily as they used to some 10 years ago. All information about the events in the Gaza Strip relied on foreign press or official statements by Hamas on the one hand or the Israeli army on the other hand. Naturally, the focus turned to the events inside Israel. The major Israeli news bulletins were broadcast live on Palestinian channels, including that of Hamas, with simultaneous translation into Arabic. This led to some strange scenes, where Israeli reporters, who were aware of this fact, addressed questions to the Palestinian interpreter, and started a dialogue with him. Such scenes happened also During the 2006 Lebanon War.

    On the issue of pets freaking out by alert sirens – I don’t know whether it’s a good story or not. When you report so much, I guess there is a point where you report even about dogs and cats. But a person who claims that children in Gaza are being “murdered” is clearly biased, and would use any excuse to support his demonization of Israelis.

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