Monday, November 08, 2010

Things you can see from there...

There is an Israeli love song, performed
by Yehudit Ravitz, whose refrain says:
Things you can see from THERE you cannot see from HERE.

It's a true observation, and not just with regards to love.

Honest Reporting is a media watchdog organization whose mission is thus defined:

Israel is in the midst of a battle for public opinion – waged primarily via the media. To ensure Israel is represented fairly and accurately "'HonestReporting'" monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and effects change through education and action.

When media bias occurs, our worldwide base of subscribers take action by contacting news agencies, drawing issues of bias to their attention, and requesting changes. Media outlets, correspondents, and editors are now held accountable for biased reporting and are becoming more aware of the need for factual, impartial and fair reporting. Our subscribers also make use of our Communiqués to bolster their own knowledge and understanding of the often complex issues.

An Internet friends, Will James (an alias) is attending the Honest Reporting conference that is currently taking place in Jerusalem. Here are some notes and impressions that Will emailed me. Worth reading.


Notes from HonestReporting's 14th Israel Mission
November 3rd - 9th, 2010

Will James

I'm so eager to tell you something about the Honest Reporting conference which has so wildly exceeded my expectations. Here are just a few sketches of the encounters so far that I think will interest you:

Mark Regev, the PM's spokesperson, kicked off the first morning. He spent a couple of hours with us talking about what Netanyahu is trying to do to present Israel's case before the world in the face of the Palestinian propaganda onslaught. The good news is that they realize they need to do something and they are trying. The bad news is that they don't really have effective counter messages. Regev said that Netanyahu stresses the need for Palestinian recognition of Israel's legitimacy and the need for security in every speech he makes. My small contribution was to point out to him that the Palestinian message of colonization, racism, occupation, is instantly grasped; it resonates powerfully against a template that is already in place in the minds of liberal Europeans and North Americans (even though it's bogus). The message that Israel needs legitimacy and security has no resonance for anyone but Israelis. It's no match for the Palestinian narrative. We need a better story to tell the world. I think he heard it and took it away with him.

Later in the day we heard from a Colonel Bentzi Gruber who fought in the Gaza war and has about 20,000 soldiers under his command. He described meticulously how the IDF struggled to avoid taking the lives of non-combatants, which I already was aware of in general terms. What was fascinating was to see video footage of how Hamas operatives actually used their understanding of this fact in battle to save their lives when they knew they were being targeted.

At the end of his talk Colonel Gruber put a photo of his elderly parents on the screen. His mother was a Holocaust survivor who arrived at the death camps with her parents, and her six siblings. All were killed shortly after arrival except for his mother and her twin. They were spared because Doctor Mengele had a special interest in performing experiments on twins. I will spare you the details. Gruber's mother lived until well into her 80s. He said that until her death she would talk about how she would have gladly given up one of her legs for a single bullet to shoot the German who came every night to rape her sister. In closing he said how privileged he feels to have the opportunity to serve in the IDF and defend the Jewish people. A remarkable, gentle, heroic human being.

Yesterday, Itamar Marcus shared his insights about Palestinian media. I urged him to realize that the material he has assembled is "the smoking gun". What he holds in his hands is clearest evidence that anyone could ask for about the real motivations of the Palestinians. There is not a hint anywhere of aspirations for peaceful coexistence. The media record demonstrates unequivocally that the Palestinians deny any legitimacy to Israel and are grooming their children only for eternal war. Encouragingly, the lead article in yesterday's Daily Alert mentioned Palestinian Media Watch and noted that the government's office has now decided to formally track and monitor Palestinian incitement.

This morning's highlight was a presentation by Mordechai Kedar who is an Islamic specialist at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. His lecture on Islam's practice of appropriating of Jewish and Christian themes while simultaneously delegitimizing its predecessors enabled everyone to understand that the game of rewriting history as needed predates the present-day Palestinians by at least 1400 years.

We had lunch together along with a woman, Joan Peters, who has written a book (that I don't know) called "From Time Immemorial".It was apparently significant enough in debunking Palestinian claims that she has been attacked repeatedly by Chomsky, Finklestein, and the rest of the inverted Jews. Mordechai Kedar had apparently defended her book in a debate against Ilan Pappe and was thrilled to be meeting her and told her he had goose bumps. To me she was just a nice lady who was attending the conference. So here I am eating my falafel with people who know Bat Yeor.

The evening activity of prayer at the Kotel was something that completely blew my mind. Seeing these circles of young boys and girls singing and dancing with joy to celebrate Shabat was beyond anything that I had ever imagined in the realm of Judaism.

I'm realizing that the folks behind Honest Reporting are orthodox Jews and that along with everything else that they are throwing at us, they are inviting their Reformed and/or secular American guests to surrender certain preconceptions and take a second look at what the Orthodox bring to the party.

Anyway, that's all I have time and energy to share this evening.


This observation by Will

"The message that Israel needs legitimacy and security has no resonance for anyone but Israelis."

caught my attention. It echoes very succinctly what Israeli author David Grossman recently said in an interview on Charlie Rose :

"But basically I believe that Benjamin Netanyahu, he knows the
situation in the occupied territories, and yet I think he is more dominated
by worry for Israel, by fears, by suspicion regarding the intentions of the

CHARLIE ROSE: You know, I’m fascinated by the release of the
documents from the Israeli government about the ‘73 war and how close it
was. You’re part of that conversation, you hear that conversation. It’s a
big topic in Israel. What is the -- it says how close it is always for
Israel -- in this case they were surprised by a war and also by the
tenacity of the Arabs.

DAVID GROSSMAN: Yes. This existential fear prevails all the time in
Israel. I know that when you look at Israel from the outside, from what
you see on the TV screen, you see a kind of military fist, iron fist. But
we see the palm of the hand and the fragility of Israel. "

And a bit later he explains further:

"You know, if you read in an American paper that America plans its road
plan for the years 2030, it sounds normal, yes, reasonable. No sane
Israeli will make plans for such a long time in advance. And I’ll tell
you, when I think of Israel 20 or 30 years from now I feel a twinge in my
heart as if I violated a taboo by allowing myself too much portion, a too
huge portion of future.

CHARLIE ROSE: Too optimistic in your assumption that it will be

DAVID GROSSMAN: Yes. And this must be corrected. This must be
changed. It’s impossible that we shall continue to live in this

And I believe that only peace will allow us to enjoy this sequence of
generation and having a solid feeling of future and also something that is
maybe hard to understand, but I will call it solidity of existence, of the
people who is rooted in its own land, who has fixed borders between him and
his neighbors until now 62 years Israel does not have fixed borders. Our
borders all the time are receding, expanding.

It’s like someone who lives in a room that the walls are moving all
the time or the ground is shaking under his feet all the time. This cannot
go on like that forever."


At 4:42 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing WillJames keen insights.
"We need a better story to tell the world."
made me think Israel needs a Bennetton style image campaign.

Israelis are a rainbow of people.
The Palestinians are one shade of gray.
It would help to deflect the false racism claim. Include the images of Israelis more forcefully in the tourism advertising.

Easier than getting the Elders like Carter and Tutu to recant...

Remember the power of the photo of the Afghan woman with green eyes was on the cover of national Geographic?

Imagine a world map, with an Israeli standing in their country of origin, walking to tiny Israel.



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