|Media experts meet to discuss how Mideast war is waged on TV and the web|
|By israelinsider staff December 28, 2006|
|Scenes and subtitles from documentary by German television (NDR/ZAPP)|
|It's no secret that the global clash of civilizations is being fought to the death on a screen near you. There is a hot frontier in today's global clash of civilization -- the mass media, and especially the Internet, where even poor terrorists can loom large in providing training, recruitment and operational guidance. After decades of relative silence, scholars, journalists, and military experts alarmed by jihadist media tactics came together to discuss how to fight on this 21st century front. |
Participants of the 7th Annual Herzliya Conference on the Balance of Israel's National Security, entitled "The Media as a Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society," examined the national security lessons for Israel and the West to be gained from recent incidents of the use and misuse of the media in war.
Initiated by noted historian Boston University Professor Richard Landes, the conference attracted hundreds of visitors to the Daniel Hotel in Herzliya last week. Landes, a medievalist by training, has turned his attention in recent years to analyzing how the media is serving as a modern battlefield in the clash of civilizations, playing an influential role in the global battle for "civil society," in his scholarly work, the Augean Stables blog, and the media conference, considered the largest such gathering since CAMERA launched the first "media and mideast" conference back in 1989.
"The main theme of this conference is that reality bites, and it bites with sound bites and megabytes," Landes told Israel Insider. "The conference capitalized on the sense of urgency so many of us feel around addressing the problem of how the media portrays Israel and also how Israel and the advocacy community can use the media to good effect," he said.
"The attitude until now has been to be as conciliatory as possible," regarding accusations made against Israel in the media, "which is the Oslo method." The conciliatory view, as in Oslo, marginalized the assertive view. "What I think needs to happen is that we need to play 'tough cop-nice cop' and not undermine each other."
For some others, the conference represented a "coming out party" for a group of under-recognized but influential Middle East media experts, wrote Ami Isseroff, a blogger-participant from ZioNation.
These scholars, journalists, and PR experts "have been laboring to bring people the truth about what is happening in the Middle East, including the inconvenient bits left out by the 'mainstream' media," said Isseroff.
Incidents in which stories were faked and then distributed by the mainstream Western media, such as the infamous Qana incident, were exposed by online watchdogs as pro-jihad propaganda.
Mark Regev, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, added that Israeli spokesmen could do a better job of selling Israel's case by avoiding speaking what he called "American English." He argued that using terminology that is largely associated with the Bush Administration automatically aligns much of the world against Israel.
Instead, Regev suggested enlarging Israel's support base by speaking the language of "international legitimacy."
One focal point of the conference was the notorious distortion of the death of Muhammed Al-Dura, a Palestinian boy who was caught in the gunfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen and became a pivotal symbol of "martyrdom."
Despite expert examination which showed that video of the incident had been faked by French and Palestinian cameramen to make it look as if the Israeli soldiers shot the boy, most of the mainstream media reported the fabrication as truth -- Israel never even contested the frame-up.
Nidra Poller, the noted journalist and Paris Editor of Pajamas Media, explained that in producing an episode where Jews were falsely portrayed as wanting the blood of children, the jihad media and its Western distributors have created a modern day blood libel.
Media expert Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, showed how the boy's death was used as a propaganda tool to entice other Palestinian children to martyrdom.
A television commercial targeting children showed a photo of Al-Dura and quoted him as saying, "I wave my hand to you, not in parting, but to tell you to follow me as martyrs."
Another video clip showed by Marcus exhorts a small Palestinian child to massacre.
The popular show for preschool-age children features a small yellow hatchling bird who tells a young girl that if someone were to cut down his tree he would, "Call the whole world and make a riot! I'll bring AK-47s and the whole world. I'll commit a massacre in front of the house."
Despite the shock in the audience, many of the seasoned experts such as Dr. Raanan Gissin, strategic consultant and former advisor to Ariel Sharon, Jonathan Davis, a veteran of the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, Joe Hyams of Honest Reporting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev, Israel Insider publisher Reuven Koret, and renowned "national pacifier" Nachman Shai (so named for his cool and reassuring demeanor as IDF spokesman during nightly SCUD attacks in the first Gulf War), appearing on a panel about the second Lebanon War, observed that what they were seeing has been going on for years.
Koret, who coined and popularized the term "Hezbollywood," spoke about the way Hezbollah exploited civilian deaths in Qana during this year's Lebanon war: "Bloggers did what the mainstream media and the Israeli government did not do: show that reports of a massacre were untrue, that deaths were exaggerated, and that the aftermath was crudely staged."
Blogs, such as Richard North's EU Referendum which did in-depth analysis based on photographs of the incident, investigated the role of a supposed "rescue worker" -- 'Green Helmet' as the man came to be known -- who played the role of director and lead actor in the staging.
Bloggers discovered that 'Green Helmet', who had posed as a rescue worker in the 1996 Qana incident, holding up a dead baby, was busy -- while wearing the same headgear -- performing a similar role in the 2006 Qana episode: North documented that he was shown holding the same dead infant in at least eight different locations, directing photographers to be sure that the media was there to snap photos as he displayed the body -- in one case tossing it into the air -- for all to see.
"Keep on filming!" he screamed at the photographers (many of whom were from mainstream media organizations), who complied without question or protest. "Better images must be shot!"
Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2006/12/media-experts-meet-to-discuss-how.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.