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December 25, 1987 - Image 26

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-25

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Ari Rath, editor of the Jerusalem Post,
put it best when he said that "we must
first of all keep our journalistic integrity,
and this will do a service to the Jewish peo-

Israel's Image

Only in Israel: a storefront in Tel Aviv features women's underwear
as well as religious items, including a tallit.

my editors and readers expect of me; and
second, I am a Jew. You have to report the
totality of the story. If you can't accept
this, then you have to resign."
Jay Bushinsky, Mideast bureau chief for
the Chicago Sun Times , cited a case where
his strong Jewish feelings may have en-
hanced his reporting. During the Six Day
War, he and several other journalists ap-
proached the Western Wall shortly after it
was captured. "There we saw soldiers over-
come by emotion," he recalled. "I was total-
ly overcome, too, and burst into tears. My
dilemma was whether I should report what
I saw and experienced, which was unique-
ly Jewish. My colleagues said that I
should, but I thought that this would
finish me. It turned out to be one of the
most impressive reports that I have ever
In an angry exchange, Milton Winston
of the Jewish Media Foundation of Mon-
treal accused the Israel-based journalists
of "being used," because they are Jewish,
to create an anti-Israel bias in the media.
But Eric Silver angrily responded: "We live
in Israel as Jews, and our first concern is
not a small paper in Montreal. We serve in
the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], and we
risk our lives in many other ways every day.
What risks have you taken for the Jewish



Whether or not the Jewish people are
well served by a press that feels obligated
to not only report the news about Israel
but also enhance its image was the subject
of a session featuring Prof. Shlomo Avineri,
an outspoken political scientist at the
Hebrew University in Jerusalem. It was
Avineri who stirred the Pollard spy-case
cauldron last winter when he wrote that
American Jews felt threatened by the con-
viction because they maintain a shtetl
mentality in the Diaspora.
His topic at this conference was "The
Struggle For Israel's Image," and he noted
that while image is a reflection of reality,
Israel has more than one reality: that of
David, surrounded and outnumbered by
the hostile Arab Goliath; and that of
Goliath, the most powerful military force
in the region.
It was the late Prime Minister Levi
Eshkol, just after the Six Day War who,
according to Avineri, was asked by a
diplomat being assigned abroad which of
these two conflicting images he wanted
portrayed: "No problem," Eshkol told him.
"We should be seen as Samson the Neb-
Acknowledging this constant dichotomy,
Avineri noted that Israel is "the strongest
power in the Mideast, but we are also the
most vulnerable. For we are continually
threatened, and if we lose a war we will no
longer exist."
He added that "no other nation is as
paranoid about its image, but we are very
schizophrenic. We are very sensitive and
yet sometimes we don't seem to care."
The choice, at times, is between being
liked in the eyes of the world, or at least
portrayed sympathetically, and having
one's way. And Israel often must sacrifice
sympathy for power. "There is a cost to be-
ing tough and having one's way," he said.
"We're not always liked for that."
"Our problem is not images but policies,"
he said bluntly at one point, arguing that
many of Israel's image problems during
the war in Lebanon were the result of
military policy rather than media percep-
tion. But he did note that many people
tend to forget that Israel is a country in
a constant state of war and, compared to
the actions of other countries in that con-
dition — whether it be England's press
blackout during the Falklands conflict or
America's incarceration of Japanese-
Americans during World War II — Israel
compares quite favorably.
One of the respondents to Avineri's
presentation, Lesley Max of the Zionist
Federation of New Zealand, received the
most applause of the conference for her full

but dignified criticism of Israel's efforts in
the area of Hasbarah, a Hebrew word that
falls somewhere between public relations
and propaganda. She noted that while it
is most effective to have a simple message
— "Moses had one: Let my people go. The
Palestinians have one: We need a
homeland" — Israel's message, she said,
"tends to be long and diffuse."
She politely took the Foreign Ministry
to task for sending out diplomats, some of
whom, she said, are not qualified to per-
form their duties, whether because of age
or lack of enthusiasm. "If the game is
worth playing," she said, "it is worth play-
ing well. And this is far more important
than a game."

Differences In Style

One of the benefits of the conference was
hearing from Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon
Peres on successive days. It gave us the op-
portunity to see how each differs in style
and content in addressing the same au-
dience, and to take note of the informality
of Israeli society.
'lb be sure, there is tight security when
an Israeli leader speaks to a public group.
But when the Prime Minister addressed us
one evening, there was no pomp or cir-
cumstance or ruffles or flourishes when he
entered the room. And no teleprompters or
official seals when he spoke.
Instead, he read his address from a typed
copy he held in his hand, rarely looking up.
A roll of masking tape (that had no doubt
been used to hold the conference's banner
in place on a nearby wall) rested atop the
podium in front of him. And while seated
at a table after his address, taking ques-
tions from the audience, Shamir poured
himself a glass of orange juice (that had
been tested prior to his appearance, I later
As a speaker, the Prime Minister per-
sonifies the opposite of charisma. A man
who made his mark in the underground
during the struggle for statehood, he is no
doubt far more effective in private rather
than public settings. In the same vein, he
was less than expansive during the
question-and-answer session, offering
minimal, general responses to the ques-
tions put to him.
By contrast, Shimon Peres the next
evening was a dynamic speaker, and the
audience was far more attentive as he
presented his oft-heard views on the need
to take bold steps to promote an interna-
tional peace conference. He said the only
solution is for Israel to allow the Arabs to
control their own lives "rather than us
dominating them." When asked about
Arab mistreatment of Jews, he responded
angrily: "We must not copy the. Arabs or
the Germans. Why should we do evil? Why
shouldn't we be Jews?" Whether or not one
agrees with his views, it is evident that he
presents them effectively and does well in


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