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The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
n the day after the early
March Dizengoff Center
suicide bombing, a woman
who runs a newsstand on
Dizengoff Street handed a now
famous copy of Yediot Aharonot,
Israel's largest-selling newspa-
per, to a customer.
Printed against a red back-
ground, the giant front-page
headline read: "NATION IN
FEAR." Next to it was a photo of
a young woman howling, her
mouth an "0," reminiscent of Ed-
yard Munch's famous painting of
a man howling from a bridge.
The photo was Yediot's logo
that day, topping page after in-
side page. Headlines read, "Cos-
turned children covered in blood."
(The bombing took place on
Purim.) "My God, he was only
twelve." "Where are my children,
goddamn it, where are my chil-
Pictures of crying, bleeding
people and wreckage were spread
across the pages. One full-page
shot showed an empty, unat-
tended baby carriage standing in
broken glass. A two-page photo
showed a row of dead bodies
wrapped in blankets on the side-
walk outside Dizengoff Center.
The headline read, "Here lie our
"They shouldn't print things
like that — it makes people even
more scared," said the woman at
the newsstand. The customer dis-
agreed. "That's the way people
feel. That's the truth."
This brief exchange summed
up the debate in Israel over
whether the media are doing
their job or the terrorists' job.
`The Israeli media have played
into Hamas's hands not 99 per-
cent, but 100 percent," contends
Ze'ev Schiff, veteran military cor-
respondent for Ha'aretz, a re-
spected, intellectual newspaper
whose coverage has been subdued.
The continuous up-close-and-
personal reports of atrocities, the
focus on wounded victims, fami-
lies, bystanders and ordinary cit-
izens hysterical with fear, the
narration and editing that echoes
and thereby magnifies these sen-
timents, Mr. Schiff says, has been
"relentless, stupid, criminal."
"The main purpose of terror is
not to [militarily] take over a
country; terror is first of all a psy-
chological weapon, meant to
shock, to break a population's
morale, to spread fear," he con-
tinues. "If I were a Hamas ter-
rorist and I read the headline,
'Nation in fear,' I would immedi-
ately carry out another attack.
"Had the news media in 1948
[the War of Independence] been
performing like it is now, the
state would not have been born.
The results in 1973 [the Yom Kip-
pur War] might also have been
But the Israeli media were dif-
ferent then. They were more
staid, in keeping with the austere
spirit of the times. Their tech-
nology was primitive. They were
practically a propaganda arm of
the government, but that tradi-
tion began to crumble after the
debacle of the Yom Kippur War,
and is now gone.
Television didn't arrive until
1968, and there was only one sta-
tion — state-run Channel One —
until a few years ago. Now Chan-
nel One is in competition with
commercial Channel Two, and
when Israel is the focus of world
attention, they both are in com-
petition with CNN and England's
Sky News, as most Israelis have
HAMAS page 84