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September 23, 2010 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-09-23

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A Timeless Classic of American Musical Theatre


Tough Job

IDF spokeswoman faces challenges

in dealing with the news media.

Don Cohen

Special to the Jewish News


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September 23 • 2010


he Israel Defense Forces
(IDF) is known more for its
actions than its words, yet
words are very important to Lt. Col.
Avital Leibovich.
As head of the International Media
and Communication Branch of the
IDF Spokespersons Unit, Leibovich is
just one of six people tasked with rep-
resenting Israel to the foreign press.
She spoke last week at the annual
Women's Luncheon for the Michigan
Friends of the IDF, and stayed several
days for fundraising as well as com-
munity and media briefings.
"While it is not a traditional battle-
front, the media war is an increasingly
influential and important arena:'
Leibovich told the luncheon crowd
of 240 women at the Tam O'Shanter
Country Club in West Bloomfield.
"Every day we have to contend with
media bias, disinformation and fast-
spreading rumors, often followed by
distorted coverage."
Another challenge is the nature of
today's media.
"As the competition between net-
works has grown, so has their need to
be the first to run the best story," she
explained. "We are now faced with the
need to produce the best sound bite,
the best photograph, video clip, talk-
ing point, interview within minutes of
any incident."
As an example, she cited the intense
coverage of the "Gaza Flotilla" and the
Israeli boarding of the Turkish ship,
the Mavi Mamara.
"Even though we provided networks
with information as to what had actu-
ally happened early on, they continued
to run incorrect information for hours
despite our efforts to correct the news
outlets," she said.
Israel was criticized by its support-
ers for not quickly providing the foot-
age of the attacks on soldiers boarding
the ship, which clearly showed the vio-
lent reception they received. Leibovich
understands, but says helicopters were
prepared to quickly bring the footage
back to headquarters, but they "were
repurposed to evacuate not only our
wounded soldiers, but also wounded

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich

"What many people forget, or never
even consider, is that before every-
thing else, the IDF thinks about lives
first," she said. "Operational consider-
ations, the wellbeing of our soldiers,
the lives of our adversaries take prece-
dence over PR considerations."

American Support

Leibovich spoke appreciatively of sup-
port American Jews provide by speak-
ing out on behalf of Israel, by making
aliyah and joining the IDF and for
soldiers through a wide range of FIDF
programs. Under her command as
reservists are former Detroiters Maj.
Eric Snyder, Maj. David Baruch and
Capt. Doron Spielman, who she says
"help to protect Israel's good name."
She also told the women in the audi-
ence that "the army recognizes and
values women:' with a full 90 percent of
the jobs in the IDF open to both sexes.
In a morning session with pre-
Israel activists organized by the FIDF
and the Jewish Community Relations
Council (JCRC), she suggested specific
advocacy actions:
• Be informed. Use the IDF
Spokespersons website (www.idf.
il/english) to access breaking news
and continuing coverage, the IDF's
YouTube channel and blog, and to sign
up for Twitter feeds.
• Contact local editors. "Writing to
the editors is crucial. I can speak to
the reporters in Israel, but you can
reach the editors."
• Learn the history and issues. "We
need to provide a historical memory
and context," she said, citing that
reports of staggeringly high unem-
ployment in Gaza need to be under-
stood in the context that 50 percent of
the 1.5 million people living there are
age 15 and under.
• Use vocabulary your audience will
understand. 1_ I

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