An Open Letter to ‘Honest Reporting.com’; a Web Site Dedicated to Correcting Errors in News Reporting on Issues Relating to Jews or Israel.
As the former Editor & Publisher of what was, for a time, one of the most widely read English language Jewish newspapers in the world…the Knight Ridder owned Jewish Star Times in Miami FL. I had the opportunity to discuss issues that Honest Reporting touches on every day.*
While the need and benefit of what you do is beyond question, I am continually vexed by the question of what makes it all so necessary… and try as I might I cannot escape the conclusion that we need to address the disease while we treat the symptoms. The disease I refer to is Israel’s role in the propaganda process. I have long maintained that Israel is the ‘public relations firm’ of the Jewish people and is doing an abysmal job of telling its story (and ours) while its’ foes have mastered the process to a degree that were it translated to technology Microsoft would have a real rival.
We have known for years that while Fatah has siphoned off billions of aid dollars into the pockets of its leaders, Hamas has filled the resultant vacuum in providing social services which, after all, is the central non-defense related role of any legitimate government. To then be surprised by the fact that they won the last election is to be blind to the lessons of our own democracy; the party that best delivers the needs of its citizens generally wins their support.
To translate that win into an automatic endorsement by the Palestinians of Hamas’ military agenda is just another case of misunderstanding the nature of democracy itself. In the end there are only a finite number of choices; all flawed to varying degrees and often it is the lesser of evils that wins the day. What better example than choosing Hamas over Fatah, and what role did we play and Israel play in fostering that outcome? Did we ever attempt an audit, even externally, of how the massive amounts of aid given to the Palestinian Authority were translated into bettering the daily life of the Palestinian people? If so I didn’t hear much about it when there should have been a communiqué issued from (an as yet non existent Israeli agency) crying out on behalf of the Palestinian ‘man in the street’ that the PA is stealing money meant to help him and his family.
How did the communists beat the nationalists in China in the late 40’s? By doing exactly what Hamas has done…addressing the needs of the poor for food, medical care, education and basic social services and perhaps most importantly fostering the impression that they seek justice against the oppressors at home as well as abroad.
So why am I telling Honest Reporting all this you may rightly ask? It is not your brief to reform Israel’s way of presenting itself to the world and yet, as you keep putting fingers in the holes in the dike, there seem to be more holes appearing than fingers to hold back the tide of misrepresentation, falsehood, and demonization that is the daily bread of public information about Israel on the surface and world Jewry as the sub text. If there is to be ‘honest reporting’, you need an ally in the state of Israel itself. An office of public information that is solely focused on issuing positive and unfailingly accurate propaganda about what WE are about.
In the meantime someone should suggest that Israel stop doing stupid things…like destroying the homes in Gaza formerly occupied by the Jewish families that lived there. Didn’t it occur to anyone to ask what the propaganda value would have been to have left them there to be fought over by the Palestinians? While Israel is accused of being an apartheid state, no one seems to feel it worthy of addressing that you can’t be accused of apartheid when you simply evict the minority rather than segregate them (Israel of course did neither). Has anyone paused to ask how many Jews are living in Gaza today? How many were evicted from Arab lands in 1948 and since, how many are living in the West Bank?
If there is to be honest reporting, let it begin with acting, not reacting, because as sure as night follows day, we will never get to tell our story if our focus is simply correcting the errors in theirs…
Dwight Owen Schweitzer, Miami Florida