The Economist on Israel’s flawed propaganda strategy

These days, trying to control reporting seems a fairly futile endeavour.

…denying access to Gaza to all Western correspondents might have backfired on Israel. The result has been that it is Gazans themselves, including some 300 local journalists, who have kept the world focused on their plight. More significantly, the most watched Arab television news channels are all in Gaza, giving saturation coverage to the conflict, even three weeks after its start.

The English-language sister channel of al-Jazeera, with two reporters in Gaza, has flourished in the absence of Western competitors, such as CNN. Its coverage has been graphic but sombre in tone. This contrasts with the hyperbole on many Arabic-language networks, where charges of Israeli “genocide”, mixed with unsubstantiated reports of Hamas’s military successes, have been frequent, accompanied by dramatic music and filler material looping pictures of dead children.

Hamas has been largely sidelined from this effort, although its television still beams feebly, airing martial pomp and pre-recorded speeches. The group has even tried its hand at phoning threatening messages to Israelis and posting propaganda on the internet. But what has really turned the tide is the ceaseless stream of appalling imagery that fills the Arab satellite channels. Their passion is certainly not always professional, but the gore, distress and misery they portray are all too real.

The Economist, Jan 15th

It seems hard to believe Israel didn’t know this would happen – so one wonders what was behind the decision.  Simple concern for the welfare of foreign journalists?  (They might get blown up by accident, and, their deaths would bring about, not just their deaditude, but also a fair measure of international condemnation).  Embededness would get around this possibility, but who’d agree to being embedded with the Israeli army?


2 responses to “The Economist on Israel’s flawed propaganda strategy

  1. on your rhetorical question – I would certainly agree to being embedded with the Israeli army. the critique of embeddedness with any army assumes that the embedded reporter is a dupe of those with whom he is embedded. Why should that be the case? There is of course a greater emotional attachment to people with whom one shares danger: but any reporter worth his/her sat would know how to compensate for that, understand that one is seeing one point of view (not uncommon in journalism), seek to know the other. The value is to have the experience of how the Israeli – or any – army fights wars. Rather than simply conmdemn embeds, journalism should train reporters how to cope with them.

  2. freemansjournal

    I guess my rhetorical question, and the implied critique of embededness within it, was based on just that common perception – that the embedded reporter is, not so much a dupe, but an implicit associate of the army with which (s)he is embedded. While I agree that this perception needs challenging, and that journalists should be trained in how to cope with reporting from within an army, as it stands presently (pre-challenge, pre-training) it would be a difficult move for a journalist, particularly a European one, to brave being embedded with the Israeli army. British journalists embedded in their own army during the Iraq war faced a good deal of criticism; imagine how much worse it would be for any journalist to associate themselves with a foreign army with the kind of public profile the Israeli army has? Again, not saying the dupe idea shouldn’t be challenged, just that given it’s relatively widespread it’s unlikely any newspaper would risk the kind of backlash, in the form of accusations of partisanship, that would follow should it embed a reporter with the Israelis.

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