The Jewish community can help Israel fight its public relations war by looking for slanted and inaccurate media coverage and voicing displeasure to the offending media outlet.
“A very important part of being a Zionist is standing up for Israel all the time,” said Sarit Catz, the international letter-writing chair for CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
Speaking May 19 at the annual membership appreciation dinner of the Metuchen-Edison Gesher chapter of Hadassah at Congregation Neve Shalom in Metuchen, Catz contrasted the actions of Hamas and its use of children as “human shields” with the morality of the Israel Defense Forces, whose members, she said, try to avoid civilian casualties.
“The least we can do when we fight is use our words, letters, and good sense,” she said.
Catz said media bias against Israel takes many forms: factual errors, lack of balance, editorializing, omission of important information, and “hyper-focus” on Israel.
“If an alien landed on Earth, he would think Israel is the most populated country on Earth because there is so much media coverage,” said Catz, who lives in Short Hills.
One of the best ways to advocate for Israel is among coworkers, friends, and colleagues, said Catz. Advocates who are well-versed in facts are able to rebut untruths and provide accurate information about Israel’s humanitarian endeavors and pluralistic society.
Knowledge of both Middle Eastern history and modern efforts by Israel to give up land and make sacrifices for a lasting peace is a must.
“There has never been a sovereign state on that land that has not been a Jewish state,” she said of Israel and surrounding territories. “No one else has ever had a capital in Jerusalem except the Jews. Media outlets talk about Arab East Jerusalem and illegal Jewish settlements, but there is no East Jerusalem, only Jerusalem. Over 3,500 years, Jerusalem has only been divided for 19 years, when the combined Arab armies attacked and ethnically cleansed the Jews [in 1948] and Jordan took over.”
Coverage has often been so skewed that the image of Israel that comes to mind for many Americans is soldiers or the fervently Orthodox.
“Really, it’s not a coincidence because studies show that two things Americans don’t like are militarism and religious fundamentalism,” she said.
Still, most Americans are not anti-Israel but “neither know nor care that much” about the country. That allows for great impact within their social circles by those who are well-informed.
“If they hear it from someone they respect and like in their Rotary Club or other group they will listen,” said Catz. “You can put it out on social media. You can e-mail good stories you see to your friends.”
Catz cited The New York Times and NPR radio as frequent targets of CAMERA critiques.
She claimed the Times op-ed pages and articles are unbalanced, highlighting alleged Israeli human rights abuses while downplaying Palestinian atrocities and the abysmal human rights records of the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Arab nations. Israel is portrayed as “a conflict zone” rather than being highlighted for its technological, medical, and scientific advances.
“We must make our voices heard,” said Catz. “Some people fight with the sword and that’s important. But we here need to fight with our words and make them powerful and meaningful.”