A very important piece!
By James North-Mondoweiss
"The superb young Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk was in for some big surprises when he left Egypt after several years and started covering Israel during the second intifada. His reports from the Arab world had not prompted much of a response from readers and viewers. But his new assignment was different. “If I made a factual error about Israel, five letters would arrive saying, ‘Your correspondent is anti-Semitic.’”
The second half of his valuable new book, People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East, is an inside look at how the Israeli government and the Israel lobby try and manipulate news coverage overseas. He is astonished at his first visit to a plush Israeli government press center, set up in a 5-star hotel in Jerusalem: “Young Israeli men and women walked around in olive-green army uniforms handing out sheets of great quotes. In efficient, friendly, and fluent English, they told us about the forthcoming press conference and the briefing later that day to be given by a defense specialist.”
Everything was ready to help the pack of harried international journalists who show up in a crisis. “The world’s media were given everything they needed with practiced skill, and more,” he explains. “Rights-free archive material of Israeli soldiers giving first aid to Palestinians; the phone numbers of spokesmen who could explain the government’s perspective in any major language and in the required number of words. . .”
Luyendijk cannot hide his amazement: “A complete alphabet of ‘optimistic stories’ had been cooked up for the correspondents: Jewish, Christian, and Islamic children together in one school; olive branches from Israelis and Palestinians; joint musical performances. You had only to telephone the Palestinian or Israeli organizers of these hopeful projects. . . and the great quotes, checkable information, and striking visual details would be served to you on a plate.”
He exposes another Israeli news management tactic. “After enduring an attack that caused a high civilian death toll, the Israeli government would wait a standard twenty-four hours before retaliating. The world’s press was given time to pause and reflect on Israeli suffering because, as soon as Israel took revenge, that would dominate the headlines.”