Tuesday, August 01, 2006

TV Wars

Will another tragic mistake lead to the end of the operation before its objectives were reached? Israel has already had a bad experience with Kfar Kana. In 1996 you may rememeber, that it was a shell misfired by Israel that killed over 100 civillians seeking refuge at a UN headquarters that brought to the end of the Grapes of Wrath operation. At the time Israel was still occupying the south of Lebanon.

Israel hoped in 2000 that its ending of the occupation in south Lebanon will also bring an end to the attacks on Israel's northern border. For many, finally Israel did the wise thing by ending its occupation. And it may have been wise, although its hard to see now with over 2000 rockets slamming into Israel's civilian population killing many and injuring many more (not to mention the thousands who have fled their homes or that are living in bomb shelters). Of course this seems like nothing to the world outside of Israel, who base much of their views on who has more killed or who looks like the weaker, the poorer. In Lebanon as we know far more people have been killed and thus no matter how justified this war may be, Israel will be seen as the cruel aggressor that deserves condmenation while Hizballah enjoys a certain immunity . Thats not to say Hizballah is not condemened by the world, its to say that the focus is, condemenation on Israel and not Hizballah. Its a bit backwards, but that is the result of TV wars with terrorists. Many people seem convinced that Israel targets civillians. They find no other rational explanation for the bombing of civillian infrastructure in Lebanon (ie. bridges roads etc.) or for the large amount of civillian deaths.

And to be honest its hard to argue with them. They show you pictures of the dead children being carried out of a buidling destroyed by an Israeli bomb. They show you pictures of the cars on the side of the roads seemingly hit when they tried to escape the south. They show the pictures of thousands of refugees fleeing, they show pictures of the 1000's more injured lying in hospital beds yelling at the cameras "If Israel is fighting the Hizballah why am i here". To tell that same person that he is there because of Hizballah and not because of the Israeli bomb dropped on him seems futile. Israel is in a lose-lose situation.

You can yell all you want that HIzballah hides within civillians. It wont help. You can yell all you want that Hizballah wants only to destroy Israel. It wont help. You can yell all you want that all you want is peace. It wont help. You, Israel, are in the wrong. Even when apparently justified the world finds fault with Israels action such as its actions being "Disproportionate". Often to promote such argument numbers are given: 500 civilians dead on one side to only 20 or so on the other - as if that is a method of determining proportionality. Maybe Israelis should return to the north get out of the bomb shelters that they have been living in for 20 or so days and let themselves be killed so that this war can be deemed proportional. Although I suspect even in such case much of the world will find another reason why Israel is at fault.

So what can Israel do to change this? Well, probably not much. They could try to work the media better but ultimately countries have interests and maintaining such interests will always be stronger than acknowledging the truth. A good example of this is the French prime ministers recent remarks that Iran is actually a stabilizing force in the Mid East. Huh? A country that calls for the destruction of Israel is a stabilizing force in the Mid East? A country that just yesterday had a UN security resolution passed against it due to its determination to seek nuclear weapons is a stabilizing force in the Mid East?

Nonetheless, Israel has to try and get to the populations of such countries since ultimately, in democratic countries, its the population that steers policy. With todays TV wars its not simple, but for such reason Israel must recognize the importance of TV in wars and take that into consideration with every action it takes.


Anonymous Paul Walker said...

It is without doubt that the world media, the UN and leftists inside the US and even within Israel at times create a moral equivalency argument. What I don't understand is why Israel does not even attempt to engage the media and -- dare I say -- the propaganda. I'm not a big fan of Television news, but the last time I can even remember seeing a picture of the heartbreak of the Israelis after a terrorist attack was back in 2002...during a massive campaign of suicide bombers.

Since that time, Israel has erected a fence, disengaged from the Gaza strip, and enacted many other measures that has made the homicide bomber campaign nearly inaffective as a strategy for her enemies. Now, Israel's enemies have chosen a different strategy of escalating attacks from afar, but the terror, devastation and effect on her society is no less tragic.

Citizens of Israel, why does your media not immediately refute the obviously bogus claims of women/children killed in the conflict? And for the very sad times when there are innocent deaths, why is there not an immediate response to the AP regarding said deaths? Why don't I see interviews with spokesmen that can say the obvious?

- "Innocent deaths are a tragedy of war and we only hope to have peace with our neighbors and recognition of our right to exist."

- "The fact of the matter is that we are fighting an enemy with a goal no less than the destruction of Israel as a nation and the Jewish people. With the recognition of our enemies' goals and their recent destructive capabilities, we have no choice but to defend ourselves and destroy this enemy...despite their cowardly refuge amongst innocent civilians."

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

Israel has forever faltered in the PR war. Too much of her focus is placed on resources, intelligence, strategy and tactics as it relates to physical conflict. More than ever TV and media plays an enormous role in influencing people's opinions. Unfortunately, Israel has always lacked PR savvy -and so I deeply suggest the creation of a focused PR department whos main goal is to align the military initiatives with the PR initiatives. Like Paul suggested, this would enable Israel to immediately counter bogus claims, and pre-emptively prepare the media/world for any occurence ("attack") that may take place.

Every military action should be coordinated in conjunction with the PR department so that reasoning can be outlined and conveyed and PR strategy can be implemented.

1:58 AM  
Anonymous Leor said...

Paul - There was actually an intersting conversation on Israeli TV the other night asking similar questions especially with respect to showing Israeli casualties. It was explained that Israel does not want to show that it is being weakened by the enemy or that in effect the enemy is succeeding in bringing about heartbreak and destruction to Israelis. Since in effect this the terrorists goals. Whether this is wise - im not sure.

With regard to Israel's response to bogus accusations or to tragic events, i suspect Israel tries to respond and that often such response becomes muted within the more 'exciting' story and pictures of the suffering going on with the other side - at least this seems to be the case with most media outlets other than Fox news - whos commentators are actually better at explaining Israel's position than Israel's spokespeople.

Nonetheless, I agree Israel's PR efforts need to be stronger and more important Israel must limit the spokespeople to those who speak English properly and are able to respond with confidence to the often agressive media.

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Leor said...

Daniel said: "Every military action should be coordinated in conjunction with the PR department so that reasoning can be outlined and conveyed and PR strategy can be implemented"

I agree 100%

2:19 AM  
Anonymous violentcyclist said...

I tend to agree with Leor. I've long abandoned my calls for better "PR" for Israel. As long as Israel faces an existential threat, war will always be part of her vernacular and it's an unpopular thing, war.

Any war that must be sold is an unnecessary war. War should only be a means to self-defence. It's ugly and messy and the media is unforgiving.

The emergence of modern media has created a two battle front which is untenable. Would the U.S. have been able to end WWII by dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan in today's media climate? I can't even imagine it myself.

And yet can we say that the enemy is weaker today then in all history? Only our ability to stomach the ugliness of war.

Israel need focus on winning the war on the ground and ignore the battle for hearts and minds of people who sit comfortably on their couches pointing fingers and making negative judgements.

2:33 AM  
Blogger thehashman said...

David Witzthum, who is a writer, was asked:

Can the gap between what we see and what the world sees be bridged at all?

"No. Everyone asks why Israeli PR does not work, but there is no reasoning that can compete with that imagery. When heads of news departments tell field reporters that they want to see human suffering, that they want involved - not neutral - journalism, even if we assume we are 100-percent right, no one cares. As far as the journalists are concerned, we should be wise and not necessarily right. They don't see themselves as educators, but as deliverers of harsh images to bring about a moral shock. The journalists, especially the Europeans, don't want to be in wars, they see it as something that should have passed already from the face of the earth."

4:47 AM  

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