Most Americans’ perceptions of the Middle East conflict come from the mass media. Some media – especially large-circulation daily newspapers, network television and wire services – have correspondents based in Israel and continue to devote considerable attention to the Mideast. This is not surprising considering the intensive U.S.involvement in the peace process, America’s substantial interests in the region, and the continuing strong ties between the U.S.and Israel. As the only democracy in the region with a vibrant free press,Israelis open to foreign journalists.
The news media obviously plays a pivotal role in shaping public perceptions of the conflict, and it goes without saying that effective advocacy on behalf of Israel includes an assessment of the daily stream of news coverage from the region. There are some things you can do to become an active participant in this process:
Newspapers and news magazines offer a variety of forums for news and analysis. Breaking news (or “straight news”) stories are usually written on the scene and describe events currently taking place in the region. News stories are quite different from columns, editorials, and op-eds, which generally express an opinion or offer a certain viewpoint. Understanding this difference is essential.
Generally, news articles aim to present the story from a balanced perspective, meaning that more than one point of view is represented. The professional journalists who report news stories strive to uphold their profession’s standards of accuracy, fairness and balance. However, there are times when news reports on Israel may contain inaccuracies or overlook a critical piece of information that is necessary to put the story in context. While such oversights are often unintentional, they do merit a response.
Often you will see op-eds, editorials and columns that are critical of Israeli policies and/or leadership. The most effective and immediate response is a letter to the editor, and/or a brief comment in the publication’s online comment section (often on the same page as the article itself). Tips for submitting an effective letter to the editor are outlined below.
If you suspect a news story misrepresents facts or contains an error, it is important to review the item carefully and check your facts before drafting a letter to the editor in response.
National and local Jewish organizations can help you to assess the accuracy of a news story and determine the most appropriate course of action.
Letters to the editor and online comment sections offer effective vehicles for responding to news articles, op-eds and editorials in newspapers, magazines and news Web sites. A few things to bear in mind:
Many newspapers, network news outlets, and some Internet news sites have a designated ombudsman or “reader’s advocate” – a staff member whose job is to address specific grievances of readers. If you feel strongly that a certain writer or columnist continues to unfairly portray the issues or facts with regard to Israel, or see a pattern of unfair anti-Israel bias in the publication’s coverage, a letter to the ombudsman may be another effective route.
Another battleground for perceptions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the blogosphere, which in recent years has grown tremendously as bloggers of every political persuasion have taken to commenting on political and news developments in the Middle East.
It is generally counterproductive to respond directly to anti-Israel bloggers or Web sites. And it is simply not possible to respond to every anti-Israel blog. If you read something you disagree with, the best course of action may be to simply ignore it. If the blogger is someone who is well-known or respected, such as a political figure, pundit, celebrity or journalist, you should consider posting your own response on the blog itself. You may want to notify ADL so that we can review the posting and also consider responding in kind.
Social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others offer an unprecedented opportunity for direct engagement with others on the issues of the day. Share articles with your friends, family and acquaintances that reflect positively on Israel. Numerous Israeli government entities along with pro-Israel groups have an effective and timely social media presence.
Keep in mind that social-networking sites also offer fertile ground for abuses and spreading of misinformation, and there are as many anti-Israel pages and profiles in cyberspace as there are pro-Israeli pages. Most, however, present legitimate expressions of opinion about the conflict. Also keep in mind that just as you might not attend an anti-Israel rally in the real world, it may be best not to engage directly with anti-Israel activists in cyberspace.
Every year, ADL receives dozens of e-mail message forwards from supporters ofIsraelasking “Is this true?” These messages often contain unverified or more often simply false rumors about anti-Israel actions, proposed boycotts, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or other issues pertaining to the Jewish state and people.
Unfortunately, the more these messages are forwarded without verification, the more havoc they can cause. In recent years some unfounded rumors, spread virally, have spiraled out of control, causing damage to the reputations of companies and individuals.
We urge supporters of Israelto always check the accuracy of any e-mail message before forwarding it on to others. If you are unable to find accurate information on an issue you receive an e-mail about, send the message to ADL for review. We will try and respond promptly. And always check the League’s Internet Rumors section to see if we have posted information.