Annette van de Kamp-Wright
Editor of the Jewish Press
Halfway through the weekend (200+ press releases about Gaza in my inbox and counting) I start to get irritated. My head hurts, my vision is going blurry, and I can’t stop reading about the trouble in Israel. It’s hard to wrap your arms around it; it’s even harder not to feel like a hypocrite.On the local news they mention the conflict has escalated, “since the violence began last Wednesday.” What? Last Wednesday? What are they talking about? This didn’t start last Wednesday; this has been going on for years. I check several national news stations, but no dice: everyone is acting as if the rockets raining down on Israel are an entirely new development, brought on by an Israeli act of aggression. How dare Israel overreact like this, is the subtext. I check Fox, and they’re not even talking about it at all- they are too busy explaining why Susan Rice shouldn’t be Secretary of State. I guess talking about things that haven’t happened yet is more important than reporting the real news for the majority of the U.S. channels.
Are we surprised that the world is judging Israel unfairly? Why is it so hard to get the message out, why is it so impossible to tell the truth about Hamas? Why do so many people not get this? I am by no means saying Israel is perfect, no country is, but when did it become fashionable to blame Israel for everything?
The reason I feel like a hypocrite is that I, too, pay much more attention to the rockets aimed at Israel since Israel decided to strike back. So I am just as guilty as everybody else– which is probably the real reason I’m so annoyed. We treat the rockets out of Gaza, the tunnels, the endless smuggling and demonstrations and flag burning as a nuisance, nothing more. We don’t pay attention until Israel shows her backbone, inadvertently reinforcing the idea that Hamas is not a problem until Israel makes it a problem. Without the proper context, Israel ends up looking like the bully. We don’t mean to send that message, but by not actively fighting it, we become part of the problem.
And we, in the rest of the world, lose our right to say anything, because we are never telling the whole story. How many press releases over the past year have I passed up? How many times has this newspaper paid attention to the never-ending attacks from Hamas? I wrote about turkeys and yams last week, for goodness’ sake. And I am not the only one. Our paper may be small, a drop in the bucket (if that), but we have lots of company.
Hamas is always a problem. Not just this week, not just last week, always. And as a Jewish editor, I should report on that, whether I get 5 news releases per day or 75. We tend to focus a lot of attention on local news, and that is good. We love printing stories about what happens here. However, Israel, too, is part of our community, and we should never forget that. “We stand with Israel,” it says on a big banner at the J’s entrance; let’s take those words seriously.
Good intentions are not going to do the job; neither is self-flagellation, so enough of that. Of course, printing a weekly newspaper has its limits; we don’t necessarily have the option of a quick turn-around. But we do have a website. As of this writing, we have posted 30 stories under the “Israel” tab (under ‘World News’), ten focusing on operation Pillar of Defense since Nov. 14. We can do better than that, and we will.
If the media coverage, or lack thereof, annoys me so much, I should start in my own backyard. Reporting on the challenges Israel faces every day on a more consistent basis may not solve the peace process, but it is a necessary step in creating a more informed world. Of course, we can’t publish every single piece of news, nor can we expect readers to process it all. But we have to do better, and not only pay attention when things get truly hairy.
As far as information goes, the world really has become a smaller place. There is honest news out there, and I believe it is possible to report on Operation Pillar of Defense without losing our moral compass. It is not easy, but it can be done. I’m sure the Israelis are tired of being ignored in the world media, of rarely getting their complete story out. Let’s continue to recognize the bias, and work towards changing it, one article at the time.