Quick to judgment: How global media bought Hamas lies and what can be done

Opinion: Sure, the horrific sights from the Hamas massacre bought Israel some goodwill, but it spoiled faster than fresh milk left out in the sun

A quick review of the major Western media outlets that covered the explosion at the Gaza hospital this week, reveals Israel is inherently perceived in a negative light, almost everywhere. The subjective feeling of Israelis that the massacre shifts the world's perspective regarding its heroic stance against Islamic terror, does not necessarily translate into the continuation of supportive headlines.
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The horrifying images of the massacre in the south, which were posted last week by Hamas on social networks, turned stomachs in world capitals. Billions were exposed to the horrors committed by ISIS followers in communities in southern Israel, and there wasn't much need for intensive Israeli commentary to convey what happened here. The footage, some of it almost live, did the job. Israel was under a barbaric attack, and that's how it was also perceived globally. The shock was profound. Indiscriminate killing of children, women, and the elderly – these aren’t images that leave people indifferent.
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כפר עזה
כפר עזה
IDF soldiers in Kfar Aza
(Photo: AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
However, the event at the Gaza hospital quickly revealed how global media outlets, such as The New York Times, BBC, and CNN, truly view Israel, as they were quick to adopt Hamas' false narrative, claiming Israel was responsible for bombing the hospital and the death of five hundred people.
The numbers are indeed shocking, and no sane person could remain indifferent to images of dead babies. That's precisely how major media outlets worldwide reacted: they pounced on the story and reported the casualties. That's commendable and right. That's how a normal, humane, empathetic world behaves.
But these media outlets did something else, too: They believed Hamas. They embraced the lies of the most brutal terrorist organization in the world today. Without filters, without waiting for Israeli data, satellite images, or an IDF spokesperson statement. A week after the brutal massacre in Israel, professional journalists worldwide and senior editors, supposedly capable of differentiating between truth and lies, chose to believe Hamas. Not Israel. They chose to adopt the lies of the most cruel manipulators of consciousness in the world. It's unimaginable.
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בתים בכפר עזה
בתים בכפר עזה
A destroyed Israeli home
(Photo: Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)
This situation is evidence of Israel's public relations decline. Maybe you can enjoy a few days of support and compassion after a disaster, but it comes with a very limited shelf life. Even 2,000 killed, including infants and children butchered in their beds, were not enough to grant Israel significant sympathy. The blood credit runs out quickly, and the bias returns. In the liberal West, especially among ultra-liberal and progressive groups, Israel has been perceived for years as an occupying, imperialist state that suppresses Palestinian national aspirations. Details don't matter; the broad framing does. In this framing, Israel is the Middle East's dominant, big, Goliath. The omnipresent occupier.
After countless wars and rounds of fighting in Gaza, and after the recent significant change in the media's attitude towards Israel - it's time to face reality and consider "HASBARA" as something no longer relevant. Not because Israel doesn't need a professional PR mechanism, but mainly because it seems like it's a battle we're perpetually destined to lose. Recognizing this fact might lead to a change in how Israel deals with global public opinion.
It's worth noting: on the night the world reported the horrors at the Gaza hospital, it wasn’t the State of Israel defending its good name. The state took hours to regroup and provide answers to the many questions coming from all directions. Those who took on the global PR mission on social platforms were citizens. And foremost among them were influential internet personalities and many Israeli journalists who, on a day-to-day basis, don't hesitate to criticize government failures. But in this case, the injustice and lies permeated onto the heavens. One couldn't stand idly by. For hours, hundreds if not thousands of Israelis sat with their smartphones, flooding social networks with what was missing from the headlines of major global media: Truth. Raw.
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אטילה שומפלבי
אטילה שומפלבי
Attila Somfalvi
(Photo: Gil Yochanan)
One can criticize the IDF spokesperson's sluggishness and the thoroughness of the defense establishment professionals examining the Palestinian claims. One can also criticize the intensity with which Israel decided to respond to the lies published worldwide after the facts were already clear. This, however, is futile. The speed at which public opinion forms in the 21st century is unattainable for large, serious systems that still adhere to facts and truth. For an army, even the best army in the world, it takes time to determine the factual truth. This speed doesn't match the media's need, in Israel or anywhere else in the world, to respond to a live drama. The images, the screams of despair, the narrative dictated by the victims – they are like an unstoppable tsunami washing over media systems. No Israeli PR can block a tsunami of this magnitude in real-time, sweeping over hundreds if not thousands of global media outlets.
What can be done is to create a continuous, persistent dialogue with the world, a dialogue that will foster trust in Israel and its public relations mechanisms. Everyone in communication knows that the relationship between the IDF spokesperson and foreign media representatives isn't always good. Sometimes these relationships also suffer from a deep mistrust due to past events. This needs to be repaired, a correction that will allow Israeli professionals to promptly demand that world newspaper editors act responsibly, honestly, and fairly. Because what happened in the Gaza hospital event was an act of irresponsibility, even sheer contempt by journalists supposed to be professionals. This kind of irresponsibility, regardless of location, can cost lives.
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