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Photo: Israeli Embassy, Sweden
Zvi Mazel
Tzipi, you failed
While the world was arduously buying Nasralla's lies, you remained in your office. Israel was defeated in the media war primarily because of you

For an entire month Israelis and the rest of the world eagerly waited to hear what Israel had to say about the developments in Lebanon. Europe and the US expected Israel's foreign ministry to clarify the war's objectives, even if they were not as clear cut as we would have liked – isn't that the role of diplomacy?

 

Even the Arab states wanted to hear Jerusalem's version so that they could prepare their arguments. Hizbullah waited in fear and anticipation: Would Israel refute its lies and expose them to Lebanon and the world? But nothing happened. You remained in your office.

 

The world couldn't understand what Israel was doing and what was happening in the areas under attack. The Arab world took advantage of the media stage by spreading lies and distorted reports that went unheeded: Nasrallah sighed a sigh of relief.

 

You are Israel's face and voice

He probably told himself that his task was much easier than he had anticipated, that there's probably something very screwed up in the Israeli system if Israel didn't even attempt to deal with his wild tales. Did you forget that you are the foreign minister – Israel's face and voice? Particularly in wartime?

 

Tzipi, today's war is a combination of a violent clash at the front along with a fierce struggle for media attention, which could prove to be more important than the conflict on the ground. We probably won this war by gaining substantial points in the fighting arena; however, Hizbullah declared victory and its declaration was accepted by the Arab world and by Iran.

 

They are saying that Israel is no longer invincible, that its end is near, while at the same time moderate Arab states are apprehensive about the strengthening of radical Islam forces.

 

Washington's disappointment in Israel

This feeling of victory stems more from Israel's failure in the media conflict than from the actual results of the war. This is not about a loss in points but rather a defeat, which alters the situation on the ground.

 

Washington is already talking about its disappointment in Israel, its loyal ally who was always able to win the battle.

 

Europe deepened its hatred and anti-Semitism towards Israel against the background of false and exaggerated images coming out of Lebanon, which went by without an adequate response and without representation. We could have shown bombed hospitals and senior citizen homes and the harm inflicted on our civilian populations. Now, instead there's a feeling in the Arab world that the strategic situation in the region has changed for the worse against Israel.

 

Hizbullah's aggressive media strategy

Hizbullah's media victory, which turned the tables, is the result of aggressive media and propaganda strategies adopted by all the Arab TV stations and which stemmed from its hatred toward Israel.

 

Aljazeera, admired by all, served as Hizbullah's propaganda channel and shamelessly aired all the organization's reports. It didn't broadcast news, but rather reports. This channel never once showed an armed Hizbullah guerilla. Neither did the channel express it's bewilderment as to how Hizbullah did not suffer any casualties, and it never probed its people on the developments on the ground.

 

However, it wasn't just Aljazeera and the other 500 Arab TV channels, but also the European media who shamelessly surrendered to Nasrallah's dictates and pressure from Arab states. It continuously aired dictated or censored reports, so as God forbid, not to offend anyone.

 

The images aired on TV almost always focused on the destruction, giving an impression that the whole of Beirut was bombed and destroyed. Not a single journalist thought it appropriate to explain things as they were. They all complied. They didn't bother to report on the situation in northern Israel, or they provided minimum coverage to secure an alibi.

 

The impressions gleaned from a month of daily newscasts, was Hizbullah's victory, with operatives who were never harmed and who always succeeded in hindering the IDF.

 

Where was Tzipi?

Where was Tzipi when all this was going on? You had the world's broadcasting studios at your disposal. Everyone was eager to hear what Israel had to say about the war, and you? You hid away in your office or in some other place.

 

You should have been giving interviews day and night to every possible TV channel in an effort to explain our side of the war, to refute the enemy's claims, to employ strategies that would be detrimental to the morale of those fighting us. You should have tried to create a different media scene, more favorable to Israel and less so to the enemy.

 

You may have not entirely succeeded and no one would have expected you to, however, even if your success had been partial, you could have minimized the damage.

 

Your office didn't ensure that the foreign press would receive appropriate assistance, but only did so after receiving numerous complaints – by then it was too little and too late.

 

And no one reproached the international media when it betrayed its profession and distorted the reality in Lebanon and in Israel. No one assured efficient coordination with the IDF so that the written and filmed footage would quickly arrive at the international news desks. Nothing was learned from the media defeat during the Intifada.

 

Foreign Ministry still doesn't recognize media role

How unfortunate it is to discover that the foreign ministry still doesn't recognize the extent of the media's importance; that it has yet to become acquainted with the arena of public diplomacy.

 

Tzipi, even international policies and UN resolutions are formulated and phrased on the basis of the atmosphere created by the media, along with the political preference of the various countries. You neglected the media and the bi-lateral diplomacy prevalent among the nations who had an influence on the phrasing of the UN Security Council resolution.

 

Instead of granting interviews again and again, you opted to remain in your office. And yes, you, our biggest hope, have disappointed us by causing severe damage to Israel. Please go back the Justice Ministry.

 

Zvi Mazel, was the former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and Sweden

 


פרסום ראשון: 08.24.06, 11:09
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