Friday, July 31, 2009

Media bias in Israel - a partial explanation

Re: the call for President Obama to speak to Israelis - Time Magazine reporter Joe Klein claims that "Obama is already planning to make this sort of effort -- Israeli television interviews etc. -- in the coming weeks."

If so, it will be interesting to see whether he can shift the Israeli public's perception of him, or whether his actions will continue to speak louder than his words, even when addressing Israelis directly.

As a side note, Klein also makes an interesting confession in response to Aluf Benn's claim that Obama made a mistake focusing on the settlement issue, because most Israelis have nothing to do with the settlements and know very little about them.

He says:

It's taken me decades to realize this. Most Israelis--especially those who live in Tel Aviv and environs--not only don't see settler types, they also don't see many Arabs. They live their lives, do their work, have fun at the beach. By contrast, when journos like me parachute in, we usually go to Jerusalem, where the government and a significant Arab population lives, and usually (in my case, at least,) combine it with a visit to the West Bank or Gaza. Most journalists based in Israel live in Jerusalem and spend lots of time in both communities. They are aware of the proliferation of settlements and they have experienced the outrageous conditions in the Palestinian territories.

The most interesting bit about this observation is that it took Klein "decades" to realise what every Israeli child knows: Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are two different planets. You have to be quite arrogant to imagine that a couple of days in Israel here or there could possibly result in a deep understanding of it - no matter how many people you interview.

Although I suppose he's not much different to the hordes of tourists who spend Sukkot in the lobby of the King David Hotel and think they know Israel too.

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