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Thursday, June 10, 2004

Pro-Israel Jews Losing the Media War in UK

"In the never-ending trial by media, it's a guilty charge day after day"

by David Prever, journalist and host on LBC 97.3 FM, London
There is a PR vacuum at the heart of British Jewry. It's not that sensitive issues are handled badly; they're just not handled at all.

We've been starved of anything to kvell about recently. It's there, of course, if you search it out – achievements in science, medicine, and trade. But we need to be given something.

Anything. An event that makes us proud to be Jews in a foreign and sometimes hostile land.

Most of the time, that's exactly what it feels like: confined behind enemy lines defending the seemingly indefensible. This isn't anti-Semitism, it's far worse than that. Dormant prejudices are confirmed. It's passive aggression toward a state and a people, masquerading as a liberal conscience and tolerated because of the permissive quality of the British press.

Despite recent high-profile errors, the mantra here in Britain is still "If it's in the papers, it must be true." Public broadcasters are just as bad – with a thinly veiled line between objective news coverage and highly subjective editorial. For the British Jew listening at home, the only emotion is despair.

Even ardent and long-term friends of Israel are starting to wonder if they may have been wrong all along. It's slow, it's insidious, and it eats away at years of hard work and hard-earned goodwill. To express any support for Israel is tantamount to supporting a regime as rogue as Mugabe's Zimbabwe or Kim Chong-il's North Korea. How has Israel's reputation sunk so low?

In the never-ending trial by media, it's a guilty charge day after day. It reinforces the message played out in the British House of Commons, where the arrogance of parliament is staggering when it comes to Israeli affairs.

"What is the prime minister going to do about the Middle East," MPs ask, as though Israel is no more than another devolved part of the British Isles. Can we imagine a similar discussion in the Knesset about problems of Northern Ireland?

Continued . . .

Melanie Phillips, also in the UK, describes the situation there as "a wholesale moral inversion
in which the very worst is automatically believed of people who normally tell the truth, while claims made by those who have told demonstrable lies are reported as proven fact; in which victims are treated as victimisers, and vice versa; in which respectable British people say openly that they sympathise with the mass murder of Jews by Palestinians because they are ‘fighting for their freedom’; and in which Israel is being systematically delegitimised and dehumanised.

Media coverage of Israel has become an unstoppable torrent of lies, distortions, libels, abandonment of objectivity for malice and hatred, and obsessional vilification and demonisation."

When my mother-in-law died in December, may her memory be for a blessing, I was making arrangements with the local Chevra Kadisha, and the man with whom I spoke listened to my whining about how hard all this was, then told me something very important: "You have to be strong." A simple enough statement, but I immediately understood my task in a new way. He gave me something to do and something to live up to. Even though I constantly battle the paralysis of discouragement myself, I would choose to say the same thing to David Prever. You have to be strong.

We have the blessing of thousands of years' worth of advice coming down to us from those who were Jews before us --in times such as these and much worse. What we see today is nothing new. Remember, only two of the Twelve Spies remained faithful to their leader, to the purpose of their mission and to G-d's assurance that it was a good land. The other ten spies went awry." Joshua and Caleb were "outvoted and outnumbered."

This story is retold by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
The saintly Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan, better known as the "Chofetz Chaim," was once challenged by a fellow Jew who was a somewhat educated cynic. "Rabbi," he argued, "doesn't the Torah itself say that we must follow the majority? Well, the overwhelming majority of Jews today are not religious. So you religious Jews must come over to our way of thinking!"

The Chofetz Chaim replied with a story.

"Recently, I had occasion to be travelling by coach back home from an important trip. On route, the coachman distributed generous helpings of vodka to his passengers to keep them warm and content. The coachman, too, helped himself to much more vodka than he should have.

"When we came to a crossroads, there was confusion as to which way to turn. Most people argued that the left road was the correct path. I was one of the only sober passengers on board and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that we needed to take the road to the right. So I ask you, my friend, should I too have followed the majority? They were hopelessly drunk and their was judgment impaired. Thank G-d, I prevailed."
May we too be given the strength to prevail. And if not in the diaspora, there is always Israel, please Gd. We can still make aliyah.

In the meantime, there's plenty of good news at Israel 21c.