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The Media FAQs about Gaza: Part I

Tragically, maddeningly, Israel is the only country in the world that has to defend its right to defend itself. We are the only country in the world that has to ask itself: how many days of media grace does the barbarous murder of 1,400 of our citizens buy us? ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Israel is the only country that has to defend its right to defend itself? But why? But how?

This is the first of a multi-part, up-to-the minute Clarity Report from the media front of the Gaza War.

Since that infamous day, October 7th, I have conducted dozens of interviews with media outlets in the United States and abroad.

Backed by the Singer Foundation, facilitated by the Javelin PR firm, and assisted by tireless volunteers, I’ve been able to present an informed and independent Israeli viewpoint to many millions worldwide. But that privilege has also given me a ringside seat at one of the major—if not ultimately principal—battlefields in this war: the struggle over Israel’s image.

Tragically, maddeningly, Israel is the only country in the world that has to defend its right to defend itself. We are the only country in the world that has to ask itself: how many days of media grace does the barbarous murder of 1,400 of our citizens buy us?

As I’ve often said in internal government discussions, and as I will explain at length on these pages in the future, we must finally accept the fact that we are the Jewish state. We must abandon the hope, nurtured by Israel’s founders and cherished ever since, that Israel will somehow be treated as a normal country, held to the same standard as other states, especially the democracies. Forget it. We will be judged as Jews have always been judged, uniquely harshly.

This does not mean that Israel should give up. During my many appearances on Israeli television, I’ve been repeatedly asked why should Israel bother trying to influence world opinion. Why, if we’re going to be condemned anyway, should we invest energy and resources into a futile attempt to get foreigners to like or even understand us? For once we must forget about other people think about us and do what we have to do—avenge our butchered loved ones and destroy Hamas.

These Israelis, of course, have a point and part of me profoundly agrees with them. But the reasons for pressing Israel’s media war are many. In addition to explaining ourselves and providing moral clarity to those who care about us but whose information about Israel is often cloudy by prejudicial and inaccurate reporting, there is the increasingly critical need to gain time and space for our army to act.

The dynamic is simple and repeats itself with every round of fighting with Hamas and Hezbollah. The terrorists fire rockets at our neighborhoods, buying us some measure of international sympathy, and we strike back at the terrorists, bombing the installations and headquarters which they intentionally situate in civilian areas. Inevitably we kill a growing number of Palestinians or Lebanese and this, in turn, sparks demonstrations in the “Arab street” which is today located less in the Arab world than in American newsrooms and campuses as well as in the capitals of Europe. Pressure is put on governments which react by insisting on a ceasefire. Israel is condemned and—worse—compelled to cease its counterattack before the terrorists are deterred or even adequately punished. Public diplomacy or what used to be called “Hasbarah” is the main, and often only, tool at our disposal for delaying this process.

And so I interview. The grace period in this war was longer than any other in recent memory and vastly more impassioned. The coverage was so empathetic and the reports so soul-crushing the greatest challenge was to stop myself from choking up on-screen. Occasionally, I failed.

The respite, I nevertheless knew, wouldn’t last. I’m not the first to note the way the world prefers dead Jews to living ones willing to defend themselves. Confronted with countless images of Israel-afflicted (by who else?) Palestinian suffering, the empathy would quickly dissipate. And it did, beginning—predictably—in Europe. A week into the war, and listeners to the BCC would not have known there was a single Israeli casualty.

Most of the American press, meanwhile, has remained sensitive to our losses. But there, too, the compassion is dwindling. One major broadcast last night reported on the rave concert massacre then turned to the Palestinians killed in Judea and Samaria, complete with heart-rending interviews. They did so without distinguishing between terrorists and civilian casualties there or mentioning the twenty-nine Israelis murdered there this year. Among them was the Dee family, the mother and two daughters, gunned down in what CNN’s Christiane Amanpour called (she later apologized) “a shootout.”

The American media is now at a tipping-point—The New York Times has long passed it—between support for Israel and moral equivalency. That point will soon be behind us.

A likely cause will be what I call the Kfar Qana factor. Kfar Qana is the Lebanese village where, during Israel’s 1996 Grapes of Wrath operation against Hezbollah, an IDF tank shell hit a UN refugee camp, killing 100. World opinion instantly changed against us and forced us to end the operation inconclusively. Then, during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the same thing happened in the same Kfar Qana. An IDF shell hit a building and killed dozens of civilians. The world imposed a ceasefire. Hezbollah survived and thrived.

The chances of the Kfar Qana factor recurring increases with every day of Israeli bombing and then, exponentially, after the ground incursion. Columnists and commentators, chief among them Tom Friedman, are already calling on Israel not to invade but to agree to some kind of negotiated solution.

Such a solution will do nothing to restore Israel’s deterrence power which right now remains perilously close to zero. Our worst enemies scarcely fear us. Such a solution will not revive the essential covenant between the people of Israel, their army, and their state. That covenant has been direly shredded. While Israeli society has once again proven astonishingly reactive and resilient, the Israeli state has, in several crucial fields, been a no-show.

Friedman and others are right in saying that Israel must not reoccupy Gaza, but that does not mean that the IDF should not respond with all its fury to Hamas atrocities. Our enemies must once again fear us and our people must once again believe in our state.

The following installments of this series will focus on the questions most frequently asked me in the media. “What,” for example, “does Israel seek to gain by invading Gaza? What’s your endgame?” And, “Why won’t Israel provide food, water, and electricity to the Palestinian refugees and even to Gaza’s hospitals?” And, perhaps most often, “Doesn’t Israel bear some responsibility for this war by refusing to create a Palestinian state?”

My answers to these and other questions will be provided. Stay tuned.

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