Flotilla: When reports become the news

Photo from thermal imaging footage released by Israel for incidents happened on one of the Flotilla ships @freegaza.org Flickr stream

By Adi Halfon

OPINION. On Monday evening my cell phone rang. My mother was on the line, asking me how am I doing in Berlin and if I encountered any hate crimes since the morning, as a result of the famous Flotilla events. “Watch out”, she said, “The international image of Israel right now is problematic”.

I can understand my mother. If you are reading newspapers or surfing news websites these days, you can’t miss all the articles saying Israel’s image was damaged after Monday morning.

As an Israeli living abroad, I don’t really feel the change all the newspapers are reporting about. Beside my journalist colleagues, nobody asked me yet about the recent tragic events in the Middle East. Is the international image of Israel really damaged that much, or as a lot of people in Israel are saying: “People who hate us will still hate us never mind what we do”. However, that is one just one side of the story.

The real issue is not the accuracy of those reports, yet more profound issue: Should the journalist report about other people creating the image, or should he create one himself?

First of all, in order to make it clear, this article is not about who is “right” and who is “wrong”, those are images either. This article is about journalism that duplicates those images. The people in Israel are saying the Flotilla’s goal was to embarrass them. As far as it seems from here, the real shame is reserved to journalism.

The media was full with reports about the international new image of Israel. As a person living abroad, I found those report not interesting, perhaps even not necessary – since I am already living outside of Israel, a quick conversation with random people on the street can tell more about the public mode. More than that, it is not just a matter of boring or inefficient journalism. 9 peoples were killed on one of the ships participating in the flotilla. The role of journalism is to investigate, to ask questions.

Right now, the most interesting and important question is what happened on Monday morning: Who shot first? Did the peace activists have weapons? Did the IDF use immoderate force? How come only one ship out of six was creating a mess? What was different with that ship than all others?

Instead of dealing with those questions, day after the events, the media is discussing the international image of Israel. 9 peoples are dead, and journalists around the world are dealing with images, as if they are PR people. The world seeks answers. But hey, why doing hard investigating work when you can just make a commentary. The most profound problem in the reports about the image of Israel is the idea behind them. An image is a thought one has as a result of former reports. Instead of making new reports, when media is dealing with images it is actually reporting about reports, as if there is no more “real” news anymore.

Perhaps the problem starts with modernization. In the era of global knowledge, there is no time to get into details or to ask questions. My talented colleagues, Nasry Esmat and Aylin Yazan, posted earlier on EMAJ magazine an article and mentioned variety of international websites covering the story, not to mention the numerous amount of information one can get via twitter and facebook.

Nevertheless, that advantage of the modern era is a disadvantage at the same time. When one gets so much information, he can’t read it all. Like football fans being interested just in the final score because there are so many games to follow, people are becoming interested just in the headline: IDF attacked a ship, 9 died. Details are unnecessary, we already have an image. Now let’s talk about it.



Filed under Journalism, Middle East

5 responses to “Flotilla: When reports become the news

  1. أسعد ذبيان

    I would have loved to read such an article about September 11 attacks on the United States.

    One of your paragraphs would have been like this:
    “Right now, the most interesting and important question is what happened on TUESDAY morning: Who BOMBARDED THE TWIN TOWERS? How come only one PLANE DID NOT REACH ITS GOAL? What was different BETWEEN THOSE ATTACKS AND OTHERS?

    But you know what? No one asked those questions. Why? Because the media served some people well and it was OK for them that Arabs and Muslims to be pictured as terrorists. It was OK for them that Qaeda is responsible and that Iraq has nuclear weapons (which proved to be wrong) and that Taliban are dictators?

    And when the media is not in their control (though it is evident that #fortilla was banned from trending on Twitter), they seem to seek for the truth.

    You are right Edi, but yet running a quite misleading and wrong argument. No matter what have happened on the deck of the ship, and if the people have attacked the IDF with stones and sticks, they were on a humanitarian mission, and their ships were searched for weapons by the EU. They were stopped in the International water, and they were intercepted by helicopters, gun machines and one of the top ten armies of the world.

    It is true that news can be misleading and people build on the history instead of trying to seek what is NEW, it is the case because they are BANNED and CENSORED from knowing some facts and statistics. And it is (in Israel’s case) a MUST to show this world that this STATE of EVIL (not its people, for some are quite mad of what their image and their government are) have never in its 60 years old history respected human rights or international laws.

    Thanks for your post! 🙂

  2. Sophia

    Thank you, Adi, very much for your opinion article. I find it highly sophisticated and philosophical. Furthermore, it reminds every journalist of the responsibility he has towards his audience. News, reports, moving pictures of tv, voices in the radio, tweets and posts on social networks create and convey an image. And when you do this job you have to be very aware of it and be very careful with biases.

    However, I do think or rather: dare to hope the media is interested in upcoming details. So, either way, let’s hope those details will be sensational and juicy enough to make it to page 1… 😉

    Also, I think images are changing. Even images of how nations see themselves, as Shlomo Sand’s book release may prove. I am curious to know how Israelis think of and feel about their government/nation/identity now? The Flotilla happenings could be a rather traumatic event for them! However, I’m sure there is not just one opinion.

    My nation by the way is full on going the hedonistic-self-destructive way. Since Monday, we don’t have a president anymore, and he seems to not be the only politician who’s leaving the sinking ship… but who cares! We are Lena. How cool is that?! 😉

    Sending lots of “Love, oh, Love” to Berlin and hope to see you there very soon!

  3. أسعد ذبيان

    Here is an article on what does it mean to be “fair” in the media when it comes to Israel. This is the typical coverage that “some” would like to check.

    “Reporting Israeli Assault Through Israel’s Eyes”http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4081

  4. Cristina

    Hey, Adi
    I agree with Asaad and Sophia, you bring a very important point about professional journalism to the table. It seems that when an stereotype is created about something, many news channels don´t even think about going further asking questions. They just display a few facts and start talking about reactions. Nevertheless, as Asaad says, a humanitarian convoy should never be attacked in such way.

    What does people (not policians) in Israel think about all this? It must be really hard to see how the whole world shows their dissaproval towards your home.


  5. Alwin

    Hey guys,

    it’s intreaging to read both Adi’s good article and the replies that come next.

    Adi, you write that “The role of journalism is to investigate, to ask questions.” Ofcourse, this is true. The role of journalism is also to report. But another role of journalism is to put events in perspective and to make their public understand how a certain event influences others.

    You can step outside in berlin and find out that people don’t treat you differently from before monday. As I would not treat any Israeli differently after monday, just for being Israeli. But… there’s two;

    1. regardless of how I or anybody like me (perhaps ‘random people on the street’ in Berlin) would feel towards a individual citizen of Israel, this does not change the fact that people across the world demonstrate at Israeli’s embasseys;

    2. how I, or again, anyone like me, perceive an Israeli citizen, has nothing to do with the opinion on the acts of the Israeli government, and the role that government is currently playing in both the region and the world stage.

    I do get your point; although I do feel that the media should cover the ‘changes of image’ this should not be the only angle. Or the most reflected angle, for that matter.

    Unfortunately, as you will probably all recognize, media across the world are for a large part cut up in a daily struggle to fill pages, (television) shows and websites. So when the facts are not yet on the table but the eye ball witnisses are heared and it’s to early to move ‘Flotilla’ to page three, this is what you get, and always will.

    As it is always important to discuss these meganisms and find new ways to cope with them, so we can optain the quality level that we aim for.

    Miss you guys, especially now.

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