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.