02:55 GMT06 May 2021
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    The reason for this, believes an Israeli international relations specialist, is the emergence of social media networks and that the Jewish state has managed to become a leading regional power that is less sensitive to bias against it.

    When a number of international media outlets accused Israel of preventing the Palestinians from acquiring COVID-19 vaccines, not many in the Jewish state were surprised by the accusations.

    Roots of Anti-Israel Bias

    Over the years, Israel has become accustomed to the media not portraying it as the nation would like and Dr Emmanuel Navon, an international relations expert from Tel Aviv University, traces those complicated relations back to the 1970s.

    Back then, he says, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, a body that unites all their factions, decided to change its strategy regarding Israel and its fight against it.

    As part of that strategy, notions like the destruction of Israel and violence were toned down, whereas words such as national liberation, imperialism, and colonialism took their place.

    "They learned that strategy from the North Vietnamese, who explained to them that the only way to defeat a stronger empire would be through the media and shifting public opinion. And this is what they attempted to do".

    The international media, says Navon, swallowed that bait. Part of the reason for that was the Cold War, with the Soviet Union taking quite an aggressive approach towards Israel. Another one was the Jewish state's own actions.

    A Palestinian demonstrator holds a national flags in front of Israeli forces as they protest against President Donald Trump's Mideast initiative, in Jordan Valley in the West Bank, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020
    © AP Photo / Majdi Mohammed
    A Palestinian demonstrator holds a national flags in front of Israeli forces as they protest against President Donald Trump's Mideast initiative, in Jordan Valley in the West Bank, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020

    The Six-Day War in 1967 resulted in the capture of large swaths of land by Israel. It was then that Syria lost its Golan Heights. It was then when Egypt bid farewell to its Sinai Peninsula and it was then, when East Jerusalem, which once was Jordanian, became a part of the Jewish state.

    The international media didn't take that lightly. Nor, did it welcome Israel's ongoing settlement activity in the West Bank. The country that once was depicted as fighting for its survival swiftly turned into an aggressor that harmed and oppressed other people.

    That image didn't fade with time and has only grown more acute with the eruption of the First and, years later, the Second Intifada. Covering those events, journalists very often told a one-sided story, at times neglecting to mention Israel's stance on the matter.

    Israeli security forces have been depicted as villains. Palestinian actions, even if they instigated violence, were justified and presented as legitimate.

    Lessons Learned

    But Navon says the Jewish state has learned from past mistakes.

    "With time, Israel has become more pro-active and quick [in responding to accusations thrown its way]".

    Glimpses of Israel's pro-active measures were seen during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 following the kidnapping and subsequent murder of three Israeli teens by Hamas militants.

    Israel made sure to explain the reasons behind the operation that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and injured 10,000 others. Politicians and army personnel were giving interviews left, right, and centre. The IDF made sure to update the targets it was hitting and the goals it was pursuing. It also made sure to stress that it had no intention of hurting civilians and that it was after Hamas militants only.

    Israeli national flag flying next to an Israeli building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.
    © AFP 2021 / Ahmad Gharabli
    Israeli national flag flying next to an Israeli building site of new housing units in the Jewish settlement of Shilo in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

    Social media networks have also played a pivotal role in changing people's perceptions, Navon believes.

    "Their appearance changed the ability [of Palestinians and journalists] to manipulate. Traditional news outlets have lost their monopoly and it has become easier to expose the inaccuracies, lies, and distortions of the Palestinians".

    Yet, these still occur and over the years, Israeli think tanks and universities have documented dozens of cases, where the Jewish state was presented as a villain even if the facts suggest otherwise.

    Although Israel established a governmental office that aimed to fight these inaccuracies and explain the country's stance to the world, the budgets poured into advocacy were too meagre to be able to fight that bias.

    Nevertheless, Navon looks at the bright side.

    "The way Israel is covered now is better than before", he says. "Partially, it is because many realised the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not the core problem of the Middle East. And partially because Israel has emerged as a major regional and global power".
    Orthodox jews stand outside the White House in Washington. (File)
    © AP Photo / Andrew Harnik
    Orthodox jews stand outside the White House in Washington. (File)
    "Of course there will always be groups of interest that will try to manipulate and influence the coverage of the conflict. But the combination of social media coupled with the fact that Israel is a global power that is less sensitive and less sensible to media bias sets us in a good direction".
    Tags:
    antisemitism, antisemitism, bias, Israel, Israel
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