After Jerusalem Attack, Netanyahu Hopes 'PR Porn' Will Win Support Abroad

Instead of accusing the international media of supporting terrorism, perhaps it would behoove the government to examine themselves first.

AFP

Shortly before 6 P.M. on Tuesday, Israeli media outlets received emails containing six pictures from the scene of the massacre in the Jerusalem synagogue. Four of the photos contained difficult images of bloodied prayer shawls and prayer books, but two were particularly gruesome, showing the bodies of two of victims.

The photographs came from the most official source possible – the Government Press Office, whose photographer, Kobi Gideon, was sent to the scene, where he was given first and practically exclusive access to the site of the killings. The decision to distribute the nightmarish photos was made by the national communications headquarters in the Prime Minister’s Office.

“This was an exceptional event and so the means are also exceptional,” the headquarters staff admitted on Tuesday. They noted that during the wave of suicide attacks more than a decade ago, the government distributed photos of bodies lying in charred buses to local and foreign media outlets. The officials explained that distributing the photos served media interests and conveyed the message of the State of Israel without violating anyone’s privacy.

Despite these explanations, it’s highly doubtful that such pornographic public diplomacy will win Israel any more supporters abroad. It’s more likely that they will merely inflame Israeli public opinion against the Palestinians, increase the hostility against Arabs and serve as weapons in the hands of those inciting toward revenge.

The distribution of the pictures by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reflects a radicalization that was also evident on Tuesday in the messages and style used by Israel’s official media spokesmen. Senior officials who in normal times act with restraint and discretion joined the fervent, incendiary chorus that included most of the government ministers.

One of these was Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon. In a statement issued to diplomatic reporters on Tuesday, he said that Israeli missions abroad had been instructed to work with the media worldwide to fix incorrect or distorted reports regarding the attack in Jerusalem – such as headlines posted by CNN, the Telegraph in London, or Le Monde in France, that merely reported “six killed” in a shooting in Jerusalem or that two Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli Police without giving the context.

The Foreign Ministry spokesman rightly claimed that these reports did not distinguish between the victims and their murderers, but he also blamed these media outlets and many others with no less than abetting terrorism. “From our perspective, tendentious and false reports are designed to distort reality, to blacken the State of Israel and practically – though not always intentionally – they provide support to terror,” Nahshon wrote.

It is not clear what caused Nahshon, a career diplomat who usually keeps his cool, to make such an inflammatory statement. It is difficult to understand how he confused poor journalism or outrageous, stupid, and disgusting headlines with support for terrorism. Such statements might be appropriate for government spokesmen in other countries in our region, but they do not suit the foreign ministry of a democratic country.

Instead of accusing the international media and foreign correspondents in Israel of supporting terrorism, perhaps it would behoove the government spokesman and PR people to examine themselves first. It’s worth looking into what can be done to give the foreign media reliable information more quickly so that such embarrassing and damaging headlines could be avoided. CNN issued an apology on Tuesday; it wouldn’t hurt to hear similar remarks from the Foreign Ministry spokesman.