A Return to Media Objectivity?

The Times wrote an objective profile on Homesh, in Samaria. The Age described Joseph’s Tomb without anti-Israeli innuendo. Is the media changing?

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu, | updated: 13:09

Activists at the destroyed town of Homesh
Activists at the destroyed town of Homesh
Israel news photo: Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu

Objective articles appeared in two major newspapers this week on Homesh, the Jewish community in Samaria destroyed in 2005, and Joseph’s Tomb near Shechem. The rare coverage without the usual anti-Israeli bias is one among several signs that a four-decade long media attack in Israel is subsiding, albeit slowly.


The New York Times this week featured on its front page an unusually objective, if not favorable, view of Homesh, the destroyed Jewish town in northern Samaria to which Jews returned two years ago to try and rebuild their community. An Australian Age journalist this week politely profiled Joseph’s Tomb near Shechem, a site that foreign media usually associates with “extremists.”


On the political side, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s willingness to accede to several of U.S. President Barack Obama’s demands on a building freeze for Jews while the Arab world has hardened its stance, without any concessions, has softened foreign editorial venom against Israel.


Foreign editorials have not yet been written on the Goldstone Commission report that alleges Israel committed war crimes in fighting terror during the Operation Cast Lead campaign last January. However, coverage of the report generally was not weighted against Israel, and several major newspapers recently have rejected comparing Hamas terrorists with Israeli soldiers.


In the six-minute Times video on Homesh, Ethan Bronner described in civil and respectful language the community's former Jewish residents and the movement to settle all of the Land of Israel, contrary to frequent Israeli media presentations that “settlers’ are violent.


“Settlers are unlikely to resort to organized violence...but they will engage in acts of civil disobedience to prove their point,” concluded Bronner, who is writing a series on Jewish life in Judea and Samaria.


The video on Homesh included harsh scenes of brute force used by Israeli police to expel the residents four years ago. Referring to one of the residents who said he still considers Homesh his home, Bronner used an expression never heard in the Israeli or other foreign media: “It was here four years ago that he was dragged from his home against his will,” the journalist wrote.


The Australian Age’s Jason Koutsoukis, who frequently has used harsh terms when describing Jewish residents in Judea and Samaria, wrote an article this week on Joseph’s Tomb, under the headline “Perilous night visit for pilgrims to holy site.” He described the holy site as “both a measure of political failure and symbol of Jewish hope.”


Both the Times and The Age’s journalists were assisted by Shomron Liaison Office director David Ha'Ivri, a former American who said his helpful attitude towards journalists is instrumental in showing Israel in a more favorable light.


“The Shomron office is a media resource, and we make ourselves available for the international media to get a true picture to correct misinformation,” Ha'Ivri said. He noted that although both articles displayed objectivity and were more balanced than usual, "There still were some popular insulting phrases.” In an accompanying article referring to an outpost activist, Bronner wrote that the resident's brother was killed by “Palestinian gunmen” instead of using the term "terrorists,” which foreign and some local media avoid unless referring to terror attacks in other countries.


Ha'Ivri said he guided Bronner and Koutsoukis through Jewish communities and Joseph’s Tomb so they would meet people who represent the attitudes of the vast majority of Jewish residents.