Back in 2003, Israel experienced a rash of bombings and terrorist attacks. Harvey Karp, who was visiting Israel from the California, was glued to the TV looking for some positive news.
"There were only two stations that had news in English," says the Jewish American businessman, "CNN and IBA News 1." To Karp's disappointment, the only type of coverage was about the conflict. That's when he decided to start his own media outlet, Israel Up Close.
The organization produces videos on positive, inspirational current events and human interest stories. He spoke to Israel National Radio's Reality Bytes podcast with Josh Hasten.
"Most people have never heard about 50% percent of our stories, just like 50 percent of Israelis have never [visited] Jerusalem," Karp stated.
"Our mission is hasbara," said Karp. "We focus on positive stories without the conflict, without religion and without politics." Karp said that he wants American viewers to know that "we have the same values in Israel that they do in America."
Some of the videos that Israel Up Close produces end up getting aired on CNN. "They don't pick up everything," Karp explained. "We don't have commentary, such as saying what a wondering job Israel is doing. There are two sides to the story, but when one side doesn't tell the truth, then that's no longer real reporting."
A recent example is a story on the Arab-Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm in Israel's north. Israel's Ministry of Health recently funded a new children's clinic in the city."This particular story did not make CNN," Karp stated. "But it have been aired on LeSEA Broadcasting, a Christian organization. They have 22 million viewers in the US and 10 million outside. We've been picked up with local stations in the States as well."
Another example of issues that Israel Up Close covers is Hadassah Hospital. The medical institute has been hailed as a glowing example of Jewish and Arab unity, where doctors and patients of different ethnicities interact under one roof. "This particular one was picked up by CIPAC, a lobby group, who sent it around to their group on Capital Hill in Washington.," Karp said. "People make allegations and slander about Israel being an apartheid state. But this video gives you an idea as to what we are about."
Some videos have been translated into Arabic as well. "Campus organizations show them to their Arab students. Many of them never grew up in this area and only get the bad feedback from the media. I'm not saying we're going to change anybody's minds, but we can open their minds."
Some Israeli government officials have stated that hasbara and media outreach is secondary in importance when compared to promoting internal growth and military preparedness. But Karp sees hasbara as a key issue. "It's a different mindset. They don't realize how important hasbara is outside this country. There's a lot going on here. it very fluid. Everything happens overnight."
Reality Bytes is hosted by public relations expert Josh Hasten. The program airs live on Israel National Radio. For show archives click here.