More than 70 journalists from major international media outlets toured Samaria on Thursday, as guests of the Head of the Shomron Regional Council Gershon Mesika and the Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein.
Among the participants in the tour was well-known U.S. radio personality Lars Larson, who earlier this week attended a Knesset session on public diplomacy and international media.
Also in attendance were reporters from the British Guardian, China, Germany and the Reuters news agency, as well as journalists from France, Poland, South America, the United States, Radio London and several television stations from Russia.
It was the largest such visit by reporters and senior foreign journalists to take place in the region. The media people were given a comprehensive tour of the communities, industry, agriculture and wineries in Samaria.
Among the stops in the tour were the Lipski factory which employs both Arabs and Jews, Mount Gerizim, the community of Itamar, and the Givot Olam farm.
“It’s my fourth trip to Israel. I love this country,” an enthusiastic Larson told Arutz Sheva. “It’s one of the reasons I want to bring my radio show here. This is the only foreign country I’ve brought my radio show to.”
Larson dismissed a claim some might make that visiting Judea and Samaria is “too controversial.”
“It’s not too controversial. People where I’m from want to know what’s really going on here,” he said. “I’ve been in the news business for 37 years. I’ve never seen a story about that factory we visited today. 6,000 workers, half of them Palestinians, all treated the same. The fact is that people in the States don’t hear those stories. What they hear is: something’s blown up, somebody’s been shot, something’s been bombed and there’s a conflict going on. They don’t hear the good news.”
Larson said that there are different reasons for the anti-Israel coverage in the media.
“Some far Conservatives believe some of the ugliest stereotypes about Israel and about Jews, and that’s sad,” he said. “It’s pathetic. In fact, that is ignorance.”
“On the left, though,” he added, “I think there’s a sense that they want to side with the Palestinians because they perceive the Palestinians as the underdog. I think that’s a flawed perception, because when you look at the Arab states that are allied against Israel, their history of wars against Israel, their public statements that they’ll only be happy when all the Jews are gone and Israel is erased from the map, and then you perceive the Israelis as the powerful entity and the Palestinians as the underdog? It’s just the opposite, as a matter of fact.”
Larson said that Israel should emphasize, as part of its public diplomacy campaign, the equal rights that Arabs receive in the Jewish State. He noted that Arabs in Israel have “superior rights than if they lived in an Arab country.”
“I think that could come home to Americans,” he said. “You need a simple statement that’s easy to digest.”
Larson added, “There are opportunities here for everyone. For Israelis, for Palestinians, and what you need is peace. And you know who can put down the guns and the bombs first.”