Bibi meets the press…and this means everybody

Ever wonder why Israel has so many foreign correspondents?

Jack Engelhard

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Bibi meets the press…and this means everybody

The truth is, I cannot say exactly how many were in the room. But it was a packed house all right.

A few days ago it was standing-room only when Benjamin Netanyahu met the press, foreign and domestic but mostly foreign to go over a number of topics, something like we have here in the United States when the president or his spokesperson briefs the news media.

In America, a nation of 320 million, it’s usually about 50 reporters on hand. In Israel, a nation of around EIGHT million, it’s normally around 200 reporters who come to do the grilling. You wonder about the discrepancy? So do I. So does Matti Friedman, a top reporter for many years for AP.

Matti has been writing and speaking about this for some time, and he does so eloquently about the world’s obsession with Israel.

He saw it up close and personal.

So as for me, I caught some of the video pertaining to Bibi’s most recent run-in with the press and nothing excited me besides the numbers…the number of reporters. 

I heard him respond about the proposed NGO Transparency law, saying that it’s high time for such a measure that would require people who scheme to destroy the Jewish State, anti-Semites in other words, to at least identify themselves. That is my interpretation. Bibi was much more polite.

That sound bite was good but not enough to fascinate me.

Bibi was far less polite, quite direct in fact, when it came to that ditsy scold who represents the foreign office for the Islamic Republic of Sweden, and why he’s finally had enough of her to declare her persona non grata. Again, not his words, but mine, and this too failed to arouse me.

No, I kept focusing on the number of people crowded in the room and hence the number of foreign correspondents who swarm the Jewish State.

There they are to the exclusion of any other country. There is practically no one regularly covering India and China and few people dare to get too nosy within, say, Qatar, Morocco, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, and 150 more places with the same reputation.

First, asking too many questions can get you killed or at a minimum, arrested; like Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian who sat in a Persian cell. He was released today as sanctions were officially lifted against Iran, endangering everybody in the world except John Kerry. I first heard it on CNN, but not from Tehran.

In Cairo, CBS-TV reporter Lara Logan was sexually assaulted covering the 2011 Arab Spring riots.

If there is trouble, off they go, and if there is no trouble, they can make trouble, like instigate a riot.
So when your favorite network, including Fox, files the latest about, say, Syria, expect the reporter to be coming to you from Jerusalem.

Life is good in Jerusalem.

Elsewhere, not so much.

Last year more than 200 reporters were arrested worldwide. Last year 71 reporters were killed worldwide, according to CPJ, Committee to Protect Journalists.

Second, most countries keep journalists out because they don’t want strangers snooping around and picking through the garbage.

In Israel it’s different. It’ safe, or safe as can be, and it’s cuddly. Reporters are housed, babied and fed and they can snoop around all over the place. Many stay at Jerusalem’s American Colony Hotel, where the cuisine is elaborate, and where, with cigars and brandy, they frequently exchange gossip and information and mischief making.

If there is trouble, off they go, and if there is no trouble, they can make trouble, like instigate a riot.

I saw all that first-hand. Yes, at one time I was one of the “boys on the bus” and I listened and learned. There is no doubt that many foreign correspondents are honorable and courageous. I saw that and recorded that in a book. I also saw that many of these reporters come to Israel not to report. They come to judge.

They arrive with a chip on their shoulders against the Jewish State and report back accordingly.

They come not to praise or to give it straight and true.

Many come to dig up dirt and kick it in Israel’s face and to make myself useful to the world, I recorded that too in the same book, and in this book, too.

But against their numbers, I’ve got no shot, no chance.

Mr. Obama never gets grilled as does Mr. Netanyahu. Those reporters strut about as if the Land belongs to them. Their questions are often hostile.

Like – why isn’t Israel perfect?

No, warts and all, the Land belongs to the Jews.

Obviously that’s what’s got them riled. It happened. Get over it!

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes a regular column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the international classic “Indecent Proposal” now followed by the prophetic thriller “The Bathsheba Deadline.” Engelhard is the recipient of the Ben Hecht Award for Literary Excellence. Website: