Photo Credit: Avi Hayun
COP Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein presents Israeli President Reuven (Ruvy) Rivlin with a Yad Torah during the COP 2016 Leadership Mission to Israel.

President Reuven Rivlin welcomed the more than 100 American Jewish leader delegates of the 42nd annual Conference of Presidents’ Leadership Mission to Israel at his official residence, Beit HaNasi, on Thursday, Feb. 18.

Rivlin told them that he hoped that Israel would not become a divisive topic in this election season. “Support for Israel has never been and must not become a partisan issue,” he said.

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Referring to the recent outbreak of violence in Israel, Rivlin said, “The wave of terror does not discriminate against right and left, or between Jews and Arabs. We continue to pay a heavy price for our independence. We appreciate your support very much during these difficult times, and we know that we have you as partners because we are the same people.”

The President said that the real problem is with extremists who believe that incitement brings them power.

The delegation had an off-the-record discussion with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro and then observed experts engage in two panel discussions.

The first panel focused on media coverage of Israel in the foreign press.

David Horovitz, Founding Editor, Times of Israel, moderated the media panel with the participation of Barbara Opall-Rome, Israel Bureau Chief, Defense News; Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, IDF Spokesperson, Head of Foreign Press Branch; Udi Segal, Diplomatic correspondent for Israeli television’s Channel 2; and Josef Federman, Israel Bureau Chief, Associated Press.

Panel on Media Coverage of Israel in the Foreign Press during COP’s 2016 Leadership Mission to Israel. l to r : David Horovitz, Josef Federman, Barbara Opall-Rome, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, Udi Segal.

Horovitz framed the discussion by saying that the root of the legitimate grievance directed at the foreign media’s Israel coverage is lack of context and perspective, and that the wider challenges facing Israel are underestimated.

Udi Segal said, “Israel should not be complaining about unfairness in the media,” arguing that foreign journalists should be given more access to the information they need.

Lerner said the media is essentially professional, “but sometimes lack time, accuracy, context, and professional ethics. Professional journalists should investigate what incitement really means; there needs to be a fuller story, it’s not a simple story.”

Opall-Rome argued that the word “terrorism” is loaded and often misused; she defined it as “an act of violence against unarmed civilians.”

Consistent with her definition, Opall-Rome said, the attack on Gilad Shalit’s tank and his subsequent kidnapping could not be considered terrorism, but the recent murder of the mother of six, Dafna Meir, could, albeit with the proviso that she be identified in the press as a settler. Why that identification would be necessary for reasons other than to delegitimize the victim is hard to understand.

Federman said “it has become very unpleasant to be a journalist in this country.” He also said that the more than 400 journalists in the Foreign Press Association were not monolithic, adding: “There is very little intentional distortion, errors are usually due to haste or carelessness, and are generally corrected quickly.” In response, Ms. Opall-Rome cited a Dubai-based journalist for Defense News who repeatedly referred to the IDF as the IOF – the Israeli Occupation Forces in his reporting, but her outlet would not permit the use of that term.

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