“Is it on? Can I start?”
So begins a video produced by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and uploaded to YouTube last week. The 50-second animated clip follows a nameless news reporter and camerawoman on assignment in Gaza during last summer’s war.
In the opening scene, the reporter announces, “We are here in the centre of Gaza. And, as you can see, the people here are trying to live quiet lives.”
A woman wearing a niqab pushes a baby stroller in the background. As she moves off-screen, a terrorist carrying a missile enters the scene. But the reporter doesn’t seem to notice – “There are no terrorists here,” he says, “just ordinary people.” Seconds later, the rocket is launched.
Next, the reporter heads to the tunnels below Gaza.
“I’m going into Gaza’s underground city,” he narrates, “a fascinating attempt by Hamas to build a subway system.”
Behind him, the word “Israel” is scrawled on the wall in red ink. Terrorists march through the tunnel carrying weapons.
Meanwhile, the reporter waxes poetic about Gaza’s subterranean infrastructure. “This is actually the first Palestinian subway,” he explains, “which will bring Gaza’s transportation system into the 21st century.”
On the tunnel wall hangs a sign that reads: “Attention! Minimum 8 terrorists per tunnel.”
The third scene finds the reporter back on the streets of Gaza. In the background, a man works at a fruit stand. A rainbow flag flies above him. “There is no doubt that the Palestinian society here is liberal and pluralistic,” the reporter says, “and that Hamas allows everyone to live in dignity.”
As he speaks, a terrorist approaches the fruit vendor, places a bag over his head and carries him away.
At this point, the female camera operator, steps forward. “Wait a minute. Here,” she says, and hands the reporter a pair of glasses. “Maybe now you’ll see the reality of life under Hamas rule.”
The reporter puts them on and immediately appears to suffer a heart attack. He places a hand on his chest, falls backward and is replaced by the words, “Open your eyes. Terror rules Gaza.”
Journalists around the world were quick to criticize the video, and the Foreign Ministry soon pulled it from the web (though you can still easily find it online). Ruth Eglash, a Jerusalem-based reporter for the Washington Post called the video an “unnecessary attack on foreign correspondents” that “did very little for Israeli public diplomacy.” The Foreign Press Association added: “Posting misleading and poorly conceived videos on YouTube is inappropriate, unhelpful and undermines the ministry.” New York Times editorial board member Ernesto Londono put it more succinctly: “It was lame. It wasn’t funny. It was offensive.”
The video may very well have been all those things. Then again, the same could be said of the innumerable journalists who failed, for whatever reason, to accurately report the situation in Gaza (and Israel, for that matter) last summer. Like the protagonist in the video, too many reporters seemed to suffer from impaired vision.
Those reporters should be held accountable for not doing their jobs. But it’s going to take a lot more than an amateurish Internet video to make that
happen. — YONI