Monday, October 31, 2005


Arlene Kushner: From Israel: An inside picture of how spin works

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October 31, 2005

Today I attended a press conference run by The Israel Project, a non-profit which is headquartered in Washington but has offices in Jerusalem. The subject of the press conference was a brand new poll done by the prestigious Stanley Greenberg on attitudes towards Israel in the U.S.

Israeli office director, Calev Ben-David, explained that The Israel Project is "non-partisan," providing objective information for the media and interested parties.

But then he elaborated: "We are just like AIPAC. We work with whatever gov't is in power." Well... This is not exactly the same as "non-partisan," not in my book. The organization takes its marching orders from the Sharon gov't. As to "whatever gov't is in power," it hasn't been in existence long enough to work with anyone but Sharon. I doubt, I seriously seriously doubt, that this "objective non-partisan" organization has provided information on the suffering of the evacuees from Gush Katif, for example. (And for those of you who did not realize that AIPIC takes its marching orders from the Israeli gov't, now you do.)

The press conference was run by Stan Greenberg, who announced that he was about to report on "a very encouraging poll." The essence of it, with graphs and charts and numbers, is that the approval rating for Israel went up after the "disengagement." How about that! Not only that, but the people polled were "more hopeful," "more optimistic about the chances for peace."

But wait, this poll wasn't taken among average Americans, but rather an elite: people who are highly educated, have high incomes, and stay well informed on Near East issues, via, explained Greenberg, media sources such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN. He SELECTED poll participants partly on this basis.

The media sources he mentioned are all left-wing, biased in a particular direction. The information received by people relying on these media as their sources would thus have the potential to be biased in that same direction. It is likely that The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN have not had an enormous focus on the suffering of the evacuees, either. I heard nary a word from Greenberg about polling people who rely on The Washington Times, or or Fox News (all more right-wing sources of information) for their news. Beginning to get the picture? The nature of the responses received in a poll will depend on who is polled, won't it?

That well-educated, presumably well-informed people should feel more hopeful about prospects for peace since the "disengagement" struck me as strange, considering that:

[] Al Qaida has established a presence in Gaza.

[] Huge amounts of weaponry (including sophisticated pieces) have been smuggled into Gaza.

[] The number of terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria, and inside the Green Line, has increased, in accordance with the stated policy of terrorist groups. We're talking, among other incidents, about Kassam attacks, a suicide bombing and a drive-by shooting.

[] The Palestinians seem incapable at present of establishing a civil society: They were supposed to be given Greenhouses left behind in Gush Katif, so that they could establish their own agricultural ventures, but derived great pleasure out of destroying them instead, just as they viciously destroyed synagogues.

[] In fact, the PA is not in control, as people (including police) run riot, and Hamas wields a significant challenge. The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of chaos.

So, the question is, what are these "well-informed" people being told? What occurs to me is that an enormous amount of work must be done to help people understand what is truly going on. Too many presumably well-informed people just don't know.

Then there is yet another issue: The conflation of approval of our actions by people in the U.S. with the issue of whether this was really good for our country. People like us when we're surrendering our rights and giving something away. Makes us nice guys. International opinion is toughest on us when we're standing up for ourselves. Were we to give away half of Jerusalem I'm willing to bet that our approval rating would soar amongst that "elite," being informed by The New York Times. But, as we say here, "Az ma?" -- so what? Giving away half of Jerusalem would be a disaster. Yet this press conference lends the impression that because our approval ratings have gone up, we've done good. "Ain't necessarily so."

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