Through the eyes of Israeli sympathizers, the Internet is a haven for those who support Yasser Arafat, the idea of a Palestinian state and Islamist ambitions for world hegemony.
Through the eyes of Arab sympathizers, the Internet is a haven for those who unequivocally support the Jewish state.
No matter who’s right, both sides in the debate are taking the war in the Mideast to cyberspace – with plans for new sites and greater efforts at networking.
The Jewish Internet Association was created to provide “truthful, positive information to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli activity on the Internet.” Chuck Chriss, president of JIA, says the number of pro-Palestinian sites on the Internet outweighs the number of pro-Israel sites.
“We see many needs in improving the advocacy for Israel,” he told WorldNetDaily.
The quantity of Palestinian and Muslim sites isn’t the only problem, Chriss explains. The visibility the sites have is another. Chriss says that Internet surfers looking for information on Israel will find anti-Israel sentiment or pro-Palestinian propaganda “high-up” on search-engine listings. The sites that include pro-Israel or neutral coverage of Palestine-Israel relations don’t receive the number of readers pro-Palestinian sites do, says Chriss, so JIA tries to increase the quality, visibility and quantity of information available.
The Electronic Intifada is a pro-Palestinian online publication focused on “the war in the media for a fair representation of the Palestinian point of view.” Nigel Parry, co-founder of EI, believes there are “definitely more” pro-Israeli sites available on the Net, disagreeing with Chriss.
Not only are there “far more” Israeli websites, says Parry, but they are better funded, as well. He believes there needs to be higher-quality and better-funded Palestinian sites accessible.
The Freeman Center for Strategic Studies and sites like Palestine Facts and The Search for Truth in the Middle East present a pro-Israel viewpoint and try to combat the anti-Jewish sites “given life by the Internet,” said Chriss. Other sites like A Jewish Voice for Peace are more neutral and only ask for both sides of the Israel-Arab conflict to renounce the use of force and violence to bring peace to the Middle East. Chriss says the pro-Israel and neutral websites present “a more balanced point of view.”
Including links to news stories, facts and statistics on the Middle East conflict, JIA attempts to represent “good” and “responsible” reporting on their site, says Chriss. He believes there are times when the news media seem biased toward Palestinians.
“There seems to be a knee-jerk reaction that’s pro-Palestinian, particularly on television,” he said.
Televised media is focused on images, like a Palestinian kid throwing a rock at an Israeli tank, says Chriss. He explains that often the images are taken out of context and viewers don’t get the full story of what’s really going on. Many times, Chriss says, the clashes are the result of terrorist incidents, and innocents who are killed by Israelis unfortunately get “caught in the crossfire” of military operations. Many news reports don’t dig deep enough to bring out the real analysis of the situation, he says, which leads to anti-Israel sentiment.
Parry believes much of the information written by Israeli media and pro-Israel groups includes “no critical thinking.” They all have an “Israel can’t be wrong” attitude, he says. If someone gets shot by Israeli troops, Israeli media always say “it must have been a terrorist,” he said, because they don’t want to think that the Israeli government or soldiers could do anything wrong like shooting an innocent civilian.
“I’ve seen it,” said Parry. “It was a regular occurrence for people, children and young people to be shot.”
Living in the Palestinian West Bank from 1994-1998, Parry said he witnessed many clashes between Israel and Palestine.
“The soldiers lives were not in danger. Sometimes they would dance and give each other high fives as they were shooting people,” he said.
Any time a news story comes out reporting something the Israelis did wrong, it’s labeled biased or anti-Jewish, Parry says.
“If that produces anti-Israeli sentiment, perhaps the issue is not to complain about the coverage,” he said, “but to actually address the methods used by the Israeli forces.”
The media coverage of the Middle East conflict is “not so black and white,” Parry said. He says it’s hard to say it’s always biased one way or another.
Chriss also said the coverage is “mixed” a lot of the time. He says he tries to find the stories that include truthful representations of the Israel-Palestine situation, because there are many misrepresentations on anti-Israel websites. Sometimes, the facts and statistics given by pro-Palestinian sites and reports are inaccurate, he says.
Though Chriss says he receives some hate e-mail for what JIA is trying to do, he’s mostly had a positive response from people.
“In general the reaction’s been very positive,” he said. “Some of the most encouraging things I’ve gotten have been e-mails from Israelis who’ve seen what we’re doing and just write to say thank you.”