On Thursday night, March 10, 2011, Andy and Audrey Franklin and Carolyn Grant hosted a talk at the Franklin’s home by Aryeh Green, Director of MediaCentral in Jerusalem. The talk was sponsored by the Colorado chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and was well attended.
MediaCentral is a project of Honest Reporting that seeks to put to work for the Israelis the strategy of “embracing journalists”. Green agreed to start MediaCentral for Honest Reporting after leaving Natan Sharansky’s staff, where he primarily worked on combating anti-semitism and promoting democracy in the region, in order to provide support services to journalists in the field to promote accurate reporting. Primarily, this involves providing media liaison service with three main characteristics:
- Service oriented approach — “We’re here to help”
- Physical location in Jerusalem; a convenient, drop-in center/base camp offering free wi-fi, coffee and beverages, field tours, story lines and sources, and news feeds with translation services.
- “Agenda-free,” credible professional assistance.
Green offered the assembled group an in-depth assessment of what’s going on in the Middle East these days. Key themes included that the Western media is, as usual, taking too simplistic and opportunistic a view of the uprisings in the Arab world. Most Western journalists equate protesters’ use of the word “freedom” with how a Western “man-on-the-street” would use the word, which evokes thoughts of democracy and equality. When used by Egyptian or Tunisian or Libyan protesters, however, they use the word in English (or the Arabic equivalent that is usually translated as “freedom”) to refer only to equality of economic opportunity for all, without corruption or tribal and political cronyism. Another theme was for consumers of media to demand accuracy from them, whether it is Fox News, AP, or your local paper. A third theme is that the Palestinian’s embracing the press, along with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement has been success at re-framing the global media’s view of the “primary obstacle to peace in the Middle East” as being Jewish settlements in the “occupied” territories. These were not an obstacle to peace before the Oslo Accords, and the constant repetition of this theme has obscured the true, 100+-year-old root of the conflict: Arab/Muslim world rejection of Israel’s right to exist and the Jewish connection to the land of Israel.
Don Schlesinger, Director of AJC’s Colorado office, also spoke, explaining AJC’s “Three I” focus in Colorado: Immigration, Israel, Interfaith. The Colorado office works closely with other pro-immigration reform groups; promotes Israel and leadership development to Jews in their 30’s; and pursues interfaith dialog and cooperation across Christian and Muslim faith groups. Host Andy Franklin serves on AJC Colorado’s regional executive committee.