After summarizing a nearly forty-year-old Life magazine account of Israel “on the occasion of its 25th birthday in May 1973”, Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, asked Monday in the Wall Street Journal, “Would a mainstream magazine depict the Jewish state like this today, during the week of its 64th birthday?”
Unlikely. Rather, readers would learn about Israel’s overwhelming military might, brutal conduct in warfare and eroding democratic values—plus the Palestinians’ plight and Israeli intransigence. The photographs would show not cool students and cutting-edge artists but soldiers at checkpoints and religious radicals.
Why has Israel’s image deteriorated? After all, Israel today is more democratic and—despite all the threats it faces—even more committed to peace.
The media’s darker portrayals of Israel notwithstanding, the American public continue to hold the Jewish State in high regard, with a March Gallup poll finding that the “large majority of Americans continue to view Israel favorably, while far fewer say they view the Palestinian Authority or Iran very or mostly favorably“:
In addition, more than 60% of Americans “say their sympathies are more with the Israelis than with the Palestinians”, with 19% saying their sympathies are with the Palestinians and the same percentage with both sides or neither.
Considering the media bias against Israel, these numbers are particularly impressive. It is instructive to note that even as Republicans only manage to capture about one-fourth to one-third of the Jewish vote, 78% sympathize more with the Jewish State than with the Palestinian Arbs. Barely half (53%) of Democrats hold similar sympathies.
Maybe it’s that Republicans take everything they read in (or see on) the legacy media with a grain of salt. A good portion of Democrats don’t share a similar skepticism.
When it comes to shaping public opinion on Israel, the legacy media seems impotent. Let’s hope this is not the only issue where they have little influence over public opinion.