Dateline: Jerusalem

Living in Jerusalem for the past eleven years, I have witnessed some of the most historic events of our day. I have also reported on events that mark the time the Jewish prophets spoke of when they described the last days prior to the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

When I moved to Jerusalem, only three days before the Gulf Crisis erupted in January 1991, I was amazed at the number of journalists from all over the world who had come to the Middle East. Many are still in Israel, covering the daily events that are shaping the world into the scenario found in the prophetic portions of the Bible. A student of Bible prophecy is amazed at the similarities between today’s news and the prophecies of God’s Word.

The journalistic community in Israel is extremely large. Jerusalem, in fact, is second only to Washington, D.C., in the number of journalists who live here. Over the years, reporters have been accused of distorting the news to fit their own agendas. This charge has been leveled at every news-gathering organization in the region. And, in fact, evidence exists that the major media manipulate the news almost on a daily basis.

I can testify to the fact that a definite bias makes its way into most of the stories coming out of the Middle East. I cover many major news stories while in Israel; and on arriving in the United States later, I either hear or read a story about the same events I covered but from almost the opposite perspective.

the Terminology
The media’s manipulation of news has effectively changed the thinking of people around the world. A blatant example is the widespread use on radio, television, and in print of the term West Bank. Reporters routinely use it to describe the area known in the Bible as Judea and Samaria.

However, a closer look at the phrase will give you a better understanding of the journalistic intent behind it. During one of my first visits to the Government Press Office, then-Director MortyDolinsky was asked about the West Bank and where this location could be found. Dolinsky, in his humorous way, said the country had several banks, such as the Bank of Israel; but he knew of no West Bank. He made his point.

What the media refers to when it says West Bank is the property west of the Jordan River that is the center of controversy in the on-again, off-again peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It is the land of Israel that houses the Jewish settlers who believe they are living in the land of their forefathers.

The truth is, from a geographical perspective, the land in question is not the west bank of Israel. Technically, it is the east bank of Israel. When people use the term West Bank, they are making a political statement. The West Bank can only refer to the west bank of the country of Jordan, the nation that occupied the area biblically known as Judea and Samaria prior to June 1967.

The designation West Bank is only one way the media manipulates the world’s mindset. Often you will read that Israelis are living in the “occupied territories.” The statement gives the impression that years ago the Jewish people decided to take a piece of land away from its rightful owner.

The real estate in question is the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights, and the Old City of Jerusalem. These four locations are the bone of contention for Arabs and Palestinians as they fight for their “rights” to the land under Israeli control.

However, no “occupying force” captured these geographical locations. Here is what happened. Israel was under attack from three sides—north, east, and south—in June 1967. In order to defend its people and give them the assurance of security for their families, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), in a defensive action, pushed its attackers back from the population centers of Israel.

The IDF actually set up buffer zones between the Jewish state and its enemies. The three attacking nations were Syria in the north, Jordan in the east, and Egypt in the south. Israel, fighting for its life, pushed Syria back towards Damascus and took the Golan Heights as the buffer zone in the north.

In the east, the Jordanian Army was pushed towards Amman, with Israel setting up Judea and Samaria (some refer to it as the West Bank) as the buffer zone. The Egyptians were pushed south towards Cairo, with the IDF taking the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Desert as the buffer zone.

Several years ago the Israelis made a deal with Egypt for the Sinai Desert but retained the Gaza Strip. As a result of the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993, the Israelis granted the Palestinians administrative responsibilities in the Gaza Strip.

To say that Israel is “occupying“ these areas is incorrect. The world understands the word occupying as meaning an offensive action where a fighting force takes land away from an innocent party for a sinister purpose. The truth is that, in these areas, Israel has only been involved in defensive military operations.

Someone once said if you tell a lie long enough, not only will you start to believe it, but everyone else will accept it as the truth as well. That is what has happened in the issue of Israel “occupying Palestinian territory.” The Palestinians claim Israel is occupying their land, and the world media has taken up their cause in reporting current events in the Middle East.

Many journalists, while not lying outright, fail nevertheless to tell the whole story on some of the major issues.

A perfect example of withholding all the facts and background on a story involves the issue of a Palestinian state. Palestinian leaders claim they have a right to have their state back, which they say was taken from them by the Israelis. The land referred to in the accusation includes the West Bank and Jerusalem (at minimum, the Old City), which they want as the capital of a state called Palestine.

The truth is, there never was a state called Palestine under Palestinian leadership. Prior to the Six-Day War in June 1967, the Old City of Jerusalem and the land east towards the Jordan River was under the sovereignty of the nation of Jordan. Palestinians living in those areas had Jordanian passports and were subjects of the late King Hussein.

Before the Jordanians took control of the land in question, the British administered it, dating back to 1917. In December 1917 General Edmund Allenby of the British Empire accepted the surrender of the entire West Bank area, including the city of Jerusalem, from the Ottoman-Turkish Empire that had controlled the area for more than four hundred years.

Knowing the truth helps a student of the times and God’s prophetic Word to better understand what is really happening in the events of our day. Certainly, some of the reason these half-truths are making such an impact on our world is the fault of journalists covering these stories in contemporary Israel.

“Dumb Like a Fox”
However, the news media is not the only culprit in this propaganda campaign being waged in the Middle East. Yasser Arafat, believed by many to be the “granddaddy” of current terrorists, is not a “dumb” leader of his people. Arafat could only be called “dumb like a fox.” For years Arafat has been on the world stage, propagating his cause with great success.

Arafat has been known to use half-truths and even outright lies to advance his cause. Organizations like Palestinian Media Watch have proven that the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman will tell the Palestinian people one thing in Arabic and the rest of the world, another.

What Arafat tells the “Palestinian street” sometimes incites his people to take action that fits into the scheme of his overall plan for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

On the other hand, Arafat is a master at manipulating the media and world leaders into joining his fight against the “evil Israeli government.” I can personally testify to his skill at managing the press. I once met with Arafat at his palace in Jericho and watched as he used King Hussein of Jordan, who joined the news conference sponsored by Arafat, to help him handle veteran journalists, including the CNN reporter.

When I once asked my friend Morty Dolinsky several years ago why the Israelis were not better at working with the media from a public relations perspective, he said that Israeli public relations are not aimed at the West or even the world media.

Dolinsky said Israel needed to keep the Middle East region in mind in all of its public relations and news releases because Israel’s neighbors needed to be aware of the potential harm that will come to them if they attack Israel. Nevertheless, this philosophy has not helped Israel tell its story to the Western world.

As tensions in the region heighten, it becomes even more critical that people know the bias of news sources providing them information about events in the Middle East. In addition, it is important to develop a worldview that is based on an understanding of the prophetic scenario of the last days as laid out in God’s Word.

Today’s political events are setting the stage for prophetic Scriptures to be fulfilled. Each day we draw closer to the return of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is good to stay abreast of current events, but we must make sure we do so with the Bible in hand.

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