|Israel Resource Review
||22nd January, 2002
How the PLO Wins the Media War in Israel
An Examination of the Work of the JMCC: The Jerusalem Media and Communications Center
When a foreign journalist arrives in Israel, according
to law, he must get a press card that is certified
for use in Israel from the Israel Government Press
Office, located at the Beit Agron International Press
Center in Jerusalem. To get the card, the journalist
must give the Press Office two pictures of him/herself
and proof that he/she works for a publication. The
Government Press Office will then supply the foreign
journalist with notifications to the press from all
the government offices and announcements regarding press
That sums up the Israeli Government Press Office's involvement
with the foreign press, who carry the weighty
responsibility of presenting Israel's image to the
world at large.
Daniel Seaman, who is director of the Israel
Government Press Office, would like to offer services
to the foreign press such as tours, excursions and
meetings with sources which would assist the reporter
to gain a deeper understanding about the people living
in Israel and its political climate. However, the
government of Israel did not find it necessary to
finance such expenses.
But no need to worry. Right under the nose of the
Israeli Government Press Service, an energetic news
agency operates, which offers all the above services
and much more.
It is efficient, available and costs very little.
When the foreign journalist steps outside
the Beit Agron Government Press Office holding his
freshly stamped press card, the reporter will often
find parked outside a mini-bus belonging to a press
agency known as the Jerusalem Media and Communications
The purpose of that agency and its media- friendly services
is to seek out foreignjournalists and to take them to whatever
destination which will further the interests of the Palestine
The JMCC was founded by Ghassan Khatib, a member of
the Palestinian Legislation Council, and a close
associate of Yassir Arafat. The JMCC provides the
journalists with daily trips to Jerusalem, refugee
camps, the Gallilee, the Negev and to Arab and Jewish
communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza strip
including Jewish settlements. The JMCC media guides
consist of Arab professionals, Israeli Leftists, and
Arab or Israeli academics.
The Israel Ministry of Tourism, the Jerusalem
Municipality and the Yesha Council do not initiate
trips of this nature, creating a vacuum that is filled
efficiently and professionally by the JMCC.
The offices of the JMCC are easily accessible, located
on Nablus Street in Jerusalem, a few minute walk from
the hotels favored by the foreign press such as the
Ambassador Hotel and the American Colony. Nearby are
the offices of the UN, the European Union, and the
American, Italian, Belgian and Swiss Consulates.
For nominal fees, the JMCC provides the media with
television equipment, and translators from Hebrew and
Arabic. JMCC's web site, www.jmcc.org is updated
a number of times a day, and provides the party line
of whatever message that the PLO seeks to communicate
as well as the wide variety of services offered by the
Also for a nominal fee, the JMCC provides reporters
with a daily report on what is happening on the
Palestinian front in addition to a summary of the
Palestinian press. The JMCC's translations of the PLO
press are devoid of the virulences that you will find
in the original Arabic language media, but this detail
goes by unnoticed by the reporters.
The JMCC provides an impressive colorful 50-page
brochure called "This Week in Palestine", issued for
tourists and the foreign press, and contains detailed
and updated information about Palestinian Society,
descriptive information of tourist
attractions, as well as a comprehensive list of names
of local tour guides.
The brochure includes maps of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Palestine.
The term "Israel"does not appear anywhere in the brochure or on its maps.
The Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, is erased from
the JMCC map of Jerusalem. Every site is mentioned as
part of the Palestinian heritage, connecting it to the
Palestinian struggle for independence or to Islam
without any hint of Jewish significance.
Joseph's Tomb in Nablus, becomes Yussof's Tomb, with a
unique Islamic heritage. Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem
also becomes an Islamic site and the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem also went through Islamic conversion with
never a mention as to its holy and historical
significance to the Jewish nation.
JMCC advertisers to the brochure includes all the Arab
hotels in East Jerusalem, all the foreign consulates
in Jerusalem, as well as various restaurants. "This
Week in Palestine" can be found in all the Hotels in
East Jerusalem as well as in some Israeli hotels.
Another magazine put out by the JMCC and geared for
journalists is called "The Palestine Report". JMCC
also provides evaluations and analysis of Israeli
media and web sites.
For a nominal fee, JMCC provides the foreign press
with a subscription to a daily e-mail report about
events in the Palestine Authority, which is marketed
to 168 various press offices and diplomats in
Jerusalem. The daily report service has
been operating since 1989 (though not in the internet
format), following the outbreak of the War in Lebanon.
The service was then called "The Palestine Press
Service", and founded by Ramonda Tawil, who later
became Arafat's mother-in-law. Tawil, who was the
partial owner of the Jordanian bank of Irbid, was also
involved in training Palestinian Arabs for interviews
with the press. Thus she gave a "spokesman course" for
the Jibril terror exchange in 1985, when Israel
released more than 1,000 Arab terrorists in exchange
for six Israeli POW's. The course trained released
terrorists how to handle their limited-time interviews
with the press, and to focus on presenting themselves
and their conditions in the Israeli jails, instead of
talking about their actions which led to them being
put in those jails. Many of Tawil's graduates are
graduates from Israeli prisons, and are now serving as
reliable sources for Human Rights Groups in Israel and
abroad as well as for every possible delegation
visiting beyond the Green Line.
Additional JMCC services include a well stocked video
library with documented material on every possible
subject promoting the Palestinian cause. Among the
videos available for the reporter are video clips of
the abuse of Palestinian Arab children at the hands of
Israeli soldiers, the intolerable conditions of the
refugee camps, and various portrayals of dead and
dying Arabs, with smashed and detached body parts,
along with mourning Palestinian families and more.
The JMCC also provides updated polls regarding the
mood of the Palestinian street. Israel's Broadcasting
Authority and Israeli journalists from the Haaretz and
Jerusalem Post newspapers all publish these polls as
reliable sources. The question of how reliable is a
public opinion poll which is taken in a totalitarian
society by a body connected to the ruling regime
almost never comes up.
The JMCC is also coordinated with two Palestinian
health experts, both bearing elaborate family ties.
The first is Dr. Fatchi Arafat, head of the "Red
Crescent", and brother to Yasser. In October 2000 the
IDF spokesman gave a detailed report about
the role of the "Red Crescent" ambulances in the
transfer of weapons and fighting equipment to the
Arabs who participated in violent clashes against
Israel, yet forgot to mention the name and next of kin
of the head of this organization. The other health
expert at the disposal of JMCC is Dr .Mustafa
Barguti, the chief of the Union of Palestinian Medical
Relief Committees which was founded by the National
Front, and brother of Marwan Barguti, secretary of the
Fatah and commander of the armed PLO
Tanzim. The two doctors are at the service of any
foreign journalist wishing to report on the Palestine
Authority health system. Dr. Barguti is also the
source of the sensational news campaign in 1990 which
alleged that Israel was using poisonous tear gas on
Palestinian demonstrators which somehow capable of
In terms of its legal status, the JMCC had always held
press credentials from the Israel Government Press
office until this January 1. In deciding not to extend
their credentials beyond January 1, GPO director Daniel
Seaman noted that JMCC defines itself as a PR firm
and not as a news agency and therefore should not have
received press credentials in the first place,
according to Seaman.
Despite the fact that JMCC registered itself as an
Israeli firm in 1994, JMCC, which receives annual
grants from the European Union and the Ford
Foundation, has never paid taxes on its more than
twenty employees, nor has the JMCC ever issued a
single legal receipt to include the VAT, the Israeli
Value Added Tax. For all these reasons, JMCC was
stricken from the Israel corporate record in 1999 -
yet the Israel tax authority in East Jerusalem issued
an official memo that the JMCC was operating within
the confines of the Israeli law. How the Israel tax
authorities came to such a conclusion seems
All in all, journalists who come to Jerusalem seem
rather pleased with the operation and the services
provided by the JMCC. Reporters find out soon enough
that the JMCC is promoting an Arab point of view.
However, as one TV producer noted, "their message is
soft and their methods are professional. Even though
they may promote a cause, we do not feel that they are
clubbing us over the head with a hard sell approach"."
Anyone who wonders why Israel fails to make its case
to the media need look no further than the JMCC
operation in Jerusalem.
No Israeli public or private concern provides any
parallel service to welcome and serve the media in
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs is blessed with a budget
of five million dollars to provide such services to the foreign
The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs is well aware of the above
The question remains: Is this a matter of benign neglect or a policy
of allowing the PLO to have free reign of the turf . . .
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