Israel News Agency Staff
----- June 26, 2008 ....... Daniel Seaman, the director of the
Israel Government Press Office, and perhaps the most experienced,
professional and articulate foreign spokesperson Israel has
(next to UN Ambassador Danny Gillerman) defends the Israel government
in its role regarding Philippe
France TV 2 and the Al-Dura affair.
developments surrounding the France 2 - Al-Dura affair have
unfolded in recent weeks, many have voiced harsh criticism over
the perceived silence of Israeli officialdom on the matter.
That impression, while not entirely unfounded, is nonetheless
inaccurate," said Seaman.
in the seven years since the broadcast of the Palestinian father
and son caught in a cross-fire were first aired - in which Israel
was reported to have deliberately shot the young boy dead -
Israeli officials responsible for public diplomacy failed to
convene to determine an official position. Accordingly, the
belief of some officials that any reference to the iconic images
would only serve to perpetuate the damage already caused to
Israel's standing abroad became the unofficial attitude."
the merits of this stand can be argued, other government individuals,
who expressed open hostility toward those questioning the France
2 report's credibility, did so for personal and political reasons."
continues: "Yet at no time had any of these government
figures actually viewed the colossal amount of evidence which
contradicted the assertions made in the initial France 2 report.
These Israeli officials also lacked the intellectual integrity
to familiarize themselves with the phenomenon of widespread
media-manipulation prevalent in the Palestinian territories,
in itself basic for understanding how such a libel against Israel
could be created in the first place."
situation was disingenuously presented by France 2 to further
suggest that Israel agreed with the premise of its report. Before
that, it repeatedly pointed to Israel's original acceptance
of responsibility for the incident as an indicator of the report's
accuracy. All along, France 2 failed to reveal that Israel's
primary position was based solely on the France 2 edited report,
its officials not having been given the opportunity to verify
the facts independently before responding."
the State of Israel has not revoked the press credentials of
France 2 correspondents has also been criticized," said
Daniel Seaman. "Yet journalists reporting for Palestinian,
Lebanese, Syrian and even Iranian media carry official credentials
from Israel. This testifies to the tolerance and character of
Israel's democracy. It does not suggest agreement with the content
of their reports, or appraisal of their professional abilities."
who concentrate on these aspects overlook the fact that Israel
has, at the same time, maintained a more active position challenging
the France 2 report. Immediately after the story swept through
the international media on September 30, 2000, OC Southern Command
Maj.-Gen. Yom Tov Samia initiated a non-military investigation
into the events reported by France 2. By virtue of his rank,
this was an official investigation. He assembled a team of experts,
which included both ballistic and forensic officials. Led by
physicist Nahum Shahaf, they were the first to thoroughly examine
the events and analyze the footage presented by France 2,"
analysis and findings were presented to the prime minister's
foreign media adviser, Dr. Ra'anan Gissin, and then to myself
in early 2001. After reviewing dozens of hours of materials,
and only after all our questions had been addressed to our satisfaction,
was our initial skepticism transformed into confidence that
there was no basis for the accusations leveled against Israel
in the France 2 story. Armed with that knowledge, both Gissin
and I, as official representatives of the State of Israel, challenged
the integrity of the France 2 report in several media interviews,"
states: "A civil servant must not and cannot express personal
views or opinions. They answer to their superiors, the political
appointments of elected officials. Any actions taken by a civil
servant or statements he or she issues have legal consequences
for the state and therefore must meet the test of the Attorney-General's
Office, or not enjoy its protection in legal proceedings."
enough, France 2 in Israel indeed demanded an apology, and three
times threatened the Prime Minister's Office with legal action
over statements issued by the Government Press Office on the
Al-Dura report. In each instance, its demands were rejected
after the basis for the GPO statements was presented, verified
and legally validated by the Attorney-General's Office, in concurrence
with the support of the Prime Minister's Office."
states: "that In 2005, the head of the National Security
Agency, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland, was presented with the
arguments challenging the France 2 narrative. The findings of
the investigation questioning the credibility of the France
2 footage were so overwhelming that Eiland publicly retracted
the original admittance of IDF responsibility in the alleged
incident and sent a letter to that effect to the French court."
libel case in France against Philippe Karsenty put Israel in
an awkward position. Israel could not appear to be meddling
in the legal proceedings taking place in France, both for diplomatic
reasons and out of genuine respect for and trust in the judicial
process of a fellow democratic country. At the same time, Israel's
reluctance to openly side with Karsenty was misrepresented by
France 2 as a validation of its claims. Therefore, Israel's
official position on this matter was made public in September
2007 through a Government Press Office statement approved by
the Prime Minister's Office and defended by the attorney-general's
representatives in the Supreme Court."
State of Israel did not abandon Karsenty, and has not been silent
on the question of France 2's professional behavior in the Al-Dura
affair. However, a nation does not always have the freedom to
operate in the same manner as an individual. That is not to
say that officials in Israel cannot learn from this situation,"
Government spokesperson Daniel Seaman concludes: "One of
the most important lessons of this case has been that we should
not rush to take responsibility for accusations before all the
facts have been uncovered.
of the truth surrounding the affair has shown that Israel can
also benefit by enlisting the efforts of private citizens and
professionals in the fields of media, forensics, ballistics,
physics, etc. Such experts can analyze the often doctored and
staged footage that is presented as fact to the media and verify
its accuracy - before the image becomes an icon."
Seaman is the director of the Israel Government Press Office
(GPO), which is a department of the Office of the Israel Prime
Minister. Seaman is one of the foremost experts on the foreign
press coverage of the Arab - Israel conflict, as a result of
having headed the Information and Foreign Press Departments
of the GPO during the 1990's.
Seaman also served as the Foreign Press Liaison for the Israel
Defense Forces Spokesperson's unit as an officer. Seaman, who
resides in Jerusalem, is married and has three children.
was appointed as head of the GPO in December 2000 and is responsible
for working with thousands of foreign media who cover news events
in Israel. Daniel Seaman had worked for the GPO for several
years and was the first civil servant promoted to Directorship
of the GPO after a period of 30 years. During his tenure as
GPO Director he has implemented several measures which have
improved working conditions for foreign journalists in Israel.
Seaman lectures on Israeli and Middle-Eastern affairs and appears
frequently on dozens of international news media outlets. Daniel
Seaman resides in Jerusalem with his wife and three children.
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