Humor, restraint: This is how Israel’s spokespeople face hostile media


In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, two prominent voices from the Israeli government shed light on the challenges and strategies involved in presenting Israel’s side of the story to the world. Eylon Levy and Tal Heinrich, English spokespersons for the Israeli government and its prime minister respectively, shared insights into their experiences, coping mechanisms, and the evolving dynamics of media coverage during conflicts.

Addressing the challenge of responding to challenging questions from the foreign press, Levy emphasized the importance of exercising restraint. “For a long time, the international community has been urging us to exercise restraint during conflicts in Gaza. And that’s a good lesson to apply in interviews with hostile media, not just in conflict with hostile terror organizations,” he said.

Eylon Levy, spokesman for the Israeli Government (Credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

Evaluating Israel’s performance

The conversation shifted to evaluating Israel’s performance in presenting its story during the current conflict compared to previous rounds. Heinrich commended the American media for doing a good job in their coverage, and drawing on her background as a former journalist, highlighted the changing landscape of public awareness, attributing it to increased vigilance and the role of social media.

“What I can say is that Israelis over the years have become very much aware of what foreign media is doing and saying and are very quick to put journalists or media outlets on the spot if something is totally off,” she noted.

Levy emphasized the collective effort of the team in actively engaging with various media outlets worldwide. “Wherever there is a news outlet, if they want an Israeli government spokesman to be there, we will be there to tell Israel’s story – because if we’re not there, someone else will be – and that someone is not going to tell our story,” he said.

Recognizing the gravity of the situation, the hosts touched on the role of humor in managing the stress of intense interviews. Levy noted that humor serves as a coping mechanism in dark times.

“My job outwardly is to explain Israel and explain Israel’s story,” he said. “And if along the way, there is a way to provide a little bit of comic relief to raise national morale, which is so broken at the moment, then I’m happy for the jokes to come at my expense.”

When asked to grade the foreign media’s performance during the conflict, Levy emphasized that it varies across outlets and journalists. He acknowledged fair but tough questions, while cautioning against the misconception that the entire global media is against Israel. Heinrich discussed challenges faced with some European outlets, particularly in Western Europe, citing a perceived false moral equivalence.

“It’s a challenge. I mean, we’re answering their questions, but sometimes it just doesn’t sink in,” she said. 

In addressing the ongoing “PR war,” Heinrich stressed that Israel is not fighting for likes on social media but for its survival. She highlighted the importance of conveying that Israel’s cause is just, irrespective of public opinion fluctuations.

As the interview concluded, the speakers discussed the lessons learned from the ongoing media campaign. Levy expressed hope that such efforts would not be needed in the future, envisioning the dismantling of the Hamas terror state as the ultimate goal.

“We’re constantly learning on the move, trying to tighten up our message,” he said. “And I can say, some of the unsolicited advice I get over social media is perhaps not very helpful – but sometimes I get advice and I say ‘yes, you know what, that is exactly how we should say it; that is a good point.’ And I find myself incorporating it in our messaging as well.”

To watch the full program, click here >>