April 8, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Manalapan Shul Hosts HonestReporting Director

(l-r) Rebbetzin Aviel Brodkin, Treasurer Shari Tepper, Gil Hoffman, Rabbi Ken Brodkin and former President Steve Wertheim.

You think you’ve got a busy few weeks? In a two-and-a-half-week speaking tour in early February, media watchdog HonestReporting’s Executive Director Gil Hoffman touched down in 16 cities in New Jersey, New York and Florida. With that pace, you might wonder how much energy Hoffman was able to devote to each stop.

Judging by the spirited nature of his talk at Congregation B’nai Israel in Manalapan on February 6, and the enthusiastic response of the audience, it appears that Hoffman is quite fired up and well prepared for his whirlwind engagement with groups all over the East Coast.

Rabbi Ken Brodkin, rav of Congregation B’nai Israel, started the program by leading the crowd of approximately 150 people in reciting a kapitel (paragraph) of Tehillim, followed by singing the Acheinu prayer, before welcoming the speaker.

B’nai Israel past president Steve Wertheim introduced the speaker. Hoffman grew up in Lincolnwood, Illinois, and worked as a journalist for the Miami Herald and the Arizona Republic, before making aliyah at age 22 and serving in an artillery unit with the IDF. He later served as spokesman for the IDF reserves. Hoffman has lectured in all 50 states and became the executive director of HonestReporting in 2022.

Rabbi Brodkin speaks to the audience.

 

Hoffman started his talk with an anecdote about how he visited Gaza shortly before leaving for his speaking tour, on the invitation of a cousin who serves as deputy commander of the IDF Forces in Khan Younis. Seeing the situation on the ground, he said that his views changed. He had previously thought that Israel was winning the war in the press, but losing on the battlefield; he now feels that Israel is doing well in both theaters.

He stated that Israel is winning in Gaza, even though it took on an enemy that created “the most entrenched terror infrastructure in the world.” He noted that the IDF has found that 80% of houses in Gaza had some connection to terror and 100% of the schools did.

According to Hoffman, the Israeli army was very unprepared for this conflict. He related that in a briefing he attended in the afternoon of October 6, a senior defense official indicated that the government did not see Hamas as an imminent threat. Yet now that Israel is engaged in this unwelcome war, the IDF has conquered most of Gaza, eliminated 18 of Hamas’ 24 battalions, and taken out 95% of Hamas’ supply of rockets. He noted that currently, there are daily protests by Gazans, shouting ‘Down With Hamas.”

The HonestReporting executive shared that he found it “incredible” that the war has lasted as long as it has—the longest war in the history of Israel since the War of Independence. He wondered aloud why the world has largely given Israel “this surprising patience” to conduct the war, and answered that this due to the fact that they saw the atrocities and felt the war is justified; that world leaders want Israel to win and eradicate a brutal terror group; that the world saw the prior societal divisions in Israel and sees that there is now unity; and that the efforts on the media battlefield have supported efforts on the military battlefield.

HonestReporting’s Gil Hoffman speaks to the audience.

 

“The IDF has gotten much better at the media war,” shared Hoffman. He noted how in prior conflicts, IDF spokespersons were slow to respond to false allegations and Hamas propaganda. In this conflict, the IDF responds with speed and clear facts that convincingly counter falsehoods. He used the example of the Hamas accusation in November that Israel bombed the al-Shifa Hospital, killing over 500: It took the IDF four hours to set the record straight, identifying a Islamic Jihad misfired rocket as the source of the blast, which produced a casualty count of 25 people. He said that the army’s chief of staff stayed up all night to get this information to the world press.

Hoffman spoke about the history of HonestReporting, which started in 2000, and noted that in the past two years, the organization’s activism has led to the suspension or firing of eight journalists from major media outlets for blatant misrepresentations, including three from The New York Times, two from the Associated Press, and two from CNN. HonestReporting’s efforts led the BBC to apologize for serious errors twice in one day: on November 15, for misrepresenting an Israeli raid on a Gaza hospital and grossly underestimating the size of the crowd at the pro-Israel rally in Washington, D.C.

HonestReporting started using social media to amplify their concerns, attracting 4 million viewers in 2022 and 123 million viewers in 2023. These viewers include 45% under the age of 25 and 89% under the age of 45. Hoffman asserted that social media is an essential place for pro-Israel activism, as studies have shown that over 50% of those under 30 use TikTok for their initial search for information on world events.

The audience at Congregation B’nai Israel.

 

As he concluded his talk, Hoffman offered five tips for effective activism to counter media distortions:

  1. “Don’t cancel your subscription to The New York Times; read it and when they get it wrong, send it to HonestReporting.” He asked that people email examples of poor reporting to [email protected]
  2. Subscribe to HonestReporting, at HonestReporting.com/subscribe, for reports and practical tips on responding to the media.
  3. Respond to ‘Talk Back’ features on news stories. He asserted: “You can make a difference,” and others will notice your responses.
  4. Tell Meta and X if an account crosses a line. It can have an impact and change the tenor of some online conversations.
  5. Be a mensch. Why? Because “people will see you as a trusted source of information.”

Learn more about HonestReporting and donate by visiting https://honestreporting.com

The audience listening to Gil Hoffman.

Harry Glazer is the Middlesex County Editor of The Jewish Link. Occasionally, he writes about Congregation B’nai Israel in Manalapan. He can be reached at [email protected]

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