Web site list keeps area Israel supporters informed

At the outset of the recent Mideast violence, students at U.C. Berkeley and the University of San Francisco were seeking a ready source of information to counter the campuses' pro-Palestinian demonstrators.

They approach-ed the Israel Center of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay.

Rising to the task, administrators at the Israel Center and the Jewish Community Relations Council compiled a list of Web sites that enable Israeli supporters to stay informed.

"We want people to have more options than just their own newspaper and the news you watch on TV," said Riva Gambert, the Israel Center's director of education and culture. "On TV, you do not have the luxury of going into explanations. You see the pictures of young Palestinians who have been injured during clashes with the IDF [Israel Defense Force] and immediately the temptation is to feel greater sympathy for the person not wearing the uniform.

"We do not understand the context in which the clash took place, what the youth was doing, and that, perhaps, behind the youth is a Palestinian with an assault rifle," Gambert added. "But you don't see that in the picture. You just see that which comes before the lens."

Since October, Gambert and others have been distributing the ever-expanding list to religious schools, congregations, chavurot and a number of individuals.

The list includes quite a few Israeli-based sites. Among them: the IDF Web site at www.idf.il/english/news/main/stm, the Jerusalem Post at www.jpost.com, the Jerusalem Report at www.jrep.com, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at www.israel-mfa.gov.il/mfa/home.asp, the Arutz Sheva Israel Broadcasting Network at www.israelnationalnews.com, the Jewish Agency for Israel site at www.jafi.org.il and Globes financial magazine at www.globes.co.il.

Several sites are in Hebrew, including the Ma'ariv newspaper at www.maariv.co.il and Israeli Channel 2 newsat www.news2you.co.il.

Bay Area sites include the S.F.-based JCRC's site, complete with daily updates, at www.jcrc.org and the Israeli Consulate of San Francisco's site at www.israelemb.org/sanfran.

One of the most interesting sites of all is the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). Located at http://world.std.com/~camera, the site is stocked with comprehensive critiques of American coverage of the Mideast violence.

According to Gambert, the eruption of new violence has rekindled local interest in the Israel Center.

"In the mid-1990s we didn't get as many requests for information about Israel. People felt the Oslo Accords were running their course, and everything was on target," she recalled. "The current crisis has really reawakened many people's interest to learn more about the Middle East and connections to Israel."

In addition to culling Web sites, the East Bay federation's Israel Center has also created a speaker's bureau, sending educators into religious organizations and even people's living rooms. The center can be reached at (510) 839-2900, ext. 254.

It is through the Web site list, however, that the Israel Center stands to influence the most people.

"We encourage people to find additional sources where they can go and find the information necessary to make up their own minds, information not often seen whether in our newspapers or on TV," said Gambert. "The idea is to get the information out and let people be better educated."

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.