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Being a government spokesperson is a difficult job, no matter the nation.

But Miri Eisin’s job as Israel’s foreign press and public affairs advisor is exceptionally difficult, Bay Area Israel experts say.

“There’s no question that there is a double standard when it comes to Israel,” said Yitzhak Santis, director of Middle East affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Israel, unlike all of its Arab neighbors, is a democratic society with a free press. Israeli and foreign journalists are welcome, as is the debate their stories and broadcasts instigate.

In neighboring countries, journalists are neither welcome nor safe.

“Israel’s an open society, and therefore under the international media’s microscope in a way other countries are not because they prevent the microscope from even coming near their country,” Santis said.

For example, hundreds of news accounts were filed each day during the first intifada, a five-year period between 1987 and 1992 in which 1,200 Palestinians and Israelis died. The world could watch, and so the world criticized.

During the same time, Saddam Hussein led the al-Anfal campaign against Iraqi Kurds, a genocidal mission that killed an estimated 100,000 people, according to the international watchdog group Human Rights Watch. Saddam’s cleansing campaign was not reported until years later, Santis said; journalists weren’t there to chronicle it.

Further complicating the problem, he added, is that the anti-Israel effort is a “well-oiled machine,” giving Israel an uphill battle to begin with.

Therefore, the Jewish state needs to take care in selecting the right person to represent its people and politics, said David Akov, consul general at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco.

“To be the spokesperson for the prime minister is to be at the forefront of the whole world media, and there’s a lot of pressure involved,” Akov said.

Eisin is not the first native English speaker to have the job, but Santis said the prime minister was smart in selecting another. Unlike a native Israeli, who may come across as defensive, Eisen’s American background helps her appear gentle, unabrasive, informal and calm without getting overly emotional, Santis said.

Akov said the government also is trying to educate the media, which in turn can educate the world’s citizens.

“We’re trying to give the media more understanding of the dilemmas and complicated situations that Israel confronts, and I think Miri is a very important part of that effort,” Akov said.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.