Squadron Troubled by Israel’s Pr During Its Lebanon Operation

Howard Squadron, who until last month was chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in an interview broadcast Sunday night, that he was “troubled” by Israel’s public relations performance during its operation in Lebanon.

He suggested that Israel might have prevented on erosion of support in the United States had it explained, as soon as its forces pushed beyond the initial 40-kilometer zone it had set, “that there was an important goal to be achieved for the entire Western world.” He also criticized Israel for allowing exaggerated accounts of civilian casualties to circulate without being challenged by credible Israeli figures.

In an interview conducted with the WMCA radio-magazine program “L’Chayim,” during his last day in office, Squadron said that Israel’s failure to explain its goals immediately “was a mistake, because it gave too many people the feeling that Israel might be going ‘too far,’ and also that maybe Israel was not acting in good faith.” He added that such an impression “should have been stopped right at the front.”

On Israel’s handling of news media reporting on civilian casualty figures in Lebanon, Squadron said:

“I think they made a mistake in permitting the stories of the casualties to exaggerate and exaggerate and exaggerate, as they necessarily will, if you don’t give the actual facts. I think it was difficult to determine what actually were the civilian casualties, but that effort should have been made right away. I think the figures should have come out right away — even if they were higher than the Israelis like to see happen. They would be less than what had been announced, and that would have been an advantage.”

But Squadron added that even if civilian casualty figures would prove to be in the thousands, Israel’s operation could be justified.”…if at the end of this operation we come out with Lebanon restored to its own unity and its own government, notwithstanding the civilian casualties, it would have been worthwhile,” he said.

He predicted that once the PLO, Syria and Israel withdraw from Lebanon and a Lebanese government emerges, “then you will suddenly see the media begin to reevaluate the Israeli operation.

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