Written by Aron White
Israel is often portrayed in a uniquely bad light, with few positive stories to counterbalance an otherwise negative picture. This month, there was a new example of this phenomenon; a positive story about Israel which was objectively newsworthy, was not reported at all in the UK.
One of the most pressing issues in third world development is the need to provide electricity to more people in Africa. Today, there are 600 million Africans who are not connected to electricity, and this has a tremendous impact on their quality of life and future prospects. Students study by candle light, whole villages have no ability to maintain vital medical supplies that require refrigeration, and without the means to charge a computer, one is cut off from the internet, and the vistas that that would open. In a powerful anecdote, one field worker described how the first night they travelled to a certain African town, they drove through the whole town before they realised they had arrived, because there were no streetlights or lights in any houses. 600 million Africans are living in darkness.
This issue has received extensive media coverage over the past few years. In the Economist, one can find articles here, here, here and here. In the Guardian, one can read articles about the need to provide more power to Africa here, here, here, here and here.
In 2013, there was a significant step forward taken in this issue President Obama announced the “Power Africa” programme, a wide-ranging $7 billion US government programme (led by the government aid agency USAID). Power Africa aims to connect 60 million more African households to electricity by 2030, through financing, technical assistance, capacity building, and more, as well as attracting private investment to the African energy sector. The Power Africa project, which was signed into law by Congress in 2016, will provide, in the words of Barack Obama “light where there is darkness, and the energy needed to lift people out of poverty.”
On December 4th of this year, there was another significant development in this issue. Israel joined the Power Africa project to work together with the US government and African nations in providing energy solutions for Africa. At the event, which was attended by the US ambassador and many African heads of state, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “Every time that an African mother will turn on the light or turn on a heater for some water for her children, part of Israel will be there. It’s a great, great development.”
Israeli companies and charities are already highly active in providing energy solutions in Africa. One Israeli company, Energiya Global, currently provides 6% of Rwanda’s electricity, and will in a few years provide 15% of Burundi’s. Innovation: Africa, an Israeli charity, has brought Israeli solar and water technologies to over 1 million people.
This relationship is being taken to a new level, as the Israeli government now partners with the most powerful country in the world, to provide energy for tens of millions of Africans.
Yet somehow, there was no coverage of this story in the media. This is a significant development in dealing with a central humanitarian issue that has seen regular coverage over the past few years. Yet when Israel gets involved the pens fall silent. Why? Why is there an aversion to reporting a positive story about Israel?
Israel is often portrayed solely through the lens of conflict. (The easiest example of this conflict-centric view is seen on the BBC’s profile of Israel; the profile mentions not a single Israel, alive or dead, nor any Israeli achievement or contribution to the world, but says the word Palestinian fifteen times, and Gaza eight times.) But Israel is much more than a one issue country. Israel is helping in so many places around the world – fighting crime in Honduras, helping agriculture in India, prevent drought in California, treating thousands of injured Syrians, and much more. Ignoring major stories, such as Israeli efforts to bring electricity to millions of Africans, is not proper journalistic conduct. Israel should be covered fairly, and its achievements duly noted and celebrated.
Aron White has a BSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of London (Lead College: LSE), and is a graduate of the Jewish Statesmanship Center in Jerusalem. His writings have been published at the Jerusalem Post, JNS, The Daily Caller and the Algemeiner.