Barbara Opall-Rome: defense specialist or war industry stooge?

“Strictly Security” host Barbara Opall-Rome has described Israel’s weapons as “lemonade.” (Via Twitter)

Spending three decades as a stenographer for the weapons industry would give anyone a warped sense of morality. So when Barbara Opall-Rome – the doyen of Israel’s “defense correspondents” – refers to “journalistic integrity,” she may understand that term differently than most people.

Opall-Rome recently tweeted that she had stayed “at a gorgeous property owned by the emir of Qatar” while on vacation. Because the details she gave were sparse, I contacted her to enquire if the Qatari authorities had provided her with free accommodation.

In response, Opall-Rome assured me that she and her husband “paid top dollar” to holiday at a Seychelles resort and were unaware that it was Qatari-owned until after their arrival.

“Sorry to confuse you with the facts,” she added. “And I trust if you have any journalistic integrity, you will rephrase your questions so they more closely resemble actual questions rather than accusations.”

I have zero intention of rephrasing the questions put to Opall-Rome. It is not unreasonable to ask public figures for clarification about something they have written or posted on the Internet.

In this particular case, it was legitimate to enquire if Opall-Rome had accepted any gifts from Qatar, given how its government has been wooing Israel’s supporters lately.

Opall-Rome’s apparent advocacy of journalistic integrity sits awkwardly with how she has built up a career promoting an industry based on death and destruction.

As recognition of her long service to the arms industry, Opall-Rome now hosts her own show on the Tel Aviv-based television channel i24News.

She uses “Strictly Security” – the show’s name – to celebrate Israel as a “land of milk and cyber startups.”

A recent broadcast marking the anniversary of the state’s establishment applauded how Israel had become a leading player in the global arms trade.

“In 70 years of independence, this small immigrants’ country is in a constant state of war,” Opall-Rome said. “But Israelis – as they often do – take these lemons and make lemonade.”

Amoral

Only someone amoral could resort to such a euphemism. Opall-Rome was likening the weapons with which Israel inflicts terror on Palestinians to fizzy drinks.

“Strictly Security” portrays the occupation of the West Bank as sophisticated. Earlier this year, it reported on how Israel had installed “smart checkpoints” in Hebron.

The advanced surveillance technology in these checkpoints “minimizes the physical contact between Israeli soldiers and the residents,” Opall-Rome gushed. A clip showing one of those Palestinian residents saying the word “apartheid” did not alter how the entire feature was an effort to sanitize Israel’s brutality.

For the past 30 years, Opall-Rome has been a reporter with DefenseNews. That magazine is – if its marketing brochures are accurate – read by a global elite that oversees military expenditure worth more than $1.75 trillion per annum.

Opall-Rome, who previously worked from Washington, has headed the magazine’s Israel office since 1999.

Some of her “reporting” has been thinly-veiled lobbying for the arms industry. In a 2017 article about how the boss of Israel Aerospace Industries had been denied a visa to the US, she noted how contesting the refusal had cost the publicly-owned weapons maker at least $100,000 in attorney fees.

The $100,000 sum was “Israeli taxpayer money that could have gone into research and development,” she lamented.

Although Opall-Rome responded promptly to my email about her vacation, a follow-up query on why she shills for weapons makers went unanswered. In that query, I asked if she had ever exposed the harm caused by the arms industry.

Tough questions?

The closest Opall-Rome gets to posing tough questions is to ask why Israel relied on F-16s rather than the “precious” new F-35s in its arsenal while bombing Syria a few months ago.

The legal and ethical questions about attacking another nation were ducked in her “analysis.” Echoing state propaganda, Opall-Rome has depicted Israel’s previous actions in Syria – such as the 2007 assault on a nuclear facility – as benevolent.

Similarly, she has taken at face value Israel’s assertions that Iran is the “aggressor.” And she has described people in Gaza who try and enter present-day Israel as “infiltrators.” That racist slur omits how Palestinian refugees have a UN-recognized right of return to historic Palestine, as well as the right to resist occupation and apartheid.

During its annual conference last weekend, the National Union of Journalists for Britain and Ireland discussed how Israel and its supporters are seeking to influence press coverage with their propaganda activities. The union made a commitment to support journalists who disobey instructions from editors or management that they cover Israel’s most blatant propaganda exercise this year: starting the Giro d’Italia bike race in Jerusalem.

The union’s discussion was sorely-needed. Too many reporters – from Britain, Ireland, the US and beyond – have treated Israel’s talking points as if they are solid facts.

By doing so, they have ignored the plight of Palestinian media workers who risk – and sometimes lose – their lives while chronicling Israel’s crimes.

Opall-Rome is the kind of reporter who should be disowned by her profession. Her stories recycle – without any hint of skepticism – lies pumped out by the Israeli authorities and the pro-Israel lobby.

She is a “journalist” with a complete lack of integrity.

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Comments

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She sounded very reasonable to me, albeit with a grating American accent.

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Can’t believe I wasted my time reading this. Try reporting actual news instead of gossiping about someone’s vacation.

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I don't believe she is a stenographer for the weapons industry. Suggesting that she is such a functionary is a childish insinuation that further demonstrates your lack of professionalism, which she pointed out as per your article.

Furthermore, the suggestion that the resort she stayed at and how she paid for it is anyone's business - let alone yours, is foolish. There is no conspiracy there, and she clarified her position in response to your query - which is more than I can say I would have done, but good on her. But to then extrapolate that to allege there is somehow a conspiracy between her holiday-plans and the inane trope of Israel's geopolitical influence and that of the tangential conspiratorial Jewish control of the global economy; well, it speaks for itself - and because you got it featured on this web-site doesn't make you a journalist. Same as me writing in the comments section doesn't make me a Journalist either.

Always good for a laugh old-chap.

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Your comments on Barbara Opall-Rome are unfair. She is clearly not a supporter of many Israeli government policies. She says "At 70 Israel is a house divided...The foundation on which it was built of equality, social justice, freedom of expression, and a genuine quest for peace is crumbling... it is a fortress state both physically and mentally...ruled by the tyranny of a slim and increasingly messianic majority....peace and co-existence with the Palestinians has become a fringe issue... school books are selectively edited for political correctness...efforts to acknowledge Israels 50 year occupation borders on treason...Saudia Arabia and other autocratic states are friends...journalists, jurists, educators, retired generals who fail to tow the governments hard line are enemies of the state." This is somebody who may not hold your views, and has chosen to provide news on the Israeli armaments industry, but does have a sense that her government's policies are not the ones she wants and makes it clear in many programs.

Does she have integrity? Few journalists are perfect. Most sit in offices and live a life out of harms way. But given the choices she has made about her life, I believe Barbara Opall-Rome has as much integrity as most journalists.

For transparency, I am British, Jewish and do not support Israel's policies towards the Palestine people, and have never and never will visit Israel.

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First of all, Jeffrey, her opinions you (selectively) quote are not journalistic. They are, well, opinions. So you cannot conclude that these prove some journalistic quality. Then, about the quotes you left out: neighbouring states are "jungle", "failed", "wild": racist. And never forget that Israel has invaded, bombed, terrorised that "jungle" time and time again. "the Palestinials in our midst", Does Opall-Rome not know that Palestinians were terrorised away from that "midst", in 1947/48 and again in 1967? A "genuine quest for peace": no, terrorism and racism is at the heart of Israel's creation and existence. That is not just "government policies", that is state fundamentals.

David Cronin

David Cronin's picture

David Cronin is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada. His latest book is Balfour’s Shadow: A Century of British Support for Zionism and Israel (Pluto, 2017).