More Efforts to Diagnose Israel's Hasbara Problem
Part Two on the Jerusalem Conference's Session on Israel's Public Relations Efforts; click here for Part One.
Following speakers Caroline Glick, Isi Leibler, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, and Tzafrir Ronen, former MK Elyakim HaEtzni presented his thesis that the simple explanation for Israel's failure at effective PR is "pathological. Israel is sick, with a condition called 'Jewish self-hatred,' and this phenomenon must be investigated... For 2,000 years, the world has been telling us that we're no good - so finally, like a child who receives only criticism, he naturally begins to believe he is no good! In addition, there is something in the Jewish religion that is very noble, but that if taken too far, can be dangerous. Other nations, when they are hit, blame the hitter - but we always blame ourselves; we ask what we did wrong. We originally thought this was just an Exile-mentality phenomenon, but that's not true; there are Jews abroad who are much prouder than many born-in-Israel army officers..."
"For instance, in the Yom Kippur War [in 1973], we were taken by surprise. Generally, when a country is taken by surprise, it loses - such as when France was surprised by Germany and was conquered, or when Russia was sneak-attacked by Germany and nearly lost Moscow and St. Petersburg. But when Israel was taken by surprise, just 17 days later we were at the gates of Damascus and Cairo, and we could have destroyed Egypt's Third Army - yet we declared defeat! Every year, the Egyptians celebrate 'The October War,' and they have museums commemorating their great victory - and all because we announced that we had lost. Kissinger told us we should declare victory and quickly leave - yet we did the opposite!"
Only a quarter of the land, including Hevron and Shechem, originally designated for the Jews by the League of Nations, was left for us - but ut all this is not known by our Jewish youth!
HaEtzni bemoaned the fact that though we have modern political rights dating back to the First World War, Jewish youth in Israel are not taught them: "After World War I, the borders and countries that today make up the Middle East were created - Iran, Iraq, Syria, etc. Modern Israel was created the same way! The countries of the world charged Britain [in the San Remo Resolution of 1920, based on the League of Nations and Balfour Declaration - ed.] with creating a 'national homeland' for the Jewish People, based on the 'historical rights' of the Jews, and calling for Jewish immigration and settlement here. But do Jewish youths know this? Are they taught this?!
"The Jews were to be given all of what was called Palestine, all the way up to the border of Iraq. The world had decided to carry out 'affirmative action' on behalf of the Jews, despite the fact that, around World War I, there was an Arab majority here. And all this, even before the Holocaust! ... Later, three quarters of this land - what is today Jordan - was given over to those who today call themselves Palestinians. Only a quarter of the land, including Hevron and Shechem, was left for the Jews - the people for whom this whole re-division was made, and without whom the Arabs here never would have 'discovered' that they are Palestinian! But all this is not known by our Jewish youth!
"Instead, we have the Arabs going around the world claiming their historic rights, while we claim the right to security! And then you have Arafat citing the example of King Solomon with the two mothers, and claiming that he is the real mother who refuses to split the land! Everything has turned upside down, and our youth doesn't know this!"
Dry-spoken but hard-hitting right-wing British commentator Melanie Phillips next addressed the audience, saying she hails from "Londonistan." People in Israel, she said, "have no idea of the depth of the venom in Great Britain against Israel. The British basically feel that Zionism equals fascism, and openly say that it would have been better had Israel never been created. The mainstream media often publish pieces about the world Zionist conspiracy, Jews who defend Israel are invariably portrayed as 'Holocaust shroud wavers,' while British Jews who defend Zionism are accused of dual loyalty... When you look at British society, you see that the higher you go up the ladder of education and wealth, the more Israel is viewed negatively and the more the Palestinians are seen as the supreme moral cause of our time..."
Israeli Left Does Great Damage
"It was not always this way," she said. "The big change occurred around 1970, when Israel was no longer seen as a tiny underdog surrounded by enemies, but as an oppressive imperialist regime. This poison began with the universities, which were fed, in turn, by Israeli revisionist historians who have created the narrative that Israel was born in sin - a narrative which has done and continues to do untold damage to the Israeli and Jewish cause...
"The media then followed suit, barely reporting on Israel's victimization, but only on the measures it takes in self-defense. The Kassams, for instance, have barely been reported; only when Israel takes some retaliation in Gaza does the media mention the Kassams in passing...
"The reasons for this are many and varied, and they even pre-date Britain's problems with its growing Muslim minority. They include it now being 'payback time' throughout Europe to the Jews for the Holocaust, the crime for which the Jews will never be forgiven; the specific history of the British Mandate; the left-wing intelligentsia grip; the sympathy for multi-culturalism (bi-nationalism in Israel); and the BBC."
"There is also much ignorance in Britain. The British widely believe there that Israel was created in 1948 because of post-Holocaust guilt, bringing Jews who had no connection to Palestine over from Europe to take over land in which Arab Palestinians had lived from time immemorial, and that they now continue to violently oppress them... Very few Brits have ever met a Jew; there are only some 280,000 self-identifying Jews, out of a total British population of more than 60 million...
British Jews - A Frightened People
"The Arab narrative is presented on the media, and no alternative narrative is being presented, such that there is no reason for the average Brit to believe anything else... Why is no alternative version being presented by the British Jews? One reason is because British Jews are very frightened people. They are frightened of increasing anti-Semitism, they are frightened of not getting professional preferment, they are frightened of losing their fashionable friends, they are frightened of losing their influence with government, they are frightened of not getting their knighthoods and peerages, and in general, British Jews are just frightened; that's the 'minhag Angliyah [custom in England].' ...
Britain sees Israel as the principle reason why the West is under attack - instead of seeing it as the front line of the defense of the West.
"The other reason is that Israel has abandoned the hasbara [public relations] front. Shimon Peres said after Oslo that hasbara is no longer necessary in Europe...
"[In any event,], we are all now in a much bigger game. All of us - the US, Britain, Israel and Europe are all conscripts in a war of ideas. If Israel, Heaven forbid, were to go down, then they would be next. But no one sees this. Israel doesn't see this, preoccupied as it is with the military aspects of its struggle. And Britain sees Israel as the principle reason why the West is under attack - instead of as it should, as the front line of the defense of the West.
"Israel is reacting defensively. When interviewed on the international media, its spokesmen answer questions as if talking to their domestic media, instead of taking a pro-active, aggressive approach . They should see their job as educational, putting the facts out. Why don't we react to Pallywood, and to other distortions? We are a nation of lawyers, for Heaven's sake, yet we are all struck dumb! Why don't we tell them simple basic truths such as that the Jews are the only ones who ever had a nation-state here, and that in 1920 the world recognized our national rights to this land, and that 800,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries, etc. The answer is that Israel, believing it has no choice but to accept the world's position, allows itself to be boxed into a corner. ....
"The bottom line is that the global Islamic jihad is threatening the entire free world, and it is succeeding, and we don't even know what has hit us! Britain is sliding into Islamicization, because of a strategy outlined decades ago by the Islamic Brotherhood, which says: You set up your institutions, you then use the mores of your designated country to give you more and more, you Islamicize the country, and then you take it over.
"The central point of this strategy is the demoralization caused by the intellectual confusion brought on by the psychological warfare, the essence of which is that the victims have no idea of what is being done to them. Britain doesn't get it, at all. Israel doesn't get it. We must fight against their verbal fire - and realize that if our minds are enslaved, then our bodies will be next. Israel is obligated, using our traditional skill with words, to retake the battlefield of ideology and of the mind - and win."
What About G-d?
Speaking from the audience, Dr. Hagi Ben-Artzi, a Professor of Bible Studies and brother-in-law of Binyamin Netanyahu, made the following point: "I have heard the speakers here try to address the question of our current national weakness, yet not one of them gave an answer. One speaker said it is because we are sick; what kind of answer is that? The true answer is something that no one has said - and that is that a Jewish national existence that is not founded on a connection with G-d, or with Torah, or with the commandment to settle the Land, can simply not last! Rav Kook said it clearly, and has been proven to be right. Religion without nationalism - we saw how it ended in the Holocaust; nationalism without religion - we see how it ends with Oslo. What we need is the constructive combination of true Jewish spirituality, belief and observance, together with genuine nationalism."
Moderator Caroline Glick responded: "The Jewish People have always been made up of different kinds of Jews. We have to make every effort to explain to all Jews that the Land of Israel is their home. Some of them may want to become religiously observant, and some may not - but if this Land cannot be the home of all Jews, then our State will not be able to last."