The War Of Words That Israel Must Start Winning

I almost got lynched last week. My crime? I dared to defend Israel in public. I even — brace yourselves — declared myself a Zionist.

I might as well have confessed to torturing tiny animals, given the horrified response. Within minutes, a relaxed dinner party became a veritable contest to see who could most malign Israel.

Yep, it’s a tad traumatic being the lone zionist at any gathering these days. Israel-bashing has become a national sport in many countries. Since the Israeli strikes on Hamas enclaves in Gaza, the court of public opinion hasn’t just judged Israel ‘guilty’; rather she’s been hung, drawn and quartered.

The Arab nations may have failed, thus far, to destroy the physical Israel, but their revisionism of Middle East history is winning hearts, minds and newspaper columns across the globe. Slowly but surely, the world is coming round to the Arab lie that Jews are the ‘aliens’ in the Middle East.

Tell most people that the very term ‘Palestinian’ always included the Palestinian Jews who have inhabited the region for 3,500 years — continuously — and they’ll just smile pityingly, and claim you’ve been hoodwinked by ‘zionist propaganda’.

And oh, the bitter irony of this particular slur! Because by any objective standards, Israel’s PR is dire. It has been for a while, actually.

Back in 2002, the Jerusalem Centre For Public Affairs published a detailed report, in which it noted: The Israel State Comptroller’s report released on October 7, 2002, levelled unprecedented criticism on Israel’s public relations efforts. The State Comptroller revealed that:

’Since its establishment in 1948, Israel’s intelligence organs have not succeeded to respond to the broad-based propaganda and incitement by the Arab world.’

During Operation Cast Lead, I sat with my head in my hands, as a series of increasingly inarticulate figures ‘represented’ Israel. Do the powers-that-be scour the streets to find the least sympathetic, least sophisticated, least effective spokespeople?

It would almost appear so.

As the Jerusalem Centre report notes:

Leading U.S. media relations experts sent to Israel by private sponsors in May 2002 described Israel’s PR efforts in the United States as “disastrous.”

Israel’s Consul General in New York, Allon Pinkas, complained that Israel’s image in the U.S. suffered from a lack of clear and “disciplined” messages. International media consultant Lillian Wilder, a media advisor to former U.S. President Richard Nixon, noted in an interview that Israelis are often unprofessional and “wordy” on television.

Now at this point, some of you will roll your eyes and stop reading.  After all, doesn’t the tiny Jewish nation have enough to cope with, given the spectre of a nuclear Iran, and the ghastly sight of an American President openly wooing Islam?

What, is Israel also meant to fret over what ill-informed folk in other lands believe?

My answer?

Hell yeah!

Yes, Israel does need to argue her case more effectively on the world stage. Because when hatred of the Jewish state was confined to the Arab and Muslim worlds, that was one thing. Alarming? Sure. Surprising? Hardly, given what Islam says about ‘infidels’ and Jews in particular.

Now, though, the loathing for Israel that has festered in Arab and Muslim hearts for six decades is being exported by Islam as it goes marching unfettered through Europe.

It is no coincidence that in nations with large influxes of Muslims, hating Israel is now de rigueur.

Take Britain. During the Gaza Operation at the end of last year, Britain went berserk with rage towards the Jewish state. Thousands marched through the streets, brandishing banners that read ‘Death to Israel!’, while they chanted ‘We are all Hamas now!’

And please recall that Britain itself suffered a terrorist attack in 2005. So why did not one Israeli spokesman make the vital yet basic point that terrorist attacks in Israel are the same as terrorist attacks in America and Britain?

And that, unlike both these countries, Israel suffers terrorism on a regular basis?

Let me make it clear: I supported Operation Cast Lead. I defended Israel passionately — at work, online, in restaurants, at parties, to friends and colleagues and strangers alike.

Like many fellow diaspora Jews, and our Gentile friends who love Israel, I wrote letter after letter to the British press, trying to counter the unfair bias against Israel.

It was like trying to stem a tidal wave with your thumb.

In the UK, physical attacks on Jews increased. Some Israelis in Britain found themselves being refused service in pubs, clubs and other venues. One Israeli family was actually forced into hiding, so intense was the hostility directed at them.

In north London, one Orthodox Jewish man was dragged out of his car, in broad daylight, and beaten. Shops that were — wrongly — linked with Israel had their windows smashed. Supermarkets stocking kosher or Israeli products were threatened with boycotts.

Tescos, one of the largest UK supermarkets, was swift to create a special ‘helpline’ for customers wishing to avoid Israeli goods. (Suffice it to say that I, along with many others, am now boycotting Tescos.)

In schools, colleges and University campuses across the country, Jewish and Israeli students found themselves marginalised and verbally abused. At Cambridge and also the LSE (London School Of Economics) students staged mock ‘occupations’ to express their ’sympathy’ with Gaza.

The fact that Gaza had been under Palestinian control for several years by this time was ignored.

Nor was this anti Israel sentiment confined to the ‘ordinary’ person in the street. The Arab propaganda has a vice-like grip on the British media, with the BBC, the Guardian, and The Independent cheerfully leading the charge.

These media outlets ignored the fact that Israel had endured years of Palestinian terrorism, and instead chose to portray Israel as the sole aggressor in the conflict. False accusations against Israel appeared daily, with no corrections — let alone apologies! — when the true facts later emerged.

The Guardian, especially, delighted in publishing grotesque cartoons which painted Israel as a brutal Goliath, hell-bent on destroying the weaker, Palestinian David.

The effect of this British media bias against Israel?

During Israel’s anti-Hamas strikes, Jews and Muslims met — separately — with their respective MPs. My local MP explained that in the House Of Commons, Israel was being demonised on a daily basis.

Several government members were demanding that Britain instigate an arms embargo on Israel. This same MP told us that every single member of Parliament was ‘being bombarded’ by their Muslim constituents, who were insisting that they condemn Israel and then sever all ties with it.

And fuelled by the BBC, and the Guardian, many non Muslims added their voices — and of course their potential votes — to this anti-Israel agenda. We should note that the BBC took to bashing Israel with a vengeance. This surprised no one.

Indeed, the accusations of bias against the BBC go back several years. Keen to disprove them, the corporation even organised its own review, the Balen Report, in 2004.

And the findings?

We don’t know.

The BBC has refused to make them public. It has, in fact, spent a whopping £200,000 [$328,560] to keep the report private. A London solicitor is pursuing the BBC through the courts in a bid to bring the Balen Report into the public domain.

As the Sunday Telegraph noted:

The BBC is mounting a landmark High Court action to prevent the release of The Balen Report under the Freedom of Information Act, despite the fact that BBC reporters often use the Act to pursue their journalism. The action will increase suspicions that the report includes evidence of anti-Israeli bias in news programming.

Now, in light of all this, consider an item that appeared a while back at the superb Honest Reporting:

Israel’s Finance Ministry shot down an idea for a ‘Jewish Al-Jazeera’. Isaac Herzog has been quoted as saying: ‘We considered establishing a Jewish Al Jazeera, especially one that would broadcast in Arabic and Farsi. But it was torpedoed by the Finance Ministry’.

Hamas has a huge advantage precisely because of Al Jazeera, since the station is also watched by the English speaking world. Compare this to Israel, which has to filter reports through foreign journalists. A ‘Jewish Al Jazeera’ which offered reports in English, would be a massive help.

And think about how simple the Palestinian propaganda is. It concentrates on one clear, albeit deceitful and historically inaccurate message:

We were here first. The Jews kicked us out. We’re the victims.

The 2002 Jerusalem Institute report noted an interesting example where Palestinian propaganda excelled while Israeli PR failed miserably:

Losing the “Al Aqsa” Brand War

Naming the current war the “Al Aqsa intifada” proved to be a stroke of Palestinian PR genius, as much of the Western news media adopted this Palestinian brand name that casts the conflict internationally in the image Arafat sought.

For its part, Israel’s failure to “rebrand” the conflict on its own terms to reflect the conflict’s true nature — a pre-planned war of terror against Israeli citizens — placed the Jewish state on the defensive in the international court of public opinion from the first day of the conflict.

Yet, a full seven years on, it seems that Israel has not learned anything about how to improve its PR and indeed, empower those of us in the diaspora who are passionately putting its case.

Israel is still miscalculating. Badly.

Witness what happened recently when Israeli tourism posters appeared around London. Anti-Israel groups quickly began lodging official complaints. Result?

The posters were all removed. It’s clear that pictures of golden beaches and bronzed bodies won’t cut it.

Instead, Israel needs to remind the world that she is the sole democracy in the region.

And where are the images of Palestinians being treated in Israeli hospitals?

Where are the maps illustrating how tiny Israel is compared to the 99.9999% of the Middle East that the Arabs control?

Where are the public roll-calls of all the Israelis who have lost their limbs, loved ones and lives to Palestinian terrorism?

And yes, I realise that antisemitism lies at the heart of much unfair bias against Israel. No doubt about it. But that’s even more reason why Israel needs to organise some decent PR.

This begs the question: why doesn’t Israel just take a leaf out of the Palestinian book?

After all, the world is bombarded with images of wounded Gazan children, even when those children are suffering purely because of Hamas aggression.

Why are there never any images of Israeli children as they lay injured on the ground following a Hamas attack?

It’s time to play by some of the same rules as the Palestinians, unpalatable though this may be. Either that, or Israel continues to be unfairly and insanely singled out as the villain of the piece.

Finally, I’d like to suggest that there is one bit of rebranding that we can and must all do, right now. And that is to reclaim the word ‘Zionist’.

We have to stop allowing the Arabs and Muslims to hijack this word and turn it into an insult. So next time you hear someone using ‘Zionist’ as a pejorative term, make this clear:

A Zionist is simply anyone who supports Israel’s right to exist.

After all, we don’t hear people bashing Muslims for supporting the existence of their twenty-two Islamic nations, do we…?

This piece is cross posted at EMET NEWS – it’s a superb site, I urge you to check it out; just click here!

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15 thoughts on “The War Of Words That Israel Must Start Winning

  1. PENELOPE –

    Kudos to your father for being one of the few people to pose this question 🙂

    I look forward very much to more of your comments and ideas in the future 🙂

  2. Thank you, Tabatha. You are now bookmarked as one of my news blogs that I look at everyday. I have the information you have given me and will begin my research into those sites. I am looking forward to the article you will be posting.

    “Ask people WHY Palestinian Arabs NEVER EVER claim the parts of ‘palestina’ that became JORDAN”

    My father, by the way who is of no religious background, has been asking this question for decades….

  3. You are so helpful and righteous, Jew With A View! Thanks, and hopefully they will join there, and tell Calvin that OSA sends all his love, and is working hard outside Newsvine for Calvin in hopes anti-semitism will soon no longer be tolerated on such a huge blog as Newsvine!

  4. Thank you, Jew With A View. I hope that other pro-Jew bloggers also come around. Keep up your great work, keep the faith, and fight the good fight!

  5. HI HELLOSNACKBAR 🙂

    Nice to see you as always!

    Yes, if you support Israel’s existence, you’re a zionist!

    It’s very sad how the word has been hijacked and misinterpreted to mean something negative.

    Being a zionist doesn’t mean you can’t disagree with aspects of Israel or actions by Israel. It just means that you support the nation’s existence and appreciate it’s need for safety and security.

    Shalom!

  6. Hi, Jew With A View. Yeah, Newsvine is, philosophically and politically, mostly pro-muslim and mostly hostile to Israel (with a few pro-Jew members who are brave but outnumbered exceptions), and with a culture that allows outrageous attacks against those who defend Jews and Israel. I’ve seen it countless times over 2 years now, and have also been the victim of a witch hunt as well. Newsvine’s staff tends to tolerate the most outrageous attacks against Jews and Israel, from a large group of regular anti-semites there, so long as revenue is generated, it seems.

    The thing that gets me is that Newsvine is very large, very varied, is owned by MSNBC, and pays each member/contributor by the volume of hits they receive, regardless of content! It is astonishing that MSNBC seems unconcerned that they are, in effect, putting money in the pockets of anti-semites! Newsvine only continues to grow, and its politcal culture tolerates anti-semites without the slightest bat of an eyelash, it seems! MSNBC must know this.

    I hope you and others like you consider fighting back there! Please join/rejoin Newsvine and help spread the word. That a blog as big, dynamically growing, and affiliated with a major media player (MSNBC) as Newsvine is has somehow gotten under the radar of many of us who care about Jews and Israel is unconscionable! Help Calvin restore balance and fairness there, and tell them OSA appreciates the effort. Anti-semitism in such a volume there will literally disgust and enrage one initially, so don’t over-react, or staff will ban you. Only the anti-semites win that way.

  7. Good God,as a life long supporter of Israel I’d never thought of myself as a Zionist.
    I just assumed that that identity was reserved for bona fide Jews.
    Well if I’m a Zionist;then I revel in my new found status.
    A glass of champagne in your honour Tabatha!

  8. HI OSA –

    Many thanks for posting. In fact I tried News Vine some time ago. Literally three days after I began posting things about Israel, I got suspended.

    I will try again though!

  9. HI AGAIN PENELOPE 🙂

    Yes, even as a Brit I’m aware that some liberal Jews in America have absorbed so much anti Israel nonsense that they now just regurgitate it without checking the facts behind it… It’s very worrying.

    In terms of countering it: I recommend sticking to a few, basic facts:

    1 – Jews are the only people to have been living for the past 3700 yrs, non stop, in what is NOW Israel.

    2 – it was the Arab nations that scuppered partition when they rejected the 1947 plan and instead attacked Israel

    3 – prior to 1967, the term ‘palestinian’ ALWAYS referred to the Palestinian *Jews* who were the NATIVES of the region ‘palestina’.

    Another tip:

    Ask people WHY Palestinian Arabs NEVER EVER claim the parts of ‘palestina’ that became JORDAN!

    I also recommend these three sites, which will give you up to date facts and the truth behind some of the more inaccurate media headlines:

    http://www.honestreporting.com
    http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com
    http://www.emetnews.org/

    There are also, in addition to the many Jewish sites, some brilliant Christian groups which support Israel. In particular, I like Anglican Friends Of Israel, I think the url is http://www.anglicanfriendsofisrael.com

    Check back here in a few days, I’m going to be posting something that may help you… 🙂

  10. There is a very large blog, called Newsvine.com, which is owned by MSNBC. Membership at Newsvine.com is probably 500K and growing. There are many fine Pro-Jewish members there, but they constantly have to fight the anti-semitic postings of haters from around the world. Please consider joining Newsvine.com, supporting Jewish interests, and fighting the war of words there against a well-entrenched group of anti-semites. Oh, and tell Calvin (Newsvine Co-Founder) that OSA is happy to recommend Newsvine.com to all Jewish supporters everywhere!

  11. The ones that always surprise me here in the US, are the Jews who launch the anti-Israel attack. I fall back on the argument of : how people live in Israel (both Jew and non-Jew) versus Palestine. I will side with Israel every time. I also understand the right that Israel has to be there, however, I have not found a concise way to verbalize this argument. I lose too much time trying to explain this to people who really don’t have any historical background….I would be open to any suggestions….

  12. Thanks so much S.A.!

    Your comments are really appreciated 🙂

    Americans have always been staunch allies; hopefully Obama’s appeasement of Islam won’t poison people’s attitudes towards Israel…!

    Thanks so much for taking the time to comment 🙂

  13. I truly LOVED this piece. You are correct in that Israel needs much better PR.

    Here in the US, we are seeing so much bias against Israel and Israelis. Trying to find an unbiased news article here is difficult to say the least.

    Please know that Israel DOES have many supporters here. President Hope-and-Change does NOT speak for us!

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