There is a symbiotic link between the abysmal (mis)conduct of Israel’s public diplomacy and the building crescendo of Jueophobic frenzy across the globe.
Israel is losing the war for international opinion because – in the final analysis – she does not really want to win it! Or at least the official organs charged with administering this war do not– Entire world is not against us, March 28, 2007.
‘Israel has made itself defenseless’…. ‘Israel has vacated the battleground of the mind’… ’Israeli “hasbara” is a JOKE!’–Melanie Phillips—cited in INTO THE FRAY: Comprehending the incomprehensible, January 3, 2012.
Israel’s greatest strategic challenge, its gravest strategic failure, its grimmest strategic danger is the (mis)conduct of its public diplomacy.—INTO THE FRAY: Intellectual warriors, not slicker diplomats February 14, 2013.
Continued impotence and incompetence in the (mis)conduct of Israel’s public diplomacy is becoming not only [a] strategic threat to the country but is beginning to imperil Jewish communities abroad—INTO THE FRAY: Dereliction of duty, October 25, 2013.
‘It is dreadful to hear that the [popular children’s] snack Bamba has a promotional budget two to three times the size of the total state budget for public diplomacy…’— cited in INTO THE FRAY: If I were prime minister… October 31, 2013.
… much like the air force and missile defense, diplomacy is a strategic imperative whose function is to facilitate decision-making space for national leadership to pursue national interests. INTO THE FRAY: My billion-dollar budget: If I were PM (cont.), November 7, 2013.
By allowing Israel’s image to become so distorted and debased, Israel has made being Jewish a risk-fraught experience… rather than anti-Jewish prejudices generating anti-Israel prejudices, anti-Israel animosity translates into anti-Jewish animosity—INTO THE FRAY: Catalogue of common canards. September 4, 2014.
Israel is losing the battle for hearts and minds across the world, for a very simple reason, very difficult to accept, yet very easy to prove: It simply does not want to win!—INTO THE FRAY: Preserving the Jewish nation-state-The imperative for a political ‘Iron Dome’, November 12, 2015.
This, far from exhaustive, selection of citations, spanning almost a decade and a half, reflects an ongoing and grinding effort to draw attention to the gathering storm clouds on Israel’s diplomatic—and strategic—horizon. Sadly, it was an alert that went unheeded, resulting in the blight, of which it warned, to fester and now turn septic.
There is now little option but to cauterize it—lest it turn fatal.
Sins of omission rather than of commission
Of course, I realize some might find this article’s heading a little provocative, perhaps even offensive.
After all, at a time like this, with Jews, their property, and their institutions under escalating assault throughout the US and across the globe, allegations that seem to suggest the Jewish state is complicit in fanning the flames of Jew-hatred might well be perceived as inappropriate, uncalled for—indeed, even harmful and hurtful.
So, I hasten to clarify.
The blame that can—indeed—must be apportioned to Israel is not the product of intentional malfeasance or unintentional misadventure, but of disastrous dereliction of duty over decades – i.e. not because of what Israel has done but because of what it left undone. Thus, in terms of facilitating anti-Semitism, Israel is guilty far more of sins of omission rather than of sins of commission.
The appalling worldwide surge in Judeophobic incitement and Judeocidal attacks should come as no surprise—and hence the lack of any serious preparation to effectively confront it, contend with it, and curtail it comprise an unforgivable strategic debacle—for both Israel’s national security and for its relationship with its kinfolk in the Diaspora.
Thus, encapsulating the widely felt exasperation and bitterness was the following Facebook response from a reader, to my rebuke of gross Israeli diplomatic lethargy in Deleriction of Duty: “The State of Israel, the country that represents Jews throughout the world as much as its citizens, is slowly but surely abdicating its role by its action or perhaps better said inaction vis-a-vis public diplomacy”.
Anguish, not arrogance
Indeed, browsing through some of the many columns I have written over the years on the topic, it is difficult to escape an eerie sense of déjà vu and a feeling that what I wrote then, not only applies to the events of today, but in many ways precisely predicted what is now being precipitated before us.
I underscore this not out of arrogance, but anguish, not to showcase any personal prescience, but to urge action to head off preventable perils. For, as I warned in the past:
It is difficult to understate how pernicious and pervasive the consequences of this inexplicable fiasco of impotence and incompetence are. They permeate all walks of national life, corroding the very fabric that binds the Zionist enterprise together.
Indeed, over half a decade ago, I diagnosed as a “strategic imperative” the need to establish “a political ‘Iron-Dome’ to intercept incoming barrages of demonization & delegitimization launched daily at Israel”, and stipulated the scale and scope of resources that should be allotted for such an initiative (1% of Israel’s state budget, or over one billion dollars)—as befits such a strategic enterprise.
Foreseeing that many might be aghast at the size of the specified outlay, I wrote: “A billion dollars!? I can almost hear gasps of disbelief and the dismissive snorts of derision. They would be sorely inappropriate and unfounded–detached from any factual foundation. For a billion-dollar public diplomacy budget might sound wildly exorbitant – until you compare it with the sums laid out for other purposes–like the air force or Israel’s anti-missiles system.”—on which billions are spent without arousing any significant protest or astonishment – see for example Israel to Invest $1 Billion in Iron Dome Missile Defense System.
Political Iron Dome: Where will the money come from?
However. as I pointed out: “…weapons systems, that can inflict [potentially] dissuasive costs, are of little value if political constraints prevent/limit their use.”
Somewhat acerbically, I added: “… even the sleekest super-duper modern combat jets with the latest hubba-dubba avionics and awesome destructive capability will be of little value if diplomatic pressures prevent policy-makers from allowing them to take off…”.
To underscore this point, I invoked the frustrated puzzlement of Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, who exclaimed exasperatedly: “What good is having Apache helicopter gunships, or Merkava tanks, to defend your citizens against attack if you can’t even use them because the world thinks you’re always the aggressor?”
Accordingly, I reiterated: “For Israel…it is a strategic imperative to devise and deploy an apparatus that will not only protect Israel from the debilitating effects of the unrelenting barrages of malevolent delegitimization, to which it is continuously subjected, but generate the legitimization for the effective use of its military might to deter and/or eliminate threats to the national security of Israel and personal safety of Israelis – whether these emanate from Iran, Gaza, Judea/Samaria, south Lebanon or elsewhere”.
Concerning the funding, I pointed out: “Finding the funding is hardly an insurmountable challenge–as the subsequent figures clearly demonstrate. The miserly amounts allotted in the past for a strategic diplomatic initiative do not reflect a scarcity of resources, but a grave lack of awareness and resolve.”
Thus, I argued: “…to amass a billion dollars for the historic imperative of defending the legitimacy of Jewish national sovereignty, the lofty ideals of Zionism, and the practical policies to preserve them, would require less than 0.5 percent of GDP, or about 1 percent of the state budget…All that is called for is shaving off infinitesimal amounts from other budget items to generate the necessary resources.”
Despondently, I wrote: “One of the gravest consequences of Israel’s virtual abdication from the public diplomacy front is the effect this is having on Jewish communities across the world, and on the personal safety of Jews in the Diaspora. Perversely, instead of being a protective shield for Jews, it is exposing them to dangers by making them a focus of anti-Israeli hostility because of their imputed affiliation with the mendaciously maligned Jewish state.
I cited a 2013 Jerusalem Post editorial, which referred to a study that found “an astounding number of Europeans feel a tremendous amount of opprobrium for anything connected to Israel… And since visibly identifiable Jews are connected with Israel,” this anti-Israel animosity translates into anti-Jewish animosity.
Describing the dismal reality for many Diasporic Jews, I lamented: “From Scandinavia through Scotland and Spain to South Africa, throughout France and Hungary and across campuses in North America, Jews are being besieged and harassed largely because Israel has failed to convey its eminently conveyable case to the world. It has allowed itself to be portrayed as a dangerous pariah – and any association with it carries a price.”
I singled out one particularly egregious example: “This was vividly illustrated by the fate of Sweden’s Jewry – particularly in the city of Malmo…Consider the following excerpt from a report by Haaretz: ‘[An] Israel solidarity demonstration in central Malmo ended in violence as participants were pelted with eggs, bottles and fire crackers…. [Mayor Ilmar] Reepalu suggested Malmo’s Jews could avoid anti- Semitism by condemning Israeli policy.’…The message [was] clear: Disavow Israel, or pay the price.”
Both denial and defeatism spawn dereliction
The Israeli leadership has been afflicted by both denial and defeatism, both of which spawn the ongoing diplomatic debacle.
Clearly, no problem can be dealt with effectively if one either denies that it exists or despairs of resolving it.
A telling example of the disturbing denial displayed by Israeli government representatives was on stark display at the 2014 Jerusalem Post Conference, in which I participated –by none other than the man then in charge of Israeli diplomacy, former Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman. Liberman was addressed by a young pro-Israel activist, who explained the difficulty that he and his Zionist campus colleagues were experiencing because of their support for Israel and opposition to BDS. Accordingly, he asked Liberman what his ministry could do to help activists like himself in their pro-Israel campaign. Israel’s top diplomat’s response was as crass and pigheaded as it was undiplomatic and prompted me to write: “Liberman’s response was dismaying, and should be a cause of grave alarm for all those concerned with the long-term future of Israel and its vital ties with Jewish communities across the world…Indeed, it encapsulated all the misperceptions, and mismanagement that have characterized Israel’s diplomatic strategy.”
Disapproving, I added: “Dispensing with any semblance of civility, and any expression of encouragement of the voluntary efforts of young pro-Zionist activists in defense of Israel on hostile campuses, Liberman brusquely conveyed…that endeavors like his were essentially unnecessary, and largely a waste of time.”
Reproachfully, I summed up the exchange: “In particular, it spotlighted the incomprehension and incompetence Israeli officialdom has displayed in the conduct of our public diplomacy, going a long way to explain Israel’s growing international beleaguerment.”
Denial and defeatism (cont.)
Regarding the unfortunately oft-heard claim that there is little point bolstering efforts to convey Israel’s case to the world, I commented: “Defeatism and dereliction go hand in hand. After all, a necessary condition to win a battle is to participate in it. With regard to public diplomacy – this is something Israel has refrained from doing with any efficacy.”
Elsewhere, I reiterated: “Not infrequently, the claim is raised that ‘no amount of PR can counteract anti-Israel acrimony,’ and more vigorous public diplomacy effort is futile because of the visceral anti-semitism (I prefer “Judeophobia”) that pervades much of the public in many of the countries in the West. As someone who grew up in a small mining town in South Africa, and as the only Jew on my high school rugby team, where Judeophobic sentiments were always bubbling close to the surface, I do not wish to belittle the impact of irrational anti-Jewish enmity that prevails in much of the world. However, I suggest that in many cases, rather than anti-Jewish sentiments fueling anti-Israel sentiments, it is Israel’s failure to convey its case effectively and cogently that facilitates the burgeoning propagation of hatred against the Jews we now witness.”
Typical of this uncalled-for resignation to diplomatic defeat was a recent editorial in the Times of Israel (TOI). Thus, after listing a number of factors that matter greatly in rejecting a two-state solution, TOI editor, David Horowitz, asserted that they don’t matter, and Israel should embrace the two-state solution anyway, dubbing it, “a viable framework for long-term peace and security for ourselves and for the Palestinians”. I kid you not!!
Indeed, is difficult to think of anything that, over the last three decades, has proved less viable and more detrimental to long-term peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Despairing, Horowitz bemoans that “… even when facing an enemy so patently cynical, amoral and intransigent as Hamas, militarily strong Israel will be held responsible for the loss of life on both sides of the conflict.”
Remedy requires resolve, resources & resourcefulness
Such dour defeatism is misplaced and misleading. Indeed, the claim that because of the prevalence of ingrained anti-Semitism in the world, “no amount of PR can counteract anti-Israeli acrimony… is a canard that must be summarily dismissed.” For it is a claim that is only valid if one believes the truth can never vanquish falsehood, that malice and misrepresentation will always prevail over morality and scruples.
Moreover, as I have repeatedly maintained, there is a remedy. However, “It is a remedy that requires resolve, resources and resourcefulness. The failure of Israeli leadership to mobilize these elements comprises a grave dereliction of duty, bordering on betrayal of Israelis and of Jews in the Diaspora.”
As I have underscored in the past, it is a remedy in which, “The Palestinian-Arab collective must be considered an implacable enemy—not a prospective peace partner…and it must be treated as such. It is a remedy that must channel resources and effort: To aggressively undermine, discredit and ultimately de-legitimize the Palestinian narrative.”
For both common sense and intellectual integrity dictate an unequivocal conclusion: “…the Palestinian narrative and the Zionist narrative are, for all intents and purposes, inconsistent with each other. In other words, they are mutually exclusive narratives.
Accordingly, enhancing the legitimacy of one necessarily implies undermining the legitimacy of the other. (For a more detailed elaboration of this matter see:“Deciphering delegitimization”).
Thus, it follows that “Once the legitimacy of a Palestinian state is conceded, the delegitimization of Israel is inevitable.”
Attempting to deny, circumvent or blur this stark truth is nothing but dangerous delusion which will certainly culminate in evermore upward spiraling of trauma and tragedy