There is no question that we are utterly inept in presenting the case for Israel and faring disastrously in the war of ideas. Paradoxically, this is happening at a time when the rights and wrongs are so self-evident that our moral case should be proclaimed to the world in black and white.
We are more united than at any time since 1967. The majority of Israelis does not seek to rule over Palestinians and wishes to separate itself as soon as possible. Most of us are reconciled to a Palestinian state, given a leadership genuinely committed to peace. This is one side of the coin.
The other side is that since Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s offers in August 2000, the Palestinians no longer bother to conceal their overriding obsession to destroy us. Even former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas a moderate would choke before conceding the legitimacy of a Jewish state. Palestinian leaders refuse to rein in the terrorist groups that brazenly proclaim their intent to promote even more suicide bombings.
If ever there were a case study of undiluted evil, it is manifested in the spontaneous Palestinian street celebrations which erupt every time Israeli civilians become victims of suicide bombers; or in a society which produces female law graduates willing to die by blowing up innocent civilians in a restaurant; or in Palestinian mothers who proudly praise their martyred children and express the hope that their remaining offspring follow the example. These manifestations of a 21st-century cult of child sacrifice are sanctified by imams in mosques exhorting their faithful to kill Jews.
Yet despite all that, and even at a time when everyone is conscious of the threat of global terror, much of the civilized world remains hostile to Israel. Indeed, allowing for indigenous anti-Semitism and the inclination to support an “underdog,” it is still almost incomprehensible why human rights groups and liberals distance themselves from Israel. Some even lend tacit support to the murderers.
It could be said that the cumulative impact over the past decade of Israeli governments diminishing the historic Zionist narrative in favor of the discredited Oslo narrative paved the way for this state of affairs. Yet there is no denying that today some blame must also be attached to Ariel Sharon not ideologically, but in terms of the impression conveyed to the public. Sharon is simply not getting the message across. Like most former prime ministers he has no pretensions of being a charismatic orator. But neither is US President George W. Bush.
However, Bush has the wisdom to surround himself with outstanding speechwriters and advisers who craft superb texts which he delivers regularly to the world and to the American public. Yitzhak Rabin also was a poor communicator, but Yehuda Avner and Eitan Haber wrote speeches for him that lifted national morale, especially during periods of crisis. In contrast our prime minister, other than the recent routine High Holy Day gush to the Israeli media, rarely communicates to the public, be it at home or abroad.
Indeed, Sharon gives the impression that our struggle to win the support of international opinion and maintain morale at home is a needless irritant rather than a central concern.
It is of course no surprise that in the war of ideas some of the most lethal critics of Israel are often Israelis themselves, many of whom maintain the traditions of their Stalinist predecessors by exhorting us to embrace our killers. When Gush Shalom turns to international courts in order to inhibit the IDF in its defensive operations, or Uri Avnery and his acolytes present themselves as human shields for Arafat, it is reminiscent of the Jewish communists who enthusiastically cheered when Stalin was executing Jews on trumped-up charges.
WE ARE also being undermined by purportedly mainstream politicians such as former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, whose article heralding the demise of humanity and decency in Israel was given enormous prominence in the international media, creating considerable damage to Israel’s reputation. The absence of a response to allegations from a former leading official that we have lost our soul would have been inconceivable in the days of Menachem Begin and Binyamin Netanyahu.
Indeed, our government could even take a cue from the old Mapai leaders who displayed more concern and understanding for the importance of morale on the home front and our international profile than is the case today. Ben-Gurion was frequently criticized for excessively castigating the pro-Soviet tendencies of Mapam and Hashomer Hatzair.
But in hindsight it is clear his vitriol against the antecedents of Peace Now was designed to neutralize the negative impact of their defeatism within Israel and throughout the world.
Golda Meir was also effective when she confronted the enemy within, ensuring that groups like Matzpen, the equivalent of today’s Gush Shalom, were considered crazies. Regrettably, marginal fringe groups today often succeed in creating the false impression that they represent significant alternatives to the elected leadership, and that the national consensus is crumbling.
It is therefore high time our prime minister became acquainted with the extent to which we are losing the critical war of ideas, and appreciated the long-term consequences for Israel if we fail to reverse the tide.
What is needed is the creation of a task force headed by a talented professional who has the ear and confidence of the prime minister and is empowered with the responsibility of charting a strategy to overcome our pathetic ineptness in these areas. It must recommend a framework by which the prime minister and top leaders find the means to communicate effectively with the people and the world.
By definition, it must go beyond inept Foreign Ministry bureaucrats who, unlike their predecessors, are no longer hasbara trail blazers. It must suggest ways to tap into the vast pool of highly talented Israelis and gifted Jewish writers and academicians throughout the world who would consider it a privilege to assist in promoting an image of the real Israel.
It is the outstanding success story of the 20th century; a people which rose up like a phoenix from the ashes of the Shoah and resurrected statehood from a multicultural and a multiracial amalgam of Jewish refugees from all over the world; a tiny democratic state engaged in a cruel ongoing war of terror with evil neighbors committed to her destruction, whilst nevertheless continuing to maintain its Jewish values and humanity.
This is the real Israel most of us know and which we must project to people of goodwill everywhere.