I’ve been complaining for decades (really) that Israel has the worst public relations imaginable. While the PLO practically held reporters hostage to tell the story with the PLO spin, the Israelis always responded with a tight-lipped military spokesman. Israel might never have prevailed against the Leftist forces arrayed against her, both at the level of nations and those nations’ media outlets, but she sure didn’t help herself by making it almost impossible for reporters to tell a sympathetic story about Israel. Right now, pro-Israel bloggers, not to mention Israeli bloggers, are trying to tell her story, but it’s really time that Israel herself does some of the heavy PR lifting.
I’m not the only one thinking this. A public relations expert and military historian named Ned Barnett has had the same thoughts, and writes about them compellingly here. If he were the Israeli spokesperson trying to communicate the Israeli experience to the West, he wouldn’t waffle in technical military language about air assaults with Katyushas, he’d say this:
As of July 23rd, Hezbollah has fired more than 2,000 high-explosive war rockets at peaceful, innocent civilian neighborhoods in Israel. How would America feel – how would America respond – if cross-border terrorists (hiding among civilians in a neighboring country) had fired 2,000 high-explosive war rockets into San Diego, or El Paso? How would America react if Atlanta or Kansas City or Denver came under such a sustained, murderous attack? In the face of such horrific provocation – a cycle that was started when Hezbollah terrorists crossed the border and kidnapped two soldiers – would America be exercising near-miraculous self-restraint? Or would America seek out these terrorists – giving them no safe haven – if only to make sure that no more high-explosive war rockets were fired into the neighborhoods of peaceful American cities? The answer is clear – Americans would fight to defend their homeland and destroy the terrorists, the terrorists’ bases of operations, and those who support or shelter those terrorists.
So simple, so obvious, so alien to the Israeli psyche.
UPDATE: In a comment, Dagon pointed to a website that has Ariel Sharon telling Shimon Peres that the Jewish people control America. This sounded unlikely, so I checked it out. It turns out, this purported “quotation” falls into the same category as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion — it’s a canard aimed at discrediting the State of Israel and demonizing the Jewish people:
In a May 10, 2002 column (“Now Isn’t the Time for Bush League Moves”), nationally-syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer included bogus and inflammatory allegations against Prime Minister Sharon and Israel’s supporters in America.First, she wrote:
In fact, it [American support for Israel’s actions] led Prime Minister Sharon to tell his Cabinet recently, “I control America.”
CAMERA conducted extensive Nexis and Internet searches, and found that no mainstream news organization reported as true the fabricated quotation. The hoax originated with an October 3, 2001 press release from the pro-Hamas group, the Islamic Association for Palestine. It said:
An acrimonious argument erupted during the Israeli cabinet weekly session last week between Ariel Sharon and his foreign Minister Shimon Peres during which Sharon reportedly yelled at Peres, saying “don’t worry about American pressure, we control America.”
Notably, in the same press release, the direct quotation “we control America” changed to “we the Jewish people control America.” IAP wrote:
According [to] the Israeli Hebrew radio, Col [sic] Yisrael Wednesday, Peres warned Sharon that refusing to heed incessant American requests for a cease-fire with the Palestinians would endanger Israeli interests and turn the US against us. At this point, a furious Sharon reportedly turned toward Peres, saying “…I want to tell you something clear, don’t worry about American pressure on Israel, we the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.”
According to the IAP press release, the statement was reported on Kol Yisrael. However, CAMERA’s calls to Kol Yisrael confirmed that no such broadcast occurred.
Geyer’s second problematic claim was:
Look at U.S. television: One minute, you see pro-Israeli ads saying the Arabs are all dogs…
However, here too investigation turned up no evidence that any such ad ever appeared on U.S. television.
Since the Sharon “quotation” and the “Arabs are dogs” ad are preposterous on their face, one would have expected Geyer (and editors who publish her column) to verify their accuracy before including such inflammatory statements in her column.
Geyer’s piece, which is syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate, is known to have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and the San Diego Union Tribune.
The anti-Israel crowd tends to have the same problem the anti-George Bush crowd has. One it suits their purposes, George Bush and the Israeli leaders are evil geniuses, manipulating the world at large to carry out their nefarious schemes. And when it suits their purposes, George Bush and Israeli leaders are buffoons, incapable of intelligent thought or expression. Eventually, you have to take your pick, becausae both ideas don’t exist in the same universe. And in my universe, Ariel Sharon was way to smart to say something that profoundly stupid and counterproductive.
UPDATE II: DQ reminded me of a time when Israel lucidly presented its case. Read this masterful speech that Abba Eban gave to the UN Security Council during the 1967 War. It humanizes Israel’s story, and contains a compelling logic that makes it easy to understand Israel’s actions then. I wish there were such a prominent spokesman now.