- Battle for hearts and minds - why it is important 27.02. 2009 http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000663.html Original content copyright by the authorMessage 1 of 1 , Feb 27, 2009View Source
Original content copyright by the author
Zionism & Israel Center http://zionism-israel.comThe reactions to the first article about Israel's Battle for Hearts and Minds prove that there is a problem and help to define it. These can roughly be classified into these categories:
- There is no problem, it is just "media manipulation."
- Israel's image doesn't matter - ignore the criticism.
- It is the fault of a particular political party that is too soft/hard or of a particular policy.
- Yes there is a problem, but there is nothing to be done about it because it is due to "anti-Semitism."
The signs of the Israel's image problem are so clear, and the effects so obviously pernicious, that denial borders on behavior pathology. In the space of a week, following Operation Cast Lead, Time, Newsweek and the New York Times published the sort of reports about Israel that in former times one would expect from the Syrian government newspaper Tishreen or the Egyptian extremist journal Roz el Youssef: atrocity stories bordering on blood libel, published without verification and without reserve. These are not fringe journals in Europe, but the heart of USA journalism that used to be solidly on the side of Israel. Today they unapologetically distribute propaganda not for the moderate PLO, but for the genocidal Hamas. This alone should have raised alarm bells in every Israel advocacy group, in the Israel Government Press Office, the Office of the IDF Spokesperson and the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was instead virtually ignored, as just the latest step in an inexorable progression.
In happier times, "ZOG" the Zionist Occupied Government, was the slogan and ideology of lunatic white supremacists and Neo-Nazis. Its successor, the mythical "Israel Lobby" that supposedly controls the press and the government, is accepted as a fact. It publicized by a former president and by university professors. The same philosophy is held, it seems, by the apparent new head of the National Intelligence Council, Charles Freeman. Freeman should be barred from accepting a sensitive intelligence post because of his intimate, compromising ties with the Saudi government. But any criticism of Freeman is quickly dismissed as "Zionist" propaganda. "Zionist" is an epithet sufficient to discredit any person or idea, regardless of merit. It has the status that "communist" did in the 50s in the United States. That is true even among Jews. Organizations prefer to call themselves "pro-Israel" in order to avoid the Z-Word, just as reform Jews referred to themselves at one time as persons of the Mosaic faith, to avoid the J-word.
The erosion of Israel's image and legitimacy is not a new process, and in fact goes back quite a few years. The PLO was recognized by the UN as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian People at a time when the PLO openly announced its intent to destroy Israel. In the same period, the UN Zionism is Racism resolution was passed. However, these resolutions did not represent the policy of the European governments and the United States, and were widely condemned by public opinion in Europe, North America and Oceania. Since then, the situation has steadily and inexorably worsened, so that today European governments are contemplating recognizing the Hamas and tacitly accepting its program of genocide for the Jews.
The damage to Israel's image must unavoidably have real consequences. It cannot be ignored, because Israel exists only in virtue of world opinion and legitimacy. The first Zionist congress sought a national home for the Jewish people, guaranteed in international law. This goal was achieved and embodied in the League of Nations British Mandate for Palestine and restated in UN General Assembly Resolution 181. Looking back at the progression of world opinion, it is probably safe to say that that 100 years ago, few in the Western world would have disputed the historical title and moral entitlement of the Jewish people to the "Holy Land." Today that is no longer the case. Not only moral and social norms have changed. Hostile propaganda has created an "alternate narrative" in which Jews never existed in ancient times or never lived in Judea and Samaria.
Until not long ago it was understood that an ancient people had returned to their homeland and found a neglected desert, which they turned into a modern state. The Bible was the deed of the Jewish people to the land. The Arabs were viewed as opportunistic interlopers who had overrun the land by force. The reports of Marx and of Mark Twain and many others described the desolation of 19th century Palestine. The reports of UN commissions and tourists and experts attested to the extraordinary renewal wrought by the Zionists, and the Arabs themselves bore witness to their own obstinate aggressive bellicosity and proud alliance with the Nazi movement. Zionism was considered to be at the forefront of progressive enlightenment.
Now it is just as widely believed that Palestine under Turkish rule was a cosmopolitan paradise thanks to the industry and thrift of its Arab inhabitants. The claim of the Arab inhabitants to have lived here since time immemorial is readily accepted. The opinion taught in universities and believed by many "right thinking people" is that Israel is a "historic mistake:" After World war II, with no warning and no legitimacy, the descendants of Khazars flooded the land and evicted the peace-loving Arabs for no reason, appropriating for themselves unjustly the fruit of the labors of the innocent victims. Zionism is considered a colonialist imperialist reactionary movement and the Ulema of Gaza and Tehran are thought to be at the vanguard of progressive thought. "International legitimacy" once supported a Jewish state in the land of Israel. Today it is used to support genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Jews.
It is this gradual basic change in the way Israel and Zionism are viewed, rather than any specific action, issue or claim, that has had, and is having, a devastating effect on the perception of Israel and on the readiness of the world to support Israel against Iranian threats, Hamas and Hezbollah. It is not tied to the policies of any party or the personality of any leader. The moderate Ehud Barak is vilified almost as much as the bellicose Ariel Sharon. The withdrawal from Gaza, which turned into a disaster for the Israeli left and center, and which should have been viewed by the world as an awesome and generous gamble for peace, has instead turned into an awful nightmare and a pretext for accusing Israel of "genocide" and "occupation." Occupation or withdrawal, warmongering or peace loving, Israeli policies and actions become grist for the propaganda mill of the enemy.
In Operation Cast Lead as in the Second Lebanon War and in the diplomatic arena against the PLO, Hamas, Iran and Syria, Israel is being beaten time after time. It is never being beaten by a weapon, but rather by public relations and diplomacy. The "fluff" of image and narrative is as real as the steel of tanks, real enough to force important concessions and to seriously erode Israel's position.
The first step in repairing the problem is to recognize its existence and importance. The erosion of Israel's image is not a peripheral issue, but rather a central strategic threat that requires the urgent attention and resources of the Israeli government and the Zionist movement.
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