Jeremy Ruden 58.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the past few weeks, the country has been embroiled in the chief of General
Staff scandal. The Barak/Netanyahu/Galant/Nave h story was front-page almost
every day. News outlets from across the spectrum were in agreement that the
appointment of a chief of General Staff is where politics have to stop; only
professional credentials must be the deciding factor.
This was a media
coup. You can bet that there were many civil servants working behind the scenes
to fan the flames of the story until it became such a huge headline that the
only real endgame was to overturn the defense minister’s decisions.
not in any position to judge the credentials of Yoav Galant, Yair Naveh or Benny
Gantz, but I can say that the only reason this became such a big story was
because it dealt with the top position in the IDF. The fact of the matter is
that everywhere you look, there are officials holding positions, not because of
their credentials, but because of who they know.
They have a word for it
– protektzia – otherwise known as vitamin P. The best translation I can think of
is “favoritism,” but that doesn’t do the word justice.
Of course I
understand that officials get jobs for their friends and allies, and that’s
simply a fact of life. But when it comes to the people manning the frontlines in
the hasbara war, protektzia should not be a factor.
I first became aware
of the problem when I was still working in New York and the second intifada was
in full swing.
The people sent to explain Israel’s position just ended up
making matters worse. Some were former generals, overweight and with broken
These guys had no business on camera.
One of the key
spokesmen was very belligerent and spoke so loudly that he almost didn’t need a
satellite feed from Jerusalem. Those people had been with the administration or
the army for a long time.
They ended up getting their jobs because of who
they knew, not based on their ability to effectively advocate.
situation is not as bad, but we still have a long way to go. We’ve had some good
spokespeople, including Mark Regev at the Prime Minister’s Office, who does a
nice job on camera. Binyamin Netanyahu was smart enough not to show him the
door, although he was appointed by Ehud Olmert. But let’s face it, the
diplomatic and hasbara fields are drowning in protektzia and
Regev’s case is the exception; most of the top people are
swiftly replaced once a new administration takes office.
Look at the
appointments (or lack thereof) at our delegation at the UN, the consulate in New
York and our embassy in Washington. It’s not much better in other
One of the main spokesmen for this country can barely speak
English. The head of the one of the key government offices dealing with the
international press has no media experience.
Last week, in one of his
final speeches as chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi briefly
mentioned the importance of the IDF’s role in clarifying the country’s actions
to the world. The majority of his address focused on military readiness,
developments in Egypt, Hizbullah and Hamas and many other important topics. For
the army, hasbara is secondary, and maybe that’s how it should be.
fact of the matter is that our enemies understand the importance of image, so
attacking our legitimacy in the international media is just as important to them
as rockets. We need the same sense of urgency to get our defenses up against
We can ill-afford protektzia when it comes to
That’s my “Galant” moment.The writer is an independent
media consultant, an adjunct lecturer at IDC Herzliya’s School of
Communications, and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in New