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This year the Jewish People Policy Institute identified five key issues
affecting the Jewish world to debate in its working groups at its annual
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These touched on the peace talks, delegitimization of Israel,
Israel- Diaspora ties, the future of European Jewry and the conversion
Of all the complex topics, perhaps the most pressing one which has
gathered steam in recent years is the erosion of international recognition of
Israel’s right to exist. Places that were once bulwarks of support for Israel,
like campuses in the US, have become less friendly for supporters of the Jewish
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog, a former Defense Ministry
official who chaired the JPPI panel on the delegitimization of Israel, sat down
to answer a few questions relating to this growing trend and what can be done to
Why was this issue chosen to be on the agenda this year?
“JPPI believes this is one of the more critical issues in the Jewish world at
the moment. Today we came here and asked lots and lots of questions,
offered lots of diagnoses, but now we need to offer prognoses too. The booklet
handed out at the conference has 10 pages devoted to introducing and analyzing
the issue of the delegitimization of Israel, but only a page and a half offering
policy guidelines and tools.”
What actions do you propose taking to
combat the phenomenon?
“Well, one suggestion today was to make tailor-made
groups to tackle specific issues. There is a wide variety of directions that
criticism of Israel’s right to exist come from. It’s a broad front. Also, we
think that instead of being on the defensive we should be on the
Can you give one example of an operative plan?
“We think we
need to increase our profile on campuses in Europe and the US. We need to find
funding and support the creation of more student organizations. At the moment
Hillel is alone at that front. We need to bolster them.
“Another area is
cyberspace. Some at the panel said we’re neglecting it. If someone spreads a
false rumor [in cyberspace], it keeps getting repeated and repeated. By the time
you dispel it, the damage is done. We have to increase our presence
Do you think Israel’s problems are of style rather than
substance? In other words, can Israel’s image change without its policies
“We discussed hasbara [public diplomacy] a lot during our debate and
reached the conclusion that it isn’t enough, we need policy change too. If one
thinks that all we need to do is explain ourselves better, then that’s a