When it comes to representing Israel against the libels and boycott campaigns,
the Israeli government is not on the battlefield. Its record is a
Every action taken against us – the Goldstone Report, the
flotilla incident, the Muhammed al-Dura case and the Israel apartheid libel –
has been a complete failure when it comes to the official Israeli
There is a case to be made that the government is supposed to
be active in public diplomacy – to represent Israel officially, in real
diplomacy, government to government.
It doesn’t seem to now and this may
explain why NGOs find visits to the Foreign Ministry and Knesset forums so
In South Africa, the anti-Israel Open Shuhada
Street NGO has three times more paid employees than the Israeli Embassy in
Pretoria. This is one reason why we are getting hammered in the South African
media, in their national politics, on the campus there. We are simply unable to
get any meaningful support from our government.
The Israeli government
was roundly criticized by a distinguished panel of activists at a recent public
meeting of Truth Be Told for its “declining budgets and mindless mind-sets.” NGO
Monitor relays to us the massive funding of anti-Israel NGOs from European
governments under the guise of “human rights” and social programs, amounting to
millions of euros. Yet it is impossible for effective pro-Israel groups to
receive any handout from government sources to mount any successful action in
defense of Israel’s damaged reputation.
For those of us fighting the good
fight, it seems as if our anti-Israel enemy has a bottomless well of funding,
and he never sleeps.
Our government, I am sure, is aware of the dangerous
threat of the demonization and delegitimization of Israel, and yet it has no
answer and it has no action plan.
Neither is it willing to listen to the
advice of those fighting the good fight as to how it can help the
With the inauguration of the new government, the first victim was
the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry. With the elevation of Yuli
Edelstein to Knesset Speaker his ministry was dismantled. I have one question:
Can anyone tell me what it did during the brief period of its existence, save
for flying Edelstein to pompous events as the government’s figurehead and
receiving VIPs visiting Israel? Can anyone point to one effective and successful
piece of action from this ministry in response to the wall of lies and hypocrisy
against our country? It has gone, and nobody has noticed its
This is more than a shame. It is a tragic example of government
incompetence to those of us who carry the scars of the battle for
IT IS true that in Danny Ayalon’s tenure as deputy foreign
minister, he understood the importance and strength of social media and produced
a number of excellent short videos that are still useful tools in our arsenal.
However, his intervention was a rare example of coordination between a ministry
and those battling to place Israel’s narrative before a wider public. Rather, in
regular circumstances, it is left to independent bodies to win the hearts and
minds of the undecided.
One prime example is the Interdisciplinary Center
Herzliya, which sponsored the Situation Room to counter the fraudulent message
of the Gaza flotilla. Let’s recall the hasbara (public diplomacy) disaster of
the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, when the government produced the evidence too
little and too late. It has taken us years and we still haven’t lived down the
official bungling. In 2011, the IDC donated an office and a bank of computers,
as we called for a team of foreign language volunteers to battle the flotilla
liars with truth – which we presented on Twitter, Facebook, blogs and
self-produced websites. The daily messages reached hundreds of thousands of
people in Europe and throughout the world, and helped enormously in having them
question the motives of the flotilla extremists. We destroyed their message of
being on a “humanitarian mission.” As an adjunct to this exercise, it was
Jonathan Lux, a London-based lawyer and a member of UK Lawyers for Israel, who
initiated a phone call to an Athens-based colleague that led to the flotillas
being held in lockdown in Piraeus harbor. Such is the power of the individual
and the volunteer when officialdom fails in its duty.
This year, the IDC
under the guidance of Jonathan Davis, its vice president for external relations,
sent five beautiful Israelis of Ethiopian background to Cape Town to counter the
hateful Israel Apartheid Week. Their presence there was a shock to the
anti-Israel organizers, as it projected the true face of Israel as a “rainbow
nation” and blew the slanderous message of Israel being a racist state out of
the water. Davis and IDC intend to send similar teams to Britain and other
campuses throughout Europe.
This is one perfect example of what can be
achieved by non-governmental means. This counter-offensive could be so much more
effective and widespread if only the government would support such
Not only are government officials and well-connected
Israelis not fighting on our side, they can often be found in the camp of our
enemy. A perfect example of this has been the lone battle of Philippe Karsenty,
who for decades has been fighting the Dura blood libel. When the news broke on
September 30, 2000, that a Palestinian boy had been killed by Israeli gunfire at
Netzarim junction, the IDF admitted responsibility, and in a kneejerk reaction
offered an apology for the incident. It was only later that it was proven that
the IDF had no part in the incident – which Karsenty spent a decade proving to
be a hoax perpetrated by France 2 TV, in collaboration with Palestinian media
Karsenty pleaded for the support of the Israeli government in the
lawsuits brought against him by France 2 and Canal 22. None was
Karsenty claimed that prominent Israelis such as Kadima’s
Yisrael Hasson, who had served in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency),
endorsed France 2’s Charles Enderlin, who claimed in his book A Child is Killed
that he had the support of the IDF and the Shin Bet. The only doctor to support
Enderlin was Rafi Walden, who is the son-in-law of President Shimon Peres,
according to Karsenty. Even after Karsenty won his case and the message was out
there that the Dura case was a media fraud, he continued to find antagonism from
Yigal Palmor of the Foreign Ministry, and even from current Justice Minister
Tzipi Livni. When Karsenty offered to gift his hard-earned success to the
Israeli government, in order for it to officially expose the bias and in the
case of France 2 and the Palestinians, the deliberate Dura fraud against Israel,
Livni responded with “We don’t care about that,” according to his account to a
Los Angeles audience.
Now we read in The Jerusalem Post that a government
panel has just come to the conclusion that the IDF did not kill Dura. Good
morning, Israeli government! Where have you been for the last 13 years? Karsenty
has spent eight years and his private resources after coming to that conclusion
in 2000 – that the IDF did not kill Dura and that the whole incident was a hoax.
Such is the disastrous state of Israeli public diplomacy.
worthy advocates out there who are willing to put themselves on the line for
Israel. They are ready to take up Israel’s case on university campuses along
with IDC and StandWithUs, against the media with Honest Reporting, in the courts
with those such as Karsenty and UK Lawyers for Israel, and to win the hearts and
minds of public opinion with groups such as Truth Be Told and many others.
However, they need to know that the Israeli government stands with them in an
active and affirmative manner.
The question is: Who is there in the
lethargic, bumbling world of Israeli politics and official bureaucracy who is
able to reach out in any type of Knesset or Foreign Ministry forum and listen to
what can be done? Is there anybody in there hearing this message? Or are we
alone, the individual NGOs and grassroots groups, to fight against a wall of
hate and lies, as we attempt to reclaim the narrative for Israel? ■
is the author of Israel: Reclaiming the Narrative, www.israelnarrative.com. He
is also the special consultant on delegitimization issues to the Strategic
Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College.