Pro-Israel demonstrators battle anti-Zionism at Swedish rally.
(photo credit: DANA SOMBERG)
While the anti-Israel forces of the world realized early the importance of an effective propaganda campaign, the pro-Israel camp is still playing catch-up. Granted we are fewer in number and face media bias, antisemitism, Muslim oil, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the list goes on. All these factors also work against the State of Israel but given the fact that it is today the most powerful and successful country in the Middle East there is no reason to believe it can’t also win the propaganda war.
Although it is crucial to correct the historical, factual lies about Israel, that can only serve as the first step in bringing people to our side. Another new and effective Israeli public diplomacy approach is to focus on the positive aspects of Israel’s society – a society with democratic values that aims not only to improve itself but also the world through innovation, charity and compassion.
Both public diplomacy methods serve as fundamental building blocks in our mission to improve Israel’s image around the world.
The next step should be to convince people in the free and democratic world that they gain more by supporting Israel than by condemning it.
The leaders of the democratic world punish Israel for two main reasons: to appeal to anti-Israel voters at home and to gain favor with Islamist and tyrannical regimes abroad.
Both are only beneficial in the short term but counterproductive for a democratic society in the long term.
Anti-Israel movements in the West are built on concepts that are antithetical to a democratic society: historical revisionism, antisemitism, suppression of free speech, boycotts, extreme political views (bordering on communism and fascism), tendentiousness and even violence.
Encouraging and strengthening these forces will inevitably lead to other undeserving victims besides Israel and the Jewish communities around the world.
Secondly, many governments in the democratic world abuse Israel because of simple math: Israel is one country, one vote in international forums, representing about 8 million people, while the Islamist and tyrannical regimes form a voting bloc of around 120 countries (nearly two-thirds of the UN members), representing more than half of the world’s population.
Israel should be supported instead of condemned because it shares the same values and ambitions as the free and democratic world. By condemning the only democracy in the Middle East, one marginalizes democratic values while at the same time emboldening the totalitarian forces of the world.
For example, instead of learning from Israel’s decades of experience in dealing with radical Islamic terrorism as a democracy, the free world is obsessed with restraining Israel and as a result unintentionally weakens its own abilities to defend itself. Because Israel was blamed for the civilian casualties caused by Hamas’ use of human shields, Islamic State and other terrorist organizations are now using the same method. Other Palestinian forms of terrorism, including the hijacking of aircraft, knife attacks and most recently vehicular ramming attacks have been copied by terrorists targeting democracies.
If the free world had supported Israel’s fight against these forms of terrorism it would have been much better prepared to face them now.
The free world should thus focus on strengthening democracies while weakening tyrannies. It should promote democratic values and work against totalitarianism, oppression and intolerance. For that to genuinely happen, the double standard used against Israel must end.
The fact is that Israel has not only managed to survive as a democracy in one of the most hostile regions in the world but also managed to transform itself from a thirdworld desert into a high-tech superpower in three generations should serve as an inspiration to the free world. Israel has proven that freedom and prosperity can be achieved anywhere in the world against seemingly insurmountable odds as long as you remain true to democratic values.
Israel should be supported not only to protect the Jewish people from yet another genocide but to send a message to the tyrannical forces of the world that the free world stands united in opposing them and that no place is out of our reach. It would also send an encouraging message to the people who are oppressed by tyrants that freedom and prosperity can reach them too as long as they are devoted to democratic ideals.
This is a much more constructive, optimistic and inspiring policy instead of trading short term benefits with the world’s undemocratic forces.
The author is a member of the Jewish Diplomatic Corps, a flagship program of the World Jewish Congress, and a board member of the Zionist Federation of Sweden. Follow him on Twitter: @GabRosenberg.