Even before I got involved in public diplomacy on behalf of my country, Israel, nobody had ever asked me if it is true that we all ride on camels in Israel. This question has never arisen. Ever.
What I have repeatedly been asked is why we don''t give land back to the Palestinians.
Yuli Edelstein is a politician in the Likud Party of Israel''s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu.In order to strengthen his political power base, Netanyahu created a new ministry for Edelstein.Posts had been covered in the Foreign Ministry, in the Prime Minister''s office, and also in the Jewish Agency and Aliyah Department, so Edelstein crafted his own niche with the newly formed Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
He was given new offices, staff, and a budget of a few million shekels a year to play with as he felt fit, without treading on the toes of his colleagues in the other ministries.
Edelstein has ambitions. He would like to see a new international news channel, something like an Israeli version of Al-Jazeera.
Great idea, especially if this gives Israel the opportunity of pumping out a strong, resolute, message to the world.
Edelstein is looking to increase his budget with addition Governmental and private funding to create this news channel outlet.
Edelstein agrees that there is something radically wrong with Israel''s ''hasbara'' efforts, but he doesn''t really appreciate what is wrong with the message. His explanations are confusing.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post in August he said, "There is the feeling that something is wrong, and there is an urge to point a finger at Israeli hasbara [public diplomacy]. In most cases, in this type of criticism, people don’t define what they mean by hasbara. I would have to say that hasbara is a combination of many fields – diplomatic, mass media, newspaper, new media, the Internet, social media, and working with Jewish communities and friends of Israel all around the world.”
Addressing the huge numbers of frustrated groups and individuals who desperately want to put out Israel''s message he said, "We’ve been working on creating an infrastructure of our friends and allies around the world, in the Jewish and Christian communities, which is not fully ready yet. It’s based on volunteers and professionals who will coordinate the transmission of accurate information."
”There are many things only volunteers can do. Writing on Facebook, Twitter blogs, and sending e-mails to friends is second to none. The best things people can do are not about money, but about doing things in the right way."
My reservation is that Yuli Edelstein, the Foreign Ministry, and the Prime Minister''s Office are not clear about that is the right way.
Edelstein''s office has produced a series of adverts, mainly in Hebrew but more recently in English, that shows a TV reporter explaining to his overseas audience that Israelis ride around on camels.
It is meant as a misconception of how people, who have no connection or accurate knowledge of our country, perceive Israel.
However, by repeating the message that Israelis ride around on camels leaves the impression that we really do ride around on camels.
Israelis who are departing from Ben Gurion Airport are given pamphlets so that they can become ambassadors for Israel when they go abroad.
Edelstein''s Public Diplomacy Ministry are trying to rebrand Israel. I have news for him. The brand, whatever it is, is not being adopted or accepted by the world.
The Palestinians, on the other hand, have created a highly successful brand.Since 1967 they have repeated one message. Their land was stolen from them by the Zionists, who are occupying their land.
This message has been repeated ad nausea by every Palestinian at every opportunity. It has been taken up by the international community, it is being fostered by diplomats, it is being manufactured by the world print and televised media. It is quoted by Israeli Arabs who identify themselves not as loyal members of the state into which they were born, but as Palestinians. We even have elected Members of Israel''s Knesset who openly claim that this is not their country, our President is not their President, our National Anthem is not their anthem. They sit there as strangers, even enemies, in our national Parliament, and denounce our country.
And what is the official response from our own Government representatives to this false claim.There isn''t one.
No Israeli Government, not the current one, nor those going back decades, have simply expressed one resounding truth - that the sovereign rights to the land belong exclusively to Israel, and these rights are enshrined in international law.
We can quote our biblical claims to the land as and integral part of our heritage. We can point to the Balfour Declaration. But more profoundly, we can also point to more recent events that concrete our sovereignty going back to the 1920 San Remo Declaration following by the 1922 League of Nations Resolution that adopted that Palestine was to be the national home of the Jewish People.
Their resolution for the Mandate of Palestine recognised "the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting their national home in the country".
It further confirmed that ''The Principle Allied Powers favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".
Article 4 reiterated that "An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and cooperating with the Administration of Palestine in economic, social, and other matters as may effect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and assist and take part in the development of the country".
So far no mention of a Palestinian people, because there was none.
Further, the League of nations stated that the existing Zionist Organisation should be recognised as the agency and "It shall take steps to secure the cooperation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home".
Again, the Jewish national home - not any Palestinian Arab or Islamic state.
In order to clarify, and prevent, the incursion of any foreign body into the legitimate rights of the Jews to a nation state of their own, Article 5 clearly states: "The Mandatory (the British Government at that time) shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestinian territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of the Government of any foreign power".
According this the above, Winston Churchill acted illegally when he carved the territory east of the River Jordan and gave it to King Abdullah to create Trans-Jordan. Jordan legally belongs to Israel.
With reference to the land, including the disputed territories, Article 6 refers to the legality of settlement activities.
"The Administration of Palestine shall facilitate Jewish immigration and shall encourage close settlement by Jews on the land including State lands and waste lands not required for public purpose".
Quoting the legal right of Jews to citizenship Article 7 states, "There shall be included the framing of a nationality law so as to facilitate the requisition of citizenship of Jews who take up permanent residence in Palestine".
Note the emaphasis on Jewish citizenship. This is being denied by our so- called ''partners for peace''.
It is vital to note that the League of Nations Resolution on Palestine was approved by the Arab delegates who were given other lands in compensation.
It was further preserved in international law by the repeated resolution of the newly formed United Nations (which replaced the League of Nations) in 1945.It is important to stress that the Jewish peoples right to reestablish their national state in the biblical land of Israel was enshrined in international law decades before the Holocaust.
It is a gross misinterpretation of history to suggest that the State of Israel found a legal basis as a result of Auschwitz.
If repeated international resolutions, both in the League of Nations and later in the General Assembly of the United Nations, bestowed unique international legal rights upon Israel it''s de facto existence is the result of repeated belligerency of its enemies, and the resolve of the Jewish people to survive.
No other nation can claim to have their national rights so firmly entrenched in international resolutions, and international law, as the State of Israel.
Palestinian, for all their protests, can make no such claim.
Israeli Governments have a huge advantage.
The land is ours to give, or not to give. This is our prerogative, not theirs.
This simple message expresses a simple and profound truth. It should remain as the bedrock of our international position. It should be the starting point in every negotiation.
Those who call themselves Palestinians may argue differently, but they have no history of nationhood, no legal sovereignty bestowed upon them, and no amount of Palestinian narrative can make it so.
The day that the Palestinian leadership tell their own people, in their own language, that their only option is a permanent peace with the Jewish State of Israel as their neighbour is the day that peace will break out.
Israel''s sovereign rights to the land does not need to imply an ambition to create a Greater Israel, though this has a legal basis. It does, however, present a very strong opening position in any negotiation with the Palestinians.
The fact that subsequent Israeli Governments have failed to declare this basic legitimate right to our existence is absolutely staggering.
It is nothing short of negligence of dangerous proportions.
It has led to it becoming both an existential and internal threat to the very legitimacy of our nation as our right to exist is being called into question.
Israeli Governments may have failed us, but they could take Yuli Edelstein''s budget and office and have him repeat this one message, constantly, at every opportunity.
The land is ours under international law.
They should place adverts in all languages proving this important position.
Israelis should be issued with the relevant historic documents proving our rights so that they can truly be our ambassadors as they travel abroad and face a hostile environment.
Our students would be armed by the facts that prove our legitimate rights to be here as they battle the lies on the campuses of the world.
We need to hear this message coming, repeatedly, from our own elected representatives before we can expect to hear it coming back to us by the rest of the world.
Is it too late to adopt this honest and straightforward truth?
Maybe, but it is certainly more relevant than telling the world that we ride on camels.