Israel is fighting the public relations battle over its image with decades-old weapons, former Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren said on Tuesday.
Speaking from The Jerusalem Post Conference’s panel on law, money and legitimacy moderated by reporter Khaled Abu Toameh, Oren said, “we are fighting a fight with weapons that are 20-30 years old. The key ammunition in ‘hasbara’ [public relations] were facts [in the past]. Facts don’t mean anything anymore. It’s not about facts, it’s about feelings.”
He said that the Palestinians and Israeli critics can dilute their messaging down to a few words like: “occupation, apartheid, colonialism” and that Israel is stuck trying to explain its 4,000-year historical narrative and context.
Instead, he said what has been more successful has been concrete actions, such as legislation in US states penalizing companies like Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, who boycotted Israel – or the Israeli settlements – back in July.
NGO Monitor Vice President Olga Deutsch said her organization’s research exposing links of certain NGOs to terror groups had succeeded in “cuts in funding of $72 million.”
She specifically noted recent probes by the EU, the Netherlands and Belgium of how public funds were being used by certain NGOs.
Deutsch also warned of a diverse toxic mix of anti-Israel activity crossing lines from grassroots groups to larger global entities like the International Criminal Court, saying NGOs try to hide behind these developments.
Former MK Michal Cotler-Wunsh warned that Israel now faces “a reality where international law and human rights have been weaponized… to demonize” Israel.
She said there is a “war being waged to delegitimize the State of Israel” in which “anti-Zionism becomes a form of antisemitism,” especially highlighting the mix of these ideologies during May’s Gaza War.
Blue and White MK Ruth Wasserman Lande addressed the current wave of Israeli-Arab violence and how that issue has played into criticism and delegitimization of Israel.
She said the key would be to find “how to mitigate” the wave of murders “and yet respect human rights. There are over 100 people dead and we are not even at the end of the year. We need to do drastic things to make this go away.”
“All of the mayors of Arab towns called for unusual steps, but unusual steps does not necessarily” mean harming human rights, Wasserman Lande said.