Isaac Herzog: Network would have balanced Arab bias, but treasury rejected idea for 'lack of funds.'
By HAVIV RETTIG GUR, JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Aware of the delegitimization of Israel that Al-Jazeera and other Arab television networks are helping to foster, the government contemplated setting up a "Jewish Al-Jazeera," Isaac Herzog said on Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Treasury shot down the idea, citing a lack of funds, said the minister for welfare and social services, who is also responsible for Diaspora relations.
Herzog spoke in a panel at the Herzliya Conference devoted to exploring the global assault on Israel's legitimacy and seeking tools to combat the phenomenon.
"We considered establishing a Jewish Al-Jazeera, especially one that would broadcast in Arabic and Farsi," he said. "But that was torpedoed by the Finance Ministry, which refused to pay for it."
The panel, hosted by Gidi Mark, director-general of birthright israel, included Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor, who painted a bleak picture of the UK as particularly hostile to Israel, noting that the relatively supportive approach of the British government was at odds with the stance that dominated both the media and academia. Indeed, Prosor described Britain's university campuses as the global "capital of the one-state solution."
And he warned that "where Britain is today, is where America will be in a few years' time."
Delegitimization of Israel was gathering pace across Europe, with France, Italy and Germany among the other countries where the government's relatively warm stance on Israel was unrepresentative of wider sentiment, he said.
Dr. Boaz Morad, of the Insight Research Group, acknowledged the firm basis of American political support for Israel, but stressed that the wider US public "doesn't really know" Israel, half-joking that many Americans think of Israel as "a country of rabbis and soldiers."
That lack of real familiarity, he cautioned, meant that when incidents such as last month's IDF shelling near an UNRWA school in Gaza took place, with heavy loss of life, Americans were less likely "to give Israel the benefit of the doubt" than they would be if they knew more about the Jewish state.
Since Israel could hardly bring all Americans over to visit, Morad recommended a heavy focus on "bringing Israel to America" via campaigns to highlight the vibrant diversity of the Israeli reality.
Israel performed effectively on the propaganda front during Operation Cast Lead, he said, with articulate spokespeople responding to the difficult footage and film from Gaza.
Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz argued that success on the "second battlefield" of media and public diplomacy required a far more serious and strategic approach than is the case at present.
In his remarks, Horovitz urged the establishment of a well-resourced hierarchy, with cabinet-level clout, to act on that second battlefield, overseeing official PR, mounting information campaigns in the foreign media, reaching out to politicians and opinion-leaders worldwide, coordinating campus activities and more.
"It is hard to articulate the wider narrative [that explains context and root-causes of conflict] over film of bloodied Palestinian children," Horovitz acknowledged. "But Israel maintains a criminal strategic insistence on barely trying. There is no Israeli satellite TV station, in English or Arabic. Our foreign language radio broadcasts are dying for lack of funds. And the prime minister sails blithely on with his single English spokesperson."
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