US expert says Israeli hasbara needs work

Argues Jewish students have a hard time advocating for Israel amidst jihadi message.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
"The Jewish community in the US today is facing multiple challenges, starting with deterioration in centrality of Israel to its world view because of strong pressure of extremist leftist forces that view the Palestinian issue as a part of their politically correct menu," Ariel Cohen, Heritage Foundation Senior Research Fellow has told The Jerusalem Post. A member of the Council of Foreign Relations, International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, and Association for the Study of Nationalities, Cohen, who often testifies on Capitol Hill and appears on major TV channels around the world, handles an impressive portfolio, which includes international energy security, Russia and Eurasia, and the Middle East. Cohen noted that many young Jewish students in the West have a hard time publicly advocating for Israel, or at least viewing the Arab-Israeli conflict realistically in the context of the onslaught of jihadi forces in the Middle East and beyond. "With the rise of Hamas the struggle against Israel is a part of the global jihad against free societies and democracies. There is a continuous failure of both Israeli "hasbara" (advocacy) and of American Jewish education to communicate very basic issues of dealing with Israel's history Israel's struggle for survival. Moreover, Israel's security predicament is often viewed through the prism of 'occupation,' not the current confrontation between the forces of radical Islam (both Shi'ite and Sunni) and the existing regimes in the region, and the onslaught against western and American interests on the Middle East," Cohen said. Cohen sees Israel's foreign policy lacking in several strategic aspects. "First of all, after the debacle of the Second Lebanon War, Israel's deterrent capabilities are no longer viewed as a sure thing by its enemies. Very little is done to rebuild this absolutely vital element," he said. "Secondly, Israel is not conducting information warfare as a part of general strategy to ensure survival of the Jewish state. Israeli spokespeople are not well trained and their message is often too curt and blurred. I am talking about information warfare in the West in the Middle East, and even when it comes to explaining to the Israeli population of some very basic things." I am talking about information warfare in the West in the Middle East, and even when it comes to explaining to the Israeli population of some very basic things - why are we here, why do we have to be here… That there was no "Naqba" (disaster) as extremist revisionist historians and their anti-Zionist fan club want us to believe. These issues are no longer self evident, as they were in 1948 and in 1967. The third important aspect is lacking of any strategy in Israel's foreign policy. The acceptance of Saudi/Arab League plan is the sign of that. If you read it carefully, it talks about the return of the so-called 1948 refugees into Israel proper. This plan is very dangerous; it does not recognize any border changes which are necessary for Israel's defense and survival. The Saudis claim this plan cannot be altered. So Israel is virtually negotiating itself out of existence. It must be remembered that peace processes in the Middle East worked only when there were breakthroughs of recognition. These were the cases when the Egyptian President Sadat came to Jerusalem and King Hussein of Jordan was ready to start openly negotiating with the State of Israel. Nothing of the kind came from Saudi Arabia so far, despite Israel's invitations. At this point Israel should declare that assumptions of the Oslo agreement and the Saudi initiative are no longer valid and no longer of interest. The country should attempt to negotiate a new platform that includes recognition of Israel, diplomatic ties, cessation of any anti-Israeli activity and propaganda", Cohen said. In addition, Cohen stressed that Israel is in need of strategic allies and here, paradoxically, while the attitude of the European countries is critical towards the Jewish state, it finds support in somewhat unexpected places. India and China are good examples, but moderate Muslim states of the ex-Soviet Union are of high importance also. Among these countries Kazakhstan stands out, as it demonstrated exemplary relations with Israel. President Nursultan Nazarbaev works to promote interfaith harmony, and Israel's relations with his country can constitute a model of Israel's relations with Muslim states. This country is interested in chairing the OSCE in 2009 and is striving to improve relations with Europe and US. The West has important interests to cultivate relations with Kazakhstan", Cohen said.