Israel is badly losing the PR battle - opinion

We need an “Israel Digital Defense Force,” a global network of social media influencers who care about truth and freedom in the Middle East and the Jewish people as a light unto the nations.

 MODELS GIGI HADID (left) and Bella Hadid present a creation during Milan Fashion Week in 2020. If they lived in Gaza or Ramallah and dared to dress like that, they would be in immediate mortal danger. (photo credit: ALESSANDRO GAROFALO/REUTERS)
MODELS GIGI HADID (left) and Bella Hadid present a creation during Milan Fashion Week in 2020. If they lived in Gaza or Ramallah and dared to dress like that, they would be in immediate mortal danger.
(photo credit: ALESSANDRO GAROFALO/REUTERS)

There are two areas that Jews truly suck at, sports and public relations. In sports, we’re getting a little bit better. Just look at how well Yeshiva University is doing at basketball. But in PR we remain as hopeless as we’ve always been. The rule of thumb in PR is that there is no lie you can say about the Jews that will not be believed and to which the Jewish people cannot effectively respond.

Two-thousand years ago the Christians said we killed god. How on earth do you kill god? Isn’t god all-powerful? Aren’t humans, including Jews, by definition inferior to, and powerless in the face of god? No matter, the world not only believed it but slaughtered us for 2,000 years for killing god.

Then they said we poisoned the wells of Europe and created the Black Death. Now wait a second. Weren’t we drinking the same water? And are there enough Jews to poison all the wells of Europe? There were barely any Jews in Europe. No matter. They slaughtered us for that too.

Then they said we murdered Christian children and put their blood in our matzot. Seriously? What are Jews, vampires? And iccchhh, blood? Gross. We Jews were taught to despise the very sight of blood. I hate liver. It makes my skin crawl. Yuck, all that blood. And it can only be koshered by removing every hint of blood. But again, the blood libel spread and we Jews were murdered in droves for the non-murder of Christian children. 

Which brings us to the present day and the vilification of Israel, which is out of control. Who would have believed that the only democracy in the Middle East would be successfully portrayed as its only tyranny? Who would have believed that the only Middle Eastern country with religious freedoms would be successfully portrayed as religiously intolerant?

GIGI HADID and Bella Hadid attend the Harper’s Bazaar Exhibition last year in Paris. (credit: PASCAL LE SEGRETAIN/GETTY IMAGES/TNS)GIGI HADID and Bella Hadid attend the Harper’s Bazaar Exhibition last year in Paris. (credit: PASCAL LE SEGRETAIN/GETTY IMAGES/TNS)

Who would have believed that the only country in the Middle East with minority rights protections would be portrayed as barbaric toward minorities? And who would have believed that the only Middle Eastern country with press freedom would be successfully demonized by a free press?

It’s time to ask the question. Why are we Jews so awful at PR? Is it something in our DNA? Are we Jews just congenitally bad at communication? Do we just suck at explaining ourselves? I believe the explanation is simple.

We’ve been taught for so long that the truth will ultimately triumph that we simply don’t believe that it won’t. We in the Jewish community see that the lies told against us are so extreme that we don’t believe that anyone else will believe them. Little do we realize that the bigger the lie the greater the likelihood that it will be believed.

Brazen lies are more likely to be believed simply because of their brazenness. The logic is this: If this outlandish statement was not true, then the accuser would not say it because it’s too big a lie to even attempt to get away with it.

So President Vladimir Putin does not tell Ukraine that Russia must fight them because they represent a threat to Russia’s security. Rather, Ukraine’s Jewish president is an actual Nazi.

Likewise, Israel, according to the Palestinian, is not an unjust country. It’s Nazi Germany. Israel should not be rebuked. It should be boycotted into economic destruction. Israel did not kill a Palestinian female journalist by accident (if it did at all), but rather it planned an entire military campaign just to shoot her in the head. 

Just remember. Hitler didn’t tell little lies about the Jews. He didn’t say the Jews are, say, an ungenerous community, or are too insular. Rather, he said they are a bacillus, a germ, a parasite living off the German body politic and the international Jew would never be satisfied until Germany was sucked dead and dry. And people believed it and murdered the Jews for it.

Bella and Gigi Hadid have become two of the worst antisemites in America. Nearly every day they post photos of themselves half naked to promote their various business interests. Interspersed within those semi-nude posts is the vile vitriol against Israel and support for the Palestinian cause. Of course, if they had lived in Gaza or Ramallah and ever dared to dress like that, they would be in immediate mortal danger. Likewise, if they openly had a boyfriend in either area the same would be true.

Don’t think for one moment that they don’t know it. The chances of either sister’s Vogue cover photo ever appearing on the streets of Jenin are about the same as my being elected the next pope. 

And yet every day they just continue to lie, and lie and lie. Who is the real terror in the Middle East? Israel. Who denies women’s rights? Israel. Who is the danger to peace in the Middle East? Israel. And what is the result? Why, it’s Anna Wintour putting them on the cover of Vogue again and again and again. 

Which brings us to this conclusion. PR for Jewish people is a matter of life and death. Unless we wake up to the mortal consequences of defamation, we will continue to see Jewish life devalued and lost. The solution is the immediate creation of an “Israel Digital Defense Force,” a global network of social media influencers who care about truth and freedom in the Middle East and the Jewish people as a light unto the nations.

Such a network could immediately respond to the demonstrable falsehoods of giant influencers like the Hadid sisters in real time, before their defamation has a chance to spread. When I was in high school, I loved playing football and loved playing quarterback. The problem was that at 5”6, I usually could not see over the heads of the front line. No matter, I would scramble out of the pocket to throw the ball to receivers downfield. 

Now, as a rabbi many years later, I’ve made peace with the fact that I was never drafted to the NFL. Besides, who wants to be crushed by giant linebackers who squish you into a kugel. But while I personally may not excel at sports, I’m committed to helping our people overcome our other historical handicap. We must learn to master the art of communications and the art of public relations lest our enemies triumph in the eternal battle of darkness over light.

The writer, America’s Rabbi, is the author most recently of Kosher Hate: Using Moral Outrage to Fight Antisemitism, Racism, and Bigotry. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.