Full disclosure: I am extremely pro-Israel and intensely proud of being a Canadian Jew. When asked why as a proud Canadian I feel this way, I explain that I firmly believe in the Jewish people’s right to be a sovereign nation.
It is time we, the supporters of Israel, take control of our own narrative. As the saying goes, we need to get off our back foot and go on the offense. Israel deserves no less.
The mainstreaming of anti-Israel hate and the delegitimization of Israel as a sovereign nation has now metastasized into popular culture. In just a few weeks, we’ve seen hatred toward Jews spewed into the mainstream from Kanye West, Kyrie Irving, Roger Waters, and many more. From a public relations standpoint, I think it’s fair to say that we have failed. We’ve let our guard down.
Some liberals and progressives in the United States and Europe will hide behind the issues of the territories or blame Israelis living in Judea and Samaria or the Israeli government for the rise of overt antisemitism. But let’s be honest and review the facts. The blaring antisemitism that is rampant these days is not about the territories, and it never was.
The fact that the PLO, a terrorist liberation organization, was chartered in 1964, three full years before there was any so-called “occupation,” is either, at best, misunderstood and often not even known. The false narrative that has been broadly and erroneously established today, frequently among liberal democrats and the chattering class, is that there is no peace because there are “occupied territories.” This is factually untrue.
To be clear - in 1964, there was nothing “occupied” to be “liberated,” but that didn’t stop the formation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). The false narrative of occupation and liberation began to spread well before there were disputed territories in Israel. The fact is, the antisemites who loathe Jews and Israelis simply do not believe in Israel’s right to exist at all, territories or not.
Facts are always important, and context is as well. The territories are disputed land. They were not “taken” or “stolen,” as some wish to falsely portray. In 1967 Israel was forced to fight a defensive war to stave off annihilation once again. It was from precisely those lands that Arab armies were massed in order to annihilate and put an end to the world’s only Jewish state.
Of course, today those territories have become a de facto impediment to peace, due to the false narrative that has now been shamefully accepted in the capitals of western Europe and certainly in the Democratic party in the United States. I am not naive; today, they are an impediment. That does not change the “fact” that they are not the reason for the lack of peace.
It is past time for liberals and progressives in the United States and Europe to acknowledge the historical and present-day realities. The Palestinian narrative of victimization has been all too easily accepted, and the facts have been ignored.
The fact that the Arabs rejected the United Nations partition in 1947. The fact that the PLO was chartered in 1964 precisely because they never accepted the UN, making Israel a sovereign Jewish state in the first place.
It would have been nice had President Obama stated in his 2009 speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo before the entire Arab world that Israel was legitimately remade sovereign once more, because of its historical roots, and not as he implied as some sort of “colonial implant” resulting from the guilt of western nations because of the Holocaust. With one line, this presumed brilliant President could have deconstructed the big lie. He chose not to.
The lack of peace has never been about the territories. Make no mistake; the West Bank and Gaza (which has been relinquished), along with the Golan Heights, are not the reason for the lack of peace in the region. This is what needs to be stated boldly and frequently. Israel should not be afraid to ruffle feathers. Israel should not be afraid to justify what took place in 1948 or 1967.
I am tired of Israel’s poor public relations posture and how this false narrative has permeated into some twisted sense of truth used to condone antisemitism. The Jewish people should not be afraid to engage in this debate to set the facts straight. We should not be afraid to offend sensibilities. I believe Israelis are ready for peace, but a peace that must be based on facts.
Jon Josephson is a retired marketing director. For over 20 years, he has been involved in the fight to defend Israel in the public domain, with an emphasis on fighting antisemitism and how Israel is portrayed in the media.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Adam Milstein.