Postscript: Time for Israel to join the world

This country has so much to be proud of it is almost a sin that it feels the need for a ministry of information, or public diplomacy, as it is politely called.

Shadow of couple on Israeli flag 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Shadow of couple on Israeli flag 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Israelis in particular and Jews in general love to complain about how much the world hates us, as if the hatred of others is what makes Israel legitimate.
It is time to move on, to take the victimhood out of the modern Jewish state, now approaching 65, and to live our lives without constantly having to explain ourselves to others, or to seek their approval.
It is time to live by our actions and deeds, and to bury hasbara – the Hebrew word for explaining the country’s positions that has no precise translation into any known language, and with good reason.
It is time to stop whining and complaining, and looking for media bias behind every sentence or headline. It is time to stop knee-jerk reactions to every claim by every blogger, to every insult hurled in Israel’s direction. You want to call me an apartheid state? Go ahead. Screw you!
That said, it is time for Israel to become part of the family of nations, for becoming part of the UN’s humanitarian mechanism, instead of hiding behind the legitimate, but irrelevant, claim that the majority of the UN’s members hate us.
Instead of wasted speeches and cries of “foul,” prove them wrong. Flood UN humanitarian mechanisms with Israelis who have so much to contribute in every field; use the UN to show off Israeli ingenuity in agriculture, health, educational techniques to the world. Integrate Israeli soldiers and police into international peacekeeping forces, and use Israeli technologies to help fight international piracy.
Let Israeli actions replace the spin doctors, the message mongers and the apologists. Israel should fight to become more active in the International Red Cross. Israel’s contribution here can be tremendous. Few countries have more experience in disaster management, field medicine, search and rescue, whatever, than Israel.
Instead of berating the UN and the ICRC, looking for excuses why Israel should detest these organizations, Israel would do well to embrace them. Spurning them means international isolation; embracing them is the path to international acceptability. If you want to join the world, you have to join it.
Isolationism is a losing strategy. The lager is no longer an effective form of defense. Israel was voted into being by the family of nations, has developed into a productive member of that family, and now has to share its experience with others; to give back from where it came.
This country has so much to be proud of it is almost a sin that it feels the need for a ministry of information, or public diplomacy, as it is politely called. We have trained diplomats and spokespeople to make Israel’s case and the more Israel becomes a productive part of the international community, the easier their work will be.
I am not blind to the inherent prejudice in such UN organs as the Human Rights Council, or that the ICRC was vitriolic in its opposition to the Magen David Adom being recognized as an international symbol, while it recognized the Red Crescent. I know of the absurdities in some of the UN’s structures and that countries with horrible human rights records occupy seats meant for saints, and of Israel’s troubled relations with the ICRC, specifically over Palestinian prisoner issues.
So what? It would seem all the more reason to change our relationships with these organizations through positive interaction, not constant complaining about them; to make them see how absurd their slurs and accusations are, how different the real Israel is from the one they continue to vilify.
Israel’s aid in international disasters has been sporadic. When there is a problem we are there if invited, and usually manage to do an excellent job to the point where former adversaries, like Sri Lanka, have become friends. The work Israeli teams did in Haiti was exemplary and received kudos from around the world.
These efforts have all been unorganized and spontaneous, yet the praise has been tremendous. If these are solidified and turned into permanent ongoing functions in the structures of the international community, Israel will need no hasbara – its name will speak for itself.
It is always said that one should recognize one’s enemy, but also opportunity.
The world needs Israel’s help to solve hunger and disease, to teach and help the less fortunate, to police and keep order, to be an example to others, not a magnet for abuse and discrimination.
Judge Richard Goldstone, the author of the report on Israel’s actions in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9, which was initially so devastating for Israel, later said that had Israel cooperated with him and his commission at the time of the inquiry his report would have been totally different.
Instead of continuing to demonize Goldstone, it would be good to listen to what he subsequently said and draw the necessary conclusions. Israel has nothing to hide and little to apologize for. The great pity is that we were too fixated on the prejudices of others rather than on recognizing our own strengths, and pointing fingers at others rather than acting like a sovereign nation with much to contribute to a world that in many parts is less fortunate than us.
It is time for Israel to stand up for what it is, not keep on explaining what it isn’t; to join the family of nations, not spurn it.
The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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