February 21: Hasbara failures...

Dubinsky, who came from a leading Jewish family in St. Louis, told his fellow teammates that he was not going to compete in Nazi Germany.

letters (photo credit: JP)
(photo credit: JP)
Hasbara failures...
Sir, – Israel could write a book: How to Lose Friends and Kill World Opinion (“US Congressional supporters of J Street blast Ayalon’s ‘boycott,’” February 18). We have one friend left in the world, itself divided between those who support Israel and those who haven’t made up their minds yet, and we are making sure we lose the latter by not granting them free access to Foreign Ministry officials.

Ramat Hasharon
Sir, – Once again, Danny Ayalon rides roughshod over people and protocol. It wasn’t bad enough that he had to insult the Turkish ambassador by seating him at a lower level, displaying only the Israel flag and not the Turkish one, and lecturing him on “proper diplomatic manners.” Now he has to insult a group of American members of Congress who respect and support J Street by claiming the organization is not pro-Israel. This man is a menace to Israel’s interests!

Sir, – As an evacuee from Gush Katif, I watch with alternating laughter and loathing as the savants of American Judaism discuss methods for countering the demonization and deligitimization of Israel. Before we were kicked out of our homes, we approached many of these enlightened thinkers and asked for their support. We outlined not only the immorality of what was being planned for us, but the dire consequences for the entire Zionist enterprise. We were rebuffed at every turn.
I once thought that only in Israel does failure, military or political, have no consequences. Now I can see that for Diaspora Jews as well, nothing succeeds like failure.


... and alternatives
Sir, – We do, indeed, need a new strategy to combat the sickening hassling of our spokespeople at open meetings (“Ayalon: New policy to deal with hecklers,” Online Edition, February 16).
I suggest that we prepare our own banners and have our supporters take them to meetings addressed by pro-Palestinians bearing slogans such as “SAVE THE PALESTINIANS [in large letters] from their leaders that don’t bring them peace [in small letters],” “TAKE THE PALESTINIANS OUT OF THE REFUGEE CAMPS, give them housing with the millions donated to this cause,” and “GIVE THE PALESTINIANS PEACE working with Israel.”
All those holding these banners should have written material supporting the slogans. Let us take the initiative and beat them at their own game.

Ramat Hasharon
Sir, – Ron Dermer, a member of the prime minister’s staff, made a very interesting presentation at the Jerusalem Conference regarding the value of exposing the human rights records, attitudes toward women, and abuses of power by dictatorial governments in countries that constantly belittle and demonize Israel in the world media (“We must take media fight to our enemies’ backyard – PM’s adviser,” February 18). Many times, the media in these countries have refused to do such an exposé because they fear they will be expelled and not allowed to return.
Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt have notorious records in human rights abuses. Russia and China, too, have long histories of suppressing their people.
Dermer might well have pointed out that the problem is not only critics’ fostering the demise of Israel, but also the nihilistic view of the world they are projecting. I hope that there will be a concerted effort by the media to pay attention to Mr. Dermer’s remarks.

Sir, – We seem to be going back to the dark ages and repeating past failures of public relations and information campaigns to present Israel’s image in a positive light. Who is advising Yuli Edelstein in his Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry (“Israel’s new weapon in media war – ordinary Israelis,” February 17)? This “initiative” is an outstanding example of a waste of funds for superfluous ministries in this inflated government.
First mistake: an “army” – with all the connotations of that term.
Second: pamphlets that will end up in the dustbins.
Third: Ordinary Israelis? How on earth will they be able to explain to a hostile world why we are still expanding settlements in the West Bank when we have committed to freezing them? Have any of them been to Gaza so they can explain what is really going on there? How will they deal with our social welfare problems and the vast numbers of Israelis living below the poverty line?
Not to mention the appalling state of the education system, which produces results comparable to underdeveloped countries, when we are supposedly the most ingenious and entrepreneurial country in the world. Will they all carry the book by Saul Singer and Dan Senor as a guide to “what we do best”?
The Arabs play the “victim” card; what will ours be, the victors?
There is only one way to deal with hasbara: Bring people here and show them that in spite of all the bad things said about us, we are a great bunch of people trying to survive in a tricky situation. Improve tourism by offering lower fares and reasonably priced accommodation. Tempt people to come by organizing photography groups, art-lovers events, wine tasting, all sorts of things that would open their eyes. Involve the Israeli Arab community in all this; offer them the chance to meet Israelis, and maybe the “ordinary” Israelis with big hearts can open up their homes.
But don’t try to brainwash.

Tel Aviv
A question of academic freedom
Sir, – Joseph Klafter, president of Tel Aviv University, argues that the concept of “academic freedom” protects faculty members who call for academic boycotts against Israeli universities, yet he fails to define exactly what that term means. According to the American Association of University Professors’ Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, faculty members should be free of censorship or discipline in teaching, research, and speaking out as citizens. But the right to speak out is not absolute. A professor’s special position in the community imposes special obligations: “[Teachers] should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence they should… exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.”
The provision was later interpreted this way: “The controlling principle is that a faculty member’s expression of opinion as a citizen cannot constitute grounds for dismissal unless it clearly demonstrates the faculty member’s unfitness for his or her position.”
Klafter did not even ask, let alone answer, the critical questions: Have the dissident professors exercised appropriate restraint? Have they shown respect for the opinions of others? Do their actions demonstrate unfitness to teach?
Each professor should be evaluated individually to determine whether his/her statements and actions pass these tests. It is not enough for the professors – or the university president – to assert that all statements of all dissident professors are entitled to blanket protection.


An Olympic story
Sir, – The Vancouver ceremony recalling the Olympics in Germany sounds like something that should come to Israel (“Opening ceremonies filled with emotion after Canadian Munich veteran passes on Olympic torch,” February 14).
The story of Melvin Dubinsky, a member of the USA ice skating team, should be of interest. Dubinsky, who came from a leading Jewish family in St. Louis, told his fellow teammates that he was not going to compete in Nazi Germany.
I wonder how many others on the USA teams refused.
Dubinsky later became a St. Louis and national leader in Jewish life.