Dr.Gerstenfeld’s article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post, and republished here (with footnotes) with the author’s consent.
After Gaza: Could Israel not have faced its Critics better?
After Israel’s recent Gaza border protection actions the country faced much foreign criticism. Could Israel have faced these people better? This is a legitimate question concerning a nation whose intelligence service managed to funnel out of Teheran – the capital of its Iranian archenemies — half a ton of ultra-secret documents. It is also a legitimate question for a country where the creativity of many citizens has made it into a start-up nation. If Israelis are so smart why can’t the government deal adequately with the extreme anti-Israeli incitement after its army confronts violent genocide promoters?
Hamas has repeated variations of the same incitement strategies for a long time. It understands that Palestinians killed by Israel, even if most are terrorists, will lead to condemnations. Naturally from Arab states but also from Western countries and part time human rights organizations. These condemnations indirectly support the murderous goals of Hamas, even if the Western perpetrators of extreme anti-Israeli incitement deny that. The only resourcefulness Hamas leaders need is to continue to create in disguise violent ways to force the Israeli army to shoot at Palestinians. Since Hamas does not care about Palestinian deaths, this is easy.
There must be better approaches to solving these challenges than some recent Israeli official reactions. These included the frisking of the Turkish representative when entering the Israeli Foreign Office or the ritual rebuking of the ambassadors of Belgium, Spain and Slovenia after their countries voted for another – by definition biased — investigation by the UN Human Rights Council. It is understandable that Minister Yuval Steinitz was angry after the European Union’s arch-hypocrites asked to probe an incident where an Arab activist was injured by police in Haifa. Yet his telling the EU to go to a thousand hells is not helpful.1
This time, there were a few intelligent reactions from Israeli officials. Deputy Minister Michael Oren responded to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) journalist that her mode of questioning was exactly what Hamas wanted. After the interviewer asked him a series of questions which were relevant only if the Gaza protests had been entirely peaceful, Oren told her about the protestors at the fence: “Their goal was to break through and kill. Now you spin it in a different way, but it wasn’t. The way you spin it, it’s just the way Hamas wants it.” Oren added that he hoped Hamas would send the journalist a thank you note because she was doing great.2
Another interesting reaction came from Israeli ambassador to Belgium Simona Frenkel. She was called in by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the meeting her hosts raised the idea of an “independent” investigation committee into the Gaza deaths. The ambassador pointed out that concerning Israel, there has never been an independent investigation commission. She added: “They have all been political, where there is an automatic majority against Israel.” Frenkel remarked that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel had already blamed Israel.3 This proves that Israel’s poor record of anti-propaganda activities even allows such absurd attitudes of first condemning Israel and then asking for an investigation.
These were incidental Israeli reactions. The country is however in need of a systematic anti-propaganda approach in view of the repeated violent Palestinian initiatives. The Israeli government has almost consistently failed over the years in the battle against foreign hate-propaganda. So why have none of the Israeli media asked a few creative Israelis how the country could counter the Hamas public relations strategy?
Let me open this discourse with two suggestions. There are quite a few Western journalists like the CBC interviewer who frequently spin the news about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict so that Hamas is not mentioned or looks innocent. After publishing an analysis of a number of their articles some of these journalists could publicly be labelled ‘indirect spinning supporters of Hamas genocidal terrorism’.
Whenever foreign politicians or NGO’s make remarks like these Hamas supporting journalists, one can confront them asking “In what way does your attitude differ from these indirect helpers of the Hamas murderers?” It is not necessarily always the Israeli government which has to react. There are enough pro-Israel organizations which can do that.
A second suggestion derives from the fact that all countries whose leaders condemn Israel have themselves committed horrible crimes in the past. They hate being reminded of those. Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Israel’s protection of its fence harshly. His country has never in its history been attacked. Yet in 1993 in Somalia the UN Peace Keeping soldiers of the Airborne Regiment brutally tortured and killed a 16 year old local civilian.4 The soldiers posed with the blindfolded, bruised and bloodied teenager before his death. An investigation committee was appointed. The investigation disclosed a multitude of failures.5 When the commission was getting too close to the truth, the investigation was ended by the Liberal party government of Premier Jean Chrétien.
France is yet another case. President Emanuel Macron condemned Israel over the response to the Gaza demonstrations. I visited Paris for a conference a few weeks after policemen had murdered an estimated 150-200 peaceful Algerian demonstrators in the French capital on October 17, 1961. Some of the corpses were found in the river Seine.6
There are certainly more creative Israelis than myself who can come up with many additional and better ideas. The buck for the failure of setting up a properly financed anti-propaganda agency stops with Israel’s Prime Minister. Both an American Jewish leader and former members of his staff told me that they have suggested this to him many times. Netanyahu has always refused to act. He has many merits on a variety of political issues. On this subject however he has failed and as a result, the country and its citizens continue to pay a heavy price.