Israel is facing enormous challenges over the next couple of years, including the Iran nuclear threat, a virtual state of war on the Lebanese and Gaza borders, and the effort to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state. What follows are my thoughts on what needs to be done by Israel and Diaspora communities.
Israel must be more successful at fighting the “propaganda war.” While the case for Israel is beyond reproach, many of its recent tactics have provided fodder for anti-Israel propagandists. The inability of the Israeli government to control its own bureaucracy led to the awkward gaffe during Vice President Biden’s visit, which took many months to repair. The cacophonous rhetoric from different elements of Israeli’s political ruling coalition is confusing at best and dysfunctional at worst. We can count on conflicting messages that reinforce the dissonance by Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, and Avigdor Liberman, its Foreign Minister. Recent actions by irresponsible rabbis advocating the use of halacha (Jewish law) as their guidepost in prohibiting selling land to Arabs was not only wrong, but embarrassing. The fact that a number of them are public employees only adds fuel to the fire. Thankfully, responsible government officials led by the Prime Minister and others, have condemned these discriminatory acts.
Although Israel has the right to enforce the blockade against Gaza, it badly bungled the flotilla organized by the Turks, which the latter used as an excuse to further disengage.
In summary, Israel must treat the “propaganda” war with as high a priority as it places on its successful war against terrorism and other defensive actions. The Israeli government must demonstrate greater discipline in the messages it disseminates to the rest of the world, given that the majority of the general media, particularly in Europe, already has an anti-Israel bias.
Concurrently, Israel must better portray itself as the remarkable center of innovation in the midst of an ossified desert. Per capita, Israel has generated more advances in medical technology, agriculture, and other human endeavors than any other country in the world, helping millions through its innovative and entrepreneurial culture. It has, for example, trained over 200,000 African farmers to literally make the desert bloom. Books like Start-Up Nation and others should be used to complement positive and thoughtful messaging by the Israeli government.
We need our young people to view Israel not just as a battle-tested and beleaguered country, but as a shining example of what a Jewish and democratic state can achieve in a troubled neighborhood.
My next blog will focus on what Diaspora Jews must accomplish to assist our beloved Israel.