An article recently published in Yedioth Ahronoth (Entire world is against us, by Yonatan Yavin) attempted to paint a depressing picture of Israel's international isolation, and to propose a reason for this unfortunate state of affairs.
Its analysis, however, was regrettably misleading, both as to the diagnosis of the malady and to the prescription for remedy – allegedly the need for Israel to "change its perception rather than its image," whatever that might mean.
Reality is of course very different. The truth is that in many countries across the globe, there are huge pools of enthusiastic support for Israel, and identification with the Zionist endeavor, which could, and should, be effectively tapped and marshaled.
For example take the Evangelical Movement, which constitutes an enormous and rapidly-growing segment of humanity - by most accounts even more rapidly than Islam - from the Americas through Africa and into Asia. With estimated membership of between 500 million and one billion, and increasing economic and political clout, this is a group that is staunchly – some would say, fiercely – pro-Israel.
In the USA, their numbers are estimated at around 60-80 million with some sources suggesting that this may be as high as 100 million. Clearly, if properly mobilized, no US president could be elected against the collective will of this group.
Israel's accomplishments do not go unnoticed
There is also widespread international esteem for Israel's manifold accomplishments – not only in the military sphere, although this should not be understated – but also in agriculture, science and hi-tech, with the country often being held up as a model for emulation. Just why this abundance of positive sentiment is not converted into political support is detailed below.
Moreover, the question of Israel's international stature should not only be approached in terms of the affinity manifested toward it but also by the animosity, both latent and overt, that prevails, or can be caused to prevail, towards Israel's foes.
In this regard, the suppression of women (gender apartheid) and the persecution of all non-Muslim religions (creed apartheid) across the Arab and Islamic world constitute sensitive pressure points for Israel to mount an effective diplomatic offensive designed to alienate liberal Western support from its opponents.
In particular, the question of the status of women in the Arab (and the wider Islamic world) is becoming an issue of acute interest and increasingly harsh criticism in growing sectors of Western public opinion.
Indeed half the population of the world (the female half) - and certainly half of that portion of the world that purports to subscribe to a libertarian value-system - has good reason to feel both trepidation and aversion toward Israel's enemies.
Sadly, however - and again for reasons detailed below - Israeli diplomacy has been alarmingly remiss in mustering this potential antipathy against Israel's antagonists in order to put them on the defensive in the battle for world opinion.
This of course raises the question of "why?" Why is all the potential affinity for Israel not being energetically harvested; why is all the latent aversion towards its adversaries not being resolutely harnessed? For in under any dispassionate analysis of the objective parameters, the poor image of Israel on the international stage is difficult to fathom. So why does the county fare so poorly in the media war?
Size of Israel's PR budget revealing
The answer to this is shocking but simple: Israel is losing the war for international opinion because - in the final analysis - she does not really want to win it! Or at least the official organs charged with administering this war do not.
If this appears to be a rather radical and far-fetched explanation consider the following: How does one gauge the resolve of an organization to attain a given objective? Among other things, by the amount of resources it allots for the attainment of the said objective.
In this regard, the size of Israel's official PR (Hasbarah) budget is very revealing, for it is little more than a medium-large commercial company would spend on advertising. This dearth of resources devoted to winning over the hearts and minds of the international community is not to be explained by any objective paucity.
For when the government wishes to accomplish a goal, it has little trouble in finding the means to do so. When it decided to build the separation barrier it found billions of unbudgeted shekels; when it decided to "disengage" from Gaza, it hastily raised billions of unbudgeted dollars; and when it planned to "converge" from Judea and Samaria, it was undaunted by the estimates of tens of billions of dollars needed for implementation.
So what lies behind the blatant half-heartedness and faint-heartedness of Israeli efforts to win international support?
The key to the answer lies in the worldview of the entrenched elites in Israeli society - the legal establishment, media establishment and that portion of the academic establishment which interfaces with the media (notably the social sciences and humanities but not the natural and exact sciences.)
This is the body that de facto influences the course the country takes, far more than the de jure results of any elections, and its worldview is one that that is incompatible with portraying the Arabs, Arab society, and Arab regimes as they truly are.
It is therefore also incompatible with achieving victory in the battle for public opinion. This worldview, motivated more by socio-cultural animosity for their domestic adversaries rather than any genuine affinity for the national interest, cannot be reconciled with an accurate portrayal of the Arab world – especially the Palestinians – as a viciously cruel and intolerant society permeated by violence and corruption at almost all levels.
For any such portrayal would make nonsense of the support for Israeli withdrawal to frontiers that would leave the country in a perilously precarious situation - with its international airport, its maritime harbors, its major roads and railways, power stations, water installations all hopelessly vulnerable to attack.
How could anyone justify, especially in the wake of the recent war with the Hizbullah, abandoning such vitally important territory to a regime dominated by radical Muslim elements, where journalists are harassed, press freedom trampled on, political opponents lynched, honor killings of women by their male relatives endorsed or at least socially condoned, homosexuals hounded, and Christians persecuted?
So to vindicate adherence to a worldview that advocates far reaching concessions to the Palestinians – something that has perversely and paradoxically become the cultural litmus test of "enlightened liberal" identity - the propagation of two falsehoods has become an essential prerequisite. Both are highly detrimental – indeed crippling - to Israel's ability to garner international support:
- Projection of a fallaciously favorable image of the Palestinians – which precludes victory in the battle for the hearts and minds of the international community.
- Creation of an equally fallacious illusion that without capitulation to Palestinian demands, ubiquitous international isolation and animosity are unavoidable - which creates the impression that defeat in this battle is inevitable
Unless the Israeli public realizes this and rises up against the detrimental conduct of its establishment elites, it will be impossible to arrest the country's ongoing slide into oblivion.