They have well funded student groups supported by local professors in all major universities. They have support from anti-establishment anarchistic types around the world who are always good for some provocation and a good - or even an ugly - fight. They have talented writers, bloggers and social media geeks all ready to type away and pepper cyberspace with deliberately manipulated messages. And the news media is most often on their side, showing its full support through over exposure and through interpreting events in ways that make Israel look like “the bad guy.”
Their attacks are focused on anything that comes under the heading of “Occupation,” “West Bank,” “Apartheid” or related issues. Israel's strategy of Hasbara (promoting a positive image through Public Relations and apologetics) has mainly turned its back on these sticky issues, as they are not considered politically correct, and diverted their efforts to promote a focus on Israel's achievements in technology, worldwide humanitarian aid, great beer and beautiful bikini-clad women on the beaches of Tel Aviv and Eilat.
The problem is mainly that Israel’s advocates are not addressing the particular issues for which Israel is under attack. By avoiding and not responding to the accusatory claims, it appears that Israel doesn't have a good answer. We thereby help prove their points by our silence.
We need not offer this great advantage to the anti-Israel machine. When our advocates point out that Intel inside every computer was developed in Israel, the anti-Israel propaganda spokesmen are right ask “So what?” and “How does that justify occupying someone else's land?” There must be a better answer, and I believe that there is.
Israel does not need to avoid the core point of conflict – our control of the West Bank. First of all, Israel won this area fair and square in a war that was forced on her by neighbors who occupied the land before the war. Basic international standards don’t require countries to give back land that they won in wars. Israel controls these lands only because the IDF has the means to protect our borders – not due to any kind of international approval.
We have good answers
I could proceed along this path, but I would like to suggest another strategy that I have found extremely effective - display the reality on the ground. The facts themselves should be our strongest arguments, because they alone can demolish the anti-Israel campaign. Guests who visit Samaria see these facts for themselves and form a very different picture than the one drawn by the anti-Israel misinformation movement.
Those who wish to boycott products manufactured in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria disregard the fact that thousands of local Arabs (Palestinians) work in these factories alongside Jewish Israelis, both receiving the same salaries and all workers’ benefits entitled by Israeli law - which happen to be much higher than the established norm in areas under the Palestinian Authority’s control. This means that Palestinians who are lucky enough to find employment in the “settlements” are taking home three times what they would be making in their own villages.
Seeing firsthand the university center campus in Ariel, with its 14,000 students (including hundreds of Arab students), research departments, sports and cultural centers quickly diminishes the misconception that the “settlements” are in any way limited to temporary structures that can just be folded up and moved to another location on a whim.
Witnessing this, guests realize that the image of a lone trailer-home on a barren hilltop has been placed in their imaginations by media outlets wishing to portray Jewish existence in this area as something built on a weak foundation. Reality shows how communities throughout Judea and Samaria are very well established and fully integrated into the scenery of the land. They are not something that is about to just go away.
Advocates of Israel need not avoid the issue of Israel's control of Judea and Samaria. We have very good answers that can be offered with our heads held high. Israel has a solid claim to this region and provides benefits for its population, both Arab and Jew. We can stop apologizing and stand up with pride, proclaiming the truth.
Israel is committing no crime by building and developing its heartland. Standing up to the core of the argument with good answers has proven very effective, where it has been tried.
I strongly suggest that all advocates for Israel come to spend a day in the Samaria and see the sights for themselves. Just one day will equip each of them with background information and renew their efforts to balance the debate and give them the advantage in their struggle to speak the truth - Israel is in the right.
David Ha’ivri is the director of the Shomron Liaison Office. He and his wife Mollie live in Kfar Tapuach, Shomron with their eight children. You can follow him on Twitter @haivri