An Israeli flag is burned in riots near Ramallah
Can the ongoing de-legitimization of Israel be fought? A high-placed Israeli official with an intelligence community career said to me that nothing can be done about it. This is an easy position: If nothing can be done, why try to do anything?
The de-legitimization issue is a major problem for Israel. Slandering is simple, while deconstructing falsehoods is difficult, lengthy and often costly. For instance: German poet, anti-Israel activist and Hamas supporter Irena Wachendorf claimed that she is Jewish, a member of a liberal Jewish community and served in the IDF. She furthermore stated that her father is Jewish and fled to the UK before the Second World War, while her mother survived Auschwitz.
After two years of research by German investigative journalist Jennifer Pyka, Wachendorf has now admitted that her story was made up. She did not serve in the IDF, during the Second World War her father was in the German army and as for the remainder of her assertions, there is no proof.
The model frequently followed by foreign journalists is somewhat different. They write an anti-Israel article that often omits essential data or a reliable Israeli counter-opinion. This requires little time to write. However, it takes a long time for pro-Israel media watch groups such as Camera and Honest Reporting to expose the lies and fallacies.
For decades, successive Israeli governments have neglected to deal with de-legitimization in an orderly fashion. The Palestinians have systematically succeeded in injecting their narrative into the mainstream Western world. It now sees Palestinian society - which has largely failed in its efforts of mass murder and terrorism against Israel – as a victim of the “brutal Israelis.” Palestinians have succeeded in this with the help of extreme leftists and humanitarian racists, some of whom are Israelis.
Mossad to the rescue?What can be done? The first step is for the Israeli government to finally recognize that de-legitimization is a form of war, which has to be fought methodically. The second is to assign a government agency as the focal point to fight this war as military and cyber wars are fought. The logical candidate seems to be Mossad, which would have to create a special department for this. Government ministries with their cumbersome bureaucracies are unable to fight wars efficiently.
The conceptual approach is fairly simple. A first step is to take stock of who is already in this fight on the Israeli side and what part of the front they cover. The second step is to study how one’s enemies operate and who funds them. This is a more complex task because perpetrators of de-legitimization and anti-Semitism come from disparate origins such as Muslim countries, Muslims in the Western world, leftists, neo-Nazis, social democrats, liberal Christians, academics, NGOs, media and so on. Many enemies belong to more than one category.
The next step is to investigate the main categories of lies and fallacies repeatedly used against Israel. The lies are relatively easy to categorize. Fallacies is a far more complex subject that requires detailed analysis of issues such as: Double standards, the use of moral equivalence between murderers and victims, sentimental appeals to whitewash criminals, the inversion of cause and result and quite a few others.
Next, one can systematically analyze the modes by which lies and fallacies are transmitted. These include the media, the United Nations, the Internet and so on. One should also assess how much damage has already been caused to Israel and Jewish communities abroad by the de-legitimizers.
Thereafter, one should develop a detailed and consistent strategy on how to fight this war. How can one turn Palestinians and other enemies of Israel into defenders rather than attackers? How can one spend little time to expose them and cause them to spend much more time and money to defend themselves? This is structurally a project like any other. It will take much time and money, most of which will have to come from the Israeli government. Yet money is just the beginning.
Manfred Gerstenfeld is a member of the Board of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, of which he has been Chairman for 12 years