How defeating BDS is closer, literally, than we think
Organizations committed to fighting those who slander and ostracise Israel have developed a counter-strategy that aims to bring dignitaries, cultural leaders, politicians and journalists to Israel to view first hand the realities on the ground; 'They can’t believe just how small the country is.'
These organizations have made it their mission to help opinion shapers better understand the reality on the ground in Israel.
The mission is perhaps best encapsulated in the lyrics written by Israeli songwriter Yaakov Rotblit in one of his most famous compositions: “Things that we see from here we can’t see from afar.”
This lyric still provides the basis of the ideology of many organizations fighting the war against the delegitimization of the State of Israel throughout the world and against the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The organizations which believe that there is no substitute for actually witnessing circumstances up close in order to draw an informed conclusion are working to continue bringing international influential figures to Israel where they are able to gain a better perspective.
The Ministry of Strategic Affairs, headed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, which is leading the struggle against the delegitimization and boycott campaigns shares Rotblit’s philosophy which posits that one of the most effective tools in combating the hostility against Israel is bringing delegations to Israel.
As part of the ministry’s programs, in the next two years more than 100 delegations will visit Israel based on the basic premise that anyone who actually visits the country will undoubtedly be exposed to the complicated reality and will consequently be better equipped to challenge the disinformation and lies being disseminated by boycott movements.
The Europe Israel Press Association (EIPA) for example, which was set up in Brussels five years ago, brought hundreds of respected journalists and known public opinion shapers from a myriad of leading media outlets throughout the world.
“We have brought senior journalist from the BBC, the Daily Mail, Le Figaro, CNN Turk and many other media outlets to Israel,” said founder Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
“Our aim was to create a situation in which the main media outlets know the truth, and that’s why we started organizing the visits here.”
Overall, the project has seen more than 700 articles flow out of the initiative with a slant demonstrably more understanding of Israeli’s multiple predicaments in fewer than four years.
In addition to the EIPA focusing on respected journalists, the European Leadership Network (ELNET) also works with the intended mission of bringing European politicians, academics and cultural leaders and former dignitaries considered to wield significant influence throughout the continent to Israel.
“Europe is a huge challenge,” explains David Siegel, CEO of an NGO in Israel who served over the past for 25 years in the Israeli Foreign Ministry and in his last post served as the General Consul in Los Angeles.
“It is a super important continent for Israel’s future, and it cannot be ignored. Eighty-five percent of American congressmen have visited Israel at some stage but only a little over 10% of the European Parliament members have visited. That says it all. They feed on the media. That’s why in the last decade we have bought more than 200 delegations here, 2,300 politicians,” Siegel said.
Head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan, 36, agrees with this assessment. “Ignorance”, he says “is the the main enemy on the settlement enterprise. The majority of the public has never even been here, but it doesn’t bother people to form negative opinions on the building of communities.”
Over the last six years, the Council's External Relations Community has worked to bring EU parliamentarians to Israel, along with US congressmen and European politicians.
“We have organized more than 1,000 tours like these ones already,” Dagan boasted. “They can’t believe just how small the country is. On maps you can’t comprehend what can be seen with your own eyes.”
In cooperation with the Strategic Affairs and Information Ministry