For the failure or – perhaps more accurately – the virtual absence, of Israeli PD [public diplomacy — ed.] strategy goes beyond the problem of what it is not doing for Israel in presenting its case and promoting its image. No less damaging is what it allows others to do to Israel in undermining its case and perverting its image…
Continued impotence and incompetence in the (mis)conduct of Israel’s public diplomacy is becoming not only strategic threat to the country but is beginning to imperil Jewish communities abroad.
Well, yeah… But this is unfortunately nothing new. Israel army’s incomparable valor and skill on the battlefield has been juxtaposed to the incomparable incompetence of its official hasbara (PR) efforts for decades. This incompetence has limited or even allowed the reversal of the country’s military victories on the ground over and over again.
However, while there may be some benefit in complaining about it in order to (yet again) bring the dire situation to people’s attention, know one thing: The situation is NOT going to change any time soon. The problem is related to deeply-entrenched technicalities such as funding and staffing at the Foreign Ministry that, barring a miracle, could not be fixed quickly even if their was a will to do so.
So instead of (or at least in addition to) complaining, it is incumbent on all those that care about Israel to fill the void that Israel’s official representatives are not.
Dennis Prager sums up the “Middle East problem” in 5 minutes:
Let’s sum up those 6 minutes in one sentence:
Israel wants peace with the other side; the other side does not want Israel to exist and is willing to fight to achieve what they want.
Some might disagree on how to define “the other side”, but it is clear that there IS another side that does not want peace, that they have enough influence that there can be no peace, and that they are not going to magically disappear.
The nice thing about summing up the problem so succinctly is that it makes it clear why the many attempts at peace that have failed, failed: Peace fails to materialize when one side doesn’t want it. They might say they want peace, if only they can have land or a state, but if they don’t really mean it then there will be no peace.
When people, or at least Israelis, fully understand that the other side doesn’t want peace, regardless of what they might say, we can stop wasting time and lives on failed peace processes that bring less peace instead of more.
Melanie Phillips, a staunch British advocate for Israel had this to say about the sad state of affairs of Israeli hasbara (public relations) in England:
Perhaps it could be said that, in her frustration, Ms. Phillips exaggerates somewhat. However, the lack of an effective hasbara campaign by the Israeli government is both well-known and longstanding.
Of course combating anti-Israeli propaganda all over the world is a massive job, especially when an anti-Israel (read: anti-Jewish) message is so readily accepted in so many quarters. But the Israeli government and Foreign Ministry have proven quite incapable of doing a competent job, let alone showing the kind of ingenuity that Israelis are famous for in so many other fields.
It should be clear that a substantial portion of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, including the diplomatic core, are from the political Left and are highly invested in the ever-failing peace process — politically, professionally and personally. These people shy away from an active defense of Israel’s position since that is confrontational and would upset the Arabs. And they may be hesitant to work with Israel’s natural allies on the Right.
Due to the way the system in Israel works, these people can not and will not be purged from positions of importance any time soon. Don’t expect them to change or to go away. Therefore it is pointless to rely on the Israeli government to handle this job effectively.
The only options are 1) to bypass the “official” hasbara system and/or 2) to find an effective pro-Israel message that the Left in Israel can support.
Alas, it seems that #1 is much easier to accomplish than #2.