From the beginning of the Protective Edge campaign we have been subject to self-congratulatory video clips depicting Israel’s spokespeople giving fine performances to foreign news reporters and interviewers on various news networks. We see our ambassadors (and personal good friends) Danny Taub in the UK and Ron Dermer in the USA, our Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett; all appearing on the BBC, CNN, Al Gezira, Sky, Channel 4 to name but a few. If at the beginning of the campaign many interviewers attempted to be impartial and ask in a neutral tone about the air and ground force attack on Hamas in Gaza, once the pictures of dead babies and children started stacking up, they went from surprised to out-and-out accusing Israel of deliberately killing innocent civilians including hundreds of babies and children. The morally indignant line heard repeatedly by interviewers was: “how many children have to be killed before you stop this brutal madness?!”. Our gallant defenders didn’t take this lying down. “What would you do?” they would answer. “We are the most moral army in the world!” they would state. “We use our resources to build anti-missile rockets to protect our civilian population and the Hamas uses their resources to build rockets and use their civilian population to protect their rockets” they retort. “They shoot rockets indiscriminately on our civilians and we try to warn them in advance so as to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties” is one of their favorites. We clap our hands in glee. “Brilliantly answered!” or “That will show them!” we write on Facebook.
Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly agree with every single one of these statements made. But as the numbers of killed Palestinians grow and the pictures of dead children pile up, these responses simply don’t work because they can’t compete with the pictures of dead babies. The Hamas fully knows this. It’s their strategy. They know that they can’t win on the real battlefield, but they believe they can and will win on the world public opinion battlefield. The strategy of portraying oneself as victims with lots of footage and pictures of dead women and children will always win when dealing with Western liberal democratic journalists. We might protest that this flies in the face of “truth”, of “morality”, till we’re blue in the face, but to no avail. For some reason, unless you work for Fox or the tiny Canadian network Sun, Israel is being portrayed as the evil aggressor. Hamas is winning the world public opinion war.
The fact is that even when they hear the superb responses by our bold interviewees, the interviewers stay steadfast in their moral stance. Nothing we say changes their attitude. Either this is an expression of an undercurrent anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic prejudice, or simply because they don have the intellectual capacity to go beyond their Western liberal democratic values and see the absurdity of their position. In any event, it doesn’t matter why. We need to deal with this reality whatever the reasons. One thing is becoming clear to me and many of the people I discuss this with. We have to stop apologizing. We need to cease to respond to any question that is asked from within the perspective of a preconceived anti-Israel bias. Instead, we need to challenge the anti-Israel bias implicit in the tone and content of the questions/accusations hurled at our interviewees. According to my friend Sydney Faber, who studied this approach in his sales training, this is called “reversal” and “nurturing”. Here’s a “reversal” example of what I am suggesting: “Good evening Mr. Israel Spokesman, and thank you for joining us. Tell me and our viewers: How many children need to die in order for Israel to stop bombing Gaza? 500? 1000?”. Good evening Ms. Impartial Interviewer and the viewers at home and thank you for inviting me to your program. From the tone and content of the question you asked, I gather that you clearly do not believe that the State of Israel has the duty, let alone right to protect its civilians from incessant rocket attacks from Gaza. Hang on: That implies that in essence you don’t believe that the State of Israel has the right to exist. Is that true Ms. Interviewer? Are you suggesting that the State of Israel should be destroyed or dismantled? Because from the way you asked the question, it would seem that way”. And here’s a “nurturing” example: “Your point about the tragic deaths of children is well taken and certainly constitutes a tragedy of epic proportions. However, since Hamas is firing thousands of rockets into civilian areas in Israel and since the Hamas fire these rockets specifically from heavy civilian-populated areas, it begs a bigger question: From the tone and content of your question, I gather that you do not believe that…” and repeat the “reversal” response mentioned above. Naturally, I don’t expect the interviewer to apologize and start again in a more civil tone and approach. The likelihood is that they will get upset and accuse the interviewee of avoiding the question. But it doesn’t matter. The anti-Israel bias has been exposed and all the interviewer needs to do is continue this line. The answer to the “What would you do?” response is hardly rocket science. Anyone with a brain knows that if you are attacked by rockets you have the duty to defend yourself. So why say it? Usually, stating the obvious doesn’t have an impact. Uncovering the fact that the hostile interviewer has a bias agenda does have an impact.
The ability to respond in such a manner is something that needs to be learned and perfected. It would make a lot of sense for the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, Naftali Bennett, and other selected individuals need to attend intense training sessions from experts that would help them perfect this line of response. In the meantime my dear readers, if you agree with my overall point here, you can help by writing to or posting on the Facebook page of these entities and individuals urging them to cease from responding to any hostile interviewer, to stop apologizing, and to begin to take the offensive. Whether or not the current campaign is at a temporary ceasefire waiting for next round; is over (and waiting for the next round); or still continuing, maybe it’s time we rename this campaign: “Offensive Edge”.