My colleague, the late Professor Joseph Ginat, a prominent Anthropologist of Arab culture, performed field work several years ago in a project dealing with understanding the other which caught my attention. In his work interviewing Palestinian terrorists who had been imprisoned by Israel, Prof. Ginat asked a terrorist of the logic of kidnapping and blowing up an airplane, as such an act was sure to cause antagonism towards his cause. The terrorist replied: “When performing an act of terrorism, we have ten seconds of global attention with which we can send a message regarding the justness of our struggle, and everything else is irrelevant. The wave of anger eventually abates, you will be accused of the reason behind the wave of terrorism, and my ten seconds will be etched into global consciousness.”
This is the essence of propaganda since the Nazi regime, which the Arab public adopted, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. This approach was also adopted by the KGB, as well as the approach of the various organizations worldwide, who utilize sophisticated propaganda against the cumbersome mechanisms of governments, who are not sufficiently able to adapt to the new world of global, digital, and instantaneous public relations.
Without altering the mindset in which the state defends its positions and refutes allegations made against it, Israel’s struggle and the propaganda war will not succeed. The fact that Israel has accepted that there is a different narrative and a need to understand it has created a major strategic obstacle in fighting delegitimization. There is no narrative other than the basic truth, whose justness must be argued with full conviction. Just as we will never be able to justify the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and the Inquisition, nor the blood libels against European Jewry, nor the terrible crimes of the Holocaust, we cannot justify a narrative meant to undermine our existence.
We cannot accept the accusation that the Jewish people is accused for being part of the reason for the violence used against it. We cannot ignore the fact that since 1917, when the Balfour Declaration was widely supported, the Arab world began its war of de-legitimization against the Jewish Yishuv, including the riots of 1922, 1929, 1933 and so on. The Arab leadership cooperated with the Nazis and even hatched plans to establish concentration camps in the Land of Israel. We cannot forget these truths and replace them with an opposing narrative which never happened.
The battle against boycotts and delegitimization is no less than a war. We must first be convinced of our rights and the justice of our path. We must emphasize that while our region is rife with discrimination, racism, and apartheid, none of this stems from the State of Israel. In the countries surrounding Israel, Jews were thrown out of their homes and turned into refugees and are forbidden from live there. Tourists who have an Israeli stamp in their passport are forbidden entry into numerous countries. Palestinian official bodies execute collaborators and those who sell property to Jews.
Furthermore, the world must understand that the reason behind intrusive security checks at airports, security guards at the entrance of kindergartens, movie theaters, and train stations, is radical Islamic terrorism. Palestinian terror has specifically had a central role in bringing terror around the world.
Nevertheless, Israel is the only reached out to the Palestinians, inviting the terrorist leaders, political pariahs exiled around the world, to turn over a new leaf. However, when they returned to Israel, they began a new wave of terror. Israel was never an occupying power – it accepted a compromise in 1948, only to be attacked by the surrounding Arab states, it pleaded with Jordan not to join the war effort in 1967, but was attacked by Jordan as part of a coordinated effort to destroy the Jewish state.
Despite this, Israel created a democracy drastically different than the governmental system of all of its neighbors. Waves of violence and murder occurring among Israel’s neighbors do not take place in the State of Israel. Israel’s messages to the world must be clear, brief, truthful, and unapologetic. The BDS movement must be shown for what it is: a movement that is not interested in finding ways toward a peaceful existence, but a movement solely dedicated to destroying Israel and its good name through false allegations of racism, apartheid, and terrorism.
Therefore, Israel should strive to reach peace agreements not to remove threats, but to facilitate a strategy that will enable our neighbors and us to live in dignity. The world has no right to judge us – for its judgments in the past did not bring us justice, but atrocities, which they either took part in or enabled through their silence.
It is time to change our way of thinking, change our strategy, and approach when combating the global boycott and propaganda war.