Giving a Voice

Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan, in his address at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on May 19, 2015, talked about the need in all battles to conduct both defensive and offensive operations. Today, defending Israel involves doing whatever can be done to make the truth known; that is, the truth about Israel’s enemies and how they act, and the truth about Israel and how its forces operate. Going on the offense, Colonel Kemp said, involves a form of political warfare that exposes the bias, distortions, and untruth of the media.

Less than a month later, the philanthropist and businessman, Sheldon Edelson, hosted in Las Vegas a group of representatives from organizations actively involved in the fight against the Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel movement (BDS). The goal of the conference was to unite the forces working against the boycott of Israel. The strategy proposed involved mobilizing activists to fight on the front line in universities and in the media, mobilizing philanthropists to fund the activities, and supplying the activists with the relevant necessary information.

Edelson, also, stressed the need to initiate, not just respond — in other words, to go on the offensive.

It seems that the media, the public, and the politicians have become a lot more aware of BDS lately in the light of the attempt by Palestinians to get Israel kicked out of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and Orange’s initial ‘decision’ to divest from business in Israel. BDS is not going away and, in my opinion, its activities will increase considerably over the next year, in particular, as the U.N. vote on a Palestinian state draws closer.

Throughout the history of Israel, it has been an accepted proposition that Israel cannot win a war by simply defending itself; victory  also requires an offensive operation, a swift surprise incursion into enemy territory. In the political war that we have been fighting, especially since BDS came on the scene, my impression has been one of endless rear-guard defensive skirmishes and battles; some won, but most lost. And there is no end in sight.

I would suggest that it is a war Israel cannot win under the present conditions. The Palestinians learned after 1973 that Israel cannot be defeated on the battlefield, so they turned their attention to a long-term strategy combining political warfare and terror. In the public arena, Israel was turned into Goliath and the Palestinians into David; Israel became a Nazi and Apartheid state; the Palestinians, their crucified victims. The process of the vilification and de-legitimization of Israel has become the norm.

The images that the other side has created, are immensely powerful and energy generating; Israel can try very hard, as it should, to minimize the damage done, but it cannot win this war. Information, publicity, explanations — important as they are in themselves — cannot compete with powerful symbols such as a picture of a swastika next to a Magen David or a poster comparing Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto.

Only a symbol with a similar degree of emotional power can compete against these symbols. While BDS has caught the imagination of hundreds of thousands, Israel’s defense tactics have not; it does not have such a symbol.

And this brings me back to the opinions of Colonel Kemp and Sheldon Edelson. What is required is an offensive attack into enemy territory at its weakest point – the Islamic world’s rejection of human rights. It is a culture in which there is no place for the “other,” no place in which the voice of the “other” can be heard; while Western civilization is based on one core value, that of human rights, which gives a rightful place to the other.

The symbol that is needed has to make a connection between what the West (including Israel) values most and what the East values least: human rights.

Just as BDS provides a framework for many types of anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, and anti-Zionist sentiment, so what is needed is a similar umbrella organization, which I call “Giving a Voice,” for all those involved today in disseminating information about the abuse of human rights in the name of Islam.

Areas such as the following need to be addressed: the Armenian Holocaust; the Greek Holocaust (how many have heard of such a thing); Black Slavery in the Islamic World; persecution of minorities such as the Bahai, Kurds, Copts; organized rape of the Southern Sudanese; physical and sexual abuse and discrimination against women (including genital mutilation); attacks on Christians and Churches; persecution of homosexuals; acts of terror and threats of genocide against Jews and Israelis; physical and sexual abuse in Iran against regime dissenters; murderous attacks against people who want to change their religion or express opinions against Islam.

Stories of human-rights abuse appear often in the media but they are just news items that are here today and gone tomorrow in our news-crazy world. Some items, mostly ISIS horror stories, hang around a little bit longer, but in order to make an real impact, it is essential to make the connection in people’s minds between the hacking to death of Bangladeshi bloggers, throwing homosexuals off roofs to their death in Syria and Iraq, sexual abuse of women prisoners in Iran, the burning to death of a Christian couple in Pakistan, a terror attack in Israel, the lashing of a blogger in Saudia Arabia, the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls, the massacre of Christian students in Kenya (and more) into one true and powerful picture – the picture of our enemies as colossal human-rights violators.

More stories have to be told, books to be written, films to be made, T-shirts to be manufactured, banners to be constructed, concerts to be held – all for the purpose of commemorating the names and lives of these victims of abuse and “Giving a Voice” to their shocking suffering.

The victims had no rights, no voice. If we are concerned about them, if we are concerned about their human rights, then we must help by “Giving a Voice” to them and their suffering.

About the Author
Peter was born and educated in England. He received a B.A. in Russian and Soviet Studies from Lancaster University. In 1974 he moved to Israel. He received a M.A in Social Work from Tel Aviv University. He worked for 20 years in the field as a Psychiatric Social Worker and Social Work Lecturer. Today he is Co-Director with his wife Pamela, of the In the Quiet Space Center in Tzfat. The center promotes the self-calming technique for children developed at the center. He is the author of 2 books. Peter and Pamela have 4 children and 17 grandchildren.