Dotan Rousso

Rethinking Israel’s Global Image: Liberating Policy from Public Opinion Struggles

The State of Israel has unequivocally lost the battle for international public opinion, a reality further solidified by the recent decision of the International Court of Justice on January 26, 2024.

Diverse factors contribute to this predicament.

Notably, Israel and world Jewry, totaling approximately 15 million, face a numerical disadvantage compared to the approximately 1.8 billion Muslims globally, with nearly one in four people being Muslim. Most of the Muslim population instinctively identifies with the plight of their co-religionists in Gaza.

The media, operating 24/7, exhibits bias by extensively highlighting the consequences of the war on Gaza’s residents, while mainstream outlets tend to prioritize the Palestinian narrative, often neglecting the Israeli perspective. The outbreak of war, the October 7th massacre, and Hamas leaders’ repeated statements forecasting ongoing aggression often go unmentioned, even in countries like Canada (my country of residence), which are considered relatively balanced.

Individual actors, armed with fingers and keyboards, exploit social media for incitement and defamation against the State of Israel.

Furthermore, a disheartening aspect is the contribution of many Jews worldwide, including academics, to the delegitimization and vilification of Israel. They utilize their Jewish identity to lend credibility to the demonization of Israel, as seen in figures like Prof. Norman Finkelstein, Prof. Avi Loewenstein, Prof. Raz Segal, and others.

In addition to these challenges, there is a natural human tendency to perceive the weaker side as a victim, eliciting increased sympathy, even if unjustified.

Given the magnitude and strength of the global wave against Israel, further investment in public relations is unlikely to bring significant changes, especially after the International Court of Justice decision.

Moreover, even compliance with international demands, such as extinguishing the conflict, withdrawing forces from Gaza, and allowing free passage of goods, would likely fall short of altering Israel’s deeply ingrained negative image. Determined critics are unlikely to be deterred by any actions Israel takes.

Faced with this reality, a plausible conclusion is that Israel should free itself from the futile pursuit of international approval. Instead, the focus should shift to other priorities, with top emphasis on neutralizing Hamas as a political and military force in Gaza and securing the return of captives.

Paradoxically, there may be some advantages amid the disadvantages in the damage to Israel’s global standing. This could liberate Israel from the need to balance between the struggle for reputation and the imperative for national security.

In this context, Israel can reevaluate its approach. Former constraints, imposed with the assumption that positive public opinion could be shaped or changed, may be lifted. The focus can now shift towards actions serving legitimate security and existential goals, acknowledging the unattainability of reshaping global perceptions.

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About the Author
Dotan Rousso, Holds a Ph.D. in Law—a former criminal prosecutor in Israel. He currently lives in Alberta and teaches Philosophy at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).