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The people are with Israel… how to make their voices heard?

The Eurovision Song Contest, until now, has been harmless fun, an irrelevance, never paid it too much attention. This year it mattered.

Back sometime in October or November, as someone who is ‘quite openly Jewish’ (a phrase that has become famous in the UK due to Gideon Falter of the Campaign Against Antisemitism), I commented about a strange but increasingly common experience I had started to have – that complete strangers were approaching me and whispering in furtive tones their support for Israel and the Jewish people, and wished me luck.

Since then I can confirm, not only in the UK, but also in various other places worldwide, the same thing has been happening. A lot.

That furtiveness is because people are intimidated. They know the treatment accorded to anything with a whiff of pro-Israelness about it these days (including, it seems, people that are ‘quite openly Jewish’). They also know there seems to be minimal recourse against those doing the intimidation.

In this way, an organized and radicalized small minority can shout louder than the vast majority, and distort not only politics, but also the full spectrum of the arts, culture and the professions. This is really how a Holocaust could happen again, G-d forbid.

There are few places people can express their opinions truly freely and anonymously these days.

The Eurovision vote is one of them – that’s why it mattered.

It would not be proper to comment on Eurovision further without first heralding Eden Golan. As a 20-year old, she has shown unbelievable dignity, resilience and strength of character.

The leaked vote from the Italian public on Thursday night’s Eurovision semi finals was staggering. Israel came first with 40% of the vote, the second placed act only received 7%.

When combined with last night’s vote at the final, it seems conceivable that Eurovision has served as a barometer of what the majority of people are actually thinking, at least in Europe and Australia (which has a Eurovision vote too), but do not otherwise feel at liberty to say.

It was particularly curious to note some of the countries whose public put Israel in first place: Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Australia. The public in Ireland and Slovenia put Israel second. So this has happened even in countries whose politicians have been among the most vehemently anti-Israel in outlook.

Two questions arise:

Firstly, what does this majority believe? At the minimum we can say, the majority of people were not deterred by anti-Israel sentiment to vote for what may have been their favorite song. This minimalist interpretation would not imply this public support has been in anyway political. But it is still something. Israel has been so extensively pilloried in mainstream media, so extensively characterized as a cruel, immoral actor, it would follow that if people take the mainstream media at face value, they would feel too much revulsion to vote for Israel, however good the song. Therefore, it suggests, people are not taking the mainstream media at face value. They are understanding there are two sides to every story.

Secondly, for Israel, what can be done? If there is indeed a silent majority, how can it be better heard? (And just as importantly, how to do so in a way that is not self-defeating, like the self-publicity of former Foreign Minister Eli Cohen after the meeting with his Libyan counterpart, who, last time I checked, is still hiding in exile….)

I don’t know the answers. But I do know what Israel should not be doing – more of the same.

Aside from massive under-investment in its public diplomacy, I think one of the main problems is that, while Israeli society is incredibly diverse and at the forefront of many positive changes that are happening in global society, Israel’s decision makers are almost exclusively angry middle-aged men, similar in background and outlook, who show less and less capacity to understand the world.

The voices of other Israelis – of different ages, genders, ethnicities, and social backgrounds – with different experiences and different perspectives are not being heard in Israel’s decision-making. This, for one, needs to change.

About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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