Rena Cohen
An Israel-born, US-raised, Israel returnee

Time to Finally Engage on the Communications Front

I think I join just about all of the people of Israel, whether they be Jews, Druze, Christians or Muslims, in gratitude to the men and women of the IDF. Helped by defense forces from the US, the UK, Jordan and France, they defended Israel on the night of April 13th against a vicious direct attack by the bloody regime in Tehran.

Every one of the hundreds of drones and rockets lobbed at Israel by Iran and its attack dog Hezbollah was intended to kill in the hundreds and thousands. Thanks to our excellent defense, only one person was hurt — a poor little girl was gravely injured by falling debris as the fight for our lives was waged in the skies. I think we should allow no child under Israeli skies to be without shelter.  Unlike Hamas, which uses billions in “aid” money to construct elaborate terror tunnels and deliberately builds no shelters for civilians, we must all agree that more shelters are needed to keep our innocents safe. And they are OUR innocents. ALL of the children. From whatever town, village, kibbutz, settlement or camp. From whatever of the many groups that make up the beautiful, living mosaic that is Israel. We value the lives of our children and seek to build a better future for them.  As Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah and their masters in Tehran have repeatedly shown — they do not. The lives of our children, and even the lives of their own children, are just grist for their mill of hatred and death.

This leads to me to a very important front in this war.  A front on which we have failed to fight, or to fight adequately, over and over again. And that is the communications front.

Big lies about Israelis and Jews are being pumped out by the Iranian ayatollahs and their proxies, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis as well as their supporters in the West. We need to get our heads around this ugly reality. These lies are like slow-acting poison, and they are quite lethal. As they circulate not only on social media but also through the established media; as they are mouthed in the halls of the UN and the US Congress and Senate; as they are screeched on college campuses and in mass demonstrations in the US, Europe, and Australia — make no mistake about it.  These lies and propaganda are meant to set the stage for isolating Israel and committing genocide against Israelis. They are meant to make frightening, hurting and killing Jews all over the world the “new normal.” Though we may fight valiantly and well in actual military conflict, we repeatedly ignore the battle for hearts and minds — to our great peril.

This is no exaggeration. Recall how quickly the bloodthirsty cries of support went up on college campuses and in the streets of major cities all over the world almost immediately following the rapes, tortures, kidnapping and slaughter committed on October 7th by Hamas’ drugged-up terrorists and camp followers from Gaza. This was organized and orchestrated.  Hamas mouthpieces wasted no time, they got right to work pouring tenderizer on the meat of public consciousness all over the planet and hammering it home.

Now the big lie chorus is multi-messaging across all channels. Amazing how videos of Israeli women bleeding heavily into their pants as they were dragged by car and truck and motorcycle into Gaza were posted all over social media one day and yet supposedly sane and respectable people repeat or believe in assertions that Hamas doesn’t rape the next day. Amazing, disgusting, depressing — but we cannot afford to be silenced and allow the “Death to Israel” choir to have the stage, the cyberspace, the airwaves.  They come to sow the seeds of destruction. They come to establish tolerance for brutality and killing of Israelis and for intimidation and isolation of Jews the world over.  This is not a drill.

Get it straight — this stuff is very effective weaponry.  And we need to do much more than counter false claims — that is totally and completely inadequate.  We need to attack with the truth, and we need to do it in completely fluent and native-level English, Arabic, German, Russian, French, Farsi, Spanish and Chinese at a bare minimum.  It is important that we also speak on a native level to the peoples of countries more at home with Swahili, Somali, Amharic, Tagalog and Portuguese.  We may not be interested in this aspect of the war, but it is quite deadly interested in us.

Bibi Netanyahu’s claims that he can’t find people who can “put two words together” in English are completely fallacious.  Besides the contingent of Jews that had remained in the area of biblical Israel through history, modern Israel’s people gathered from the four corners of the earth. Over 800,000 Jews were stripped of their property and thrown out of the surrounding Arab lands as penniless refugees after the State of Israel was founded and a multi-army attack by the surrounding Arab countries failed to kill off the struggling new Jewish state. Unlike the surrounding countries that opted to keep Palestinian Arabs displaced by the war in perpetual refugee status, we gave our people from Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria citizenship and a new home.  A few years later, they were joined by some 70,000 Jews escaping Iran after the fall of the Shah.  Yet we have no one speaking to the Arab people or the Iranian people consistently and coherently in their own tongues today. This despite the fact that there are thousands of households where Arabic or Farsi is either a first or second language in Israel.

We have a large English-language Aliyah, yet we tend to disregard the potential contributions of our population that can fluently speak that very widespread and powerful language.  The American-Israelis, British-Israelis and South African-Israelis, and other native English speakers also understand the cultures they came to Israel from, and the nuances and contextual references of the English language, far better than their Israeli-born compatriots.  We have large Russian and Ethiopian contingents, and yet once again, the language and cultural knowledge of these populations is not, institutionally, viewed or valued as a potential asset. The same goes for the French Aliyah, Aliyah from Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, etc.

The fact that we do not actively cultivate the considerable assets our own population presents, that we don’t organize and prioritize recruiting and training people capable of fighting the communications war, to take the case for the value of human life and the need to defend it against brutal and genocidal hatred and terrorism to the world is simply unconscionable.  The fact that we inadequately partner with our diaspora to encourage and train spokespeople to come forth who are able to take the fight to the enemy’s big lie camp and might also find at least a small corner of support as they are blasted on social media for doing so is unthinkable. We simply cannot continue to fail to fight while we are being actively attacked.  It really is that simple.  And that hard.  Speak truth about terrorism to the world, or terrorism will project its ugly lies all over us and call it the truth.

Consider this — Qatar, a highly skilled practitioner of duplicity with very deep pockets — is a small country, albeit very wealthy, that uses communication as one of its chief tools for power projection.  Though Israel is not rolling in oil money as is that tiny Gulf state, we have tremendous human capital as well as at least sectors of our diaspora that outshine Qatar’s in diversity, capability, ingenuity, motivation, and potentially, the ability to speak truth to terror in a multiplicity of native-level languages.  But we must decide that this is a key fight to fight, and then we must quickly plan and fund and organize and educate accordingly and get to work.  Starting yesterday.  Starting well before October 7th, the “amen choir” for which revealed just how very badly behind the eight-ball we are.

We have the people.  We have to stop the hubris and the dismissal and the “hasbarah zeh lo ha tafid shelanu” (roughly translated — “explaining is not our job” — said directly to my husband by the Israeli Consul of the General Israeli Consulate of New England while we were stationed there during his grad studies.  My husband was so furious, he walked off.) We have to put all that overly and unjustifiable prideful nonsense and “know best” aside and confront reality — if we don’t talk with the people of the world, or if we don’t do so coherently and well, the people who want to see Israelis and Jews dead are doing so and they will.

The sky fight against Iran’s drones and missiles was beautifully fought.  The ayatollahs and their minions thoroughly deserve to be referred to as “the genocidal regime in Tehran”, because that was, is, and will be their focus until their long-suffering population finally throws them into the dustbin of history, where they belong.  However, we must not let our wonderful defense forces or the fantastic gift of living to fight another day go to our heads or lull us into feeling safe.  We are not safe.  We are very terribly exposed, and we’d better start talking.  Coherently and capably and very, very well.  To the West, to the Arab world, to Europe, to Africa.  The battle is on.  We are late.  Time to fight.  And that’s the truth.

About the Author
Born in Kibbutz Nachshon Israel, raised in the U.S. and lived there on both coasts with lots of visits (even a few residential stays) in Israel, and intending to return yet again. Entrepreneurial generalist -- worked for others, built my own medical reporting business (with NO seed money), and since have had an extended career in the U.S. biotech industry in early startups through late clinical stage firms, holding positions in everything from investor relations and corporate communications to business development to Director, Facilities (my current post). Longtime editor, particularly on foreign policy topics. Co-founder, with my sister, Jade Bar-Shalom, Z"L, of the Books for Israel Project during the Second Intifada, which connected synagogues, churches and community centers in the U.S. with low-income Israeli Jewish, Arab, and Druze schools to help them build much-needed English language libraries for the kids. Author of the book, LambBunny and His Friends (on Amazon). On and off painter. Writer of op-eds. Blogger for The Times of Israel.
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