Arabs continue to kill other Arabs and with venom and ferocity which surpass even
the hitherto high levels of brutality. Egypt is one case in mind, where all breaks were pulled
and the military , which traditionally prided itself for being the ”peoples army”, kill
indiscriminately the people who happen to disagree with it. Not exactly the REAL ”peoples army”…
and now came the horrific news from Syria where the murderous Alawite regime of Bashar Assad slaughtered over a 1000 Sunni
Syrians in the suburbs of its own capital, Damascus ,using ground to ground missile loaded with the
Sarin gas. Terrible!!! First, a comment on the media coverage of it. Most of the American media outlets
report the atrocity , but refrain from showing the most spectacular and frightening pictures. A mistake!.
Reason is, that people in the West cannot form a fully-informed attitude towards the calamity in Syria,
when they are not exposed to the full extent of the mayhem. A picture is worth 1000 words, as we are told
by any journalism department , so please do not take note of those with a soft stomach… people need to be exposed
to the naked truth about what is happening. A personal impression /experience is in place here;
When during the first Palestinian Intifada I served as the Israeli Government spokesperson, I asked the IDF spokesman to
provide me with the graphic evidence of the brutalities committed by Palestinians against their ”brothers”. The
IDF duly complied , but no foreign media outlet was ready to show any of the pictures. Yet, many of these outlets
kept harping time and again about alleged ”Israeli atrocities”, so the sense given to the average Western
media consumer was distorted, and the damage to Israel’s image intolerable.
And with that, I come to the Israeli angle of the atrocities committed all around us.

I religiously read the talkbacks in the Israeli media when there are reports about Arab atrocities. Talkbacks
are far from being an accurate, scientific tool with which to measure public opinion, but
they definitely give us a clue, perhaps more than that as to what ordinary Israelis think, and
I can come up with four very clear impressions; First, many Israelis believe that this is a typical Arab
behavior. Arabs, so it goes with many of these reactions, simply like to kill.
Second, if they do it to themselves, they will do it to us, and how!.
Third, how can we make peace with such people? Shomer nafsho yirhak…[you want to protect yourself,
so shy away].
Fourth, where on earth, is Israel’s Hasbara? why do not we make full use of the situation in order
to promote our case in the world?
The overall tone of the reactions is what can be termed as an expression of Right-Wing sentiment,
and that should not surprise, as Right-Wing sentiments seem to have the upper hand among Jews in Israel, judging by
frequent public opinion polls checking Israeli attitudes regarding the peace process , and also when we
look at the composition of the Knesset.
Still, it is regrettable that views like ”this is typical Arab pattern of behavior” have so much
stock with ordinary Israelis.Regrettable, but whom to blame? The violence is terrible, and the public reaction is natural, instinctive
and reflecting deeply-held suspicions towards Arabs. Education can help, but we should not hold our breath.
The continuing conflict seems to poison the public discourse , and centuries of persecution of Jews in Muslim countries, as well , of course, elsewhere,
do take their toll.

Then, it is of course wrong to suggest, that the violence signals no chance for any Israeli-Arab cooperation.
The Egyptian generals do not follow the Western-Israeli code of behavior, but they go in a very big way
against our enemies, be them Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. So, in an environment like that, do we have the luxury
of choosing our friends? we need to go with those who are on our side, though they do it for their own reasons, and as an expression
of their own interests as they understand them. Moral issues are definitely aroused here, and all I argue is, that while we cannot condone atrocities
even by the Egyptian military, we still can live with this regime, so long as it is committed to peace with us, cold or not…Surely, when we know
what is the alternative.

Can they do it to us? the question is referred to Syria, but also to Iran , if and when it is finally
possessing weapons of mass destruction. The answer is, that Israel does have a formidable power of deterrence, but yes, under
extreme circumstances , rough states/regimes like Syria and Iran can use their arsenal against us. We cannot take the risk, so , therefore, preemptive
measures by us will be imperative. ”Something” never formally acknowledged by Israel already has taken place
in Syria, more may follow, and Iran should never feel protected and safe either!

And then what about our Hasbara?Sure enough, almost every point of Israel’s Hasbara is totally borne out
by recent events. The Arab-Palestinian-Israeli conflict is NOT THE middle east problem,it is A problem, needs to be
resolved, but the resolution depends MUCH MORE on changing patterns of Arab behavior, than on Israeli policies.
Arabs are divided by sect/ religion/ethnicity, and this division is the most fundamental basis of loyalty and
solidarity among them. Consequently, they resent THE OTHER, be them Kurds, who are Sunnis, but not Arabs, or Christians, who
are Arabs, but not Muslims, and on top of all that, Israeli-Jews… do I really need to elaborate ?
So, the conflict is basically not about settlements or borders, it is about EXISTENCE, OUR EXISTENCE…
And then I can go on and on…
But words of caution and reserve are still in place here;
First, Israel and its allies/supporters, do engage in a very extensive Hasbara effort, which is not always coordinated
and efficient enough, but it exists.
Second, we have to show human empathy when referring to the slaughters around us, and not to be seen as if we are indifferent, or even
are happy that it happens, so that we can say”we told you so”, or use it as an excuse/pretext/reason not to indulge
in any diplomatic/policy initiative.
We surely need to be careful, doubly cautious and deliberative, but total diplomatic inaction is not
a good response.
We need also to understand, grudgingly so, that the world, including our friends in the West, and we have many there, do not necessarily
share our policy conclusions even in the face of all the atrocities. Old habits die hard, and cliches like
”we need to move on”, or ”only a political process can bring about a change” , while irrelevant and unrealistic, still
represent a strong body of opinion which is important to us. We just got a painful reminder with the scandalous decision by
the European Union to boycott products of the settlements.
Lastly, let us remember a built-in, long-held, historical constraint that we have as Jews; ”some” people do not like
us in this world, to say the very least… no matter what we do, and how we explain ourselves.
There is a word describing it, it is the oldest human-recorded hatred, it is called -ANTI-SEMITISM!…
Not every criticism of us is falling into this category, and we need to be VERY selective in using it, but
it exists.
This is a challenge mainly for people from the Right-Wing, nationalist side of the aisle. They are the
ones who more than others think ”that they are ALL against us”, and yet demand always more
and more Hasbara. So, if they are ALL against us, can Hsbara REALLY change?
Well they are NOT ALL against us, we have friends,we need to have more and we have to use timely, sophisticated Hasbara
as one of the tools helping us achieve this goal.
Some policy changes can also do the trick…

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina