Ethnic cleansing? Really, Netanyahu?


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a new PR strategy that involves posting clever YouTube videos.   

Except exactly one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video declaring that removing Jews from their homes in the West Bank is “ethnic cleansing,” his minister of defense, Avigdor Lieberman, announced he was removing Jews from their homes in the West Bank.

As the very much missed Jon Stewart would say: “Wha-wha WHAT?”

Lieberman is no Peace Now-nik. But the Israeli High Court ruled that the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona must be evacuated, and Lieberman said he would follow the court’s ruling. Israel, he said, is a nation of laws.

So this is interesting. Assume, one day, there is a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Will Israeli families be made to abandon their settlements because the Palestinians are engaged in ethnic cleansing, or because the Israelis want to abide by international law? 

Wait, don’t answer. There’s more.

Because the very idea that the prime minister asserts — that the Palestinians want a Judenrein Palestine — is debatable.

In 2009, then-Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad spoke at a conference in Aspen, Colo. Asked if Jews would be able to live in a future Palestine, here’s what he said:

“In fact the kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the State of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel,” Fayyad said.

Oh, you say, but that’s Salam Fayyad. He’s like the Palestinian Elijah — more aspiration than reality. Except here’s Hanan Ashrawi speaking to the Times of Israel, reiterating what many Palestinians have told various media over the years:

“Any person, be he Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, will have the right to apply for Palestinian citizenship. Our basic law prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity.”

The Palestinians refuse to allow Israeli settlers to stay as Israelis in a future state, because they see the settlements as illegal, as do the majority of international bodies. But if the settlers want to stay as Jews loyal to Palestine, these leaders are saying “welcome.” 

“If Netanyahu argues that these positions are against Jews, we say to him that two Jews were elected in 2009 as members of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council: Ilan Halevi and Uri Davis,” senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said to the Times of Israel in 2014. “Our position is against settlements, considering them illegal and contrary to all international laws.”

So it turns out that Bibi’s very premise, that the Palestinians want Jews out, isn’t exactly true. A two-state solution would end Israeli sovereignty and control in Palestine, not necessarily a Jewish presence. It would separate the two sides legally, but not ethnically. Jews would be able to live and prosper in Ramallah. Palestinians would be able to live and prosper in Haifa — as tens of thousands of them already do. A two-state solution is not ethnic cleansing. It is border-setting.

The alternative to that solution is one that I can’t imagine Bibi really wants, though more and more Palestinians (and a few Jews) do. They want one state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.  And within that one state, they want each person to have one vote.   

Just to be clear on the details, that land, comprising the pre- and post-1967 borders of Israel, currently is home to 5.8 million Arabs and 6.2 million Jews, according to Arnon Soffer, a geography professor and one of the founders of the University of Haifa.

If Bibi wants to guarantee the rights of Israelis to live anywhere on that land, now would be a good time to say so, before Russian President Vladimir Putin goes through all the trouble of hosting a peace conference. In short order, Israel would be a very different state than what its founders intended, or it would cease being a democracy.

The late Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin thought it was best to divide the land, as did every Republican president and presidential candidate until, you know, Donald Trump. 

The rule of law matters to Israel —  or else why evacuate Amona?  And international law, demographics, security and economics matter, or else why evacuate Israelis from Gaza, or maintain Oslo?

The point is, YouTube is easy; peace is hard.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

My Single Peeps: Kristina L.


Most Jewish parents don’t name their child Kristina, but Ukraine — when it was still the former Soviet Union — was very secular. “So my parents just gave me what was the cool, European name of the moment, not wanting to give me some very traditional and typical Russian name like Tanya or Svetlana.” When she was 9, her family went through Jewish immigration. There was a five-month process where they lived in Italy and Austria, before landing in Los Angeles. She didn’t speak a word of English. They lived in a tiny apartment off of Fairfax Avenue, while her mother worked to support her father in medical school. 

Kristina, now 32, went to UC Santa Barbara, where she was pre-law. “Santa Barbara is a very fun place to go to school, a very fun place not to go to class. Then 9/11 happened and I changed my major to political science. I thought I was going to be Christiane Amanpour and hide in the bushes in the Middle East and report on war crimes.” After working for a news station, she realized the road to becoming a reporter would be too difficult, “so I decided to go into PR instead. I started working for a PR agency in Santa Barbara, and then I moved to L.A. and went through the PR agency world.”

She’s a hard worker — and others noticed. She was recruited by a startup, ShoeDazzle, which became very successful. She was then recruited by Match.com to run the company’s PR. After some time, the constant traveling to Dallas grew exhausting. “I decided it wasn’t a fit for me, and with a lot of encouragement from friends, I [started] my own agency. My parents were freaking out that I was giving up a really good salary, job security and working for a big company, in a shaky economy. I had my first client within a month. That was five months ago. Now I have a pretty full roster of clients and flexibility to go to yoga in the middle of the day if I feel like it. I love what I do. It’s a lot of fun. I work with a lot of different clients in a lot of different industries — one of them is a dating Web site called 3 Day Rule founded by two female matchmakers.” As I write that down, I realize she just PR’d her way into my article. Well played, Kristina.

Kristina likes her men well read. “I tend to date people who are entrepreneurs. They have a certain drive that I relate to. Having a good personality is important. Chemistry is the most important. It doesn’t matter what qualities you put down, but it comes down to a spark.” I say, “You haven’t mentioned looks.” She laughs. “I’m 5-foot-7, so definitely tall. I never thought about descriptors. I’ll know it when I see it. When I’m in a relationship with someone, we’re best friends. You can support each other and kick each other’s ass — in a good way. I’m very supportive. I try to make sure the other person feels really good. I’m also really fun. No one’s ever been bored dating me.

 “I do want kids, but I don’t need them tomorrow. Probably in the next five years. If I have to think about things that are most important — it’s not work, even though I enjoy work. It’s not hobbies — those can come or go. It’s relationships with the people around you. The people in your life are the most important. I would move for a relationship to another state. I wouldn’t move for work.”


Seth Menachem is an actor and writer living in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. You can see more of his work on his Web site, sethmenachem.com, and meet even more single peeps at mysinglepeeps.com.

 

The price for success: Bad PR


“Never mind the collapse in confidence in Europe, the Palestinian proposal for United Nations recognition and heightened tensions with neighboring Egypt and longtime ally Turkey. The Israeli economy just keeps growing faster than the rest of the developed world.”

Those were the opening lines of a Sept. 26 report in Business Week titled “Israel Punches Above Weight as GDP Beats Developed World,” which detailed Israel’s economic accomplishments and included facts such as these:

“Israel’s gross domestic product will expand 4.8 percent this year, according to the Washington-based lender [the International Monetary Fund]. That’s up from an April forecast of 3.8 percent and triple the pace for the average of the 34 advanced economies.”

Triple the pace for the average of the 34 advanced economies! You can’t make this stuff up.

Of course, the picture in Israel is not all rosy. The tent revolution over the summer revealed many social ills, such as a growing disparity between rich and poor and a sharp rise in the cost of living and housing that is shrinking the middle class. But in the spirit of free societies, the wheels of change have been put in motion. Even at its worst, Israel has a built-in “corrective mechanism” that shows a robust democracy in action.

So, how do we explain this little democratic miracle in the Middle East? Here is a tiny nation under siege, surrounded by hostile neighbors, under assault by a boycott-happy world, condemned beyond all reasonable measure by the United Nations — and still, it finds a way to grow faster than most countries, make more than its fair share of contributions to the world, create an open, civil society and rank among the highest nations on the “happiness scale.”

How does Israel do it? I have a theory, but you might not like it.

Here’s what I think: Israel’s success is directly related to its failure at public relations.

Yes, all these complaints you’ve been hearing for years about Israel’s “terrible hasbarah” are directly related to its phenomenal success. Here’s why: PR is the creation of emptiness, the emptiness of promises. A PR mentality creates a society that cares more about its image than about delivering real things to its people. PR is like showing a menu and never serving the food.

Israel was built not by people who knew how to promise, but by people who knew how to deliver.

Israel wasn’t worried about PR as it built the strongest economy in the Middle East; it wasn’t worried about image-building as it built the strongest army; and it certainly didn’t create an open society — where brutal criticism of the state is the natural order of things — because it thought that would help its image.

In fact, Israel’s determination not to be a victim has been a key contributor to its bad PR. Let’s face it: Victims and underdogs get good PR. This is a major reason why the Palestinians have been winning the PR war — they have nurtured their image of victimhood. Weak people attract sympathy. Strong people don’t.

Of course, none of this means you can’t aim to have a strong, successful country and good PR. Israel has made moves in that direction over the years: the offers of peace under Prime Ministers Barak and Olmert were helpful. So have the country’s efforts to help disaster areas throughout the world, particularly after the Haiti earthquake, as well as Israel’s cultural exports and technological innovations, especially medical advances.

Sadly, though, Israel’s greatest PR boost in the last decade came when suicide bombers were murdering Israelis during the Second Intifada, and when rockets were falling on Sderot after the disengagement from Gaza. In other words, Israel got the most sympathy when it was a clear victim.

Is Israel doomed, then, to have to choose between success and good PR? Can it ever hope to have both?

Achieving both goals would surely be the biggest miracle yet for this little country of miracles. Can you imagine if Israel were celebrated around the world for its numerous and valuable contributions to humanity? Can you imagine if Israel became a democratic model for other countries in the Middle East?

But here is the impossible question: If peace is not in the cards with the Palestinians (and I don’t believe it is), can Israel still find a way to improve its image? The odds are not good. The world’s obsession with creating a Palestinian state — against all evidence that it is feasible at this point — is just too strong. As long as the Palestinians are seen as the victims, Israel will be fighting an uphill PR battle.

Perhaps if Israel were to make a dramatic move, like a specific peace proposal, that might help. More likely, only a dreaded renewal of terrorist attacks against Israel would generate sympathy — and even that sympathy would dissipate once Israel retaliates.

To have any chance at good PR, Israel must find a way to reclaim the emotional high ground — not by being victims of terror but by reclaiming the emotional idea of “justice.” The Palestinians should not “own” justice. Israel can make a strong case that its cause is just and that the treatment it gets at the United Nations is a gross injustice. Framing its narrative around justice is a lot more powerful than framing it around physical security.

But let’s not fool ourselves: As long as Israel is seen as the strong one, facing societies who revel in victimhood and have been taught to hate the Jews, Israel will not win the PR war. It might win a few battles, but not the war. That will only come when Arabs of the Middle East realize that their problems have nothing to do with Israel — and that Israel is really the cure, rather than the curse, of the Middle East.

In the meantime, Israel can live with the consolation, and it’s not a small one, that it has created the strongest and most successful country in the Middle East. And that, in itself, is a miracle.

Palestinians gain ground in PR, diplomatic war


In the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict, score some recent victories for the Palestinians.

It’s not that Israel has given an inch in the territorial dispute over the West Bank, or that the Palestinians in Gaza have achieved new military victories against the Israelis, despite increased rocket and mortar fire from the coastal strip in recent weeks.

Rather, the Palestinians have scored a series of diplomatic and public-relations successes against a Jewish state weakened by fraying relationships and a declining reputation internationally.

On the diplomatic front, Palestinian leaders announced this week that 10 European Union countries were upgrading their ties with the PLO. Earlier this month, three Latin American countries—Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia—issued formal recognitions of the state of Palestine.

On Sunday was the much-publicized lunch hosted by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for Israeli politicians and activists in Ramallah. Numerous Op-Eds followed in the Israeli media and overseas noting that there is a Palestinian partner for peace even if there isn’t an Israeli one.

Then there was the early December decision by the Obama administration to drop its effort to persuade Israel to agree to an additional 90-day freeze of Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank. Commentators cited Israeli intransigence as the primary reason.

“Israel,” columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in a Dec. 11 Op-Ed in The New York Times, “when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not ‘How much?’ It is: ‘Yes, whatever you want, because you’re our only true friend in the world.’”

Over the last few months, Israel’s declining international reputation has given the Palestinians and their allies an opening they have exploited by effectively casting Israel as the bully and the unyielding party in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

It is a message that is promoted relentlessly by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to make Israel an international pariah, and it is reinforced by negative assessments of Israeli actions such as the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza two years ago, the deadly Turkish flotilla incident of May 31 and Israel’s daily treatment of West Bank Palestinians.

If the goal is to increase pressure on Israel to accede to the creation of a Palestinian state, a strategy that focuses on diplomacy and PR appears to have a greater chance of success right now than the Palestinians’ decades-long strategy of terrorism and war.

That strategy—call it the violent one—was snuffed out in recent years by Israeli military operations, Israel’s erection of the West Bank security fence and a recognition by leading Palestinian figures that the violence was doing more harm to the Palestinian national cause than good.

“We tried the intifada, and it caused us a lot of damage,” Abbas told an interviewer with the London-based Arabic daily Al Hayat in September.

Abbas said the Palestinian Authority would not revert to violent uprising even if peace talks collapsed.

With relative moderates like Abbas in charge of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank—the primary public face of the Palestinians—there is a greater understanding that to achieve statehood the Palestinians must win the world to their side. That, after all, paved the way for the creation of the State of Israel, after the United Nations voted in November 1947 to recognize a Jewish state in Palestine.

Now the Palestinians are setting their sights on this same goal.

U.N. recognition would shift the conflict from one over “occupied Palestinian territories” to a conflict over an “occupied state with defined borders,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. “We urge the international community to salvage the two-state solution by recognizing a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.”

While U.N. recognition of Palestine might make a diplomatic end run around Israel, it hardly would result in an immediate Palestinian state. The United Nations would have no way of enforcing its decision, and Israeli troops and settlers would remain in the West Bank.

What it would do, however, is significantly ratchet up the pressure on Israel to deal with the Palestinians.

“Widespread international recognition of Palestine’s legitimacy and existence has very significant consequences,” Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, wrote on his blog earlier this month.

That pressure isn’t just coming from outside Israel.

“The Palestinians will declare a state. Virtually the whole world will recognize it. And we will be left without security arrangements,” Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer warned in October.

There is pressure even from inside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud Party. Likud veteran and Cabinet minister Michael Eitan has proposed moving settlers willing to accept compensation and relocation out of the West Bank and into Israel proper to signal to the world that Israel is serious about wanting peace with the Palestinians.

This week, Haaretz columnist Akiva Eldar wrote that Israel needs to be saved from itself.

“Almost no day goes by without some other country recognizing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders,” Eldar wrote. “According to the WikiLeaks documents, even the Germans, Israel’s steadfast supporters in Europe, have lost their faith in the peaceful intentions of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.”

Whatever criticism there is inside Israel about the Israeli government’s approach toward the Palestinians, the criticism outside Israel is sharper.

The main holdout is the United States, where recent polls show that the American people overwhelmingly favor Israel over the Palestinians, and Congress remains steadfastly pro-Israel.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is aiming to change that. Using everything from campus activism to boycotts of stores that sell Israeli food products to bus ads promoting pro-Palestinian messages, the movement is hoping to sway public opinion.

Starting Dec. 27, the two-year anniversary of the Gaza war between Israel and Hamas, a group called the Seattle Midwest Awareness Campaign will be running ads on the sides of Seattle buses featuring photos of children looking at a demolished building under the heading “Israeli War Crimes: Your tax dollars at work.”

At Princeton University in New Jersey, DePaul University in Chicago and on the streets of Philadelphia, pro-Palestinian activists have campaigned to have Israeli brands of hummus removed from campus cafeterias or store shelves. In New York, boycott supporters demonstrated outside a store belonging to the Israeli chocolatier Max Brenner.

“The relics of the past boycotts—from Nuremberg to Damascus—are back,” Ethan Felson, vice president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, wrote in a JTA Op-Ed. “Its proponents seek to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into every sphere of American life.”

In the zero-sum game that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that’s good news for the Palestinians.

Toronto film fest calls Israeli PR strategy into question


When Amir Gissin helped come up with an idea to remake Israel’s international image several years ago, it’s unlikely he imagined that the showcasing of Israeli films in Toronto would spark a star-studded Hollywood brouhaha over artistic expression and cultural boycotts.

But that’s what happened as Israel became the major flashpoint at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

In an interview last year with the Canadian Jews News, Gissin boasted that his new marketing idea, known as Brand Israel, would help reshape public perceptions of the Jewish state and culminate in a major presence at the 2009 festival.

The presence turned out to be the focus on Tel Aviv as part of the festival’s new City to City program, which included an appearance by the city’s mayor and VIP receptions in addition to the screening of 10 Israeli films.

“The way to fix negative images of Israel is to present Israel in a positive light elsewhere,” Gissin told the paper.

But the effort appears to have backfired as a string of celebrities, including Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Viggo Mortensen and Harry Belafonte, signed on to the so-called Toronto Declaration claiming that the Tel Aviv spotlight is merely an attempt by the Israeli government to divert attention from its treatment of the Palestinians.

So rather than talking about Israel’s rich cinematic culture, the buzz this week in Toronto has centered on the one thing Israeli officials had sought to avoid: the conflict with the Palestinians.

Israel has long sought to divert the focus from its conflict with the Palestinians out of concern that in the eyes of many, the country is a Middle East backwater engaged in an interminable tribal conflict.

The 2007 “Girls of the IDF” photo shoot for Maxim magazine and the recent transformation of a spit of land in Manhattan’s Central Park into a replica of the Tel Aviv beach were of a piece with the Foreign Ministry’s efforts to broaden public perceptions of Israel and, in effect, tell the Western world, “Hey, we’re just like you.”

Last year, the Israeli government dedicated $10.6 million to the effort, according to Joel Lion, Israel’s current consul for media affairs in New York, who in an earlier post in Germany arranged for the prime minister of Saxony to cook falafel and couscous with an Israeli chef.

Increasingly, cultural events featuring Israeli artists have been the focus of protests in North America. But the debacle in Toronto appears to have drawn a much higher level of attention, raising questions about the rebranding strategy.

The trouble began when filmmaker John Greyson pulled his short film from the festival. That spurred a group of filmmakers and activists—among them Fonda, Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky and the historian Howard Zinn—to sign a declaration titled “No Celebration of Occupation.”

“We do not protest the individual Israeli filmmakers included in City to City, nor do we in any way suggest that Israeli films should be unwelcome at TIFF,” the statement said. “However, especially in the wake of this year’s brutal assault on Gaza, we object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf of what South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and U.N. General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann have all characterized as an apartheid regime.”

Within days, the Jewish federations in Toronto and Los Angeles had organized a group of Hollywood stars to sign a statement protesting the Toronto Declaration. The statement—its signatories include Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Portman and Sacha Baron Cohen—ran as a full-page advertisement in the Tuesday edition of the Toronto Star.

“Anyone who has actually seen recent Israeli cinema, movies that are political and personal, comic and tragic, often critical, knows they are in no way a propaganda arm for any government policy,” the statement said. “Blacklisting them only stifles the exchange of cultural knowledge that artists should be the first to defend and protect. Those who refuse to see these films for themselves or prevent them from being seen by others are violating a cherished right shared by Canada and all democratic countries.”

Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center argued in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star that those backing the declaration criticizing the focus on Tel Aviv had signed on to something that was “intentionally or unintentionally nothing more than a recipe for Israel’s destruction.”

Fonda took it personally, responding with a statement in which she described her support for various Israeli causes and stressed that the declaration did not call for a boycott of Israeli films. Several Atlanta Jewish leaders, including rabbis and a former federation president, issued their own statement defending her.

However, Fonda then issued a second statement standing by her opposition to the official focus on Tel Aviv, but saying that the declaration was one-sided and poorly worded.

In interviews Tuesday, those involved in Brand Israel disputed the notion that the festival controversy rendered their strategy inoperable. Several compared the effort to New York City’s campaign to rebrand itself the Big Apple in the 1970s after years in which the city was seen as a hotbed of crime and ineffective government.

“You’re always going to have people imbued with politics and seeing things through that lens,” said Barak Orenstein, a brand manager in Toronto who gave the keynote address at a Brand Israel conference last year. “But there’s definitely a need to share Israel’s contributions with the world. And I think the country has to be proactive about the wonderful things that it’s sharing.”

Lion was even more dismissive, saying that the protesters were a small group and “nothing new.” He noted, as did several others, that the festival stood by its decision to highlight the Israeli films and festival-goers would still have a chance to see them.

“People see that films from Israel are coming to an international film festival,” Lion said. “They see that the films are there. So it’s also a part of the branding effort, even if there’s controversy. Controversy only helps.”

Have Jews lost their mojo?


I took a break from the hood the other night to speak to a large Conservative synagogue in Palos Verdes called Congregation Ner Tamid — and I used a word that got me in trouble. The occasion was a showing of “Obsession” — a documentary on the rise of radical Islam and the worldwide terror that has accompanied it — and it was sponsored by CAMERA, an organization that counteracts anti-Israel bias in the mainstream media.

“Obsession” assaults you with the hatred that fuels the fire of radical Islam.

The film points out that the majority of Muslims are not radical Islamists, but when it hones in on the radicals, the words and images make your skin crawl.

You see an old sheik, speaking to what looks like 100,000 people, pulling out a sword and exhorting his screaming flock to kill every Jew they can find. One radical Muslim after another is shown giving motivational speeches on the fine art of Jew-hatred. And Jew-killing. Lots and lots of Jew-killing.

But here’s the crazy part: There’s not a word from the Jew-haters about the dreaded Occupation. Not a peep about roadblocks or fences or the oppressive policies of the Zionist occupier, which, as we are so often reminded, lie “at the heart” of our enemies’ discontent. The Jew-haters are honest: they want Jews dead. All Jews. Roadblocks or no roadblocks. West Bank or no West Bank.

Talk about an inconvenient truth.

When you see all this Jew-hatred, it’s tempting to be dismissive and say “These are only the radicals; there are many more moderates.” Or to get all cynical because “The radicals will always want to kill us. So what’s new?” These are great coping mechanisms that help us maintain our composure. But here’s what’s new: The radicals aren’t just getting bigger and bolder on the battlefield, they’re also, amazingly, winning the PR war.

Who would have figured that two years after our heart-wrenching evacuation of Gaza — two years of continued relentless attacks from an enemy that brazenly calls for our destruction — we’d be the target of a boycott from British professors? Again, it’s tempting to get all blasé and say “Been there, done that.”

But this blasé attitude is a reason why we are losing the PR battle: We assume that getting all worked up about stuff doesn’t really make a difference, or that it’s not very becoming of Jews. The practical thing to do is to stay composed and look for solutions.

Well, here’s a practical idea: Let’s all take a time-out from “solutions” and get a little worked up. Let’s stop being so composed and start being outraged.
Because if we continue like this, the whole world, except for America and Micronesia, will be boycotting Israel.

Israel needs the Diaspora to get more emotional right now — because emotional outrage wins PR battles. Our enemy understands that a lot better than we do.
The most effective TV interview I ever saw happened about five years ago on a major network, while Israel was in the midst of numerous suicide bombings. The anchorman asked Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, a very composed and sophisticated man, why Israel could not arrest these suicide bombers. Well, you should have seen the outrage on Mr. Burg’s face.

With clenched fists and an almost growling voice, he said something like: “But how do you expect us to do that when they can blow up in one second?”

It was visceral, it was sincere and it didn’t come from talking points. It came from his heart, and I guarantee you it played well in Wisconsin.

After seeing the Jew-hatred in “Obsession,” it was hard not to get worked up when I spoke at the Palos Verdes synagogue. I wanted the Jew-haters of the world to know that we have as much passion to defend Jewish lives as they have passion to destroy us.

But I got a little carried away. I said that we need to have our own Jihad — a Jihad for life — and to show the enemy that we believe in it as much as they believe in their “Jihad for death.”

A fellow Jew rose up in indignation. My clever twist did not amuse him. No matter how much I tried to explain the subtleties of turning our enemy’s word on its head to convey our own “noble struggle,” the word went too far for him.

I understood his discomfort, but maybe that’s precisely why we need to go there.

Our PR timidity has backfired on us. I’m not saying we should emulate “Wrestlemania” announcers (how sincere do they look?), but I am saying that we need to get bolder and more emotional. It makes us more human.

For example, when the bombs fall on Sderot, instead of empty clichés like “no terrorist is immune” and “this is unacceptable” and so forth, we should have the guts to run ads all over the world and get on CNN and the BBC and say things like: “We gave them land, and they gave us war.” “This proves that the occupation was never the key problem,” and “How would England respond if the same amount of bombs fell on Manchester?”

These are not think-tank words, they’re real words. If we can deliver them with the same intensity Mr. Burg used five years ago, the world will better understand the justness of our cause.

The amazing thing about the PR battle is that it’s probably the only area right now where we can win. The political, military and diplomatic landscapes are a mess, but the PR landscape is wide open. Especially post-disengagement, there are numerous PR victories that are ours for the taking.

In a brilliant article in Haaretz, Moshe Arens explains why you can’t deter terrorists, you can only fight them. It’s time for Jews of all stripes to get their mojo back, and join the PR fight.

Even if your only weapon is your PC, and your mouth.


The ‘Obsession’ trailer

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.

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