Glick: Israel’s PR Efforts Have Collapsed

by Hillel Fendel

Part One of two on the Jerusalem Conference’s Session on Israel’s Public Relations Efforts

Caroline Glick, a columnist and editor at the Jerusalem Post, told the Jerusalem Conference this week that ever since Oslo, when Israel recognized the PLO and accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state as its goal, the efforts of the Jewish State to explain and defend its policies abroad have basically collapsed.

The popular commentator moderated a session at the annual conference held at Jerusalem’s Regency Hotel, heading a panel including Tzafrir Ronen, Isi Liebler, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Elyakim HaEtzni and Melanie Phillips (some of whose remarks are cited below).

Glick explained that there are three chief elements to any country’s hasbara (public relations) efforts: The desire to explain, the specific objectives and strategies of the hasbara campaign, and the style in which the hasbara is delivered.

“We are essentially saying that our goal is to advance the interests of our enemies.”

By accepting the establish of a Palestinian state, she said, “we have given the other side veto rights over everything we do.” Glick said that given these opening conditions, everything Israel does that appears to impede the formation of a Palestinian state appears to be our own fault. “We are essentially saying that our goal is to advance the interests of our enemies.”

As an example, she discussed the famous case of the video clip of 12-year-old Muhammed Al-Dura, broadcast around the world by France-2 television. France-2’s narration and selected clips led the entire world to believe that the IDF was responsible for killing an innocent boy as his father tried desperately to protect him.

Why did Israel not defend herself? Why did a top IDF general immediately accept responsibility for the boy’s death? Why did Israel not take a more offensive posture against this onslaught? “Because of Oslo!,” Glick answered. “It was because Ehud Barak was in the middle of trying to conclude a deal over the Temple Mount with Arafat – so how could he come out against the PLO? How could he blacken the name of those to whom he wanted to give away Gaza?”

“And so,” Glick concluded, “when we hear of learned discussions about our hasbara policies, we just have to ask ourselves if these are at all relevant. Do we really want hasbara altogether? The answer appears to be: No.”

She then introduced the panel’s speakers: Tzafrir Ronen, chairman of the secular nationalist Nahalal Forum; Isi Liebler, Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs’ Diaspora-Israel relations committee; Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder and director of the Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center; Kiryat Arba ideologue and former MK Atty. Elyakim HaEtzni; and leading British columnist and commentator Melanie Phillips.

Darshan-Leitner, Al-Dura and Israeli Posturing

Darshan-Leitner provided additional enlightening details about the Al-Dura case before proceeding to analyze the problem more broadly: “Way at the beginning of the intifada [Oslo War], there was a battle at the Netzarim junction [in Jewish Gaza]. Many photographers were there, including a Palestinian one who decided that this was a good opportunity to stage events and scenes against Israel and the IDF. He took Arab children and put them on ambulances, and showed the ambulances evacuating lots of ‘injured’ children, and the like… He also staged the incident of Muhammed al-Dura. Everyone saw the boy with his father, but no one saw him get shot, or any blood…

“The pictures were offered to CNN, but CNN suspected something and did not take the pictures. But Charles Enderlin, France-2’s Israel correspondent, saw that he had a treasure in his hand – and without checking, and without having been there, he took the pictures, trusted the Palestinian photographer, and disseminated the clip with his three-sentence narration: ‘Look at what is happening to the boy… Look how the IDF is shooting at the boy… Here I see the boy already now dying in his father’s arms. Here, he is hit! He is hit! The boy is dead.’ We don’t see the boy get hit or die; we only hear the correspondent, who wasn’t there, say that he was dead.”

Darshan-Leitner said that once the IDF took responsibility for the incident, before even investigating it, “there was nothing Israel could do afterwards to dispel the impression that had been broadcast all around the world that Israel was guilty. Even when IDF Southern Command O.C. General Yom-Tov Samiyeh later carried out an investigation showing that the boy could not possibly have died from IDF fire, based on angles of fire and the like, it was ‘too little, too late.'”

She said that about a year ago, she asked Danny Seaman, the Director of Israel’s Government Press Office, to revoke the press credentials of Enderlin and the Gaza photographer: “We said that those who fabricated an event of this type should no longer have the right to work as journalists in Israel. Danny Seaman took nine full months, and finally came back with this answer that we were right, that Enderlin apparently did fabricate the item, and that there truly was a blood libel against Israel and the IDF, and that all the studies – by the IDF, and by Landes, and by American researchers, and by the Wall Street Journal – all showed that this was fabricated. But, he said, ‘this is a public legal struggle, and it’s not in my hands, and I can’t take away Charles Enderlin’s press credentials.’ And so, even today, seven years later, the State of Israel refuses to come straight out and say that this was a fabricated lie… We appealed to the Supreme Court, and a session is to be held in the coming days, but the State of Israel remains steadfast.”

It’s because the gov’t always wants to show that it is ethical and that it takes responsibility for everything that happens in its borders – even before it checks…

“And the question is, Why? Is this a failure in hasbara? The answer is that it is not a hasbara failure, because there is no hasbara. Rather, it’s because the government always wants to show that it is ethical and to show that it takes responsibility for everything that happens in its borders – even without checking… The same thing with the cluster bombs we used in southern Lebanon during the last war; immediately afterwards, the IDF came on its own and took responsibility for it, as if it were guilty of something – even though cluster bombs are permitted according to international law! And the Winograd Commission [that investigated the war] found, of all things it could have found about the IDF, that the IDF had committed a crime by dropping these bombs…

“And this phenomenon is also in the Supreme Court, which has issued many long, detailed, scholarly rulings on the partition fence showing how it wants to be fair to the Palestinians and not hurt their rights – and then in the end, when this issue reached the International Court in the Hague, the court told us, ‘Very nice, but we’re not really interested in your opinions on Palestinian rights. We will determine what is right and ethical, not you’ – such that all the efforts of our Supreme Court justices had been in vain.”

The conclusion must be, Darshan-Leitner asserted, that “the State of Israel need not strive to appear ethical, but rather work to secure the safety of its citizens. It must set a policy, stick to it, and ensure that there is security. Forget about our honor; maintain national security, and then the honor will come of its own accord.”

Tzafrir Ronen: ‘Their Goal is to Erase Our Identity’

Tzafrir Ronen began with a fiery speech accusing the promoters of the Oslo process of trying to erase the Jewish People’s identity and identification with the Land:

“Our country will fall not in battle, but in a print shop – where maps will be printed with the word Palestine instead of Israel!… The Romans, when they captured our country, simply renamed it – and that signified our total defeat… ‘Israel’ belongs to us – but not Palestine – and when we use that term, we are saying that the land is not ours! … If, during our long years in Exile, a rabbi had gotten up and said he no longer needs the Land of Israel, he would not have remained the rabbi for another minute! But now, we have a government that has been saying for 40 years that they are just ‘waiting for a phone call’ – from Hussein, or from Arafat, or whomever – to give away parts of our land… Even Bibi [Netanyahu], who is famous for saying, ‘If they give, they will get’ – what he means is that if they give us a little quiet, they will receive our land! … We returned to our Land, built up a State – and lost our identity!”

Ronen concluded that the “true war being waged today is not for peace, but to cause us to lose our identity. That’s why Barak doesn’t want to allow the Jews of Hevron to put windows on their new property – because he wants to erase our connection with the Land… I once was interviewed by a CNN reporter who asked me, ‘So when will you end your occupation?’ I said to him, ‘Before you ask such a question, first open up a Bible and then come back to me.’ He put down the camera and said, ‘More power to you, that’s the way people should talk about their land.'”

Isi Liebler’s Historical Overview: New Government Needed

Isi Liebler said he wanted to take a less fiery and offensive approach, and in fact provided a historical overview of the deterioration of Israeli information campaign efforts:

“We always were seen, and took pride in being, the People of the Book… We always promoted our case with passionate, moral justification. Zionist leaders recognized the ‘war of ideas’ as a critical front, with books, articles, debates – and we never had any doubt as to the justice of our cause. Foreign Ministry personnel felt that their main goal was to articulate Israel’s case; there was certainly no issue of doling out Foreign Ministry jobs as political favors, or based on seniority…

“In 1967, things changed. I wrote at the time that it must be remembered that the world was not used to seeing us as victors rather than victims, and we must redouble our information efforts, or else its sympathies would soon turn to antagonism… Unfortunately, the Sabras [the new born-in-Israel generation] made light of hasbara efforts, and felt that military strength was all we needed. Only Bibi [Netanyahu], who spent some time in the U.S., saw it differently… But the real change came with Oslo [1993], when the government became obsessed with portraying Arafat as our peace partner, and Israeli diplomats began babbling about two states for two peoples….”

Erekat lied a lot, but Melchior didn’t contest the points or set the record straight, but rather said he agreed with some of the things Erekat said but that now was the time to move forward…

“I remember seeing a debate between MK Melchior of Labor and Saeb Erekat of the PLO. Erekat lied a lot, and instead of Melchior contesting his points and setting the record straight, he said he agreed with some of the things Erekat said but that now was the time to move forward… I saw this as a turning point in Israel’s campaign of apologetics and refusal to fight their lies… Rabin, as Prime Minister, with the help of Yossi Beilin, purged the Foreign Ministry of ambassadors who promoted the Israeli narrative, and brought in new people who saw their job as promoting the peace process…

“And the final straw came with the appearance of the Haaretz English edition on the internet, on which articles were published throughout the whole world that prior to that would have been considered downright anti-Semitic. Thus, instead of Israel’s case being trumpeted to the world, radical and post-Zionist articles from Haaretz were cited by Israeli ambassadors around the globe. Its editor even boasted that he would suppress news that would harm the peace process, and made other comments… The world became convinced that Israel was born in sin… I remember discussing, at different times, hasbara efforts with three different Prime Ministers – Rabin, Barak and Sharon, and I remember their physical reaction of rolling their eyes. They just didn’t get it…

“Next was that there was no coherency: Every minister began saying his own thing, without any coordination among them – while the Arabs were making their case in a professional and effective manner. But our biggest failure of all was in not showing the murderous nature of our enemies – how the suicide bombers’ mothers took such pride in them, their kindergartens that educate towards killing Jews, and how they named their streets and football teams after the murderers, and the like… Then Sharon started talking about occupation – and then came Olmert at Annapolis taking up the enemy’s position and speaking about the Arab right of return… In short, what we need is a new government, because they’re leading this campaign. Replacing our government is more important than theoretical discussions about hasbara.”

February 27, 2008 | 12 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

12 Comments / 12 Comments

  1. I should add that an additional factor is that most UK book shops only stock books about Israel etc written by Left Wing Self Hating Israelis/Jews – it is very, very hard to find any books on their shelves by Nationalistic Israeli or Jews.

    Hence man in street who wants to learn something about the conflict etc., is faced with the same type of bias books. I went to a major bookshop in the heart of London (Picadilly) and all I could find were shelf upon shelf of these books.

    So any reporter worth his salt doing some research prior to his visit to Israel etc would be faced with this type of bias view!

  2. Jerusalem Posts and Alsop Matthew are spot on.

    The problem in the UK stems from passive communal leadership and yichus seeking individuals.

    Hasbara UK has failed because those who are pro active are shot down by the establishment either directly or bad mounthed. JP summed it up well when mentioning the Solidarity Meeting.

    Look at humanitarian efforts – the MIA’s From 1982/86, Jonathan Pollard, plight of the Jewish refugees from Gush Katif, Sderot – the lay and religious communal leadership have utterly failed in their mandates. How many of the machers went to the two demo’s outside the Syrian Embassy in Belgrave Sq, especially the one held at 17:30 – their lack of appearance sums it all up. They want to be seen with the “rich” and “famous” from Israel with the numerous photo opportunities. They believe in such quite diplomacy that the silence is deafening!

    The UK Jewish Press loves to use left leaning reporters so all their articles are just as bad as the UK media in all their guises.

    If the UK leaders were strong we would not have the BBC problem.

    Caroline G, Isi, Tafrir and Darshan -L are 100% correct – we shot ourselves in the foot.

    What we lack are people in Israel of the type of the late David Bar-Ilan (Z”TL) who knew how to deal with the international press/media.

    We need world wide to pick up every incorrect fact and go after the reporter, their paper/media and the respective professional complaints organisation to show we MEAN business.

    It is incumbent on the Israeli GPO to rescind the credentials of these reporters and not act as part of the Prime Minister’s Office

  3. Matthew,

    You’re 100% correct. They can’t take criticism and will block the new blood who want to take action and see results… and of course, are prepared to rock the boat when necessary to make our voices heard.

    I’m 100% sure that if we all clubbed together and rocked the boat, we could make one helluva difference!


    Of course we need new direction, if only to save future generations of Jews… the old guard haven’t got a clue, and way back in 2002 when I said very clearly that we needed more output on the internet, one of the old guard said that the internet will never influence anyone, because he didn’t believe anyone looks at it.

    And that just about sums up the fusty old guard and their lack of vision.


    Do you have this problem with the community leaders in Canada? The differences between the Jewish leaderships across the globe would make a great discussion… (hint, hint)???

  4. @Alsop Mathew. yes! At last! We absolutely do need new blood, the old guard will simply not move aside. The whole game has changed, the old guard has run out of steam. They lack savvy, comprehension – why do they think we are getting our backsides kicked in the PR war for hearts and minds? I see little sign that these people even understand what is happening outside the bubbles in which they seem to exist. if Perturbed poster is what I think s/he is, please, PP, your time is over. Please step aside and allow new blood in UK hasbara to up the reigns. We are being systermatically failed. We need new focus, new direction and a darn sight more inclusive input, not to mention, transparancy.

  5. Perturbed poster of course you’re growing tired of people like Jerusalem Posts and me flagging up the miserable inadequacies of the organisations who have their hands on the reins of Hasbara in the UK. Nobody’s ever dared doing that in such a public fashion before, have they? As J P says you’re probably a member of BICOM yourself, or at least you’re one of its area reps.

    J P good post. I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr /Ms Perturbed Poster is anxious to keep the status quo and the kudos of this elite few. Time for a change, I’d say.

    PP writes “It is not a case of Israel’s PR collapsing – it is a case missing the headlines because of the refusal to recognise the truth and many in the media have closed minds, blind eyes and deaf ears.” It’s people like you who are refusing to recognise the truth, that your way of going about things is old and antiquated. As for your comment about getting off backsides and doing something – we do try but we’re constantly being hampered by people like you. The way forward is for people like you to move aside and let new blood in, who won’t toady to the powers that be and would be prepared to rock the boat if it’d do some good. This isn’t simply about just helping Israel. It’s about Jewish people world wide being proud to hold their heads up once more.

    So you give up your time voluntarily and I suppose altruistically. If this is so then why does it bother you so much when you get criticism? Why not take it on board, or do you love what you get back for your “altruism”, all the glorification and pats on the back?

    You say nobody needs permission to stand up for Israel. What you forgot to mention is “as long as they don’t get in the way of the people in charge”. Jerusalem Posts – am I right?

  6. What joy to hear from perturbed poster who is representative of BICOM and who also makes recommendations about who “deserves” to be invited and recognised by the UK Israel Embassy for their Hasbara work! In fact, the only ones invited are those with whom she agrees.

    As Matthew has stated, the Embassy will ONLY answer emails of the people they choose to recognise, as I myself can testify, because they’ve been actively ignoring my emails since Dan left.

    As for Lorna Fitzsimons… people can judge for themselves after reading the following quote from one of her editorials:

    It is incumbent on us all to really scrutinise the Hamas negotiation option honestly and sensibly. Israel has no permanent enemies and is willing and able to negotiate provided its needs are met as discussed. However, given the recent events in Gaza it would be irresponsible not to investigate Hamas’s actions and motives. Is negotiating now with Hamas a risk worth taking? As yet the answer is no, and the ball is in Hamas’s court.

    Lorna obviously has no idea that Israel is SURROUNDED by permanent enemies! And such a display of ignorance is astounding from such an orgnisation as BICOM.

    As for pedantics about the difference between community “professionals” being highly paid, and community “leaders” doing voluntary work… well, they’re just pendantics – a spade is also a shovel.

    In fact the best work is done by the grassroots activists who aren’t paid, have no real connection to the Embassy or BICOM, they just get on with promoting Israel and above all, by telling the TRUTH – not skirting around it as some do, because they want to be LIKED by those in the political establishment.

    As for BICOM being a non-Jewish organisation, it was made VERY clear in an email from Stephen Rosenthal to a colleague of mine – and was forwarded to all who were concerned and needed to know:

    To answer your point on the Stellman report from 2003, since Lorna Fitzsimon’s arrival at BICOM in September 2006, we have streamlined our messaging in order to succeed in our core goal, as mentioned above, to create a more supportive environment for Israel in the UK. Our extensive polling has shown that as a non-Jewish, media and political facing organization…

    I think perturbed poster is, like BICOM and the Embassy, actively ignoring the majority, and is, as demonstrated, acting only in the interests of the elite few.

    To understand what position perturbed poster takes on major Israel issues, I think it would be relevant to ask where he/she stands on the division of Jerusalem.

    And reading perturbed poster’s comments just reinforce what Matthew and I have already said.

  7. I really am growing very tired of the knocking criticism of the Israel Embassy and its staff in London and of BICOM and other UK organisations.
    It would be interesting to know what those individuals who are doing all the moaning actively do to promote Israel’s good name rather that carping about others
    Since the arrival of Ambassador Ron Prosor the Embassy has been proactive in getting out and about to state Israel’s case. He has been to some of the most difficult campuses and organisations to stand up for what he believes in. And he has taken a whole team of staff into the communities around the UK with more trips planned
    There has also been a day for volunteer activists at the Embassy to discuss hasbara strategy. This started at a manageable level but will be expanded. Maybe there is a taste of sour grapes around if people felt they were left out. As for BICOM and it being a non Jewish organisation, surely its strength is the fact that is is neither exclusively Jewish or exclusively non Jewish, and to the best of my knowledge there is no claim either way..
    The criticism of Lorna Fitzsimons is outrageous, and those complaining should ask the literally thousands of people who have heard her speak througout the UK who have been inspired and motivated by her.
    It is not a case of Israel’s PR collapsing – it is a case missing the headlines because of the refusal to recognise the truth and many in the media have closed minds, blind eyes and deaf ears.
    Instead of moaning why don;t these people get off their backsides and do something. and don’t give me the garbage that the “establishment” won’t allow them to get involved. That simply is not true. No-one needs permission to stand up for Israel
    As for Community leaders sitting in “their well-paid jobs for life” just what planet does Jerusalem Posts inhabit. Name one community leader who is paid! there are community professionals, but the leaders give of their time and effort on a voluntary basis and get the brickbats fromthe likes of Jerusalem Posts and Alsop Matthew for their pains. At least Gary’s comments try to be constructive, but negative knocking will not get any mileage when it comes to the hasbara Israel needs

  8. Matthew,

    I agree that the “Hasbara” leadership in this country is abysmal, but the UK is also funded by Israel, of which most of the money goes to BICOM who are all but useless, and also say they’re a non-Jewish organisation. And lately (under the directorship of Lorna Fitzsimons, the non-Jewish ex-Labour MP), I have to say they’ve done a marvellous PR job for the Palestinians, and they should be funded by Arabs, not by Jews or Israelis.

    As for the rest of us who do Hasbara, we are all individuals or some of us have got together in small groups where we can work in harmony, away from the backstabbing world of UK Hasbara. We’re not funded, because the large organisations want to keep the money in their own pockets, the Israeli Embassy don’t even acknowledge us or the work we do, but are busy massaging the HUGE egos of BICOM and other organisations, who think they promote Israel, but won’t do anything that might upset the apple cart politically.

    The last thing we did that caused controversy was the pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square in 2002 (over 5,000 people came), organised by the Israel Solidarity Committee (of which I was a member). We couldn’t get funding, but had to ask UJIA who said they wanted the kudos in exchange for funding it… and they had the chutzpah to say it was organised by UJIA and BICOM, with only a minor acknowledgement of Israel Solidarity who did ALL the hard work!

    The money IS there, but the so-called community “leaders” refuse to give any to grassroots Hasbaraniks, and sit there, assured of their cushy, well paid jobs for life. And so, nothing positive ever gets done.

    Most of the Hasbara in the US is funded by individuals who believe in Israel, with some coming from the Israeli government.

    As was said once before, the Israeli government spend more money on babies nappies than they do on Hasbara.

  9. Caroline Glick’s on the money this time, and it’s a pity people have taken so long to wake up to the problem. I know of many people who have thrown their hands up in despair and turned their backs on Hasbara because of the Israeli government’s total apathy and lack of interest in their “soldiers on the front line” – those of us outside Israel who are fighting for Israel’s good name. I’ve been one of the troops for a long time and I get so frustrated that we outside Israel get all the flack and vicious attacks while the Israeli Government’s silence lets the Islamists crank up their propaganda machine at our expense.

    So what are we going to do? Surely the time has come for a new approach from our own countries, who for so long have going about things in the same old (wrong) way. In the UK for example the reins of power in Hasbara have been in the hands of a small group of people who think their way is best and who stifle any new input and stamp on any “new blood”. All this group does is push emails around and exhort everbody to write to the press to complain about perceived anti-Semitism. They belong to the school of thought that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism, and consequently Hasbara has become a laughing stock. Nobody listens to them any more but instead of realising that a new approach (and new blood) is called for they insist on going their own blinkered way.

    I know I’m tub-thumping but there must be many people out there who agree with me. The time has come for those of us who believe in Israel to call its Government to account for the abysmal way it handles its approach to the world. Having said this, if pressure groups were formed their first point of contact is the Embassies in their countries. My experience of the Israeli Embassy in the UK has been that it’s been well nigh impossible to get through to anybody to talk seriously about the problem. Emails are not answered and not even acknowledged.

    What really got up my nose was when I found out that Israeli government funds for Hasbara were all being diverted from Europe to the USA.

  10. The fact is that the “Mr. Nice Guy” approach to PR is dead and should be replaced with something more muscular. There is a wartime alert and threat to Israel from Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, et al. They are threatening Israel’s existence and Israelis and those overseas must play for keeps.

    We can no longer afford to see things from the enemies’ point of view – that is a luxury that has not worked very well. The enemy recruits and brainwashes all who show even a miniscule crumb of sympathy for their murderous objectives. Academics and some Jewish people are easy targets because they find it satisfying to side with groups who falsely portray themselves as downtrodden and the underdogs – in this case that is the big lie that needs to be dispelled – that and the peaceful nature and intent of Islamic people who act as one matters pertaining to jihad – there is no difference between radical and moderate on anything that makes any difference; otherwise they would have spoken up by now as they always speak up when it comes to condemning Israel and perceived threats to Islamic supremacy.

    It is a fact that our minority status (13 million vs. 1.3 billion) means that we need allies. The way to gain allies is to be sure of ourselves and confident in our own cause. We must be cognizant of the very dangerous nature of the enemy. Repeatedly, the enemy has proven themselves to want Israel’s destruction and they have assembled an array of terror groups and an arsenal of weapons that is unsurpassed since WWII to carry out their goals. There is no one else to turn to other than ourselves to defend the smallest of nations in a sea of sharks who smell blood.

    I would recommend that Israel selectively choose and interview foreign correspondents and make sure that their biases will not damage the reputation and strategic position of Israel in any way. The Arab nations have always maintained tight control over the press and in a time of war, Israel too should clamp down. School children read the plentiful garbage and one-sided diatribe from Israel and the end result is hate. Let some of the hundreds of correspondents invade places like Syria and Iran for a change and give Israel some time to heal the damage they have done in the region.

    Secondly, Israel needs to come up with the same kinds of phrases and sound bites that slide off the twisted tongues of the Islamists ad nauseam.

    Finally, we have to stop looking for positive feedback from a world that was and still is against Israel and generally biased against anything Jewish. The Pope still prays for Jewish conversion and so if that backwater of religious piety is still wishing for destruction, then I guess they will have nothing good to say until Iran wipes out Israel (maybe they will have a prayer about the end of Israel when that occurs).

    I hope that Israel PR takes a much more robust, intelligent and forceful approach. We have been wallowing in self-doubt and trying to appeal to those who have no interest in our survival for much too long. “Never Again” should be resurrected and repeated with meaning.