Kim Lee is a musical composer from Korea living in Texas. He is also a tremendous ohev Yisrael. When he spotted my husband’s yarmulke at a recent concert in Lincoln Center, he was overjoyed to meet “authentic Jews.” We spent close to an hour discussing Judaism and hearing Kim gush about his love for the Jewish people, especially “the real practitioners of the Jewish religion.” Kim was palpably excited and interested in anything pertaining to Jews, their religion and their homeland.
When the subject of the Holocaust arose, Kim even apologized on behalf of non-Jews for the abandonment of the Jews. And he described in detail his recent trip to Israel, including a visit to the Western Wall and a tour of Jericho. I pointed out that as a Jew, I cannot enter Jericho for fear of my life. To Kim, who is convinced the War of Independence in 1948 was truly the “Ingathering of the Exiles,” this is sad irony indeed.
Kim had only one negative comment. “The one thing I don’t understand,” he said, “is why the Jews displaced all the Arabs from their land in 1948.”
“They didn’t,” I said, and explained how thousands of Arabs left of their own volition in anticipation of a war and others responded to Arab leaders’ calls to get out of the way of their advancing armies. Indeed, had the Arabs accepted the 1947 UN resolution, an Arab state would have come into existence alongside Israel.
Kim was satisfied with my explanation, but it was disquieting to see a true and seemingly educated lover of the Jewish people who had fallen prey to anti-Zionist propaganda. It was only the latest evidence that not only are Israel’s dismal hasbara (public relations) efforts failing to make a dent among the uninformed, they are failing to bolster the arsenal of knowledge among Israel’s supporters as well.
The lack of an effective and proactive public relations campaign by the Israeli government has long been lamented. Somehow, advertisements showcasing Israel’s gorgeous beaches and the Tel Aviv nightlife just don’t cut it when the international media regularly bash Israel for its “apartheid” treatment of the Palestinians. But even a superficial Israeli hasbara effort wouldn’t get snickered at if it had consistent and corresponding government policy to sustain its claims.
Actions speak louder than words. How can one expect the uninformed to believe Jewish historical claims to the Land of Israel when Israel’s own elected leaders have renounced and continue to renounce those claims in the guise of the Oslo Accords, the Disengagement, support for the two-state solution and ongoing “peace talks” designed to relinquish even more Jewish land?
Leftists in Israel and their worldwide Jewish counterparts, in or out of government, have assiduously promoted the idea of Palestinian statehood and undermined the notion of Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael – in effect verbally arming Israel’s enemies and confounding its friends.
Jews who protest against the worldwide BDS movement face an uphill battle in large part due to Israeli strategies and actions. And Israel’s supporters often are left speaking in direct contradiction to Israeli government policy.
The current prime minister is no exception. No one doubts Netanyahu’s sincerity when he rails against Iran at the UN and other venues in his effort to safeguard Jewish lives. However, his actions at home belie the urgency of his warnings. Netanyahu describes his release of Palestinian murderers as a “goodwill gesture” and pledges to release more because “promises must be kept.” Never mind that releasing terrorists only endangers Jewish lives and that he’s the only one keeping promises.
Recently, members of Knesset attended a conference of J Street, the left-wing lobbying organization. Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, considered a confidant of the prime minister, hinted of a future “compromise” regarding Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Netanyahu’s ensuing silence seemed to speak louder than his promises to keep Jerusalem united.
Moreover, despite the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and their ongoing incitement against Jews, Israel continues negotiations with the intent to relinquish land vital to its security. Netanyahu claims that “We want to reach an accord with the Palestinians, primarily to ensure [Israel’s] security,” even though he knows that in the past, abandonment of Jewish land has only brought increased terrorism. These pronouncements are made not only at the expense of Jewish lives but of truth itself.
Israel has innumerable enemies but it also has many friends. It is crucial that those friends be armed with consistent truths from the Israeli government so that they can support Israel with clarity and assurance.
When we finally parted from Kim after the concert, he said, “God bless you, and you should be proud of Israel.”
“I am,” I replied. I only wish everyone else was as well.
About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.
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