To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.
Just like an office fire alarm, the Gaza flotilla affair sent thousands of Jews all over the word into a well-practiced drill.
Stage One: rush to check out our own trusted websites for the truth. Stage Two: check e-mails incoming from friends, and all the links they’ve embedded to the precious few unbiased media outlets – and rejoice when one actually has the guts to say something good about Israel. Stage Three: start forwarding the best of these to as many of our e-mail contacts as possible.
But it’s at Stage Three that something holds you back, particularly if you are living and working outside Israel. It’s like encountering a fire door that should be open to the street, but is locked from the outside. You want to be shouting “fire…fire” and making sure everyone in the building gets to hear. But then you ask yourself: “Maybe there are people in important meetings who would rather not be disturbed?”
Is this logical?
In our context, I am talking about the moment you are ready to copy and paste all your e-mail addresses into this pro-Israel message, and then you hesitate. First you start extracting the gentiles from the list – after all, why risk losing a longstanding friendship? Most of them, you figure, must surely be on our side – you hope! As for the others, well, what’s the point? They’ll never change their minds anyway. Then go the business contacts – they probably don’t want to be disturbed and, besides, why risk profits over politics?
Pretty soon the list is pruned down to more or less the same as your last mailing; the same people who support Israel through thick and thin. Multiply this by all our Diaspora e-mailers and bloggers and most of us wind up talking to…ourselves.
Human nature being what it is, I don’t expect this behavior will change any time soon. And if there is any PR lesson from the flotilla disaster, it is that even when we get our dramatic videos out in record time, it’s simply not soon enough to head off our detractors. In an ideal world, Israel should have been telling the Gaza/Hamas narrative from the moment the ships were first leased for this flotilla, so that, by the time of the incident, its response to the world could simply have been: “We told you so” instead of all the rushed briefings and wringing of hands.
But our world is far from ideal, and each time Israel sent out its message in a bottle, it was quickly overwhelmed by the towering waves of the BBC and CNN and sank like a stone. Now we have Al Jazeera, which takes the trouble to actually dredge up our messages so they can sink them a second time. And to make things even worse, here in Europe we have Iran’s Press TV, with veiled anchors prattling the murderous gospel of the mullahs 24-hours a day.
The only breath of fresh air is Fox News Channel, which last week put out a Glenn Beck show so unbelievably pro-Israel that I am still licking my chops. Beck traced Israel’s story from the Balfour Declaration through to Harry Truman’s business partnership with Eddie Jacobsen and how they insisted on paying off all their debts rather than go bankrupt. How Eddie persuaded President Truman as to meet with Chaim Weizmann and how Truman went on to defy the Arabists in the State Department by keeping his promise to vote for the Jewish state. Coming to the present day, Beck went on to expose the flotilla’s organizers for who – and what – they truly were.
I was left asking myself: Why aren’t we doing this for ourselves? Must we always rely on non-Jews to edit our narrative? And I thought the time had surely come for the Jewish people to have their own cable channel. I was therefore pleased to see this idea echoed some days later by Likud Minister for Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein, who speculated about a possible Al-Judea channel.
I write these lines from a city doing its best to live up to the pejorative ascribed by Melanie Phillips in her book Londonistan. Brits were by far the largest European grouping on the Gaza flotilla and the quickest to take to the streets in rabid anti-Israel chanting. All this is fueled by slick Islamic propaganda piped into a vacuum of almost total ignorance about all things Jewish, other than the Holocaust.
About the Author: Zalmi Unsdorfer is chairman of Likud-Herut in the UK
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