Student Union opens ‘hasbara’ room in effort to fill public diplomacy vacuum.
I paid close attention to last week’s Herzliya Conference and helped promote it by interviewing various speakers, including conference founder Uzi Arad, and writing several general articles about the event. The conference was a tremendous success, except for one glaring letdown – the speech by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
I’m not talking about the contents of the speech, or even the politics of it. All that is a matter of perspective and can be debated by the appropriate analysts and commentators. I’m referring to the wording of the speech itself.
The conference, in its fifth year, is known to set the tone for future regional policies and has been the site of several major policy speeches by Israeli leaders. The event is covered extensively by the Israeli and international media. Sharon last year announced at the conference his disengagement plan, and in 2002 detailed the U.S.-backed road map to peace. In short, Sharon’s conference presentation is essentially his State of the Union address to the world.
Yet throughout the prime minister’s prepared speech, themes were mixed up and presented in a very confusing manner; the phraseology was poor and in some cases completely inaccurate; and the word “which” was misused over twenty times.
I think the opening paragraph speaks for itself: “I heard the things you have asked of me here. Perhaps I will be able to do these things, but first I will have to overcome the ‘battle over portfolios’ and the ‘struggle over promotions.’ It is true that there are very serious things to do in all spheres. During my long career I was able to achieve a few things, but I admit that I have not yet learned to handle the mania over a certain portfolio or a quarter of a portfolio and the frenzy over promotions, but I hope that I will be able to tackle this as well.”
What? Was Sharon’s speechwriter drunk when this masterpiece was constructed? Did Dr. Seuss come back from the dead to assist Sharon with his verbiage? It gets worse. Here are some more gems:
“Because of it, the Palestinians have no excuse not to abandon terror.”
“In addition, we agreed, in accordance with the road map – any steps towards realizing the political outlook offered to the Palestinians first obligates them to take genuine action against terror until it is eliminated and stopped, advance real reforms and stop teaching hatred towards Israel which exists.”
“We must remember that there are various forces in the region which are acting to thwart an agreement with the Palestinians and who continue the threats of terror.”
“…promised to prevent any attempt to impose on Israel any other agreement or agenda which is not the road map.”
“The most genuine and greatest opportunity…”
“A genuine hindrance to the dangers to regional stability…”
And the speech did not have a thesis. There was no opening or closing segment that summarized what Sharon was trying to say. I cringed when Sharon announced that his administration dealt with “two severe crises simultaneously” and he then immediately outlined five – “the war of terror and the economic recession. We dealt with international isolation and the increase in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiments around the world, along with the feeling among many in Israel that there is no hope.”
C’mon. Israelis have the highest ratio of university degrees, and produce more scientific papers per capita, than any other nation in the world by a large margin. And this is the best the head of its government can do? Even the misunderestimated Bush, not the most renowned speaker, delivers a well prepared State of the Union.
All this typifies the material emanating daily from the Israeli government. The Foreign Ministry regularly e-mails me press releases composed in grade-school English. The Prime Minister’s Office releases material that could have been written by my ten-year-old brother. Some of Israel’s ambassadors to the West can barely muster an intelligible statement to the American media.
I work with Palestinian officials all the time. They are great at getting their messages across and understand the need for coherent representation. The press releases and documents they send me are very well composed. Palestinian emissaries are extremely articulate in their speeches and interviews. Israel needs to compete with that.
Speeches like Sharon’s make it difficult for even those championing Israel’s cause to do anything constructive. If the Jewish state truly wants fair representation in the media, it had better get its act together.
Aaron Klein is chief of WorldNetDaily.com’s upcoming Jerusalem bureau. “Quick Takes,” his roundup of news from Israel, appears each week on page 2 of The Jewish Press.
About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.
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