Photo Credit: Yossi Zeliger / FLASH90
Israeli pride exhibited by the "Soldier Aliyah Flight 2013."

It leads to the ridiculous, but dangerous, situation where church leaders gather in Bethlehem to accuse Israel of abuses, and they do this in a once-Christian town where their co-religionists have been driven out and persecuted not only by the non-Christian Palestinians who have taken over their homes and businesses, but also by officials of the Palestinian Authority including Arafat himself who confiscated the Greek Orthodox mission to make it his official Bethlehem residence.

The Palestine cause has become so “flavor of the month” that the British Methodists have abandoned Wesleyan hymns, and the founding principles of their own faith, that call for the return of the Jews to their homeland in Zion, in favor of declaring it as Palestinian land. When you see that happen you know that the Palestinian PR machine has won the battle of public opinion.

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The seeds of delegitimization are planted when the official voice of Israel is missing. Opposing voices get their message over with clarity. Their message may be wrong, it may be false, but told often enough, and loudly enough, it leaves people waiting to hear a clear voice of reason from our side.

That voice is seldom heard. That voice has been missing. The result of this silence has been to convince the undecided to side with the voice they hear, and the result of that is all too plain for us to see. The international community and public opinion is against us.

It doesn’t matter whether the political position in Israel is to surrender land or not. The starting point of both camps must be grounded in our heritage and rights. What is critically important is publicly and repeatedly to claim Israel’s legitimacy to the land, clearly elucidating Israel’s legal precedents, of which we have many, for existing and for sovereignty. Without this, we have no basis for honesty and no credibility in the international community or with public opinion both at home and abroad. It is from this certain and firm starting point that either side can then move forward. Without it, we have no legitimacy anywhere.

Official voices have either been silent or waffling on this vital issue. There are thousands of supportive voices that are broadcasting strong pro-Israel messages but they are merely the choir. The lead singer has been absent from the stage, or strikes a discordant note. This is not the way to sell a hit record.

The Israeli government must get its act together and start to sing out in clear clarion tones. The backing group of organizations and individuals will take up the lyrics to amplify the convincing message of our song, and drown out the opposing voice.

This, surely, is the only platform from which Israel can, and must, claim any legitimacy from which to move forward. Without it, we have no legitimacy anywhere, not in Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, or whatever you call that place. And, once you have lost that, you have no legitimacy anywhere in what was once called Palestine.

And, when that happens, we may as well sneak away, like thieves in the night.

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Barry Shaw is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues to The Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College. He is the co-founder of the Netanya Terror Victims Organization, and author of Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.
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