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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

September 05, 2002

Meta Advocacy

This piece is concerned with advocating advocacy, hence “meta advocacy”.

I was jolted into writing this piece by a story posted today [September 4, 2002] by AP, reporting under the headline, Poll: Europeans Blame U.S. Policies as follows:

A majority of people in six European countries believe American foreign policy is partly to blame for the Sept. 11 attacks, a survey found.

Researchers interviewed people in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland for the survey, which was done for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

The article proceeds to spell out the details: In France, 63% said that US foreign policy was partly to blame for the attacks; in Holland, 59%; in the UK, 57%; in Germany, 52%; in Poland, 54%; and in Italy, “only” 51%.

Of course, the term, “American foreign policy is partly to blame” is a code-phrase for US support for Israel and possibly for the US policy concerning Iraq.

This news story tells me that (a) Israel and the US have failed in getting their narrative through to the people of Europe; (b) losing the battle for the minds and hearts of Europe’s people is a dangerous loss for democracy; (c) Europeans have reverted to their appeasement conduct of September, 1938, and a second Munich is being perpetrated even as I write, both in relation to Iraq and the creation of a second Palestinian Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (which would be the 23re Arab state).

A sober appraisal of the Israeli PR situation has been given by Benjamin Netanyahu, the one Israeli leader who takes advocacy seriously. Following are excerptss from pp. 374-385 of:

Netanyahu, Benjamin. Durable Peace. New York: Warner Books, 2000.

The importance of advocacy, what Israel could do and what Israel actually did:

To win militarily, you must also win politically; to win politically, you must over public opinion; and to win over public opinion, you must convince the public that your cause is just...

[T]he nations of the world form their alliances and their antipathies according to their changing interest and, in an increasingly democratic world, according to their public opinion. Israel could therefore act on both these fronts of interest and opinion to persuade governments and their citizens alike about the advisability and the justice of siding with it...

While the Arabs were exceptional in waging the battle for public opinion so long and so systematically, the Jews of Israel were unique in abandoning the field for so long...

[S]uccessive Likud governments...frequently took actions that were justifiable in themselves, but they made absolutely no effort to persuade the world that this was the case...

The absence of a credible effort to explain Israel's position to the world over the last few decades has led to one political defeat after another, and as long as only the Arab side is doing the explaining, the situation can only go from bad to worse.

About the Arab strategy:

the Arabs sought to rob the Jews of every aspect of the historical case that suggested the justice of their cause, constructing an extraordinary distortion of Jewish history and substituting in its place a fictitious Palestinian one: The Arabs took the place of the Jews as the natives in the land, and the Jews took the place of the Arabs as the invaders; the horrible Jewish exile into a hundred lands was exchanged for a Palestinian Arab "exile" (into the neighboring Arab states); the atrocities committed against the Jews were denied and dismissed, while any hardship encountered by the Arabs was inflated into a miniature Holocaust. All this was meant to persuade the peoples of the world, especially those of the United States and Europe, that Israel had committed a grave injustice, which the Arabs were merely trying to correct, and that decent people everywhere were obligated to help them correct it.

What is required of Israel, according to Netanyahu, is:

...a major overhaul in Israel's abilities to present its case and its policies before world audiences. This must be understood to be a central pillar of policy and be treated accordingly, necessarily changing both the formulation of Israel's messages to the world and the quality of its messengers... Israel must explain to world audiences the basis of the Jewish right to the land, the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the goals and tactics of its adversaries, and the prerequisites for genuine peace in the region...

As for Israel's messengers, its ministers, parliamentarians, and diplomats will have to become adept at communicating with international audiences. The diplomats, in fact, ought to be chosen in the first instance with these capacities in mind. Israel will have to recruit the sharpest minds and most eloquent pens to refute the many lies hurled at it and to present the truth. In the technical sense, this requires an overhaul of the government ministries involved, defining differently, for example, the job of a diplomat and recruiting candidates accordingly. It also requires a radically different level of staffing and funding to engage in research, publication, broadcasting, and press relations.

I applaude this incisive analysis, presented so clearly by one of Israel’s foremost leaders. However, residing as I do in Canada, I can do little to reform the Israeli PR system along the lines suggested by Netanyahu, and I suspect that most of this site’s reader are in the same position. On the other hand, there are several steps that we can take. For example, in the specific case of the blogosphere, rather than restrict our postings to “friendly” sites, where we preach to the converted, we should seek out our opponents’ sites, and post comments there, in the hope of generating a discussion.

Another way of supporting pro-Israel advocacy is writing to the PR departments of foreign embassies and to foreign governments. Whenever the EU-niks and the Norwegians take hostile steps towards Israel (embargos, statements, accusations...) I protest to the relevant foreign legations in my city. Moslty, I end up with form-letter responses, but at least I present the pro-Israel case. upon occasion I get a customized response and a phone call, as in a recent case when the Dutch Charge d’affaires in Ottawa phoned me after I had sent a letter of protest. In the conversation I asked him why he thinks that the anti-Israeli perception of his country differs so markedly from that of North Americans. His answer gave me new insight into Netanyahu’s text. Europeans, said the Dutch Charge d’affaires, are sensitive to such words as “occupation”, having been themselves occupied during WW II. Alas, a long, painful and arduous task awaits pro-Israel advocates.

An additional area where we can and should try to assist Israel is letters to the editor and op/ed pieces in our local newspapers. Nobody can doubt the influence of the media and the scope of their reach. At the same time, the tenor in many of the media outlets is one of overt anti-Israeli bias. A recent article in IMRA
corroborates this statement:

A comprehensive study of the television networks in the Western world and in South Africa reveal an increasing tendency of editors and reporters to
'understand' the position and actions of the Palestinian Authority, at the
expense of the State of Israel. The quantitative coverage, its content and
its quality shows a continuous deterioration of Israel's standing, and this
especially in the period after the events of September 11. This tendency is
found uniformly in the United States, Britain, Germany and South Africa.
Israel is the big loser in the battle for media supremacy.

I have had several letters and one op/ed piece published in the Ottawa Citizen , and while this paper is no New York Times, it is a major paper in Canada’s capital, with a larger audience than any blogger can hope to have. It’s worth giving it a try.

These are but three suggestions, and more can be found on the Web. For example, the web site of the Orthodox Union
has several links for this purpose, divided into four categories: “grass-roots activism”, “political action”, “PR/media monitoring” and data sources.

These links notwithstanding, I’d like to end this posting with a request to readers for advice and proposals for additional ways in which to bolster pro-Israel advocacy. Such proposals can be entered as “comments” under this posting, or sent to me via e-mail.


1. On August 4, 2002, I posted an article on the topic of Israel advocacy which may be found on Dawson Speeks. The article includes links to selected new advocacy groups.

2. The World Union of Jewish Students, WUJS, has an advocacy-dedicated web site at wujs. It features a free subscription for advocacy materials delivered by e-mail.

3. Among the articles relevant to the advocacy topic, one might find the following to be of interest:

Emanuel A. Winston, Suing the Anti-Jewish Media,

Noga Tarnopolsky, `Demon Israel' and the ivory tower,

David D. Perlmutter, What did you do while Israel was destroyed?

Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland, dt804[at]yahoo[dot]ca