A recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland in which 24,090 citizens across 22 countries were interviewed, revealed that around the world Israel is viewed as negatively as North Korea.
Considering the fact that Israel has vastly greater opportunities and resources to promote its image than does North Korea and that the North Korean government has little apparent interest in improving its global image, Israelis should be asking themselves why they have a government that is doing such an appalling job of promoting their interests.
According to those whose job it is to represent Israel, the failure is not their own — it is the result of a powerful global movement hellbent on “delegitimizing” poor little Israel.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, laments:
[W]hy have anti-Israel libels once consigned to hate groups become media mainstays? How can we explain the assertion that an insidious “Israel Lobby” purchases votes in Congress, or that Israel oppresses Christians? Why is Israel’s record on gay rights dismissed as camouflage for discrimination against others?
The answer lies in the systematic delegitimization of the Jewish state. Having failed to destroy Israel by conventional arms and terrorism, Israel’s enemies alit on a subtler and more sinister tactic that hampers Israel’s ability to defend itself, even to justify its existence.
It began with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s 1974 speech to the U.N., when he received a standing ovation for equating Zionism with racism—a view the U.N. General Assembly endorsed the following year. It gained credibility on college campuses through anti-Israel courses and “Israel Apartheid Weeks.” It burgeoned through the boycott of Israeli scholars, artists and athletes, and the embargo of Israeli products. It was perpetuated by journalists who published doctored photos and false Palestinian accounts of Israeli massacres.
Israel must confront the acute dangers of delegitimization as it did armies and bombers in the past. Along with celebrating our technology, pioneering science and medicine, we need to stand by the facts of our past.
The fallacy embedded in the idea that Israel is threatened by delegitimization is that Israel does not face legitimate criticism it must answer. “There’s nothing wrong with criticizing Israel…” government officials dutifully repeat yet never acknowledge the specific ways in which Israel has a responsibility to answer its critics.
The real challenge Israel faces is that it is being defended by dissembling whiners like Oren and shrill ranters like Alan Dershowitz. The message of victimhood which they disseminate resonates only with those who already hold the same view. They utterly lack any ability to influence observers who are still in the process of weighing up the issues. Indeed, they do nothing more than present Israel as a crybaby which protests it is being treated unfairly.
Contrast these voices with those that they tar as “delegitimizers” and it becomes apparent that Israel’s image problem stems not only from Israel’s actions and political failings but the fact that among Israel’s defenders there appears to be no one who can speak with integrity.
Take note, Michael Oren, this is what integrity sounds like:
Anyone who is really afraid of the delegitimization of Israel should consider that Israel may face no greater threat than the one posed by its own defenders.