Why Israel Is Losing the Information War

Caroline Glick is the Director of the David Horowitz Freedom Center's Israel Security Project and the Senior Contributing Editor of The Jerusalem Post. For more information on Ms. Glick's work, visit carolineglick.com


140715-israel-gaza-mn-1320_4ba1ac462baa0652825d71dafe7823a4Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

For most Israelis, the international discourse on Gaza is unintelligible.

Here we were going along, minding our own business.

Then on a clear night in June, apropos of nothing, Palestinian terrorists stole, murdered and hid the bodies of three of our children as they made their way home from school.

Before we could catch our breath from that atrocity, they began shelling our major population centers with thousands of rockets, missiles and mortars, and infiltrated our communities along the border with Gaza through underground tunnels to kidnap and murder us.

And as the Palestinians did all of these things, they used their civilian population and the foreign press corps as human sandbags. They ordered their own people not to evacuate their homes from which Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad terrorists launched their missiles, rockets and mortars at Israel. And they launched missiles at Israeli cities from outside the hotel where the foreign reporters were staying.

It doesn’t take a PhD to understand what the game is. And Israelis – even many with PhDs – understand what is happening.

This is why so many Israelis are up in arms about our government’s failure to impact the wall of lies that comprises the discourse on Israel in the Western world.

The knee-jerk reaction of many Israelis to the sight of UN officials, CNN anchors and New York Times reporters accusing us of committing war crimes is to blame ourselves.

Our hasbara (public diplomacy) is a catastrophe, our defenders are incompetent idiots, we moan and scream.

But the truth is not so simple. Our speakers have gotten much better over the past several years. Some, like ambassadors Ron Dermer and Ron Prosor and IDF Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, are excellent.

Israel’s public diplomacy efforts have been unsuccessful in penetrating, let alone dismantling the edifice of lies that constitutes the Western narrative about the Palestinian war against us because our underlying strategy for contending with it is directed at the wrong goal.

Our PR gurus defined our hasbara goal as getting our story out effectively. To do so, Israel has operated on two parallel tracks. First, we have tried to adjust our policies to adhere to what we perceive as the West’s demands.

We have employed measures unprecedented in military history to protect the Palestinians from their elected leaders who use them as fodder in their propaganda war against Israel.

There is no precedent in the history of warfare to Israel’s practice of warning Palestinians when it is about to attack civilian installations that Hamas has unlawfully used to attack Israel.

Moreover, Israel has accepted interpretations of the laws of war – such as the specious assertion that Israel is required to provide free electricity to Gaza – that have no relationship whatsoever to international law.

The second component of getting out our story has been developing the sort of glitzy, media-friendly PR apparatus that everybody who is everybody says is the be all and end all of a successful media strategy. There is no foreign press corps more coddled than the foreign press corps in Israel. No government is more active on social media sites than Israel.

And yet, for all of our efforts, the UN Human Rights Committee appointed an open hater of Israel who doesn’t have a problem with Hamas to run a phony investigation of the IDF’s imaginary war crimes.

For all our efforts, The New York Times, MSNBC, the European media, CNN and all the rest demonize our soldiers and leaders. They ignore the fact that everything Hamas and its allies in Fatah and Islamic Jihad do is a war crime – from calling for the annihilation of Israel to shooting rockets at civilian population centers, to shooting rockets at civilian population centers from hospitals and from outside the hotel where their reporters are staying in Gaza.

So desperate are we for any truth in reporting that we seize as a major victory the fact that a Wall Street Journal reporter was nice enough to Tweet the fact that he interviewed a Hamas leader in Shifa hospital.

A casual glance at the mountain of distorted and simply false stories reported about Israel and its enemies makes clear that at a minimum, most of the Western media don’t care about the truth. The fact that they sent reporters to Israel and Gaza doesn’t mean they wanted those reporters to publish what is going on.

The reporters knew what they were supposed to say before they even got on a plane to Israel. True, Hamas has openly acknowledged that it prohibited the foreign press from filming its terrorists and their war crimes. But with rare exceptions, the media had no problem with Hamas’s rules.

So too, the UN Human Rights Council didn’t decide to form a commission of inquiry to criminalize Israel because we weren’t good enough at showing the lengths we go to protect Gazans from their elected leaders. And the UNHRC didn’t appoint William Schabas, who has called for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to be tried for war crimes, to lead its star chamber because it didn’t get the press release proving that Israel acts in compliance with international law.

The media, the US State Department and the UN attack Israel for crimes that Hamas commits because they are wedded to a narrative in which Israel is to blame for its enemies’ desire to destroy it.

As the UN, The New York Times and President Barack Obama see it, Israel is to blame because it is inherently guilty by its nature.

The White House and State Department can accuse Israel of conducting a “totally indefensible” and “disgraceful” strike against an UNRWA school, when no such strike occurred, and if it had occurred it would have been totally defensible, because as far as they are concerned, as Martin Indyk claimed in May, Israel’s right to exist is conditional on our willingness to accept their belief that we are inherently morally deformed and in need of direction by our betters.

Netanyahu is Schabas’s “favorite [to be placed] in the dock of the International Criminal Court,” because Netanyahu is the elected leader of the morally deformed Jewish state.

Given this situation, it is clear that Israel’s public diplomacy efforts are directed toward the wrong goal.

The goal of hasbara cannot be to educate the likes of The New York Times’ bureau chief Jodi Rudoren about the truth because the problem isn’t one of ignorance. The problem is that they consider the truth an impediment to their goal of reporting the narrative of Israeli criminality.

Rather than striving to educate, we must work to manipulate the Rudorens of the world into covering the truth.

For instance, there is no reason to provide reporters clearly dedicated to hiding the truth with access to national leaders and military commanders. Let them find their own sources. Israel is a free country. There is no reason for The New York Times to be invited to a press briefing by IDF commanders.

Another critical element of a strategy for forcing hostile media and international agencies to contend with the truth is to create events that they can’t ignore.

For instance, the chief military prosecutor together with the state prosecution should indict Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah leaders on war crimes charges and the relevant Israeli courts should begin adjudicating the cases.

The Knesset should begin deliberations on a bill to strip UNRWA of its legal immunity as a first step towards bringing its personnel up on charges of providing material support for terrorism.

True, such actions will be met with howls of condemnation and hysterical reproaches from all the usual suspects.

But at least they will be talking about Palestinian war crimes. At least they will be forced to acknowledge that UNRWA is a force of destabilization and radicalization, not of stabilization and moderation in the Arab conflict with Israel.

Our leaders and spokespeople cannot win the information war by devoting themselves to pointing out the West’s hypocrisy and double standards, or the rank mendaciousness and bigotry that stands at the core of their approach to Israel. No one ever won a war by only playing defense. And we won’t win this one by explaining why we aren’t war criminals.

We will only begin to make progress when we define the goal of our hasbara as forcing an unwilling media and international community to discuss the truth by taking deliberate actions that will make it impossible for them to ignore it.

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  • Rachel Pancake Corrie

    well said ……this will only take place once the religious take the reins in Israel though , the current and past governments have been hostile to jewish ambitions

  • Jeff Ludwig

    Brilliant suggestions. Caroline Glick is telling the truth. Israel must go on the offensive, not just play defense.

  • Winston

    The media and the UN’s bias is what Hamas counts on. It’s Hamas’s media shield.

    And part of the reality is the malice and sheer cluelessness of the Obama administration. But Obama has proven so incompetent that people accept that opposing his stupidity is justifiable.

    You just have to aggressively fight the information war to get the truth out there and limit access to groups like the BBC or the Times that have no interest in telling the truth and which are part of the problem. Give Israel’s supporters ammunition to fight the mountains of deliberate misinformation. Highlight Hamas’s violations of the laws of war. Document its misconduct. Combat malicious arguments like “proportionality” that no one has bothered to define.

    Long ago the Left embraced an anti-Semitic narrative and the reporters mindlessly follow along. It’s an information/propaganda war. Keep fighting it. Don’t get discouraged. Be tireless and decency will prevail. At the very least make sure that the battle is joined. People will see through it.

  • billobillo54

    Going “on the offensive” in the information war versus Hamas must include the central piece of the narrative: ISLAM. As long as Islam is considered a side or non-issue, as long as the West and the Israelis maintain a purely secular narrative and defense they will be vulnerable in the info/apologetic war. Islam IS the moral and political equivalent to Nazism. And, the heart of the matter in the question of Israel versus Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS, al Qaeda, The Muslim Brotherhood, and the entire Muslim world is the undeniable and foundational fact of Islamic hatred for Jews and hatred for Israel. Jews and the world that fails to recognize the similitude of Islam and Nazism are repeating a catastrophic error of the 1920s and 1930s.

    • sid goldberg.

      Genocide is hard to put a positive spin on- even when you run the media

      • billobillo54

        The media is already up to their waist in ignoring genocide…the genocide of Christians for YEARS throughout the Muslim world. Also, the media has been a champion of emphatically declaring moral equivalency between Hamas and Israel. Hamas are “JVs” in terms of genocide only because they don’t have the wherewithal to eradicate all Jews from Israel.

      • UCSPanther

        Hamas is going to burn, and there ain’t a thing you can do about it.

      • IslamDownpressesHumanity

        A moslem pointing the false finger of genocidal accusation at anyone is a laugh riot of stupidity.

  • ConcernedCitizen999

    The world keeps asking Israel if it’s still beating it’s wife and Israel cluelessly keeps answering “No”.

  • yoelk

    Finally! Finally someone with sense and cognizant of reality. (Nothing more to say or add).

  • thor42

    “No one ever won a war by only playing defense.”

    Exactly!

    Israel MUST go on the PR offensive.
    Included in that offensive should be the following things –
    * A complete “potted history” of the Israel region (this page would be a good starting point).
    http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=11607

    This could be done in two parts – ancient times up to just after WWI, and from WWI onwards. *Ram home* that the Jewish people have been there for at least 5,000 years. That Muslims are “Johnnies-come-lately”, having only conquered Jerusalem in 638AD. That the Muslims have NO claim to Jerusalem (it is mentioned zero times in the Koran and they only built the al-Aqsa (“most distant”) mosque there *as an afterthought* – long after Mohammad had died. There was NO mosque in Jerusalem at the time that Mohammad’s “night journey” was supposed to have taken place).

    * A complete history of the “Fakestinians” (as I call them). This MUST include the history of the PLO as shown beautifully here –
    http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=29207

    (That will show that the PLO was set up under “false pretenses” and that its original charter made *no claim* to either Gaza or the West Bank).

    * (Back to the present day) – Hamas’ raising children in utter hatred from the day they’re born.

    * Hamas’ use of children as human bombs.

    * The exposing of UNRWA as nothing more than a branch of Hamas.

    * The exposing of *Islam* to the world. I include the Islamic world in that too – a HUGE number of Muslims know next to nothing about their cultish ideology (it is *not* a religion, of course). Ram home the 537 verses of hate in the Koran and the over 100 verses in it calling for war against non-Muslims.

    Israel needs to hammer the world with this like they hammered the Arab armies in the Six Day War.

    • Americana

      You may want to rethink some of your concepts.

      First, telling Muslims that Islam is not a religion is not going to gain any traction. You’re being an agent provocateur by attempting that. Much as you’re entitled to say it, it’s not going to do anything more than cause continuing friction and exacerbate the battle to the death you’ve got going.

      Second, Hamas didn’t bother stipulating what geographic area it considers Palestine because it’s obvious even without stating the coordinates what area it is speaking about in the Hamas charter.

      Third, selling the whole Israeli Jewish claim to Palestine because they were there 5,000 years ago just doesn’t sell the Jewish provenance in modern times. The Palestinians had been there for umpteen hundreds of years and they were not the population that conquered the Jewish tribes and caused the diaspora.

      Fourth, trying to drive home the concept that the PLO is a fake Palestinian front organization is neither here nor there since it’s been superseded by other Palestinian political groups. The relevance of the PLO to making a pretense that Palestinian Arabs have no rights to the area is nonsensical.

      • Atikva

        You are boring with these fallacies. You are definitely one of those frozen minds indoctrinated by the European islamo-socialism, but please keep their lies to your side of the Atlantic, you are wasting your time (and ours) here.

        • IslamDownpressesHumanity

          Americana is a very slick and urbane islamic propagandist.

          • Atikva

            Right, but she is for ever shooting long tirades of the same nonsense on the wrong site. On the other hand, maybe she thinks that we will finally “convert” to her “views” out of sheer ennui, who knows?.

      • nobullhere

        Its more truthful to describe Islam as a primitive, misogynistic, barbaric, bloodthirsty and evil death cult than a religion.

    • IslamDownpressesHumanity

      The “night journey” itself doesn’t mention Yerushalem. It’s nothing but an empty lie.

  • Atikva

    Wake up, Ms. Glick, the only thing hasbara can do is elicit smiles from the islamo-socialists. Whatever Israel does or doesn’t do to prove its point and refute the fallacies spread by its foes won’t make a difference to them and their useful idiots. They are dead to reality, period. They have been indoctrinated for too long to be able to acknowledge the truth and no one and nothing will ever be able to force them to open their eyes to the truth.

    James Foley was one extreme example. Listen to him berating his enlisted brother and blaming him for his beheading; listen to one of his ex-companions of captivity evoke his unchanged leftist convictions even after having been mistreated by his captors (*). Sad, but there it is. These guys are gone, you can say kadish over their minds.

    (*) http://www.jforum.fr/forum/international/article/james-foley-etait-le-souffre

    • IslamDownpressesHumanity

      It’s not completely hopeless, I used to know a guy who often referred to the ZOG in D.C. He eventually found for himself that the only place Christians aren’t being persecuted/murdered/raped/forcibly converted to islam in all of N. Africa and the Mid-East is Israel. Now he speaks of the SOG (Saudi Occupation Government) in D.C.

      • Atikva

        Well, that person apparently still enjoys a brain in working order, contrary to those who haven’t yet noticed that for over half a century, the entire clique of bloodthirsty islamists have been clamoring for the annihilation of the Jewish people followed by the subjugation of the Western civilization to which these useless idiots belong. Apparently, the supporters of muslim terrorists under the guise of “the poor (mythical) Palestinians” have never heard of:

        - the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947 rejected by the Arab States in the absence of any existing “Palestinian people”,
        - the Khartoum Resolution and the PA National Charter of 1967,
        - the Hamas Charter of 1988,
        - the sporadic declarations of war against America and the Western World by leaders of the muslim world,

        and they have never taken seriously either the massacres perpetrated against their own kind by islamist terrorists for the past 4 decades, including, inter alia:
        - the Munich Olympic massacre in 1972
        - the killing of children in Maalot in 1974
        - the taking of the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979
        - the bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983
        - Pan Am flight 103 in 1988
        - 9/11
        - the Madrid and London massacres in 2004 and 2005
        - Mumbai in 2008
        - Nairobi mall in 2013.

        Apparently, they are also unconcerned by the atrocities prescribed by sharia law that the followers of “the religion of peace” want to impose on them: the beheading, hanging, crucifying, raping, torturing of non-muslims, the mutilation of little girls, the abuse and enslavement of Blacks, women, children and any breathing living thing in general, whether human or animal, as long as they can’t defend themselves.

        After all that time, if these bleeding hearts haven’t understood yet that they are spitting against the wind in their own faces and paving the way to their doom, they never will. And I don’t blame the blogger who published an article today entitled: “Forget hasbara… buy guns”.

  • dneuwen

    I like how caroline glick’s mind works. she is for result-based solutions not repeated attempt for a solution that goes in circles, has been tried before but failed. and her solutions are well-thought out and practical and most importantly very cognizant of all the trappings and minefields of human nature and experience.