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Combating the Great Lie

  October 8, 2000

Gerald M. Steinberg


Since 1973, Arab strategy in the war against Israel has been increasingly based on propaganda and the manipulation of public opinion.  The use of terror to trigger Israeli responses, and the images of the intifada were used to create sympathy for the Arab "victims" and hostility towards Israeli "occupying forces".  Now, this strategy has reached a new and perhaps ultimate stage.  Using the excuse of Ariel Sharon's "provocative" visit to the Temple Mount, Palestinian militias and "police" launched attacks on isolated military positions and civilian settlements.  As the Israeli police and military seek to fulfill their mission, they are being portrayed around the world as aggressors.        

The Palestinians prepared this public relations campaign carefully, sending experienced propagandists to the media (particularly television) with the same simple messages.  In every appearance on CNN, the BBC, and other stages, they work in terms such as "occupied Palestine", violation of international law, and "Moslem holy sites in Jerusalem".        

As far as the media and many foreign diplomats are concerned, Middle Eastern history began in June 1967, with the Israeli conquest of  "Arab" East Jerusalem.   They are also totally ignorant of the incitement in the Palestinian media, in textbooks, and in the sermons of religious leaders Palestinian use of ambulances to carry ammunition and weapons (documented by Israel) is not a news story, but if an Israel unit were to blow up these resupply convoys, universal condemnation would immediately follow.

As scenes of Palestinian attacks play in the background, CNN reporters respectfully ask the Palestinians to comment on the excessive force used by Israel.  The criterion for morality has become an even body count, regardless of the source of the attacks.  In this warped logic, since the Israeli military force is more powerful, it must be the aggressor.        

At the same time, the victims of the violence are, by definition, all Arab - to the extent that the New York Times and many other newspapers published an Associated Press photo of a bleeding "Palestinian" victim next to a "brutal" Israeli soldier in Jerusalem.  This victim was in reality a young Jew from the United States, who was attacked by Palestinians.  The tragedy of a young Palestinian boy, caught in the crossfire, brought universal condemnation of Israel.  Few looked at the aerial photos showing that the Israelis under attack in a small concrete pillbox had no way of seeing the boy.  The Times also ran an oped written by a self-proclaimed Israeli "peace activist" who typically blamed the violence on the Israeli rejection of Arab myths. 

The blatant Palestinian violations of Oslo that encourage continued terrorism and incitement were forgotten.  A special edition would be required to correct the basic errors in fact and omissions in this newspaper during the past week.  

For years, the Israeli government pretended that it was in a propaganda war.  With the illusion of becoming Sweden or Norway, Yosi Beilin and Shimon Peres thought providing information was too Zionist. They cancelled trips for foreign dignitaries to the Golan, Jerusalem, and to Yad Veshem.  At the same time, a small but vocal group of Israeli "intellectuals" caught in another cycle Jewish self-denigration have been rewriting history and identifying with the Arab propaganda.  They have taken over the Haaretz daily newspaper, and sought to ingratiate themselves with the Israeli-bashers around the world.  In addition, some naive but well-meaning Jewish leaders in the diaspora provide funding and support.        

The most effective responses to the propaganda attacks have come from private individuals and independent groups such as CAMERA, AIPAC, IMRA, and MEMRI, both in the diaspora and Israel.  These groups have fought the battle, often overwhelmed by the distortions and lack of professional standards in the media.        

This voluntary activity must now be expanded by orders of magnitude. Israel's survival today depends as much on countering Arab propaganda and getting the facts out to the media, as it does on the steadfastness of the Israeli army.   With email and internet, the professional Israel bashers no longer have a monopoly on information, but it needs to be circulated widely and repeatedly.  For every error and bias in the media, hundreds of protests need to be sent to get a response.  When publicly funded media become the source of propaganda, taxpayers must demand an end to their funding.  After almost thirty years of neglect, the investment must be extensive and long-term.        

In Israel's early days, Jews from all over the world were fully involved in making sure that the state would survive.  They collected funds, signed petitions, and some went to Israel to help out.  Now, the first priority is fighting the propaganda war.  In this war, there are no limits on age, gender, religious practice (if any), or political party.  All that is necessary is an understanding of the basic facts and the determination to tell the truth.