How to make Is­rael’s case

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Miriam Sha­viv

HOW CAN Is­rael im­prove its has­barah — public re­la­tions? The ques­tion pops up af­ter ev­ery round of fight­ing. Al­low­ing that Is­rael made some im­prove­ments dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge — its spokes­peo­ple were mostly na­tive English speak­ers and the IDF was pro-ac­tive on so­cial me­dia —the over­all pic­ture was still dire. On our TV and in much of the press, the dom­i­nant im­pres­sion was that Is­rael de­lib­er­ately mas­sa­cred in­no­cents.

So, three sug­ges­tions to fix some of Is­rael’s worst has­barah mis­takes.

1. Get more emo­tional. Is­rael ad­vo­cates seem to be­lieve that what the coun­try’s crit­ics are miss­ing is in­for­ma­tion. If only they knew how many rock­ets Is­rael’s south has ab­sorbed, surely they’d un­der­stand the coun­try’s predica­ment? If only the kid­nap­ping of the three boys had been bet­ter re­ported, the world would ac­cept Is­rael didn’t ini­ti­ate this round…

On so­cial me­dia, Is­rael sup­port­ers re­lent­lessly tweet in­fo­graph­ics map­ping out Ha­mas’s tun­nels, out­lin­ing the range of Ha­mas’s rock­ets, and list­ing all the cease­fires that Ha­mas has bro­ken.

The prob­lem is that even the most per­sua­sive bar­rage of facts can never com­pete with pic­tures of dead ba­bies.

Is­rael’s case can never be won with logic and sense. What mat­ters is pulling at peo­ple’s heart-strings. Ev­ery mar­keter knows this — and so do the Pales­tini­ans, who don’t waste time com­pil­ing lists of items Is­rael bars from the Gaza Strip, or statis­tics about poverty (as Is­rael prob­a­bly would if the sit­u­a­tion were re­versed). They em­pha­sise hu­man sto­ries.

Is­rael’s tragedy, of a pop­u­la­tion ter­rorised by a decade of rock­ets, is not as com­pelling. But Is­rael needs to find a way to make more of its vic­tims’ sto­ries. The sim­u­la­tions of rocket at­tacks in Lon­don and Vi­enna by proIs­rael groups were a cre­ative start. Sim­i­larly, Is­rael must bring to life the sheer mis­ery of Ha­mas’s vic­tims in Gaza. In short, more emo­tion, less dry facts.

2. Spell out the global con­text. The Ha­mas threat is part of a larger re­gional and global trend, of the rise of Is­lamism and its con­fronta­tion with the West. De­spite their dif­fer­ences, Ha­mas, the Is­lamic State, and other ter­ror groups in the Mid­dle East share

Facts can’t com­pete with pic­tures of dead ba­bies

the same ha­tred of non-Mus­lims, con­tempt for Western val­ues, and mur­der­ous in­tent. A vic­tory for Ha­mas will boost the global ji­had move­ment.

This is a nar­ra­tive that would res­onate in the West, which is, per­haps for the first time, gen­uinely scared by the an­ar­chy in the Mid­dle East and the prospect of vi­cious ji­hadists re­turn­ing, buoy­ant, to Lon­don and Paris.

As the flag of the Is­lamic State flies in Lon­don, Is­rael has an op­por­tu­nity to make clear that we are fac­ing the same threat and that, if it is not al­lowed to deal with Ha­mas, there are im­pli­ca­tions for Bri­tain’s own fight against Is­lamic ter­ror.

3. Side with the West. Is­rael’s sup­port­ers have re­peat­edly ar­gued that the me­dia is an­ti­semitic be­cause it fo­cuses on Is­rael’s killing in Gaza, while ig­nor­ing far larger death tolls in Iraq and Syria. They may be right but, this way, Is­rael’s sol­diers are in­ad­ver­tently lumped with the ter­ror­ists of the Le­vant. “We’re com­mit­ting a small mas­sacre, they’re com­mit­ting a large one, why is the at­ten­tion on us?”

Ar­gue, in­stead, that the me­dia is an­ti­semitic be­cause it holds Is­rael to dif­fer­ent stan­dards from the UK and US, two other Western coun­tries which fought among civil­ians in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mas­sive civil­ian ca­su­al­ties they in­flicted were barely no­ticed here.

When it comes to the West ver­sus ter­ror­ism, Is­rael must take care to land on the right side of the equa­tion. It’s has­barah ba­sics.

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