In the past 24 hours, 85 Israeli soldiers were wounded in Gaza, and Hamas continues to fire at Israeli cities. The operation continues, even as we have attempted cease-fire. This afternoon Hamas fired more rockets into several areas in central Israel. One fell near a school and another severely injured a civilian.
Israel’s most challenging battle away from the rockets is the ongoing one in the media. Unfortunately Israel has not always excelled at making its case. Of all our great strengths, advocacy has not been one of our achievements. The Palestinians – and even a terror organization such as Hamas – have done a much better job of spreading their word in the media.
With that said, there are limits to the ways in which public opinion can be manipulated — not because people are not intelligent, but because they often believe what they want rather than what’s true.
This picture was posted by a supporter of the Palestinian cause as proof of the destruction and havoc Israel has wreaked in Gaza. Yes, Gaza was severely damaged and my heart goes out to the poor, miserable people there. But sympathy doesn’t make this image any truer, because it is a blatant lie.
The “before” picture isn’t Gaza at all. It’s the beautiful city of Haifa with its wonderful Bahai gardens, seen in the center of this image. This is the level of propaganda we are fighting? And the West buys into this?
Hamas distributes many other very disturbing and bloody propaganda images of injured and dead children, which I won’t share here. But these are pictures taken in the past, or in other parts of the world, such as in Syria, engaged for a third year in a bloody civil war. Yet these images are being presented as evidence of Israel’s cruelty during this current campaign in Gaza.
There is clear evidence that these images had been previously released either a few years ago or in a different context. But why confuse a good picture with facts?
Even those that argue whether or not Hamas’s propaganda is truth or lies, can’t ignore reports about Hamas shooting some 20 Palestinians for protesting against them. They execute their own people – civilians — for daring to speak up. It’s their way or no other way. The West hears of Hamas’ cynical manipulations and overt cruelty, and remains gullible. The media, academic professors and others still buy into this terror organization’s propaganda and dismiss them from any responsibility.
The fact that Israel did not want this operation does not seem to interest the West. We tried to avoid it, but in the end had to react to the growing number of missiles coming at us daily. So far all Israeli attempts at a cease-fire have either been rejected or violated by Hamas. But why acknowledge facts when a different story can be told?
One of Israel’s better advocacy attempts has been the student initiative at Israel’s Interdisciplinary Center (IDC). As our troops continue fighting with Hamas along Israel’s southern border, IDC students are engaged on another equally important front: hasbara, or public diplomacy.
The student union at the IDC opened a “Hasbara Room” on the first day of Operation Protective Edge – with the purpose of providing factual information about the situation on the ground to people around the world, as well as countering the misinformation and lies being disseminated on social media sites. The students are trying to expose the lies that Hamas tells.
Earlier today I spoke with Lidor Bar David, one of the students who started the center two years ago under similar circumstances, during Operation Pillar of Defense. At that time, the IDC advocacy room was able to get its message out to an estimated 21 million people around the world. The students created a Facebook page and Twitter account, under the now-popular “Israel Under Fire” catchphrase, through which they run their hasbara efforts.
Hundreds of people have volunteered in the hasbara room and hundreds more have offered their assistance and support. Currently the operation includes posts in 31 languages in 62 countries and has so far garnered more than 6,000 followers on Twitter and Facebook. They have also opened a dedicated website available in 13 languages with information texts, videos, pictures, and testimonials – www.israelunderfire.com
One of the great advantages of the JCC Movement is the very wide and varied scope of people — Jews and non-Jews – who we serve. We have the privilege of engaging our JCC members and participants, initiating conversations with them, and sharing with them the real Israel as we know it. By doing so, we join Israel’s important, ongoing battle on the media front.
Each and every one of you can be an advocate for Israel. Israel is as much yours as it is ours. We are all in this together and you have the ability to better fight this particular battle in many ways than Israelis can.
I’m getting wonderful, encouraging messages from many of you, in which you express how your past visits to Israel getting to know the Israeli people, allow you to understand what is really going on here. You are able to see past the local media coverage and better filter reports.
Israel needs your help. Your rallies and other actions of support are amazing and I strongly believe they have an unbelievable impact on our troops! But you can also join the IDC students by posting on social media yourselves, liking and sharing positive and supportive posts.
This is an ongoing battle that will continue beyond this operation. It is comforting to know that behind us is an “army” of amazing people who stand together, that has no borders and has a powerful will to tell the true story of our wonderful Israel.