Sacks: know thy enemy to put thy case

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has said that Israel's PR is missing its target and called for a new approach to putting its case to the world.

In a trenchant interview with Ha'aretz, he suggested creating a thinktank to deal with the problem, involving leading Israeli intellectuals such as Amos Oz and David Grossman.

"Hasbarah [information] as government officials and pro-Israel advocates understand it today is based on persuasion," Lord Sacks said. "But the right approach to fight Israel's detractors is to understand the enemy, and to find out the truth for oneself before trying to influence others."

"So far I haven't seen anything but hasbarah, which is like marketing. It's missing the target completely."

Israel needed to think more long-term and base its strategy on understanding the mentality of its enemies such as Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran, the Chief Rabbi argued.

"They are deeply religious – now if there is one thing Israel finds it hard to understand it's people who are deeply religious. If they are threatening your continued existence, you jolly well better understand," he said. "There is real, serious work to be done."

He advised: "First seek to understand and only then seek to be understood. Israel is convinced of the rightness of its cause because it thinks in terms of its own modes of thinking.

"Almost nobody has worked out what is the point of view of the people we're opposed to. How do they think? It's not just a question of how Palestinians or Iranians think. How do perfectly decent human right activists think?"

Israel's PR had been "non-existent" in the second Lebanon war five years ago because it had focused on three kidnapped soldiers rather than a threat to its existence, he argued. "It was all focused at the wrong targets. What was wrong about it? It was hasbarah, public relations."

    Last updated: 1:47pm, July 14 2011