Palestine 9 Israel 0: If the Middle East conflict were a game of football.

November 24, 2016 22:59

In the battle for the hearts and minds of the public Israel has suffered its worst defeat for many years, if not ever. The revelations, publicised by Al Jazeera, that the West Bank leadership offered Israel a couple of years ago nearly everything it was demanding and that Israel turned them down flat is deeply damaging. At the time the Israeli government was led by Ehud Olmert, a middle of the road moderate according to the BBC. It confirms the Israelis as arrogant, unreasonable, intransigent and not wanting peace. (Bit like ManU maybe). Conversely, the Palestinian leadership glow in the flattering light of being reasonable, ready to compromise, willing to go the extra mile, and brave enough to take risks for peace.

As with our MPs expenses scandal, the damage is compounded by the revelations being released bit by bit on successive days. The veracity of these revelations has been questioned not just by the Palestinians but also leaders in other countries including former Saudi ambassador Prince Turki Al Faisal, but not by media interviewers.

News programmes on every channel have carried the story with interviews with Palestinians making the usual accusations lambasting the Israelis. This has allowed them to score a large number of goals. It has been compounded by the interviewers, or if you like the referees, accepting the vitriol, slanders, venom and hatred directed at Israel as fact without question. The viewer/listener therefore assumes it all to be true.

Conspicuously, not a sound has been heard from Israel or its supporters. It’s as though they haven’t even bothered to turn up for the game.

Let’s put this in a broader context.

There is no doubt that Israel has been losing the ‘war of words’ for many, many years. It is attacked not just by its enemies but also harshly criticised by many of its, so called allies. In response it has used rational argument supported by facts and evidence. The killing of the Turkish terrorists on the Mavi Marmara last May is a good example. Both at the time and just recently, through an independent panel of enquiry, the legality of the operation in international law was confirmed and the actions taken by soldiers were exonerated. The main stream media journalists have not reported this.

Although this type of communication is necessary to rebut the accusations, it is clearly not sufficient to overcome the received perception that the Israelis are the bullies and the poor Palestinians are their victims. For many members of the public this is a deeply held belief.

Obviously Israel wishes to change this perception because it is highly disadvantageous and could, when the chips are down, tip the balance between survival and annihilation. So, as well as rebutting allegations, Israel also lets the rest of the world know how much it has contributed to world progress with its many Nobel laureates, its advances in the sciences, technology and flourishing arts scene. Further, it has turned the deserts green, is the only true democracy in the Middle East and has a fantastic night scene in Tel Aviv.

Does any of this change peoples’ minds? No! Once a person is comfortable with an idea it is very difficult to change their minds. Rather, a new idea must be transplanted to replace an old one.

Israel is playing a defensive game. It responds to the agenda of its enemies.

So is there anything Israel and its supporters can do to change things?

Yes there is and yes they can.

Israel’s strategy needs to change. It must move from defence to attack and get its enemies to respond to its agenda rather that visa versa. This means focussing on the weaknesses of its adversaries, which are many, and assail them consistently, eloquently and with conviction. It must aim to delegitimize and demonise it opponents.

In short Israel and its supporters need to realign their strategy. All involved need to be reading from a common hymn sheet, consistently and powerfully making the same points. This means that all efforts need to be coordinated. Unfortunately, track record suggests this is unlikely to happen unless the leadership does what it is called to do – LEAD.

November 24, 2016 22:59

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