After The Flotilla: The Jackals are Out

Critical pundits are misguided on PR front.

Tue, 06/01/2010
Special To The Jewish Week
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Not those jackals.

The world splits roughly between those who denounce Israel from a religious or ideological base, and those who denounce Israel because they are tired of defending Western civilization to which they are heir but aren’t sure why they should care (and those who bash Israel as a cover for their own anti-Semitism). The tired and the impatient might be slightly moved by better PR on Israel’s part, and OK, why not? But the others don’t care, and those are the ones Israel fights.  

The jackals in this case are pundits — including patriotic Israelis and committed friends of Israel — who live to tell Israel publicly how it should have been done. “Israel should have known,” “Israel should have understood,”  “Israel should have,” “Netanyahu should have,” “The IDF should have,” “Better PR would have...”

Even when they acknowledge that Israel was within the bounds of international law and moral behavior, nevertheless, “This just complicates U.S.-Israel relations” or its companion, “This just complicates American efforts to a) find a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or b) deal with Iran.”

Whatever Israel did, if only Israel had done it the way the jackals wanted it done everything would have been just fine. They are so sure that if the stupid Israeli government had just listened to them it would have produced a different result — the “right” result — and the world would have approved. 

Who says, other than these pundits, that a different result would have produced "better PR” (which always figures in the denunciation of whatever Israel did)? 

And why is it so important for friends of Israel to publicly berate the Israeli government today — of all days? Are Israel’s enemies not doing a good enough job this morning?

Points of order:

* Hamas is at war with Israel. Shooting war. Killing war.

* The blockade of Gaza and stopping the ship in international water were legal.

* The Israel Navy acted in accordance with international law and with strict humanitarian rules.

*  The ship was run by a Turkish Islamist radical group in weak disguise as a humanitarian organization — the more you know about IHH, the more you have to question Turkish complicity.

*  There are credible reports from Turkey that the “spontaneous” anti-Israel riots were coordinated well in advance.

*  People on the ship were filmed chanting the Islamic battle cry: “[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!” Khaibar was the last Jewish village in Arabia defeated by Muhammad’s army in 628.

*  While the Israel Defense Force gave the ship every opportunity to offload in Ashdod, the radicals told Al Jazeera that they would count landing in Gaza, or bloodshed, as a victory. The only thing that might have served their interest better was the death of that 3-year-old whose parents took her on the boat.

But one of the most prominent jackals thinks the real problem is the Israeli government, calling the raid a symptom of “a cognitive failure of Israel’s leaders ... to understand the nature of the war. ... The reality is simple and stark. Israel is the target of a massive information war that is unprecedented in scale.”

Does this Israeli really think the Israeli government doesn’t know the ramifications of a largely left-wing media and its manipulation by a left-to-radical coalition of anti-Israel governments and organizations? Is this really worse than Nazi propaganda? And if the Israeli government did better in the media, whose behavior would be changed? A friend with tongue firmly in cheek opined, “If only we’d had  Twitter before Kristallnacht the Cossacks and the Nazi hordes would have seen the error of their ways and left us alone in peace.”

Another very pro-Israel writer wrote, “Whenever Israel does use military force it needs to be more aware of the political ramifications. That awareness appeared to be lacking during the botched 2006 war against Hezbollah — and in the boarding of the Gaza flotilla.” He suggested alternative tactics including letting the ship land, or sabotaging it.

It would have been interesting to see international reaction if Israel had sunk the ship. Or if Israel just disabled it and the jihadis had sunk it themselves, blaming Israel for deaths that might have resulted.  Letting the ship dock in Gaza and allowing the jihadis to dance with their weapons in the square in Gaza City would have been a victory for Israel?

It was Hillary Clinton in a different mode who said, “Coulda, shoulda, woulda,” meaning yes, there is always another way to do what has to be done, but it wasn’t done that way. And yes, better PR is better than worse PR. But at the end of the day, what strategic or tactical military advantages accrue to Israel by reading the jackals’ opinion of the Israeli government’s PR shortcomings in today’s paper? 

Shoshana Bryen is senior director for security policy for The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in Washington, D.C.

  

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