As I See It: Going onto the front foot on the battleground of the mind

The attempt to scapegoat the IDF communications team for the shocking western media coverage of the Gaza Strip border riots reveals once again that Israel’s political class simply hasn’t got a clue about the anti-Israel madness.

Mainstream media in Britain, America and Europe presented the murderous attempts by Hamas to storm the border, using Molotov cocktails, IEDs, firearms and flaming kites under cover of the unarmed civilians they pushed to the front, as peaceful demonstrators being killed by brutal Israeli soldiers. That was the coverage Hamas was out to procure.

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The media thus made themselves accessories to Hamas war crimes.

Within Israel, this has been blamed on the IDF spokesperson, Brig.-Gen. Ronen Manelis, and on Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, head IDF spokesperson to the foreign press. This is deeply unfair.

Doubtless, they could have done things better. When Radio asked Conricus how he could justify firing live ammunition at unarmed protesters, he said they were members of Hamas – but failed to list the weapons they were using or that the IDF had tried tear gas, rubber bullets and shooting at legs before the last resort of lethal fire.

Merely saying they were Hamas meant nothing to a British public indoctrinated by wall-to-wall propaganda that unarmed protesters were mowed down – a public, moreover, for whom the greater the violence Hamas uses against Israel, the deeper the Gazans’ desperation is thought to be as a result of Israeli “oppression.”

The problem is far too profound to be adequately addressed in such circumstances by any individual. For the demonization of Israel is a derangement that has gripped the media and intelligentsia in Britain, Europe and America.

OVER AND over again, hapless Israeli spokesmen, officials or politicians don’t hear the grotesque question behind the questions they’re asked. This is: “What right have you to be there at all when you have displaced the indigenous Palestinians, whose lives you are now making a misery through occupation and laying siege to the prison in which you have penned them?” Yes, “occupation.” British journalists repeatedly refer to the Israeli occupation of Gaza – even though every Israeli was removed from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Time and again, the Israelis fail to answer the question from hostile British interviewers – because in the Israelis’ minds, they are always addressing not the British but the Israeli public. And they really can’t grasp the difference.

Up against an Arab and Muslim enemy that carefully observed, analyzed and came to understand the mindset of both its Israeli targets and the western left that was to be enlisted in its genocidal cause, the Israelis (with a few exceptions) haven’t got the faintest idea what makes Brits tick – and they see no reason to find out.

Over the years, before I gave up trying, I would have occasional conversations with Israeli bigwigs to try to convince them that their whole strategy needed to change. They brushed it all aside. They thought it just wasn’t that important. Why should they fret about Britain and Europe, they said, when they had America’s solid support – a misjudgment that became all too apparent during the Obama years and could well surface again if the Democrats return to office.

Why should they lose any sleep over BDS, they said, since trade with Europe had never been better? And in any event, there was absolutely no point bothering about any of this because it was all down to the irredeemable antisemitism of British and European culture.

The antisemitism is true enough. The Left’s fixed belief that Israel is a colonialist project and the Palestinian Arabs its historic victims cannot explain the frenzied, obsessive attempts to demonize and delegitimize it – treatment afforded to no other people, country or cause. The unhinged nature of this venom suggests a psychic, even metaphysical disturbance in the West and a civilizational crisis.

Yet combat it we must. Here’s why.

First, it’s important to record the truth. That’s what Jews do. Second, we must stop the demoralization of Jews themselves who are increasingly signing up to this narrative of lies. Third, despite the antisemitism now coursing through the West, there are plenty of decent, rational people who are committed to law and justice and human rights. Yet they believe Israel stands against law, justice and human rights simply because this is the only story they ever hear.

This could change virtually overnight.

How? By going onto the front foot. To defend yourself against demonization is to lose the battle before it starts because you are forced to argue on the territory chosen by your enemies.

Instead, Israel’s champions should use what the demonizers hurl against it and turn it into a boomerang. Take the initiative. Reclaim the language from those who have hijacked it and turn it back into what it’s supposed to mean.

Hold press conferences and call the Arabs the true colonizers. The Jews are the only people for whom Israel was ever their national homeland. Call the Jews what they are – the only extant indigenous people of the land.

Accuse those who would force Israel to cede land to its enemies of being the ones who are repudiating law and justice. Tell the West what so many don’t know, that in the 1920s, the international community granted the Jews alone the never-abrogated right to settle the entire land from the river to the sea.

Publicly tell the British government that by denying that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, Britain is complicit in the perfidious Arab and Muslim strategy of writing the Jews out of their own history.

Label “progressives” as racist ethnic-cleansers for insisting the Jewish “settlers” are frustrating a two-state solution, thus endorsing the Palestinian Arabs’ cry of “not one Jew in Palestine.” Accuse the /Channel Four News/CNN of gross journalistic misconduct by recycling Hamas propaganda. And so on.

IF SUCH unsayable fundamentals were said loudly enough, the atmosphere in the West would change. Not because the ideologues and antisemites would ever be convinced – it’s just much more difficult to keep the lies going once the evidence is out there, forcing people at the very least to ask where the truth actually resides.

The problem is not a failure of the IDF’s communications officers nor even the patent uselessness of Israel’s Foreign Ministry. It is that Israel has been for decades the target of massively financed psychological warfare, a fact it has almost completely ignored.

The narrative debacle at the Gaza Strip border was the outcome. It won’t be the last.

Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).