Editor's Note: Please let your consular officials and Jewish leadership know that you believe it is past time for them to fight Arab propaganda vigorously. This battle involves us all and may determine the fate of Israel and the Jewish people.
The Jerusalem Post of June, 11 2001
FIGHTING THE PROPAGANDA
By Efraim Inbar
The Palestinian Authority is waging a limited war against Israel. However, the propaganda war, which is waged at the same time, has an even more ambitious aim, and its potential damage is far greater than even the aims of the armed conflict itself.
The Palestinians are conducting a systematic campaign to denigrate Israel in the international media and on campuses all over the world. Their goal is to delegitimize the State of Israel by portraying it as an inhumane political entity, and to deny the right of the Jews to return to the land of their forefathers.
The Palestinians regularly accuse the Israelis of terrible acts that have not a grain of truth in them. They want to propagate an inhumane image of the Jewish state - an Israel that violates basic human norms.
According to the Palestinian media, Israel is spreading poisoned sweets to kill Palestinian children. Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat himself, a notorious liar, spreads the notion that Israeli forces use ammunition against the Palestinians containing depleted uranium. His unforgettable performance at Davos in the presence of Shimon Peres is a clear example of the character of this propaganda. His wife, Suha Arafat, accused Israel, in front of Hillary Clinton, of contaminating Palestinian drinking water with lethal chemicals. Similarly, other Palestinian leaders tell their western audiences that Israel employs toxic gases and radioactive materials in killing the poor Palestinians.
Israelis usually dismiss these fantastic allegations for what they are, assuming they have little public impact. They are wrong. Repeated messages of such a nature have a negative impact on international public opinion.
Palestinian spokesmen also question the Jewish links to the land of Israel, even in the pre-1967 borders. Most recently, the Jewish right to pray at the Western Wall and at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, have been singled out as "historical fabrications." It is not only the Islamic groups that teach that Jewish history in the land of Israel is completely fictitious. The official organs of the PA explain that Jews have no valid claim to this part of the world.
This campaign is partly based on true ignorance of Jewish history on the part of the Palestinians. This writer was amazed to realize that even moderate Palestinians, who have engaged for years in many contacts with Israelis, fall for their own propaganda and deny the Israeli roots to this land. In a recent encounter, past Jewish presence in the land of Israel, such as the two holy shrines that existed on Temple Mount, was dubbed "Zionist inventions."
Israel must understand in the short, as well as in the long term, the large-scale damage inflicted on its cause by the Palestinians in the international arena. Wars are won, not only in the battlefield, but also with words. A small country such as Israel cannot afford to lose the support of the West. While Israel can maintain the high moral ground in its dispute with the Palestinians, it must also act on it.
Nowadays, it is clear that Arafat and the Palestinian national movement are the enemy. The Israeli government should eliminate all qualms and inhibitions about verbally attacking Arafat and the PA. The White Paper, prepared when Barak was prime minister by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, showing the true character of Arafat's rule and political aims has to be finally released. A concerted effort should be launched to unmask the ugliness of the Palestinian national movement, its murderous character and its obsession with violence.
All the ardent supporters - whether sincere or opportunistic - of the Oslo process who are in various government positions, should be removed from any position that places them as mouthpieces for explaining why Israel was forced to fight this war against the Palestinians. For those with any intellectual integrity, resignation is an honorable option. It is ludicrous to continue using unrepentant academics who have continuously lauded Arafat and the PA, and have enthusiastically endorsed the Oslo process, to explain the current predicament, since they have lost all credibility.
Moreover, Israel should set the terms of the debate and its agenda. The term "intifada" should be discontinued from use by Israeli spokesmen and be replaced by systematic use of terms such as Palestinian violent intransigence, terrorist campaign, or violent violation of signed agreements.
Similarly, Israelis should stop referring to the so-called "right of return." Instead, Arafat's unreasonable demand for inundating Israel with the most hostile and radical elements in Palestinian society should be rejected. It can easily be pointed out that settlements were not the issue of discord, as Barak was willing to dismantle most of them in the framework of a permanent agreement, and that this was rejected by Arafat.
So far, Israel is losing the war for the heart of Western public opinion. Winning it is vital for weakening the Palestinian opposition to peaceful coexistence with Israel - and for easing the outside pressures on Israeli society in its protracted war with the Palestinians.
(c) Jerusalem Post
(The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.)