How BDS can be Totally Ineffective and yet Extremely Dangerous

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream – 1927 popular song

The decision of Ben and Jerry’s to stop selling ice cream in Judea and Samaria has galvanized diverse pro- and anti-Israel groups and individuals. The best reaction came from the Israeli lawfare group Shurat HaDin, which says that it will begin using B&J’s copyrighted trademark to sell ice cream in the areas that B&J will boycott, and invites the company to challenge it in court. The stupidest statement was made by B&J Board Chair Anuradha Mittal, who said (in reference to a disagreement with the parent company about the precise wording of the boycott announcement), “I can’t stop thinking that this is what happens when you have a board with all women and people of color who have been pushing to do the right thing.” Of course.

If this boycott is actually carried out, it will have absolutely zero effect on Israel’s economy. The present manufacturer of B&J’s ice cream in Israel, Avi Singer, refused to honor the boycott and will have his license terminated in a year and a half; he will have to scramble to rebrand and reformulate his products, which are made a few miles down the road from here in Beer Tuvia, within the pre-1967 boundaries of Israel by Jewish and Arab employees. It will cost him something, but Israelis have responded by buying a lot of ice cream from him and the company will survive.

But the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement is not really an attempt to wage economic warfare. Rather, it is another weapon in the cognitive war that is being pressed against Israel by her enemies worldwide. And in the cognitive theater of operations it is having a great deal of success.

The function of the BDS movement is to frame the antisemitic worldwide Arab/Muslim/European/Leftist campaign to erase the Jewish state (and for some, the Jewish people) as a struggle for human rights for an endangered minority, the “Palestinians.” It is to change a large-scale ongoing pogrom into a cause that right-thinking, moral, caring people can get behind, with their money and their votes. The Palestinian Arabs, the point of the spear aimed at the Jewish state, are transformed by BDS into a plucky band of “natives” who are oppressed and even mass-murdered by technologically advanced (but morally deficient) Zionists.

The BDS movement takes the false Palestinian narrative as a given, muvan m’eilav, and moves on to motivating its adherents to take action on their behalf. The debates on college campuses and corporate boards do not deal with the question of who has aboriginal rights to Eretz Yisrael or whether Jewish communities east of the Green Line are legal under international law, or whether the land is actually “occupied” by Israel. Nobody asks about the Jordanian occupation of Judea and Samaria from 1948-1967. Everybody knows, it is implied, the answers to these questions.

This is a trick known to every good car salesman, who wants his customer to argue over the size of the monthly payments rather than the total amount he will end up paying.

There is also what I call “the argument from South Africa:” apartheid South Africa was guilty of crimes against an oppressed group which were inseparable from the regime; only replacing the regime by one dominated by the oppressed group could fix it. This was accelerated by international pressure (combined with terrorism, but never mind). The boycotters are calling for the same kind of pressure against Israel, and so therefore Israel must be as evil as apartheid South Africa – and the same remedy applied. I don’t think I need to explain why this argument is fallacious!

Once it’s established that “Palestine” is a good cause, then the more that a person aspires to moral goodness, the more anti-Israel they become. It doesn’t hurt that preexisting antisemitic conditioning, subliminally present in both non-Jews and Jews, makes it easy to see Israel as evil.

Every time there is such a debate, the basic premises are restated, and never challenged. And that, in my opinion, is the raison d’être of the BDS movement: its actions themselves are of little consequence; it’s the injection of the false narrative into the collective consciousness that is significant.

This implies that the passage of various anti-BDS laws, with the debates and court fights that are entailed by them, is actually counterproductive. And there will be more legal battles coming. BDSnik Lara Friedman, of the misnamed Foundation for Middle East Peace, says that court tests of these laws so far have been resolved on technical issues, and their constitutionality hasn’t been decided.

This also implies that the proper strategy to fight BDS is not to challenge it on the enemy’s terms, that is, not to argue that boycotts are illegal, or that BDS hurts Arabs as much as Jews. Rather, we should attack the premises that it rests on: the supposed aboriginal rights of the Palestinian Arabs, the denial of Jewish sovereignty on either side of the Green Line (the Palestinian Narrative denies the legitimacy of a Jewish state of any size anywhere in Eretz Yisrael), and the allegations of oppression, apartheid, and other crimes.

Finally, we should expose the moral failings of the Palestinian culture, its misogyny, homophobia, and obsessive violence. We should draw attention to the viciousness of Palestinian terrorism. We should note that where Palestinian Arabs govern themselves, there is endemic corruption and oppression of the population. And of course we should point out that the accusations of Israeli atrocities and war crimes are mostly false, exaggerated, or lacking relevant context.

So, although I applaud the legal action of Shurat HaDin to create overwhelmingly negative consequences for the boycotters, this isn’t the solution to BDS. The real answer is for the State of Israel to very publicly make the case for the sovereign right of the Jewish state to all of Eretz Yisrael, including a direct refutation of the poisonous Palestinian Narrative.

Posted in Information war | 2 Comments

Israel’s Second Struggle for Independence

The USA has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter in recent years.

It is also Israel’s biggest problem.

Our dependence on American military aid has sharply limited our freedom of action, distorted our decisions about procurement of weapons, crippled the development of our own military industries, corrupted our decision-makers, and damaged our standing as a sovereign state.

It is true that on some occasions Israel has acted against America’s wishes, such as the bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. It is also true that far more frequently, Israel has been forced to bow to US demands, even when they are not in her best interests. In several wars and smaller operations, cease-fires have been dictated by American pressure, although Israel would have preferred to continue fighting longer in order to achieve a decisive victory. During the Gulf War, the US prevented Israel from retaliating for Iraqi Scud attacks. In peacetime, US pressure has prevented Israel from building in Judea and Samaria, and forced Israel to accept Palestinian demands for the release of prisoners. American opposition was a major factor in the decision not to attack Iranian nuclear facilities in the 2010-2012 period.

Israel’s relationship with the US has been better or worse depending on the direction of political winds there, but pressure to reverse the outcome of the 1967 war has been a constant ever since – with the notable exception of the Trump administration, which for the first time recognized Israeli rights to Jerusalem and the Golan heights. But now it seems that the US is taking a turn in the other direction; and this time – thanks to Israel’s conclusive loss of the cognitive war for the consciousness of American elites, the partisan division of attitudes toward Israel, and the new strength of the radical Left in American politics – our time in the wilderness may turn out to be much longer than before.

The inroads being made by elements hostile to Israel into the American educational system, previously limited to higher education, but now reaching into high school and even grade school levels, are troubling. The “intersectional” connections being made between every progressive cause, and the politicization of almost every field of endeavor, have injected the issue of Israel vs. the Palestinians into places where it was not found before.

This is a problem, because our enemies – particularly Iran – are taking advantage of the less pro-Israel climate in the US. The Biden Administration, which has already significantly released the pressure on Iran, appears to be galloping toward a full removal of sanctions, whether or not it will gain significant leverage over their nuclear weapons program. Trump’s sanctions had sent the Iranian economy into a tailspin, which helped energize the Iranian opposition to the repressive and backward regime of the Ayatollahs. Even today, Iranians are in the streets protesting against the regime. But the removal of sanctions will not help them; the regime will funnel cash into its nuclear program, into the pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria, and to build up Israel’s most dangerous enemy, Hezbollah.

At the same time, the Biden Administration, which has staffed its echelons dealing with the Middle East with people less than friendly to Israel – including some with a history of anti-Israel activism (see here, here, and here) – has already restored funding to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, plans to re-open the Jerusalem consulate, the unofficial “US Embassy to the State of Palestine” in Jerusalem, and to allow the PLO to restore its embassy in Washington.

A recent poll shows that the Democratic Party, which now controls the House, Senate and the Presidency, has moved significantly away from its formerly solid support for Israel in recent years, with sympathy for Israel among Democrats maintaining a slight edge of only 3 percentage points over sympathy for the Palestinians. The “liberal” wing of the party is far worse, with the Palestinians holding a 15% margin over Israel. Younger respondents also were more likely to favor the Palestinians, which argues for a continuation of the trend. And there is a very vocal contingent in the US Congress that is strongly anti-Israel, and not at all constrained from giving voice to the most extreme anti-Israel propaganda.

The Israeli leadership must come to understand that the continued expectation that Israel will receive military and diplomatic support from the US is unrealistic and dangerous. Israel needs to take action now, to reduce its dependence on the US, to increase its freedom of action, and to build up its own resources in important areas.

There is only one way for a small country in a strategic area to obtain independence from the various empires that wish to make it a satellite, and it is difficult and precarious. That is to play the empires off against one another, and to make alliances with other unaligned nations. I believe that Binyamin Netanyahu understood this, and made small but steady progress in this direction. It remains to be seen if the present government, whose foreign policy appears to be in the hands of the obsequious Yair Lapid, can pull this off.

From the military standpoint, Israel needs to be its own main source of supply. That has implications for the kind of military forces it can field. For example, it may be unrealistic to try to maintain a large fleet of the most sophisticated manned combat aircraft. Drones and precision-guided missiles are far less expensive than F-35s, and while they can’t entirely replace conventional aircraft, a small country will find it more practical to produce and maintain them.

There are also economic considerations. Iron Dome is a wonderful thing, but if it costs $100,000 to intercept a $500 rocket, then massive-scale use of it will bankrupt us. It is much less expensive to deter rocket attacks with the threat of forceful reprisals than to depend on antimissile systems to ward them off. The former strategy is more appropriate for a smaller country whose defense budget is not bottomless. I don’t suggest doing away with antimissile systems entirely, just changing our strategy so that we will not need so many of them.

I recommend that we start moving in this direction now, by agreeing with the US to a gradual phase-out of military aid. At the same time, we will have to revitalize our domestic military industries. Barack Obama very cleverly did not decrease the level of military aid we received, to maintain the maximum leverage over our actions. But the percentage of that aid that could be spent outside of the US was set to gradually drop to zero over the next  few years. This had the effect of increasing the subsidy that aid to Israel provided to US defense contractors, and weakening Israel’s home-grown industry. This made us more dependent and at the same time reduced the competition to American weapons suppliers in the world market. A win-win-win for the US, but a loss for us.

America is changing in ways that are not good for America, and not good for us. I hope that the political/cultural pendulum in the US will swing the other way. Probably it will, if the nation survives the present storm intact. But here on the other side of the world, Israel’s enemies are not waiting with their hands folded. She will either adapt to the new situation or find herself in deep trouble.

Posted in American politics, US-Israel Relations, War | 2 Comments

The Narrative and the Objective

Argumentum ad consequentiam – Concluding that an idea or proposition is true or false because the consequences of it being true or false are desirable or undesirable.

Micah Goodman believes that there is, at least today, no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he has a plan:

The concept of shrinking the conflict means pursuing any policy that significantly boosts Palestinian self-government without jeopardizing Israeli security. At the heart of shrinking the conflict is an effort to create territorial contiguity between Palestinian autonomous islands in the West Bank, connect this Palestinian autonomy to the wider world, and promote Palestinian economic prosperity and independence. The purpose of this strategy is to transform the West Bank’s fragmented and fragile network of autonomous islands into a contiguous and prosperous polity. Shrinking the conflict would give the Palestinians what they currently lack: a critical mass of self-governance.

Importantly, this would not be in the context of a peace treaty and the Palestinians would not be expected to forgo their claims for a “right of return” or to recognize Israel. This is about shrinking the conflict, not ending it. …

Shrinking the conflict wouldn’t bury the dream of a full peace accord. It would do exactly the opposite. After the Palestinians’ self-governing autonomy is stabilized, it might eventually be upgraded into a fully independent state in the context of a peace treaty. But this would not be the only option. It might also become part of a confederation with Israel, or the option of political union with Jordan might return to the table.

So what is the problem here? There are two. One is that he does not listen to Palestinians, or he doesn’t take what he hears from them seriously. Like us, the Palestinians have a story, a historical Narrative that explains who they are and how they are a people. Like us, they teach it in their schools, and it informs their literature, art, their religion and their politics. When they say “I am a Palestinian,” they are referring to this Narrative and their place in it.

And also like us, along with the Narrative, there comes a collective Objective that is supported by it. Part of being a Palestinian, along with finding one’s place in the narrative, is yearning for the achievement of the Objective.

The Palestinian Narrative tells that they are a people that developed over hundreds or thousands of years in the land that we call Eretz Yisrael and they call Filastin, and that the Jews violently stole it from them, expelled them, took away their land, possessions, and honor: the Nakba. According to this story, the land and everything in it belongs to them. We are not even related to the biblical Jews or even a people; we are a motley group of Europeans or Khazars, or whatever.

Everything about this story, including what it says about who they are and who we are, is wrong. But although most Palestinians are Muslims, they are also Palestinists, to whom this narrative is holy. It doesn’t matter if a Palestinian is a barely literate shepherd or a university professor, doctor, or engineer. It is irrelevant if the Palestinian is Muslim, Christian, or an atheist. It doesn’t matter if he lives in Ramallah, Umm al-Fahm, or Tel Aviv. The Narrative is holy and it represents a higher truth than anything found in Western history books, archaeology, or genetics. Criticizing the narrative to a Palestinian is like telling a religious Christian or observant Jew that science has determined that the humans are descended from apes. It doesn’t contradict his belief; at most, it exists alongside it in a realm of lower truth.

The Narrative supports and justifies the Objective, and fuels the Palestinian passion to attain it. The objective, of course, is the elimination of the Jewish presence in all of Filastin, and the return of their land, possessions, and honor to the Palestinian people from whom it was stolen.

Understanding this makes it possible to understand otherwise inexplicable aspects of their behavior. Why did they reject the Covid vaccines that Israel has now sent to South Korea, which is pleased to receive them? Why, over and over, do they resist initiatives designed to be mutually beneficial to Israelis and Palestinians? Why is “normalization” a dirty word? Why did both Arafat and Abbas find it impossible to accept a sovereign state in the territories on the condition that they would recognize that Israel is the state of the Jewish people? Why did they loot and burn the greenhouses in Gaza?

It is undeniable that Palestinians, like anybody else, want economic prosperity and independence. But no Palestinian will agree to give up his dream for those things. You might as well set up a Golden Calf in Mea Shearim and try to pay the residents to bow down to it.

We gave the Palestinians the territorial contiguity that they wanted in Gaza, but it didn’t “shrink” the conflict. It just made it easier to move rocket launchers around, in pursuit of the Objective. And similar actions will not reduce conflict in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians pocket concessions that are consistent with their Objective, and reject those that weaken it. They will not give it up. And therefore, the “shrinking” program will not reduce conflict, it will only strengthen the enemy.

I said there were two problems with Micah Goodman’s program. The other one is not exactly a defect in it, but a psychological explanation of how it came into being. And that is that Goodman has fallen into the trap of argumentum ad consequentiam. He believes, as do many on the Left and Center, that there is no alternative to Jewish-Arab coexistence. The thought that it might be impossible leaves him at sea. In his book, “Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War,” Goodman explains very persuasively why abandoning Judea and Samaria would be disastrous to Israel’s security, while at the same time, taking control of and responsibility for its hostile population is also untenable.

Faced with this dilemma, he argues for bypassing the problem, choosing not to try to solve it, but rather to ameliorate it as much as possible, in the hopes that someday the desire for “peace and prosperity” will cause the Palestinians to forget their Narrative and abandon their Objective.

But that won’t happen either. The Palestinians will not let go of their Objective and they will not forget why. Implementing Goodman’s program will only give them more leverage.

And now we come to the ad consequentiam part. Goodman is no dummy. He must understand that there is only one option open to the Jewish people if they are to obtain their own Objective, which is to live in peace in Eretz Yisrael. And that is to persuade or encourage the Palestinians to leave (here are some ideas) – or, failing that, to expel them by any means necessary.

This existential situation – that we cannot coexist with them, that they are an implacable enemy, and that either they go or we do – is too painful for many to bear. It is cognitively dissonant, and it places our humanitarian values in direct conflict with our drive to preserve ourselves as a people. So we do not admit that it is true.

But the real world doesn’t work that way. What’s true is true. And the quickest way to become extinct, either as an individual or as a people, is to ignore reality.

Posted in 'Peace' Process, Israel and Palestinian Arabs, Israeli Arabs | 6 Comments

Poll of American Jews has Distressing Results

Most American Jews say they “support Israel.” But a recent poll casts serious doubt on this, or at least indicates that their idea of “support” is not what one might expect.

The poll was done by the Jewish Electorate Institute, described as a “group led by prominent Jewish Democrats,” and unsurprisingly some of the questions are clearly designed to elicit a desired result. For example,

Q.25 As you may know, the Trump Administration eliminated humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. The Biden Administration has recently reversed Trump’s policy and has renewed humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Do you support or oppose Biden renewing this aid?

Given the large preference for Biden over Trump by poll respondents (when scored on a scale of 0-100, Biden had a mean grade of 67 vs. Trump’s 19), and considering that the question did not discuss the reasons for Trump’s action – the Taylor Force Act and the use of aid money to pay terrorists – but only related the issue to Biden and Trump, it was foreordained that the majority would favor resuming “humanitarian” aid.

The distribution of poll respondents by denomination closely mirrors the American Jewish population:

37% Reform
31% No particular denomination
17% Conservative
9% Orthodox
2% Reconstructionist
3% Other
1% Not sure

85% of them said that their religion was Judaism, and 100% self-identified as Jewish.

I am not especially interested in their responses to the questions about aid to Israel, the two-state solution, and so forth. These questions are too general and do not supply enough information to enable the respondent to make a real choice. We already know that most American Jews favor a “two-state solution,” but what if the question were “do you support a two-state solution in which terrorists fire rockets at Ben Gurion Airport from within their state, a mere 7 miles away?” This is not usually how it is asked.

I do want to know how they see Israel in relation to themselves. What does the Jewish state mean to Jews who live in America?

The first question connected to Israel listed various political issues and asked respondents to choose two of them as top priorities for the administration. Israel came out close to the bottom of the list, with only Iran and abortion below it. Unfortunately the question did not ask what the respondents’ personal priorities were, only what they wanted the government to focus on. If I had answered the question, I too would have put Israel last. As Tevye said about the Tsar, the less attention paid to us the better.

Next, we got this: “How emotionally attached are you to Israel?” This question is too subjective. Who knows what each individual thinks it means? Do they visit Israel, have relatives here, donate to Israel-related charities? A better question would be “if Israel disappeared, would you be (a) desolated, (b) mildly unhappy, (c) unmoved, (d) mildly pleased, or (e), ecstatic. But they didn’t ask this. 29% said they were very attached, 33% somewhat attached, 25% not too attached, and 13% not at all attached. While I would like to know the answer, this really doesn’t help.

But some questions stand out, and the answers are not good. Only 9% agreed with the statement “Israel doesn’t have the right to exist,” and 67% said that the statement was antisemitic. But when asked if Israel is an apartheid state, 25% agreed. When asked if “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the U.S.,” 34% agreed. And – probably the most incredible of all – 22% agreed that “Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.”

It is shocking to me that one out of four American Jews thinks that Israel is an apartheid state and is committing genocide against the Palestinians.

Genocide! Do they have the slightest idea of what the word means? I suppose they don’t know that the number of Palestinians between the river and the sea has increased by more than 2,710,000, a factor of 2.5, since 1967, but still – where are the concentration camps, the smokestacks? Where are the killing fields? Surely, if there had been such mass murder, the New York Times would have (joyfully) reported it.

And apartheid. Actual apartheid, the separation of races that was practiced in South Africa until the early 1990s, is well-documented, and there are plenty of people still around who experienced it themselves. It was absolutely nothing like the treatment of Arabs by the state of Israel, either within the Green Line or in the territories. There are no racially-based laws, no system of classification by race, no separate beaches or drinking fountains (except for the ones on the Temple Mount, which only Arabs are permitted to use). Only complete ignorance of both history and the facts about Israel could allow someone to believe this.

These results are inconsistent with one another. After all, does a state that commits genocide and practices apartheid have a right to exist? I think most people would say no. Should I add that the proposed state of Palestine, which will not permit Jews to live in it and whose heroes have always been the ones who killed the most Jews, fills the bill for a state that doesn’t have the right to exist?

I am not surprised that more than one out of three American Jews believe that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is like the American race problem, because they have been told this over and over, by national figures like Condoleezza Rice and Barack Obama, by many of their liberal rabbis, and of course by movements like BLM. I suppose they took the easy way out by choosing to analogize everything to their own experience rather than to actually think, but consider: Arabs were never slaves to Jews, the US is not surrounded by enemy states populated by blacks, blacks do not occupy Arizona and are not firing rockets from there into California, and … I could go on, but it should be obvious that it is not the same. Not even a little.

So despite the fact that this is technically a very bad poll, the results are still not encouraging. They are not good for anyone in Israel who thinks that American Jews might lobby for her in a pinch, and they are not good for the American Jews who appear to be prepared to believe the worst accusations imaginable about their own historic homeland.

Posted in American Jews | 3 Comments

What We Can Do About It

Last week I explained How They Did It, how the enemies of Israel – the Arabs, the Soviets, the international Left, and others – turned much of the West against us. What can we do about it?

I concentrated on the ‘softer’ aspects of cognitive warfare, such as the infiltration of higher education and international organizations like NGOs and UN agencies, corporations, the use of social media, the exploitation of minorities with grievances, and the support of public antisemites (e.g., Ilhan Omar). But we should keep in mind that more kinetic actions can also have primarily cognitive objectives. The PLO’s European terrorism during the 1970s paved the way for its conversion from a gang of despicable terrorists into a member of the UN, and for murderer and thief Yasser Arafat to become a “statesman.” The 9/11 attacks against the US changed the media portrayal of its Arab and Muslim citizens from “billionaires, bombers, and belly dancers” to hardworking citizens who are targets for islamophobic hatred (this is not the case with Jews, despite the fact that Jews are far more likely to be the victims of hate crimes today).

Terrorism works on various levels, but on the deepest, visceral one it creates paralyzing fear, which the mind – still subconsciously – tries to rationalize away by distancing itself from the victims and identifying with the terrorists. “Don’t kill me, I am on your side!” the terrorized mind shouts. “I’m one of the good ones!” (e.g, a “Jew for Palestine”).

The counterattack has to be planned, coordinated, and specifically targeted in all of the arenas, soft and hard, in which cognitive war is being waged against us. This is something the State of Israel has never come close to doing. Our efforts at public diplomacy have often been most charitably described as a bad joke, like the campaign to advertise Israel as a destination for gay tourism (“Come to Israel! We have nice beaches and we won’t hang you!”) At best we are reactive, responding to vicious accusations of war crimes, apartheid, and other depravities, usually long after the damage has been done. And we often ignore the cognitive implications of our actions, or the lack thereof.

It won’t be easy. Organized support for anti-Israel organizations (including those connected with terrorism) has been going on for decades, with millions of dollars annually flowing from sources like the George Soros organizations and the European Union. Social media, especially, is constantly changing and new battlefields appear almost daily. Everywhere you look (e.g., Wikipedia) there is anti-Israel bias. And for every pro-Israel activist there are ten, or a hundred, attacking us.

An effective cognitive counterattack must have two parts: how we speak to the world, and – most important – how we act. Let me take the second part first.

There are basic human instincts that precede the ideas expressed in the UN charter by hundreds of thousands of years. Our actions must affect those instincts in a way that will cause others to respect us, and our enemies to fear us. I am not suggesting that we follow the example of the PLO and hijack planes in Europe, but our response to terrorism and threats from enemy countries (e.g., Iran) can be designed to have the appropriate effect. Humans are attracted to strength. They want to be on the side that’s stronger. They talk about the importance of moral and legal principles, but they bet on the winner. Our actions should radiate power and control, and even ruthlessness.

For example, no terrorist should survive his attack. Israeli security forces and the individuals involved have been sharply criticized, both by Israelis and others, for the “Bus 300 affair” in 1984, when two captured terrorists were executed in the field after interrogation. My contention is that this action sent exactly the right message, both to our enemies – “don’t try this or you will die” – and to the rest of the world – “Israel does not tolerate terrorism against her citizens.”

Our pusillanimous responses to Hamas, which has on numerous occasions killed Israelis and which today holds two Israeli citizens and the bodies of two soldiers hostage, is supposed to be justified for practical reasons, but is a total failure from the standpoint of cognitive warfare. When Israel bombs an unoccupied Hamas installation after arson balloons or even rockets from Gaza have burned crops or damaged buildings, the message that is sent is that we are too weak to protect ourselves. When our citizens are held captive while we supply electricity and water to the Gaza Strip, the message is that Hamas is in control, not Israel. I understand the limitations of our power, as viewed by the IDF, but I believe that they are not weighing the cognitive aspects of the question heavily enough.

Recently, the IDF demolished the home of a terrorist murderer, a citizen of the PA who was also an American citizen, despite a request from the US State Department to desist. This was the correct action from the cognitive point of view, sending the message that Israel is a sovereign state which controls Judea/Samaria, and which does not tolerate terrorism. On the other hand, the continued presence of the illegal Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Ahmar as a result of pressure from the EU and the UN tells the world that Israel does not control the land.

Our greatest enemy is Iran, whose regime has explicitly threatened to destroy us on numerous occasions and is developing nuclear weapons. There are obviously multiple considerations that play into choosing the best response, from a pre-emptive strike on her nuclear installations to a continuation of the campaign of sabotage that Israel has been waging for the last few years. Cognitively, the best approach is the one that publicly demonstrates that Israel has the power to destroy the installations, regardless of the distance or their fortification. This could be a massive aerial attack, or it could be covert action that is made public after the fact. The worst case is that we refrain from taking action because of pressure from the US.

In the soft realm, one priority is to put an end to Israel’s self-imposed cognitive failures. There is no reason that Israelis should be allowed to act as paid agents of the EU or the international Left, as is the case with B’Tselem and numerous other anti-state organizatons. There is a weakly enforced law that requires Israeli NGOs that receive half of their funding from foreign governments to report that, on penalty of a relatively small fine; and even that was opposed by the Left and the Arab parties in the Knesset. It is absurd that these groups should be allowed to operate in Israel. All foreign funding – private or governmental – for political NGOs should be forbidden, period. Representatives of foreign NGOs hostile to Israel should not be allowed into the country.

Speaking of Arab parties, there is a Basic Law that says that in order to run for election to the Knesset, a candidate or list must not “[negate] the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.” This law is interpreted loosely by the Supreme Court, so that Arabs who do precisely that can sit in the Knesset. That must end.

Israel has military censorship, which sometimes makes us look foolish when foreign publications are revealing details that Israelis are not allowed to read or hear from their own media, but at the same time, the Ha’aretz newspaper is allowed to attack the state, day in and day out, often using material from the foreign-funded NGOs. Foreign propaganda outlets make good use of it, saying “even Israelis admit…” This is unacceptable; it borders on treason, and it must stop.

There is a place for traditional hasbara, explanation, or presentation of the news from the viewpoint of the state. I am not sure why everyone is entitled to an opinion and a platform from which to broadcast it, while the state is not. Why not a government TV/radio/Internet news outlet, staffed with professionals who could respond immediately and accurately to false accusations? Doing this properly, so that it would be both authoritative and not boring, would be expensive and require high quality personnel that would not be easy to find; but it is worth doing.

Much of what I have suggested will be criticized because “it violates human rights” or it is “antidemocratic,” or similar things. I don’t disagree. But the idea that Israel has to be a paragon of human rights and democracy is wrong. It is an expression of the antisemitic idea that Jews must always be held to the highest of standards – indeed, to a standard that is continually raised so as to always be out of reach. Israel is not a Platonic ideal state; it is not even the United States. It is a tiny nation with no strategic depth that is surrounded by enemies who themselves violate every standard of civilized behavior. National survival is more important than human rights – especially when those defining the concept of human rights are indifferent (or worse) to our survival.

Posted in Information war, Media, Terrorism, War | 5 Comments