We complain a lot about Israel’s continuing defeats in the information arena. Why is it that a country that is so good at technology and commerce, a people that gave birth to two great religions, a culture that enjoys perhaps the world’s best ratio of happiness to adversity, can lose over and over in the battle for hearts and minds, especially those of young people?
Why does almost the entire world agree that ‘settlements are illegal’ and expect us to pick up and leave? How can there even be an organization called “Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism?” Why do Israel-hating professors indoctrinate students to believe that we are monsters? Why is the al-Dura libel still believed? Why is the phony ‘Palestinian’ narrative becoming the conventional wisdom about the establishment of our state? Why does Israel come in second only to North Korea as the country that most UK residents “feel especially unfavourable towards?”
Why, when Israel fights a defensive war, are we invariably accused of war crimes despite the fact that military experts consistently say that the IDF does more than any other army in history to protect the civilian population? Why is Arab terrorism against us minimized in the media, while negative stories are amplified? Why is social media suffused with anti-Israel content?
Orwell’s “Two Minutes Hate” has been replicated in “Israel apartheid week” observances in universities around the world, with the Jew of Nations replacing the Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein, and in various UN-sponsored Hates throughout the year.
Yes, there are lots of reasons for the above – Jew hatred, and oil money are two of them – and there are also some bright spots, but the sheer volume of negative feelings toward us is remarkable, and we are making very little headway in opposing it. And the reason is simple: we don’t have a clue about influencing opinion.
We just don’t get it, which is why we often do exactly the opposite of what we should.
Humans are driven by emotions, not reason, although they often come up with rational arguments to justify their emotional decisions. It is also the case that the emotional drivers may sometimes seem perverse. But they are what they are, created by evolutionary forces in the history of the human race (see Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion).
If we want to get people on our side, to identify with us emotionally – and that’s what we want, not abstract ‘justice’ or any other rational concept – then we need to pull the right strings. The Arabs and their friends have been doing it for years, which is why they are so far ahead today.
One of the most important drivers is – as Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump understand – that folks want to go with the winner. The rational mind thinks that ‘how you play the game’ matters, but the subconscious driver agrees with Vince Lombardi: winning is the only thing.
So what have we done? We’ve engaged in Holocaust education, which often consists of talking about how we let the Germans stuff us into gas chambers. The object seems to be to make people feel sorry for us, the ultimate losers. But it doesn’t make people want to be on our side; it makes them want to get as far away from us as possible. For our enemies, it gives them ideas and serves as ‘snuff porn’.
What we should emphasize about the Holocaust are such things as the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, hanging Eichmann and even ‘morally wrong’ behaviors like Jewish terrorism against Germans after the war. We shouldn’t dwell on our pain, but rather stress that anyone who hurts our people will pay a price; our response will be disproportionate, even brutal.
Golda Meir did the right thing when she ordered the Mossad to kill everyone connected with the Munich massacre. Displaying weakness is asking for more abuse; strength is both a deterrent and attractive. We want to be admired for our strength, toughness and success, not pitied.
Which brings us to Gaza. We fought the last few wars (this in itself is a problem) trying our best to avoid hurting civilians. Some say the next war will see every combat soldier accompanied by a lawyer to ensure that we are not charged with war crimes. There has been criticism that our concern impairs the fighting efficiency of the IDF. Indeed it does, but that’s not the only problem: it projects weakness. And they’ll charge us with war crimes anyway. So next time, let’s just concentrate on crushing Hamas.
The same applies to fighting terrorism. It seems to me that someone like Saadi Ali Abu Hammad, who viciously attacked a security guard at the Ma’ale Adumim mall last week, should be killed on the spot, not imprisoned. Such a statement may seem shocking, because it goes against our commitment to a rule of law. But even if there weren’t practical considerations – do we want the terrorist to collect a salary from the PA until he is freed as ransom for a kidnap victim? – there are the psychological implications. Our message should be that trying to murder Jews is intolerable, not something for teenagers to do after school, like shoplifting.
On the political level, PM Netanyahu continues to say that “Israel desires peace.” Of course it does, but emphasizing this projects weakness. Who begs for peace? The side losing the war. What the PM should be saying is that we intend to protect the Land of Israel and all its inhabitants, and anyone who threatens us will be destroyed. Not just defeated, but crushed. Wiped off the map. Erased from memory like Amalek.
But wait, don’t the Arabs try to make themselves out to be victims? Don’t they accuse us of brutality? Yes they do, but at the same time they strike out at us – they claim to be striking back – with extreme savagery. This savagery is the vehicle for message that they are sending to the world, which is that they are strong, they are so committed to their cause that they are prepared to die for it, and ultimately they will win. And our response is to tell them that we will sit down and negotiate with them at any time, even while they are stabbing us! No. We should respond to terrorism with expulsions and expropriation of land.
We need to change our messaging and also our behavior. This won’t be easy for us, accustomed as we are to trying to put on a polite, Western mask. Our Prime Minister, who courageously faced live fire as a soldier, nevertheless has trouble facing a hostile American president.
We don’t need to tell the world that we have beautiful women, nice beaches, lots of tech companies and gay pride parades (there actually was such a campaign). That will have zero effect. Rather, with our actions and words, we should pursue respect, project strength, even provoke fear – and certainly not pity.
Thanks to the paradoxical nature of the human brain, it may get us friendship and understanding in the end.