By Noam Bedein*
Israel’s legitimacy as an independent Jewish state is being undermined and threatened like never before, especially in Europe.
This became apparent during a short journey to Brussels and a nine-day speaking tour in Norway during the diplomatic crises of the Gaza aid ‘flotilla’.
“It doesn’t look good for Israel in the future if in this crisis, Israel loses support from friendly countries such as Spain and Italy” said a colleague who works as a political consultant of an Italian MP, (and asked not to be named citing security concerns).
At the European Parliament house in Brussels, the flotilla aftermath made one issue obvious: Israel had better start strategizing on focusing its talking points and PR in presenting the Israeli perspective to the last of the Europeans still willing to listen. Or else Israel risks becoming isolated like South Africa was in the last years of Apartheid.
“It is a dangerous situation when EU members choose to be blind, in order not to see and hear the actual facts,” an Italian MP told me regarding the Israel’s side presented to the EU Parliament house after the flotilla episode.
This observation was made while en route to a press conference where Efraim Halevy, former Israeli ambassador to the EU, was ‘ lynched’ by reporters, over the flotilla crises, and was raked over the coals by a REUTERS reporter. Ironically, the same REUTERS news agency had fabricated flotilla photos to present the image of ‘peace activists’ by splicing out the knives carried by the Turkish terrorists.
All this took place minutes before a Conference on Global Terrorism, where Mr. Halevy was asked by the Palestinian ambassador to the EU: “What about the serious accusation of the Swedish reporter about the stealing Palestinian organs by Israeli soldiers during the Gaza war? Why was that reporter kicked out of Israel for further investigation?”
The fact that questions like these about Israeli policies still ring in the international forums, reflect the depths of hatred and pure misinformation that is being cultivated in Europe–emanating from successful propaganda campaigns reminiscent of the Third Reich era against the Jewish people.
No matter what basic facts were presented and exposed to all about the Gaza aid flotilla, as so well presented by Law Professor Alan Dershowitz in his article- “Israel obeyed international law: Legally, the Gaza flotilla conflict is an open-and-shut case” it wouldn’t matter because EU countires and their MP’s have already been wooed to one side.
“The EU’s primary ‘case’ against Israel in the EU Parliament regarding the flotilla crises, is with no doubt the killings’ in “international waters,” according to Mr. Nuno Martines from European Friends of Israel.
Israeli PR is ticking at one minute before the END GAME, where there’s no looking back. It must refocus its main points and battles, when the Gaza/Palestinian narrative has had so deep an effect on people’s minds and hearts.
And this is the result of losing in the first battle in the Second Gaza Media War:
Case in point: a small briefing of the Israeli Ambassador to the EU took place in a local library in down town Brussels. This session was scheduled before the flotilla crises organized by the organization “Young Professionals of Foreign Affairs’ regarding the relationship between Israel and the EU.
Almost all the questions asked by young professionals in the audience at the meeting had a direct reference to the Holocaust or to Nazi Germany.
A young Italian woman’s query was typical: “I admit I don’t know enough about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, but how can you as people who experienced a Holocaust can let children starve in an humanitarian crises like Gaza is?”
A young staffer for a Belgian MP chimed in: “How can people who’ve been through so much only 65 years ago, ignore the sufferings of the Palestinians?”
And the last question,asked in a laconic, non-chalant manner – “Why should Israel keep its identity as a Jewish state? After all, we all remember the last European country that wanted to define itself on a nationalistic note, and look what happened in Germany from there…”
The people who assess the results of the Israel PR media war at this time must come to some immediate conclusions. It is vital that we work to promote the basic human rights as Jews and Israelis for self determination as a state. The time has also come to pioneer a proactive response to the Gaza narrative as Hamas has become a household term around the world.
Based upon this experience in Brussels, Israel must re-focus its time and efforts on outreaching to the thousands of young adult professionals who work as MP staffers to the 736 EU MPs of the EU Parliament house and the European commission. Sending young Israelis to conduct dialogue with Europe’s up and coming generation is the most effective outreach that can be done.
As an Israeli who lives less than a mile from Gaza and experiencing the third ‘cease fire’ between Israel and Hamas where already hundreds of rockets have been fired towards Israel, I know that the times are difficult. The total number of rocket and missile attacks fired from Gaza towards Israel as of mid-June, has risen to 370 since the end of the military operation in Gaza, January 18, 2009. It is clear is that the security situation in southern Israel on the ground is very fragile, just as Israel’s image is in neighboring Europe. We need to do all we can to prepare for the inevitable battle of rocket/flotilla warfare, while simultaneously implementing a media strategy to retain our allies in Europe.
As Israel marks five years to the withdrawal of Israeli troops and civilians from Gaza Strip–the only nation in modern history that has ever given land for peace after winning a war–Hamas continues to find other means to wage conflict. Since Hamas militarily took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, the battle for Israel’s right to exist has only increased. As of now, the Islamic regime of Hamas today, the only such terrorist organization in the world that controls an entire population of civilians thanks to international support, is doing all it can to win on the PR front.
It’s seems as Gaza today is haunting us..
And here comes the next load of ships…
*Noam Bedein is a photojournalist, lecturer and founder/director of Sderot Media Center.www.SderotMedia.org.il
He has conducted briefings and tours for government officials, diplomats, foreign press, and students from around the world