Menachem Neeman spoke on “Israel advocacy” at AACI Netanya. Many people have been trying to present Israel’s case, or narrative. But, we are all fighting an uphill battle against a huge tide of anti-Israel prejudice, ignorance and plain stupidity.
Everyone agrees there are the extremists who care nothing for the actual facts, but have a simplistic and convenient pro-Palestinian narrative of Israel being a “white” colonial-settler State based on the exploitation of the poor Palestinian natives. So we are advised to pitch our reasonable analysis of the situation to the great majority of those who are supposedly persuadable. Namely, that Israel is a Jewish State based not only on the Biblical narrative, but also on the facts of history, from the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the San Remo Peace Treaty of 1922, the League of Nations Mandate to Great Britain of 1923 and subsequent UN Resolutions. Israel is and remains a sovereign State recognized by all the world’s major countries.
Menachem largely based his talk on one case where he interacted intensively with a leading Swedish Social Democrat who visited the Palestine Authority and Israel and spent a weekend with him and his family on their kibbutz. This person was a leader of the pro-Palestinian movement in Sweden. After a few days discussing the issues with Menachem this person was converted and returned to Sweden as a pro-Israel advocate. What was it that Menachem told him that caused this miraculous conversion? He answered every question truthfully, with the facts that he had deeply researched. He was able to supply quotations from Arab leaders themselves that acknowledged that the Palestinians were not really their concern, it was to destroy Israel and all Jewish settlement. That the Palestinians are not exploited as the propaganda says they are, that there is no apartheid in Israel, as they could see for themselves and so on.
Here are two anecdotes: 1. He was asked why the Palestinians are kept in refugee camps? To which he answered that 40 years ago if they had visited Israel they would have seen many refugee camps, called ma’abarot, all over the country, but they were full of Jews, survivors of the Holocaust (ca. 1 million) and Jews fleeing from Arab Lands (ca. 800,000). But within 25 years all those camps were gone because Israel was established to ensure that Jews would not remain refugees but would live as free citizens in a Jewish State. On the contrary, he was able to show that the Arabs, with the complicity of the rest of the world, conspires to keep the Palestinian Arabs in camps 70 years after they became refugees. 2. An Israeli leftist had written a formula “Gaza=the Warsaw Ghetto,” how can you refute this? Easily, the Warsaw Ghetto had a population of ca. 600,000 Jews, but after WWII, barely 3 years later, there were only ca. 5,000 survivors, all the rest had been starved to death, transported to the death camps or killed when the Ghetto was razed. By great contrast, when Israel captured the Gaza Strip in 1967, it had a population of ca. 600,000, whereas today 50 years later it has a population of ca. 1.5 million.
No doubt when the facts are presented to a reasonably open-minded and intelligent person they can be persuaded. I had a similar experience in an exchange of e-mails with the former Head of the UK College and Teacher’s Union. The problem with this approach is that you cannot significantly affect the situation on a one-on-one basis, there are simply too many of them. A sustained and organized PR campaign is needed and as Menachem rightly pointed out, you can’t simply present the facts, it has to be wrapped in emotion and sentiment. So far no-one, and especially the Israeli Government, has been successful in carrying out such a program.