I remember as a young child, when the Six Day War occurred, we heard Arab reports on the television and radio that were diametrically opposed to the reports coming out of Israel. The Arabs boasted ongoing victory while the Jews reported ongoing defeat of their Arab enemy. At the end of the war it became clear that the Arabs had engaged in the lowest form of propaganda to try and boost the morale of their soldiers and citizens but there was little truth in the reports they had released. In six amazing days, Israel defeated five Arab armies decisively.
Years later, I became involved in advocacy for Israel and it seemed that our audience was an educated and democratic one comprised of people who were truly interested in discovering the truth. It seemed that all we had to do was to provide the documents, the films and the reasoned analysis and the truth would win out. But those days, if they ever existed, seem long gone.
Today, lies are everywhere and it is so difficult to combat them when so few people seem interested in hearing the truth. Just a few examples from recent events and personal encounters:
- Just last week, the IDF issued its official report that confirmed what Phillipe Karsenty and Dr. Yehuda David had claimed for years – that the film showing the death of Muhammed el-Dura by IDF soldiers in 2000 had been staged and was false. Not only did the IDF not kill the boy, but the boy was alive at the end of the incident. While the evidence of fraud and media manipulation are evident in this case, France 2 and journalists all over the world continue to stick to their story. It feeds their desire to delegitimize Israel and to accuse Israeli soldiers of war crimes. And if the story doesn’t comport with the facts? Well that is irrelevant in their eyes.
- Just this week, someone posted a comment on my facebook page, stating, as fact, that the Muslims had always been good to the Jews, that until the modern Zionist movement began, the Arabs got along well with Jews and lived side by side with each other in peace and that the Jews have displaced the Arabs in Jerusalem. I countered with facts – that the first Jew to be killed by Arabs in modern times in an act of terrorism took place in Jerusalem in 1873 when Aaron Hershler was murdered by Arabs in his home. That Jews were forbidden from entering their holy places by Muslims, in Jerusalem and in Hebron. That Jews were murdered in Hebron in 1929 when Arabs massacred Jews who had been part of that city for centuries. That Jews were treated as second-class citizens throughout the Muslim world. But my sense was that this fellow had been taken in by false Arab propaganda and was not going to listen to the facts I presented to him.
- In the US and around the world, there is a new type of warfare against Israel. It’s called “lawfare” and it includes spurious lawsuits files by Arabs and their supporters against Israelis for a variety of so-called war crimes. IDF officers have been sued in courts around the world and accused of war crimes for legitimate actions in wartime. Imagine if American soldiers were to be accused of war crimes in European courts for serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. But this is what Israelis are being subjected to all over the world. And the evidence is clear – the IDF is the most humane army in the world, consistently going out of its way to avoid killing civilians even at the expense of soldiers’ lives. In a recent campaign against Gaza, the IDF issued thousands of phone calls to warn Gaza residents to take shelter from imminent air-raids aimed at terrorist leaders in their midst.
- A friend sent me an article that he saw recently in Australia which accused Israel of withholding medical treatment from a Gaza resident. The article did not include any names or identifying information to enable the IDF to check or confirm the story. But when I checked with the IDF, they made it very clear that it is their declared policy to assist Gaza civilians to receive life-saving medical treatment and that they had even assisted known terrorists in this way – the very same terrorists who continue to attack Israel with missiles and artillery fire whenever possible! And yet, Israel is regularly accused of imposing immoral blockades on Gaza.
- Just a few weeks ago, Stephen Hawking, renowned British mathematician (and a victim of a severely debilitating disease) refused an invitation from President Shimon Peres to visit Israel because of the Arab academic boycott of the Jewish State. To quote the Daily Mail (10.5.13) on this issue: “But then British universities over the years have become increasingly close-minded centres of radical Leftist political group-think. What is saddest is when – as is probably the case in the Hawking affair – such wicked types persuade decent-minded people to go along with them.”
Truth has become a rare commodity in Israel’s fight to survive. Twisting the truth, ignoring evidence to the contrary, and horrific accusations leveled at highly moral people have become the touchstone of the Arab propaganda war against Israel. But whereas in the 60’s and 70’s these lies were recognized as such and largely ignored by the general public, today, they have found their way into the most elite intellectual establishments and infected some of the best and the brightest of society.
How can we fight this? There is a great deal that the government of Israel can and should be doing. Unfortunately, they are often focused on the conventional weapons of warfare and do not sufficiently appreciate the new battleground of ideas. But there is also something that you can do. The new social media and the growing pervasiveness of the internet give each and every one of us the tools to combat lies with the truth.
We send out information about Israel and about Judaism on a regular basis. This is how you can help – forward it to everyone you know. Get involved in the battle for truth and reach out to those in your orbit with the facts. And please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need updated information. If we work together, one person at a time, surely we can make a difference!
Shalom from Samaria,
Sondra Oster Baras
Director, Israel Office