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Why Israel lost the propaganda war
The American Thinker ^ | February 21, 2007 | James Lewis

Posted on 02/21/2007 1:00:19 PM PST by Tolik

Democracies can win fierce battles against totalitarian killers, and still lose on the domestic front --- via the information war. We've seen it happen in Vietnam, when millions of Cambodians and Vietnamese lost their lives as a result. And our suborned media are working overtime to make it happen again in Iraq.

So it is important to understand why Israel performed so poorly in explaining its position, and the facts of the war, in the international media. The blogosphere easily out-performed Israel's public relations effort. EUreferendum (see below) has now performed one of its impressively balanced and thoughtful analyses of the problem --- which is also the Bush Administration's PR problem on a smaller scale.

The answer is shockingly simple: sheer, unvarnished incompetence.  The person in charge of IDF media relations does not speak English, has no experience with the international media, and apparently saw her main mission as getting the Chief of Staff's picture into the Israeli press. Strengthening the home front is a legitimate mission, but not to the detriment of getting out the international message. Israel is constantly under attack in the international press and among the transnational New Class. That is why Kofi Annan allowed himself to be photographed in front of a Middle East map with a significant omission:  No Israel. So getting accurate facts out fast in response to Hezbo propaganda is hardly a luxury.

One of the oddities of Israeli politicians since the early days, when the country enjoyed extraordinary approval internationally, is that the political class seems to have a stubborn unwillingness to understand the importance of propaganda. That partly reflects the Israeli character, contemptuous of phony puffery and proud of its focus on reality, and perhaps the defeatist conviction that Israel can never win in the international media.

But defeatism is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is why the Left is constantly promoting defeatist propaganda. That is why the New York Times has the headlines it does. Undermine the will and confidence of decent people, and you've won without having to fire a shot. Sane and civilized folk should understand that well enough, and seek to be heard, loud and clear. Otherwise the fascist forces will proclaim a phony consensus about defeat --- as they already have about Iraq.

Just today the Middle East Media Research Institute quotes Islamist websites claiming they are an "Integral Part of Jihad." They are right about that, and civilized nations must respond urgently.  MEMRI is itself a perfect example of how democracies can wage the information war against fascist forces --- by getting out the truth fast, often, and in depth.

In another development, the UN is now preparing a second Durban "Zionism is racism" conference for 2009. Leftist and Islamist NGO's are submitting reports about Israeli "racism" on February 22 --- just two days from today. The organization Scholars for Peace in the Middle East is rushing to prepare a response --- which should have been finished months ago. It is a noble effort, but actions in the information war must be much faster, more anticipatory, and mobilize hundreds of thousands of sympathizers around the world. It can be done.

It is certainly true that the media are mostly run by Leftists who hate Israel as much as America. But the blogs showed during the Hezbullah War that crude propaganda photos can be dismantled piece by piece and shown to be fraudulent. Without the blogs, our understanding of the Hezbo War would be much less complete than it is today. Telling the truth with great conviction and confidence serves democracies. That is all we need to do.

Meanwhile, will the Israeli Cabinet please read the EUreferendum analysis? Psychological defense is as important as physical protection.  

As mentioned above:  Highlights above and below are mine:

What is to be done?

For those who do not know about the history of the Russian radical movement I should explain that the title was not invented by Lenin. Very little was. This was a title given to an interminably long and boring novel by Chernyshevsky, which outlined in fictional form the ideas of radicalism. One of the great mysteries of the Russian soul is how a novel of such incredible turpitude should have become so popular in a country, which, at the time, boasted some of the greatest novelist in the world.

The title, however, is useful and can be applied to many problems that we face today, including that of the propaganda war that we, all of us, are fighting. On balance, it is hard to define who “we” are, as the war this country and its allies are engaged in is not immediately obvious to many people, as World War 2 was. Then again, we had the same problem with the Cold War, which occasionally degenerated into a fairly warm one, but mostly went on in a way that was incomprehensible to many, largely because they did not want to comprehend it.

As I have already pointed out, the fight of those who believe in liberty and other loosely defined Western values (I can see this is going to be a fun thread on the forum) is hamstrung by the public opinion created in the West some decades ago by several masters of propaganda. It is only now that we are beginning to fight back seriously, not least with the growing discussion and theories of the Anglosphere.

The front line in the battle has moved to the Middle East
(apart from Hizonner the Mayor of LondON nobody has a good way to say about Hugo Chávez, after all, as the man proceeds to wreck a reasonably working economy). Al-Jazeera reports, accurately enough, that the latest summit of Condi Rice, Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert has gone precisely nowhere.

There are good reasons for this and Secretary of State Rice seems unable to grasp them. Or, maybe, those who brief her cannot grasp simple facts. The point that seems to be obscured by the mellow propaganda is that neither Hamas nor Fatah want to acknowledge Israel’s right to existence or to agree that terroristic activity should stop.

In his aptly named article “The Stink”, Bruce Thornton on the Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers sums up:

The only honest group has been Hamas, which tells us plainly that it wants to destroy Israel. But if we watch what they do rather than listen to what they say, so do a critical mass of Palestinian Arabs, including the so-called moderate Mahmoud Abbas. His disagreement with Hamas is not over whether the existence of Israel will be accepted, but over tactics and timing: Hamas thinks Israel can be destroyed sooner with more terrorist violence, Abbas thinks later with dishonest “agreements” and demography. Just listen to the so-called “condemnations” of terrorism that issue from Abbas. After last month’s murder of three Israelis by a terrorist bomber in Eilat, Abbas condemned the attack as “not in the interests of the Palestinian people” — which implies that such murder is acceptable as long as it is in the interests of the Palestinian Arabs.

Of course, their efforts to destroy Israel and murder as many Israelis as possible, as well as those Palestinians they accuse of working for the Israelis and, indeed, to harass the Christian Palestinian community out of existence, not to mention destroy historic evidence of the fact that Jews have been in Jerusalem for something like 3,000 years do get derailed by their inability to agree on anything and an ongoing desire to kill and maim each other.

It is, however, extraordinary that these very simple facts and information are so easily buried by cleverly disseminated propaganda.

We followed some of the creation of this propaganda last summer during Israel’s war against Hezbollah, when the latter seemed to be in total control of the “news” output by the MSM and only the blogs managed to speak up about the truth.

One of our complaints at the time was the little help we received from the Israeli embassy in London, from the leaders of the Jewish Community (ably and repeatedly lambasted by Melanie Phillips) and by the Israeli Defence Force.

It is completely untrue that the IDF lost the shooting war against Hezbollah and, of course, it is completely untrue that Lebanon is now happily at peace, with the Israeli forces out of the country and UNIFIL patrolling the border without any rights to disarm terrorist organizations. Hezbollah, as we have reported on numerous occasions, is still interested in destroying Lebanon rather than allow it to become a more or less peaceful, pro-Western state that is not controlled by Syria or Iran.

What the IDF and Israel lost and lost heavily was the propaganda war, largely because of their ineptitude in this field. It is hard to tell where this ineptitude comes from. It has been suggested to me that Hebrew culture is too straightforward to play “linguistic jiu-jitsu” but I find that hard to accept completely. Not that I know a great deal about Hebrew culture but I do know that some of the best propagandists of the twentieth century have been Jews and I cannot see why this talent, present in so many should not be used to Israel’s advantage.

The problem, I am happy to say, has been noticed in Israel as well, as this no-holds-barred article in the Jerusalem Post indicates.

As the author Amotz Asa-El puts it, Lt-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, new Chief of General Staff, may not put this at the top of the agenda but it really ought to be:
The problem is simple: In last summer's war, what began with Israel's portrayal as a just victor ended with its depiction as an unjust loser. It is even more perplexing considering that the IDF Spokesman's Office was reasonably budgeted, staffed and trained. In fact, the IDF's media operation had been revolutionized since the days when it saw the press as an intrusion on the battlefield.
Amotz Asa-El goes through the whole sad saga of incompetence and wrong persons being appointed. Clearly, it has not really sunk in deeply that the IDF’s media operation should be conducted by someone who knows what the media is like, how it operates, what kind of stories it likes.

Furthermore, the someone should have a clear idea of the importance of instant (and I do mean instant) rebuttal. Even Mr Asa-El seems unable to grasp what actually happened at Qana (or Kana). Perhaps we should send him a copy of the pdf so painstakingly prepared by my colleague.

As the blogs proved conclusively, at Qana and in other places, Hezbollah simply concocted news stories that were then reproduced as real by the Western media. The IDF media sector should have pounced on every single one of them, demanding explanations, evidence and independent confirmation. Instead, they apologized, then muttered about things being not quite the way they were depicted.

The Israelis should have had the world media in the northern towns and villages that had been consistently shelled for a long time before the attack, not accept the “world’s judgement” that they simply over-reacted to the kidnapping of two soldiers (not the murder of eight others, oh goodness me, no).

The trouble goes back to at least 2,000 with the Mohammed Al-Dura story, which we have written about on this blog. Terrorists blow up children with impunity. Those pictures are too horrific to show.

Therefore, the iconic picture of the way children are affected, has been the little boy of unknown provenance, unknown name and unknown destiny, crouching behind his father at one of the carefully staged “battles”. Did the Israelis demand explanations, evidence and independent confirmation? Did they heck. Just rolled over and apologized, only then muttering about it not being quite like that.

The point is that the Western media is already predisposed to creating a certain story in which Israel is the aggressor; the Jews having arrived from Eastern Europe, have taken over land that has “always” been Palestinian (whoever the Palestinians may be) and every problem in that part of the world is caused by Israeli aggression.

Hamas, Hezbollah and the others use this. Israel has been outmaneuvered on the battlefield of propaganda. The IDF has been slow to react, unable to deal with the Western media, incapable of understanding the growing importance of the blogosphere, large trenches of which are on her side.

Of course, the problem may be rooted in even older matters. There is no need to discuss that here. We have to deal with the situation as it is.

Mr Asa-El puts blame for the latest debacle squarely on the previous Chief of General Staff, Dan Halutz, and his protégée, the lady who is still in charge of the IDF media section, Miri Regev.[The two are pictured at the top.]

With all due respect, one has to say that Ms Regev has been an unmitigated disaster and one wonders what General Halutz was thinking of in appointing her.

The lady, it would seem, does not speak English, the language of the international media. She has no interest in the international media but only in promoting her boss in the Israeli one. As if it mattered how many pictures of General Halutz appeared in Israel.
Regev's career as a press officer focused on dealing with the Hebrew press and with logistics. To her, the foreign press - the alpha and omega of that fourth arena where Israel was taking a beating, and which she was assigned to conquer - was but a sideshow. And so, rather than spend the war personally briefing the world's major media figures, she spent it behind Dan Halutz's shoulder, evidently thinking her job was to push her boss into Israeli papers, rather than get her own face on foreign TV.

At the same time, when the IDF began its frantic search for a "victory photo," Regev failed to supply it. True, this task would have been simpler had there been a victory to photograph, but the fact is that some things could have been done. For instance, after the war I learned from combatants that when surrounded, Hizbullah troops would often commit suicide, in some cases shooting themselves in the temple with pistols in the very presence of approaching Israeli troops.

I doubt this could have been photographed. Yet had this been made known immediately, it would have proven valuable to the press as a story, and to the IDF as a reminder to the foreign press that Israel's enemy was not the freedom fighter it tried to portray, but the fanatic suicide attackers who have been haunting the West from Bali to Madrid.

Why was this lost on Regev? Because she has poor English and has never been a journalist. How can she know where to lead the foreign press if she can't read an issue of The Economist or hold a serious conversation with a New York Times editor? Regev was as clueless about the foreign press as Halutz was about the ground forces.
Replacing Ms Regev with a savvy Anglophone journalist would be a step in the right direction. I suspect, more is needed by way of mentality change in the Israeli military apparatus.

Why does this matter? Why should we not simply shrug our shoulders and say, well, if they are that stupid, let them get on with it? Because, as I have said before, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by tyrannies and terrorists, all intent on destroying it. Because Israel is fighting our battles and we need to support the country. But, hey, guys, meet us half-way.


TOPICS: Editorial; Foreign Affairs; Israel; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: infowar; israel; propaganda

1 posted on 02/21/2007 1:00:22 PM PST by Tolik
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To: Lando Lincoln; quidnunc; .cnI redruM; Valin; King Prout; SJackson; dennisw; monkeyshine; ...

Nailed It!

This ping list is not author-specific for articles I'd like to share. Some for the perfect moral clarity, some for provocative thoughts; or simply interesting articles I'd hate to miss myself. (I don't have to agree with the author all 100% to feel the need to share an article.) I will try not to abuse the ping list and not to annoy you too much, but on some days there is more of the good stuff that is worthy of attention. You can see the list of articles I pinged to lately  on  my page.
You are welcome in or out, just freepmail me (and note which PING list you are talking about). Besides this one, I keep 2 separate PING lists for my favorite authors Victor Davis Hanson and Orson Scott Card.  

2 posted on 02/21/2007 1:01:23 PM PST by Tolik
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To: Tolik

In short, "a lie can travel half way around the world before the truth gets a chance to put its shoes on"......Mark Twain

3 posted on 02/21/2007 1:37:50 PM PST by kipita (Conservatives: Freedom and Responsibility------Liberals: Freedom from Responsibility)
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To: Tolik

Wars have to be fought on two fronts, the actual physical battle-space, and the field of ideas. The field of ideas is a propaganda war. Lose the propaganda war and you lose the war.

The flip side of that is, if you win the propaganda war, you will ultimately win the military war.

We have a military that can not be beaten on the battlefield, but we can not sustain the national will to see even a successful war to its conclusion. The danger is that we win and we win and we win until we get tired of winning and then we abandon the fight. A determined enemy can lose every battle and win the war if he can outlast us, if he can convince us that all of our victories are for nothing, if he can convince us that our victories are really defeats.

Right now the information battlefield consists of essentially three levels; news and information media, entertainment media, and the university. All three are dominated by our enemies. This has been true for decades, it does little good to complain about something that has essentially always been true in modern life, if you then do nothing to solve it.

This has to be taken seriously as a military issue; if you are not prepared to dominate the propaganda battlefield, if you are not prepared to win the information war, then leave your men in the barracks, you are not prepared to fight and win.

4 posted on 02/21/2007 1:54:46 PM PST by marron
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To: SJackson


5 posted on 02/21/2007 1:58:09 PM PST by marron
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To: Tolik

Tragically, the Bush White House takes second place to no one in PR incompetence. I remain mystified at their incredible incompetence in telling their side.

6 posted on 02/21/2007 1:58:21 PM PST by pabianice (LLY)
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To: pabianice

So true.

7 posted on 02/21/2007 2:33:22 PM PST by Astronaut
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To: dennisw; Cachelot; Nix 2; veronica; Catspaw; knighthawk; Alouette; Optimist; weikel; Lent; GregB; ..
If you'd like to be on this middle east/political ping list, please FR mail me.

High Volume. Articles on Israel can also be found by clicking on the Topic or Keyword Israel. or WOT [War on Terror]


8 posted on 02/21/2007 3:40:45 PM PST by SJackson (restoring the Jews to their homeland is a noble dream shared by many Americans, A Lincoln)
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To: pabianice

I disagree. The driveby media is not interested in hearing another narrative of events than the one that comes out of the DNC. They are invested in Bush's failure in Iraq and in anointing Shrillary as POTUS, and the one is necessary for the other to occur.

9 posted on 02/21/2007 3:52:17 PM PST by attiladhun2 (Islam is a despotism so vile that it would warm the heart of Orwell's Big Brother)
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To: attiladhun2
All true about driveby media; and I would have agreed with you if Bush team was fighting and losing this battle. But, as far as I can see, they are losing without fighting. They don't have offense on the field at all! Sorry.
10 posted on 02/21/2007 4:20:01 PM PST by Tolik
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To: marron
The very first thing that Bolsheviks did in November 1917 was to seize telegraph and rail road and ban ALL opposition newspapers. So they tried to control info-flow right from the beginning. Lenin, Trotsky, Hitler, Mao - all very good orators. Stalin was not, but he had a captive audience, so he could be a Father of the nation without much talking.

Iron Curtain as all know was to keep people in and information about the West out. When it stopped being effective was the beginning of the end for the USSR. But even when it was porous, people still did not have an idea about the magnitude of the lies they were fed. All who bothered to think could guess that something wasn't right, its just no sane person could believe how much of history was covered up and distorted.

Why I remember about it? Propaganda works. Without consistent response it will permeate through and it may take decades to peal off the layers of misinformation. Western democracy is amazingly resilient. BUT, I am very afraid that the acid will eventually eat through if we won't fight hard enough on our side of the Info-War.
11 posted on 02/21/2007 4:35:02 PM PST by Tolik
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To: Tolik
I should explain that the title was not invented by Lenin. Very little was. This was a title given to an interminably long and boring novel by Chernyshevsky, which outlined in fictional form the ideas of radicalism. One of the great mysteries of the Russian soul is how a novel of such incredible turpitude should have become so popular in a country, which, at the time, boasted some of the greatest novelist in the world.

Damn straight, I was given the book, "What Is To Done", to read and review in a university Russian history class. I started my paper with the sentence: "The first thing the author should have done is to have rewritten this stupid book."

Amazingly, I still passed the course. That book was the epitome of stupidity, and boring beyond words.

12 posted on 02/21/2007 5:23:53 PM PST by xJones
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To: Tolik

Thank a certain software by the name of Photoshop.

13 posted on 02/21/2007 8:11:29 PM PST by Biggirl (A biggirl with a big heart for God's animal creation.)
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To: pabianice

I agree, Bush failed to get his side of the story such a terrible way as to alienate his core support.

14 posted on 02/22/2007 8:34:30 AM PST by Halgr (Once a Marine, always a Marine - Semper Fi)
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To: Tolik

This is also precisley why we are having so much trouble in Iraq. We are winning the military war, but can't do much when the entirity of the Western Media is against us. Israel faces the same media and they are anti-Israeli too. You have to bypass these media sources and go straight to the people.

15 posted on 02/23/2007 7:22:43 AM PST by Thunder90
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