By Alexa Laz and Dmitriy Shapiro/JNS.org/Washington Jewish Week
Israel has been taking its licks in the international arena since it launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza on July 8. But criticism of the Jewish state was actually worse during its last battle with Hamas in 2012 and the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, experts say.
One reason for this shift is the revelation of the cross-border tunnels Hamas has built to infiltrate Israel, according to Ilana Stein, spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Built of concrete at a great expense relative to Gaza’s general state of poverty, the tunnels reportedly contain not just weapons, but also tranquilizers and handcuffs, presumably to subdue Israeli hostages.
“For years, our diplomats around the world have been saying that Hamas is a terrorist organization,” said Stein. “The international community didn’t understand why we wouldn’t let Hamas bring in cement to Gaza a few years ago. Now you all know why. So that’s a success for us.”
Score one for Israeli “hasbara,” or public diplomacy. Despite its military success against Hamas and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel has never been able to win the information war against its adversaries. Now, with Protective Edge in its fourth week, Israel appears to have learned from past hasbara mistakes and has improved the way it delivers its message to the media and the public, both in the United States and internationally.
A Pew Research Center survey published July 28 bears this out. Asked if Israel’s response to Hamas is “proportional,” a plurality of 35 percent of Americans surveyed answered that Israel’s actions were “about right.” An additional 15 percent said that Israel is not going far enough, while 25 percent answered Israel has gone too far and 24 percent don’t know.
Another reason Israel’s hasbara (the Hebrew word means “information”) has improved is that Israel and pro-Israel organizations have become more sophisticated with their messages and have learned to share information in real time, according to Omri Ceren of The Israel Project, which disseminates information about Israel to reporters and policymakers in Washington D.C.
Click photo to download. Caption: One of the images posted by the “Israel Under Fire” student initiative of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC) college and graduate school. The Jewish state’s information war has been waged by student volunteers at many Israeli higher education institutions. Credit: Israel Under Fire.
“It has to be fast, it has to be accurate, you have to put it in the hands of people who can use it,” Ceren said.
In the past, Israel’s hasbara efforts have been reactive, attempting to …read more