Six Lessons of the Gaza Conflict

Holding Fire, Hasbara and a Photo of Slain Palestinian Kids

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By Chemi Shalev (Haaretz)

Published November 22, 2012.
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  • Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was quick to take credit for maintaining Israel’s good image, ascribing it to the “excellent work” that was done in what he described as the “hasbara front.”

But with all due respect to eloquent ambassadors, suave spokesmen, telling talking points, persuasive Facebook posts or the tantalizing tweets that everyone was so enamored with in the first few days of the campaign – they had only a marginal effect, at best, on Israel’s success in the battle for image supremacy. Pitted against an internationally recognized, Iranian-inspired terrorist group that glorifies martyrdom, worships death, celebrates massacres, enslaves its own people, seeks Israel’s destruction and hasn’t desisted from its so-called “armed struggle” for a single day of its existence – Israel won the public relations war almost by default.

And even with the deck stacked in its favor, Israel would have had a hard time maintaining its PR edge, Hamas or no Hamas, if the army had invaded Gaza, fought house-to-house and evoked unpleasant memories of Operation Cast Lead and the Goldstone Report.

Israel has a much harder time defending itself when it is confronted by a moderate Palestinian leadership or by rock-throwing demonstrators or when it is forced to explain the killing of Turkish “civilians” aboard a ship at sea or to rationalize the undeniable contradiction between its stated support for a two-state solution and the mass settlement of Israeli Jews throughout the territories supposedly earmarked for one of those states. Israel’s image, to a much larger degree than most Israelis would care to admit, is often determined on a case-by-case basis. Biases and double standards notwithstanding, what matters the most are the merits of each individual case.

But many Israelis will draw the wrong conclusions, unfortunately, from this week’s brief fling with world public opinion. It wasn’t our product that was defective all these years, they will tell themselves, but our marketing strategy. All we need now are a few more social media specialists, a reinforced creative department, new recruits of English-speaking front men and one or two brilliant slogans. (And if that doesn’t work, then we will know for sure that the world hates Jews and is fundamentally predisposed against us.)

  • Israeli observers reported that there was a subdued atmosphere at the press conference convened in Jerusalem on Wednesday night in which Netanyahu, Lieberman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced the ceasefire. This wasn’t a joyous celebration of victory, they said, but a carefully managed effort in damage control. Many Israelis, these politicians knew, were going to be disappointed. They had expected more.

The reason, of course, is that they had been led to believe that there would indeed be more. “We will agree to a cease fire only when Hamas begs for it,” anonymous ministers told the press in the first few hours of the operation, even though Hamas, as far as anyone can tell, was never the begging type.

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  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight":
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
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