It was highly interesting to read former Ambassador Zvi Mazel’s concise assessment of Israel’s status in the “Israel Advocacy” area. Living in Sweden and working with hasbara for 25 years, it saddens me to say Ambassador Mazel is entirely correct. The people at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs do a remarkable job under impossible conditions, and they deserve nothing but the highest praise for their accomplishments.
The problem is not with the highly motivated but vastly overworked staff there, but with the failures of their political masters who in the run up to and the wake of the Oslo debacle decided that the world understood Israel’s position, and that therefore no further information effort was needed.
Those of us who live outside Israel but work with Israel advocacy are in the front line of the information war. It is we who have our fingers on the pulse, long before Israeli politicians absorbed in the heat of domestic and foreign politics are ever aware of changes in the making. It is we who first see the signs of the shift in tone in our various countries as the relentless Arab propaganda onslaught gathers momentum while Israel’s own information efforts are cut back; not least, it is our children who are often the first to feel the brunt of the shift in pro-Arab, anti-Israel sentiment, because it is usually first expressed in the form of anti-Semitism – with our kids being the easiest target.
Israeli politicians who for perhaps very understandable short-term financial reasons authorise cutbacks in the country’s information effort need to pay closer attention to experts like Mr Mazel – and to those abroad who work in tandem with the likes of the ambassador and the excellent team at the MFA: a pro-active information drive is not a negotiable expense that can be cut in the face of other pressing needs; rather, it is a strategic investment designed to put Israel on equal footing with her enemies on a very real battleground, where the war is fought with words and under the media spotlight.
The staff at the MFA need far more backing than they have had this past decade. Israel’s failings in the information war are not the fault of MFA staff working against impossible odds to carry out their orders, it is the fault of their political masters who for a decade have simply had no orders to give them.
Ambassador Mazel is right: we need to re-dedicate ourselves to the information effort. That decision can only come from the very highest level within the government – whatever its political colour.
Our future depends on it.