Why Israel lost the propaganda war

James Lewis
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 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 Isreali "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.  
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 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 Isreali "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.