Tuesday, June 16, 2015

You can’t win a PR war by fighting on the enemy’s side

By Evelyn Gordon

Israel needs to stop arguing the Palestinians’ case and start arguing its own

Responding to last week’s column about the importance of stressing Israel’s achievements rather than its failures, a reader wrote that while she agreed with me, this alone wouldn’t suffice to fix Israel’s broken public diplomacy. And of course, she’s right, because that column addressed only one of two major flaws in Israel’s public diplomacy. The other is no less important: Quite simply, Israel needs to stop arguing the Palestinians’ case and start arguing its own.

I can’t think of another conflict in history where one side devoted so much time and energy to selling the world the other side’s narrative rather than its own. And then, after two decades of actively supporting the two most important Palestinians claims against it, Israel actually wonders why the world views it as the villain.

Claim number one is that the West Bank and Gaza are “occupied Palestinian territory.” This is a crucial issue, because if Israel is just a thief occupying stolen Palestinian land, then it has no right to retain any of this land or set any conditions on its return, and deserves opprobrium for even daring to pose such demands. In contrast, if Israel has a valid claim to these lands, then it’s being laudably generous in offering the Palestinians a state there and has every right to impose conditions on this generosity, like retaining certain areas or demanding specific security arrangements.

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