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The Israeli and Zionist response to world public opinion has not always been one of indifference. In the early years, David Ben Gurion and Chaim Weizmann paid close attention to issues of opinion and image in formulating policy. For a poor and weak national movement, and for a poor and weak state, public opinion was an essential strategic asset. As Israeli military and economic prowess grew, the equation changed. Israel had been seen as tiny David versus the far more numerous Arab Goliath. But Palestinian propaganda managed to isolate the Palestinian issue from the Arab states that stood behind the Palestinians. Israel could now be made to look like the evil "Goliath" against the tiny, weak and brave Palestinians, and never mind the 1.5 billion Muslims standing behind them.

At the same time, Israelis became increasingly callous and cynical about the U.N. and its institutions, and "international legitimacy" that was shaped to be a tool that worked only against Israel. Coinciding with the Palestinian violence that ended the Oslo peace process in 2000, a campaign organized by states and NGOs, backed by the institutions of the U.N. and an increasingly hostile media, began hammering home the message that Israel is an illegitimate state and Zionism is a racist ideology. Palestinians have managed to turn this campaign into a major strategic threat that completely neutralizes Israel's substantial military advantage. But Israeli policy makers are oblivious. Israel still hides behind the delusion of its military power and paradoxically, the fear of the physical threat posed by its enemies.

Barry Rubin has expressed this attitude in an article entitled, The Big Lie About the Israel "Delegitimization" Threat, Rubin points out quite rightly that critics who cite the problem of delegitimization, like Roger Cohen, often make significant contributions to the delegitimization themselves, by repeating lies and half truths about Israel. But then Rubin wrote:

But you know what? In the end, it doesn't matter what people say, what matters is how the real world hits them upside the head...The only problem is who is going to do the bleeding, but it won't be from delegitimization but rather from being blown up.

So what's the bigger threat to Israel: Hamas becoming established permanently as the government of the Gaza Strip, training thousands of terrorists and importing arms or Western politicians and media criticizing Israel for stopping that from happening? It's no contest.

Barry Rubin did not notice that Hamas is already permanently established in the Gaza strip, and that Israel cannot mount a military operation or any other sort of operation that will remove them. The threat is that as it gains legitimacy, Hamas will also get a controlling voice in the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and that is certainly a bigger threat than a few more rockets in Gaza. The reason Israel cannot deal with Hamas is not lack of tanks or aircraft or drones or troops. Even if the port of Gaza were opened, Iran could not, at present, supply the Hamas with weapons that could physically prevent Israel from conquering Gaza. But Israel is powerless to act because we are losing the war for legitimacy - not just abroad, but at home. In the Palestinian arena, where we face an enemy that has few physical resources, delegitimization is not just the main threat. It is the only real threat. It does matter, very much, what people say. Delegitimization is a major cause of being blown up, because delegitimization renders us defenseless.

Delegitimization threatens us on another front. A proposal to unilaterally declare a Palestinian state is being advanced by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority. It is not unlikely that the EU would recognize this state, and that it might get a seat in the UN. It could become a base for terrorists firing rockets at Ben Gurion air port and at Jerusalem, as well as a center for organizing campaigns for "right" of return of Palestinian refugees. In the present international climate, Israel would be powerless to stop it.

Consider how much ground we have lost. In 1956 and 1967 Israel's patchwork army invaded Gaza and conquered it in a very short time. As in any war, there were civilian casualties. There was no Goldstone report, no threats of war crime trials, no demonstrators screamed "Jews to the gas!" Nobody in the west whined that Israel is an illegitimate state. Nobody launched boycott campaigns to end Zionism. In 2007, the Hamas overthrew the accepted Palestinian Authority government and installed itself in a coup. This was a clear violation of the terms of the Oslo accord. In theory, Israel had every right to invade Gaza and restore the lawful government, but in reality, Israel could do nothing. The delegitimization weapon was more powerful than all our missiles and drones and tanks.

In 2008, a vastly superior IDF faced a tiny group of terrorists armed with light weapons. The Hamas pounded Israeli cities with rockets for several days before Israel acted. Israel planned a surgical campaign with limited objectives, admittedly difficult when fighting in built-up areas.

Israel used awesome and relatively precise firepower in Gaza against a weak enemy. At the end of the campaign however, Hamas remained in place, and Israel was accused of war crimes. Another victory for the delegitimization weapon. When it wreaked wholesale wanton destruction in Chechnya, Russia did not get a tenth of the condemnation that was directed at Israel for the Gaza campaign.

Just now, Israeli commandoes killed nine people in self defense, people who had been screaming anti-Semitic chants, who had told the world clearly that their "humanitarian" flotilla was really a political act aimed at opening the port of Gaza, people who attacked the commandos with clubs and knives; people who were very likely al-Qaeda mercenaries. The media turned them into humanitarian heroes. Israel suffered a wave of self-righteous condemnation by governments that murder people on a regular basis. Hamas murdered many more people in its 2007 coup, but somehow, the coup had been blamed on Israel. At about the same time the world was condemning Israel for killing 9 probable al-Qaeda operatives in self-defense, al Qaeda bomb attacks in Pakistan killed about 90 people in mosques. An attack on a hospital killed twelve more. Nobody seemed to care very much.

Hamas will not leave Gaza voluntarily. If Israel can hardly kill nine people in self defense, we certainly won't be able to conquer Gaza. It is time we all understood: Hamas is here to stay.

Delegitimization affects the home front as well. In the Six Day War of 1967 there were about 800 Israeli fatalities. Everyone mourned, but everyone understood that this was the price that had to be paid to defend our homes. Can you imagine the outcry that would be raised if there were even a hundred Israeli fatalities in the conquest of Gaza?

Rubin supports his thesis by the proposition that governments are not influenced by public opinion, but rather by realpolitik.

Even in the world of 2010, power still matters. Violence settled quarrels. Individual men are greedy for power.

... Yet after all the op-eds are written, governments make decisions based a bit more on the real world... Or as Professor Frťdťric Encel put it in Le Monde: "L'ťmotion et la compassion sont une chose, la diplomatie en est une autre." Emotion and compassion is one thing, diplomacy is something else entirely.

Indeed, that is precisely the point. History shows that since the time of the British mandate white paper of 1939, whenever governments have made choices based on "the real world," they have always chosen the Arabs over the Jews. In the United States, the proponents of realpolitik are the "striped pants boys" in the upper floors of the State Department, and people like Charles Freeman, Zbigniew Brzezinski and James Baker III. These are not friends of Israel.

How is that possible? It should be obvious. In the real world, there are not seven million powerful Israeli Goliaths and four million powerless Palestinian Davids. That is only a fantasy of the Palestinian "narrative." There are 1.5 billion Muslims who occupy vast territories and have huge reserves of oil and gas. Western governments do not forget this, even if they make believe it is all about "humanitarian concerns" and "Palestinian statehood." Everyone knows it is really about Arab oil, the threat of Muslim terror and the "bottom line" of oil companies like Aramco. These are the real determinants of Middle East realpolitik.

Barry Rubin asserts that a "conk on the head" like 9-11 and new elections will restore Israel to American good graces. Even if it were so, what about European opinion? In fact, however, 9-11 and the war on terror did not, in the long run, produce a greater alignment of the USA with Israel. Rather, the Iraq study group report, a non-partisan effort prepared under the Bush administration, recommended pressuring Israel to make concessions to the Arabs as part of the strategy to win the war in Iraq. The strategy, and the views it expresses have been continued in the Obama administration, but they originated in the Bush administration. More recently, American officials were rumored to have claimed that Israeli policies are costing American lives in Afghanistan. Israel's delegitimization problem is certainly not confined to one country or to one President. When the IDF had surrounded the Muqata during the Second Intifada, it was the Bush administration, not Obama, that prevented Israel from finally doing away with the regime of Yasser Arafat.

It is unfortunate that people like Roger Cohen and Trudy Rubin took up the delegitimization issue and distorted it for their own ends. But it does not change the fact that because of world opinion, we cannot dislodge the genocidal Hamas from Gaza. It does not change the fact that all over the world, the Palestinians in general, and even the genocidal Hamas terror group, are coming to be viewed as the "good guys," while we Israelis are coming to be viewed as evil people who deny halva and coriander to nice Palestinians, murder children with wanton abandon and traffic in their organs.

It is a fact that we can no longer act militarily even against the most blatant provocations and violations of treaties. Delegitimization has crippled Israel. The obvious justice of our cause was always our greatest and most important asset, our secret weapon that offset the threats of oil embargoes and the "angry Arab street." The state of Israel could not have been created without the support of world public opinion, and it can be destroyed by world public opinion.

Ami Isseroff


Original content is Copyright by the author 2010. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000747.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 6 Comments

Hey Tzionim, you said don't post anti-zionist propaganda? Why not, does the truth detract from your Zionist propaganda?

Your days are running out, Israel will soon be a Jewish place and all the Israelis will be gone!

Eretz Yisroel layihudim, Yisra'elim yoivadu!

Anti-Zionist Jew, Friday, June 25th


You don't get it: Israel truly is not legitimate.

After the Zionists succeded in killing millions of Jews in Europe and then bringing their sons and daughters to plow the rocks of modern-day Israel, they have nothing left to do.

The truth of the Zionists has been laid bare, this is all there is.

If you had been Jews you would have spent your days learning Torah, but all you do is die in your army for a State that hates you, leaves you to rot in Arab captivity, and gives away every meter of land you fought for. You are so blind, you still support the state that mafkired you like the lemmings you have shown yourselves to be.

Hey Ored, don't try to hold yourself up as better than Jews who live in the Holy Land and do what a Jew is supposed to do. You live like a goy, michallel Shabbos and doing mesirus nefesh lo b'heter.

All the spin and politics in the world can't save you now...you are oved avodah zara, and your god has no power to save you.

Bye Israel, bye Tzionim! The Jews will inherit the land!

Jew, Friday, June 25th


Vilde you dont have the luxury of time to sit about constructing delicate arguments and carefully crafting language, what you dont seem to realise you are being outsmarted and outflanked by thugs and neanderthals. They are beating you with DEMOGRAPHICS. Most people l talk to dont get demographics - they just dont understand or are unable to project their minds forward one generation, lts all about the numbers. Muslims are moving out of muslim majority countries into the West and when they get there they breed and they keep breeding. They are influencing public opinion in their newly adopted Western counties. l asked quite a few ordinary average people in this country about their attitude toward the Gaza flotilla - most were against lsrael. You have the mainstream media and the ever increasing muslim influence in the West to thank for that. lts getting worse for lsrael by the day and its getting worse for Christians and lovers of freedom by the day. You will never placate a religious politico movement whose founding books call for the killing of Jews. Jews and non muslims are going down - we are losing because we make the mistake of kissing up to this thing called moderate islam - it doesnt exist. Guaranteed to fail trying to do deals with something that doesnt exist - youre just talking to yourself while islam sharpens its knives. Get serious.

FLABUL COMM, Thursday, June 17th


RE: lf you dont know this you are a dhimmi and an enemy of the West.

This kind of "you're either with us or against us" mentality does you no favours, as it reveals a lack of subtlety and nuance so important in navigating any political climate; it also reveals a close-mindedness that most resembles that of the Islamists you purport to dislike. I'm prepared to disagree but I don't accept being labelled a "dhimmi" and "enemy of the west" by someone unable to engage in substantive debate who resorts to hurling abuse. Have a nice day.

vildechaye, Wednesday, June 16th


Vildechaye lm not so sure Ami is wrong, there have been a lot of shifts of late, Europeans are turning their backs on Jews - the proof of this can be seen in the exodus of persecuted Jews being forced out of Europe right now. None of these useless Euro dhimmis are doing anything to defend Jews from muslim persecution in Europe. Europeans are pc affected, human rights brainwashed and weak beyond belief, the Euro male can no longer be considered male. The world is shifting and the shift is favouring islam, if we dont start fighting back now the West is doomed. Muslims are moving into every Western country in ever increasing numbers, its happening here in Australia, the US and Canada. l dont doubt muslims are also migrating to S America, the demographics are changing everywhere. We must fight them now - in twenty or thirty years it will be too late. lslam is at permanent war with non islam. lf you dont know this you are a dhimmi and an enemy of the West.

FLABUL COMM, Wednesday, June 16th


Respectfully, I agree with Rubin, not you Ami (and I think you are probably the most talented writer on the middle east there is). I can understand your frustration after the flotilla fiasco and the media reaction, but in the end, Israel, its strong army and dare i say, its nuclear capability will ensure its continued survival, regardless of how hostile the outside world gets. Incidentally, it seems to me that world leaders, as opposed to the media and leftie noochschleppers, are for the most part most sympathetic to the Israeli position, as evidenced by the lack of political/diplomatic activity (Ireland and S.Africa being exceptions, and i believe S.A. has already sent back its ambassador). Also the Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims and their supporters always overreach and no doubt will soon do so again, generating at least some sympathy for Israel. It is, however, quite amazing, that Israel/Jews are right at the epicentre of world crisis, as we always seem to be. Don't lose hope.

vildechaye, Wednesday, June 16th


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