Thursday, May 27, 2010

Formulating a Response

Ari Bussel

At times, it is the outside observer who sees the obvious, yet those engrossed in the details fail to see the larger picture. Observations rather than being characterized as “lucid” are viewed as “rancid;” systems are adverse to change. Thus, even the most astute observations are neither incorporated in the decision making process nor translated into necessary action. In the 18th Knesset, ministerial positions were determined by bazaar-like negotiations on which the formation of a coalition government was dependent. These perks, paid by Israel and her citizens, are the price for a faulty electoral system. Among the many ministers and their deputies, aides, assistants, relatives and other salary-getters, there are two in particular who are likely candidates to lead the current process of fighting delegitimization of the Jewish State:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) led by Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Liberman and the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs led by Minister Yuli-Yoel Edelstein.

The MFA has representatives throughout the world in embassies, consulates and local offices. As a body, it could be most useful in presenting Israel’s position. Since humanitarian aid to Gaza has been a hot topic since, at the very least, December, 2008, when Israel embarked on Operation Cast Lead, the MFA has had a year and a half during which not only to “formulate a response” but to put such a plan (or plans) into action.

Every week the IDF puts out a summary of humanitarian aid to Gaza. Every foreign journalist receives a copy from the Prime Minister’s Government Press Office (GPO). The GPO acts under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that despite arguments that the IDF’s or GPO’s dispatches are mere propaganda, the fact that 30,920 trucks containing 800,000 tons of supplies were transferred into Gaza during 2009 would not be lost on those reporting from Israel. At the very least, a reputable journalist could venture out to the field and attempt to verify the information or discredit the disseminator.

Other facts, like the 3,676 trucks that went from Israel to the Gaza Strip with 48,000 tons of food products, 40,000 tons of wheat, 2,760 tons of rice, 1,987 tons of clothes and footwear, 553 tons of milk power and baby food all during the first quarter of 2010 (January to March), cannot be hidden. These are simply too many truck trips. It is simply too large a quantity to be left in a warehouse or a field and disappear unnoticed.

Moreover, anyone visiting Gaza and seeing the flourishing trade there, the abundance of products in the markets and restaurants or even the active nightlife will be wondering about the real propaganda being used against Israel.

Then again, it is easier to falsely accuse, as long as the accusation sounds bad and damaging enough to Israel’s reputation. As far removed from reality as they may be, false attacks and their wide and warm reception reflect the world’s eagerness to believe the worst about the Jewish State, no verification needed.

While Hamas’ Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and its operations are sponsored and supported by the Iranian regime, Israel is good for the Gazans. During 2009, 10,544 residents along with twelve thousand accompanying individuals were transferred to Israel to receive medical treatment. Likewise, there were 382 emergency evacuations from Gaza for medical purposes. Also last year, 7.5 million flowers and 54 tons of strawberries were exported from Gaza.

Admittedly, these figures are provided by the IDF spokesperson’s office, although they are easily verifiable. “Israel is putting stickers ‘made in Gaza’ to avert the world’s scrutiny of the real genocide she is committing” will say the enemies. They may add: “How can the poor Gazans grow flowers, when Israel has been thirsting the Palestinians for 62 years, preventing them from fresh, running water?”

Since journalists can travel to and from Gaza, they can check for themselves. Alas, there is only one small issue: If their reports are not liked by Hamas, they can either be executed while in Gaza or the next time they enter. Truth (thus reporting) is a risky proposition in this part of the world.

Several weeks ago plans were announced for a sailing of another in a series of humanitarian aid convoys to Gaza. Promises were made that Israel’s blockade will be broken at all cost. Hundreds of human rights activists gathered in Turkey for a journey to “Gaza under Siege,” willing to sacrifice their freedom so that the Gazans will not starve.

Alas, the Gazans are not starving for food nor is there any real need for medical assistance, water or electricity or even construction materials. All are supplied by Israel. There are limits, though, on what may pass into Gaza, for the Gazans have used certain materials to build and improve rockets, explosives and other terror-related means.

I marked my calendar for Monday, May 24th, the official sail date of the mission. It is not the first time that such a mission sets sail toward Gaza. These missions are most effective: If they are allowed to reach Gaza, the participants are viewed as victors. If anything happens to them, if Israel boards the vessels and takes control or worse, if anyone gets hurt, Israel is seen as the aggressor.

This time, however, Turkey vowed to retaliate if Israel does any harm to the journey of the “peace activists” and “humanitarians.” Israel responded that any humanitarian aid can be offloaded in the Port of Ashdod or in Egypt and passed by land into Gaza according to the guidelines set forth which maximize transfer to those who really need the aid (rather than be hijacked for profits or other motives) while minimizing the usage for terror purposes.

A group of Israeli boat owners have— of their own volition and initiative—decided to set sail to meet the incoming “Messengers of Peace.” The official government response was congratulatory, although officials kept emphasizing the counter-sail is a private initiative. Minister Edelstein said, “the answer was given by citizens who I am not clear if they belong to the right or the left, but certain these are people who did not forget what is Zionism. When there is unity and we understand the hypocrisy, the goal has been reached.”

Israel seems to want to distance herself from necessary action. Thus, private individuals or NGOs have to take charge. Will Israel’s culpability or liability differ any if she takes the lead? On the contrary, it would be most beneficial, for Israel will send a strong message: WE TAKE A STAND. It is easier, instead, to let the others do the work.

Yigal Palmor, the Spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has repeated Israel’s invitation for the organizers of the “humanitarian attempt to breach the blockade” to use the land crossings, in the same manner as all reputable international organizations. However, he states “they are engaging in political propaganda and not in pro-Palestinian aid.”

Palmor reiterated, “If the organizers were truly interested in providing humanitarian aid—as opposed to engaging in publicity stunts—they would use the proper channels to ensure delivery of any supplies.”

So what do we have? A private initiative, an IDF data sheet and a MFA interview. After the ships sailed on their wanted collision course, activity from Israel has intensified. “Suddenly” fact sheets are being provided, interviews are being given, information supportive of Israel’s claims disseminated. The GPO even sent out a list of recommended restaurants in Gaza and others followed suit.

Guess who is going to gain more credence, Israel’s last-minute attempt at a reply or the organizers now on the way to Israel? Who will emerge with an upper hand from this repeated exercise? Who will perfect their modus operandi for the next attempt to breach the “blockade?” Who will eventually win this public diplomacy war?

For those in doubt – it will not be Israel. Success will not happen miraculously when procrastination has characterized the response. In fact, why even bother after the vessels have already set sail? Defense Minister Barak has already advised several Foreign Ministers, including those of Ireland, Cyprus and Greece (under whose flags some vessels are sailing) that the Israeli Navy will prevent access.

Possibly one should study what has prompted Israel’s waking up at all? I am reminded of a time not that long ago that Judge Goldstone was in Israel “researching” (or more correctly conjuring findings). His stay did not warrant an equally forceful plan of action until after his report was published and caused major damage in its detached-from-reality conclusions.

For those in America who have had a taste of what is happening on university campuses, the situation is similar. Our enemies have used the guise of “free speech” and “academic freedom” to hijack our system to attack Israel and prevent free speech from anyone not in agreement with their radical agenda.

The response? Organizations like Stand With Us are doing the work, individuals from Israel come to speak, but this is the job of the MFA and the Ministry of Public Diplomacy. They, apparently, were quite surprised when the Israeli Ambassador to the USA was not as welcomed during a speech he attempted to give at the University of California Irvine. Alas, like the current sailing, it was not the first, nor the last occurrence.

There are many capable, thinking persons in Israel. “Formulating a response” or “coming up with a coherent approach” should have been concluded long ago. It was time for action not for academic discussions while Israel is being beaten and defeated on the public diplomacy front.

The time is long past for the official echelons in Israel, the Government and the Israel Defense Forces to PROTECT ISRAEL. To do so, Israel taught the world, one must go on the offensive.

There is no time to be waste. Israel must regroup and attack. Clearly she will be able to do an amazing work if she only sets her heart and mind to the task. Israelis were able to come up with microscopic cameras to travel the human body’s blood vessels, devised drip irrigation, developed vaccines and medications and are working on the forefront of discoveries that will continue to benefit humanity. They must now focus some of that same ingenuity and creativity to defend their nation.

If Israelis do not rise to this challenge, there may one day no longer be a country for Jews around the world to call their home. Sadder yet, the words “never again” once again fall on deaf ears, and the world is eager to witness another Holocaust as the job of exterminating the Jews was abruptly stopped 65 years ago but has finally resumed.

In the series “Postcards from Israel—Postcards from America,” Ari Bussel and Norma Zager invite readers to view and experience an Israel and her politics through their eyes, an Israel visitors rarely discover


This point—and often—counter-point presentation is sprinkled with humor and sadness and attempts to tackle serious and relevant issues of the day. The series began in 2008, appears both in print in the USA and on numerous websites and is followed regularly by readership from around the world.

© “Postcards from Israel—Postcards from America,” May, 2010

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