NGO Monitor’s Gerald Steinberg talks about the “narrative war”:
The narrative war is as old as the attacks by Arab armies and terror attacks. Following the failure of the 1948 invasion to destroy the nascent Jewish state, Arab leaders began a massive effort to rewrite these events. The process was repeated in 1967, when Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser’s moves to wipe Israel off the map were turned into a “war of occupation.” By repeating the myths and slogans enough times, and aided by the use of oil wealth, intimidation and terror, this strategy has gradually succeeded.
The narrative war, which has conquered Europe and is moving to North America, begins with the false history covering the Mandate period, from the Balfour Declaration through the 1947 UN partition plan. This version portrays Israel as a Jewish “colonization project” forced on the Arabs by European anti-Semitism and guilt after the Holocaust, as well as Jewish power and manipulation (as reflected in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion). The violent Arab rejection of the original “two states for two peoples” proposal, and the continued refusal to accept a Jewish state, regardless of borders, has been removed from these histories.
In the narrative, the Palestinians are always innocent victims – by definition – and Israel is painted as the powerful and manipulative aggressor. Refugees from wars initiated by the Arabs became the object of international sympathy, provided by an international support system with massive budgets that reinforce the narrative. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which is “commemorating 60 years” of existence, insures that the hatred is perpetuated.
In contrast, the almost equal number of Jewish refugees [actually, a greater number — ed.] who fled Arab attacks has disappeared from the history books – Jewish refugees are inconsistent with the narrative.
This simpleminded dichotomy – Palestinian victims and Jewish aggressors – works well with Western (particularly but not only European) academics, intellectuals, journalists, diplomats, NGO human rights campaigners and political leaders – particularly from the liberal end of the spectrum. And European governments, including the carefully hidden mechanisms of the European Commission, fund the narrative wars through anti-Israel NGOs that receive money under the misleading headlines of “human rights” and “peace partnerships.” On the basis of these images, whenever Israel responds to attacks, the flood of condemnations follow – including false claims of “war crimes,” “collective punishment” and “humanitarian crisis.”
In Jerusalem, the narrative war has adopted the Arab version, which eliminates 3,000 years of Jewish history as well as the [Jordanian] occupation and systematic desecration of the 1948-1967 period. The EU gives large sums to organizations like Ir Amim and B’Tselem that produce their tendentious reports which are copied and published by the European Commission in order to further demonize Israel. This is the political equivalent of a Ponzi scheme – money is provided to generate anti-Israel reports that justify providing more money, without any external checks or accountability. [my emphasis]
There are also North American sources of money for the campaign, such as the New Israel Fund (NIF), etc.
We know that the first step toward the elimination of Israel is its delegitimization. Although Europeans and other sophisticated actors will not (at least publicly) call for the annihilation of the Jews in Palestine by Hezbollah rockets or Iranian nukes, the atmosphere created by the falsification of history and current events may very well prevent international action to forestall these possibilities.
There is also a degradation of the quality of life in Israel caused by reduced physical security as a result of concessions forced by international pressure, economic and social effects of the boycott/divestiture movements, etc. Israel’s enemies are thinking long term: it’s common to hear Arabs say “it took 200 years to get the crusaders out of Palestine”.
The so-called ‘nakba law’ to forbid Israeli citizens from observing the birth of Israel as a catastrophe is a response to the popularity of the Arab narrative. Such a law would be very difficult to enforce and probably on balance have negative PR consequences without affecting attitudes; but one can understand the motivation of its supporters.
The NGO campaign is just another front in the broader information war. Israel should not abandon the field in this area either.
- Israel should publicly call out the EU, document the campaign and trace out the money flows. It should demand a UN resolution condemning it and insisting that it be stopped. Of course, no such resolution would pass, but silence is not an option.
- Israel should take serious steps to set up a world-class news and information facility, comparable to Al-Jazeera. As I’ve said countless times, a country with the world’s best air force and a superb high-tech sector can do this. All that’s needed is the will.