Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Barry Shaw: The Israeli Government and Public Diplomacy; A National Disgrace.

It is disgraceful how incompetent the Israeli government is when it comes to public diplomacy. It’s not only shockingly bad, it’s actually dangerously damaging to us.
They are so bad that, if I were Donald Trump, I would tell all of them, “You’re fired!”
What a bunch of losers! They can’t even hold back a bunch of degenerates in the BDS movement.
Actually, they don’t deal with this problem at all. They complain about it. They scratch their heads and throw money around various ministries to make it look as if they’re doing something, but they do nothing effective at all, just wasting valuable funds that should go to those who are fighting against our demonisation.

They concentrate on international diplomacy, government to government, government to international institutions, and what a mess they are making of that when it comes to protecting Israel from delegitimization, anti-Israel resolutions, labeling and host of other slanders.
They really don’t know how to deal with this problem, even when we are getting hit by so-called friendly countries. They’re clueless.

When it comes to Israeli advocacy they’re incompetent in the Knesset, they’re incompetent in the government ministries and they’re incompetent in the global embassies.
Ever tried getting embassy help to hold a pro-Israel rally in overseas capitals or major cities? Forget it! Just ask grassroots support groups who have held pro-Israel rallies without the help of our embassy staff. Maximum you may get an ambassador or some incompetent to come and make a speech to show how important he is. It probably goes on his record at the Foreign Ministry as an achievement in his diplomatic career.

Ever tried getting embassy help in organizing a speaking tour on behalf of Israel in some overseas country and I’m talking about logistical assistance, not funding. Forget it! Maximum you may get some embassy official sitting anonymously in the audience who will come up and congratulate you on an impressive presentation after your talk. This has happened to me on more than one occasion after making my own arrangements to travel abroad at my own expense to speak up for Israel because I felt it is important to inform and motivate overseas supporters with whom I am connected. I know I speak for many excellent colleagues and groups who are ploughing a lonely advocacy path for Israel.
You can’t begin to guess how many people at such events thank me for making the effort while complaining that they get no information of help from the staff at our embassies I know this is true because I have given up on them when it came to helping me establish specific support groups in certain countries. I don’t know what they are doing there, but they are useless when it comes to establishing grassroots support for Israel. 

A top team from UK Lawyers for Israel traveled to Israel for a meeting I initiated with several government bureaucrats. They offered solutions to pressing problems including boycotts and labeling. Their visit was precipitated by the concerns of the Israeli Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Association who arranged, hosted and chaired the meeting. That was over a year ago. The officials went back to their ministerial desks and did nothing. Look at us now, panicking about labeling.
South Africa is one of the leading hubs of Israel’s delegitimization campaigning. It is a country that badly needs a coordinated support system from Israel.  They are not getting it from government ministries. Our fighters and allies are left alone in a troubled country that is riddled with Israel Apartheid Week, BDS and other forms of Israel hatred.  
The affairs of the Foreign Ministry have reached such a low point that, in Brazil, they’re even boycotting our choice of ambassador.
Only recently have they begun to wake up and appreciate the size of the problem as a diplomat tsunami is hitting our shores. Like a tired man waking from a stupor, they still do not know what is hitting them.  This is because they have refused to listen to us for too many years. It has now caught them off-guard. 
It is a bottom-up phenomenon. We have been pleading with the government, trying to make them aware that it is the culmination of the gathering effect of a person-to-person, group-to-group campaign in which the anti-Israel message has been coordinated and echoed by hundreds, if not thousands, of groups and organizations. 
The government, for years, turned their backs on us, closed their ears to what we were warning them, sent us away, even telling us they were the professionals and knew how to handle things. They were wrong, damagingly wrong. 

Now they are throwing a hundred million shekels at an inter-ministerial think tank. The money should instead be given to the exemplary non-government groups successfully operating private initiatives that are making an impact in various fields. It is a fascinating phenomenon that every successful Israeli-based advocacy NGO has been established and developed by English speaking immigrants!

Government money should go to StandWithUs, Honest Reporting, CAMERA, NGO-Monitor, Palestine Media Watch, Regavim, Truth be Told, Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, Over the Rainbow, even Christian Friends of Israel and UK Lawyers for Israel that are either self-funded or helped by private funding. These groups and others are in the daily battlefield against Israel’s detractors, promoting Israeli advocacy interests in problematical countries.

It won’t, of course. It will remain in-house. Our politicians and officials are afraid of losing control over a vitally important issue than they are about outsourcing to NGOs who are pitching for Israel and have the intimate grassroots connections our government personnel can never maintain. 
They can’t accept the truth that they lost control years ago.  Neither can they accept that they are not constructed or equipped to tackle the undiplomatic world of real public diplomacy which takes place on the campuses, in the meetings halls, and on the streets of now hostile societies in which many of our once brave allies are now quaking in fear, some afraid to speak up on our behalf, others increasingly critical of our failures, while some misguided individuals are actually quoting the anti-Israel language of our grassroots enemies. 

It takes a network to defeat a network – and we don’t have a network. We need an independent advocacy platform to coordinate the work of these NGOs who took up Israel’s cause because the Israeli government failed the country so badly. But this won’t happen because the Israeli government will make sure it won’t happen. They have a vested interest in retaining control of a people-to-people advocacy agenda that they aren’t capable of dealing with themselves. Their attitude is better to stifle this initiative than to see it grow and be successful. 

This then is the double battle that many of us have to wage. We will continue to challenge our propaganda enemies and recruit and help our overseas supporters where ever we find them. But we must continue to develop a non-government body to help and coordinate the privately-created NGOs who are fighting Israel’s battles even as our government officials fail to understand or support us in these battlefields. 

Barry Shaw,is a Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy, Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.  He is also the author of the new book ‘BDS for IDIOTS.’