by Gadi Taub, Ynetnews.com
Just before going through passport control at Ben-Gurion airport, one sees a stand with small brochures packed with some basic, catchy information about Israel. These booklets are meant to equip Israelis traveling abroad with some flattering anecdotes and fundamental facts to help them improve Israel’s image overseas.
I reviewed such brochure on my way to New York. I admit that my first response was cynical: I expected to see Masada, oranges, Nobel Prize laureate Daniel Kahneman, the Bible, and high-tech. Indeed, I was not disappointed. Yet as it turns out, officials at our Information and Diaspora Ministry understand the problem, although they do not address it by its explicit name.
The brochure explains that good PR is about “providing credible information and presenting a true, real and non-manipulative snapshot of reality.” The handbook adheres to this objective reasonably well, considering that a PR booklet is not the place for an in depth self-reflection on our sins.
Some of the credible informatio.n includes basic facts. For example, the number of Jews, Muslims and Christians living in Israel. For example, the fact that our life expectancy is among the highest in the world (79 for men, 82 for women) or that 97% of us are literate. The brochure also includes a summary of Israel’s history and our (highly impressive) achievements in the fields of science and technology.
However, the people who drafted this booklet know well what our problem is. Our problem is not about a shortage of inventions, or historical sites, or irrigation technologies, or bold rescue operations. The problem is that we are increasingly deteriorating to the pariah status once reserve to South Africa at the end of the apartheid era.
The brochure does not say that we are being accused of “apartheid,” but those who wrote it know that this is the issue.
The “apartheid” accusations leveled at Israel by those who hate it is premised on a false, manipulative syllogism: They say that the Jewish state cannot be democratic as it “belongs” to Jews only, and count on the images of Judea and Samaria roadblocks to do the rest of the work. As result, many people in the world think that in the Jewish state only Jews vote, while Arabs wait at roadblocks.
The booklet therefore stresses Israel’s democracy: it quotes the Declaration of Independence and notes that everyone has the right to vote, regardless of religion, creed, or gender, and that we have an advanced legal system and freedom of religion. The brochure also dedicates a separate page to minority rights and achievements.
All of it is true. Yet the truth is that one feels pity for the people who drafted this booklet, even though they did a good job. All the brochures in the world will not repair one percent of the damage caused by Israel’s foreign minister in a week. Inquiries into leftist groups, the pledge of allegiance, and laws that prevent Arabs from living in Jewish communities make more noise than actual damage. Yet the noise turns into actual damage.
Most importantly, our foreign minister is a settler. And the simple truth is that as long as the occupation persists, it won’t matter how much democracy we have within the Green Line, and all our wise PR experts won’t help. The occupation cannot be reconciled with democracy, and if we fail to get rid of it, we shall end up like South Africa. The words uttered by our PR representatives won’t make much difference.