Sunday, January 11, 2009
Posted by Daniel Greenfield 15 Comments
Hamas and every Muslim terrorist group Israel or America fights knows the drill by now. Fall back into heavily populated civilian areas, set some booby traps, create a situation where a large number of civilians, particularly children, will be killed. Milk the resulting publicity for all it's worth with staged photo ops. If it doesn't work the first time around, rinse and repeat.
Once enough condemnations come in, followed by a call for a ceasefire, your leaders can emerge from their heavily fortified bunkers and declare victory. Another proxy battle won for Iran.
Sadly even Sharon's party had failed to learn from how well Sharon made Israeli assaults on terrorists so habitual and relentless, that the press and outraged pundits and politicians stopped caring. In the process he terrorized the chief terrorist himself, Yasser Arafat, after years of suicide bombings and terrorist attacks.
Instead Israel tries to fight a two front war, focusing on public relations and winning the fight, and inevitably winds up losing both. The PR war cripples Israel's military operations, forces its soldiers to operate under Rules of Engagements that endanger their lives, and time and time allows the terrorists to live to claim victory and fight another day.
Fighting a battle of opinion you can't win is a dead end. There are people who will naturally support Israel, there are those who will not. The dividing lines fall on such issues as basic positions on terrorism, the right of self-defense and Jewish identity. Israel's PR will not change such basic factors, it will not dissuade or persuade the press. PR cannot change identities, it will not transform people who believe that terrorism is a legitimate form of political protest or think that violence is always wrong, into decent human beings. It will not prevent the press from publishing staged photographs or maintaining its usual double standard toward Israel.
Israel's arguments will mainly be distributed and heard by Jews with a strong Jewish identity and Conservatives, and while there is validity in providing affirmation, it is mainly a case of preaching to the choir. And that will not win a war.
But as long as Israel believes in the importance of PR, that will hold Israel back on the battlefield and prevent the military from accomplishing its goals. PR becomes a crutch for failure and an incentive to give up before the job is done, ensuring that the whole process will then begin all over again.
The more importance Israel, or any Western government places on PR in a war, the more it becomes an Achilles heel, and terrorists have become quite savvy at manipulating the press and using the club of public opinion to turn their defeat into victory, and our victory into defeat. The best way for an underdog to win a PR war, when the system itself is turned against you, is to ignore the PR and disdain the system, draining its value as a strategic target.
The press will never tell Israel's story the way they tell the terrorist's story, but then the press has no incentive to do so, because Israel is all too painfully eager to tell its side of the story, and when its story is ignored, the press does not lose access and pays no price, even when it gives airtime to those calling for the destruction of Israel. Israel has set its own PR price so low, that its PR efforts are ultimately self-defeating and self-destructive, madly chasing after the approval of a media that has no interest in being fair to it. Only by setting its own PR price high, by limiting access and making it clear that there will be rewards and punishments, just as Fatah and Hamas have done to the press, will Israel even have a fair shot at the system.
For Israel the press can only be dealt with from a position of strength. Israel has fallen into the engineer's fallacy of assuming that strength equates to efficiency or competence. It does not. Being good at PR in Israel's situation requires leverage and devaluing the commodity, rather than pursuing excellence. It is only in being prepared to lose the PR war, that Israel can truly win it.