The Gaza border conflict is being fought on two battlefields simultaneously. One is the battle at the border fence, where the aggressors use Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs, rocks, sling shots, burning tires and flaming kites. The other is the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public, where the aggressors use distortions, omissions, fabrications and innuendo.
In the battle for public opinion, Israel faces two formidable opponents: the far-left wing of the Democratic Party and a large number of major news-media outlets. The two work hand in hand, feeding off one another, with belligerent political figures repeatedly appearing as commentators and then in turn issuing statements against Israel, which eager news hounds blast across the headlines.
Israeli Deputy Cabinet Minister Michael Oren had some very interesting things to say about this problem last week in a conference call with pro-Israel activists in the United States. The call was sponsored by American Friends of Likud and the Endowment for Middle East Truth.
Oren served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013. He’s a political moderate who represents the centrist Kulanu Party in the governing coalition. Over the years, he has emerged as one of Israel’s most effective English-language spokesmen and is known for his measured tone. There are no hysterics when he speaks. He sure didn’t mince words, however, in his assessment of those who are misrepresenting and even rationalizing the Gaza mobs.
“I am deeply disappointed that Senator Dianne Feinstein is calling for an ‘international investigation’ into Israel’s actions, and that Senator Bernie Sanders has now gone so far as to call for the Palestinian ‘right of return’ to Israel,” said Oren. “Calling for the ‘right of return’ is essentially calling for the destruction of Israel.”
Sanders’s office last week circulated a video highlighting the “right of return.” When pressed by reporters, he declined to say whether he endorses or opposes it. But if your staff circulates a propaganda video, and you don’t specifically disown and condemn it, then that constitutes a de facto endorsement.
Palestinian Arab spokesmen, by the way, are not at all coy about the issue. The say openly that their goal is to have millions of Arabs “return” to Israel in order to become the majority of the population so that it will no longer be a Jewish state.
Sanders has also rationalized the mass violence. In a May 15 tweet, he declared: “It’s important to understand the desperate situation out of which these protests have arisen.”
Deputy Minister Oren said “the problem is that Senator Sanders, in many ways, is setting the tone for the policies of the entire Democratic Party.” This, he warned, should be “a source for acute concern” among Israelis, as well as friends of Israel abroad.
Seeking support for Israel among both Democrats and Republicans should still be Israel’s goal, Oren said, noting that “it’s important that neither side should assume that they have the Jewish vote in their pocket.” He added, “The historical example I always give to illustrate this principle is the fact that Franklin Roosevelt got 90 percent of the Jewish vote, and yet he did absolutely nothing for European Jews during the Holocaust.”
Oren acknowledged there are “significant obstacles” to winning over substantial support among Democrats. Part of the problem, in his view, is the “political culture among young Democrats.” Some of the values that are very important to Israelis, “such as family, tradition and the need for a strong military,” are “not necessarily prevalent among many younger Democrats.”
The Sanders’s perspective is being amplified by large segments of the news media, Oren pointed out. “Many news media representatives couldn’t care less when Arabs kill Arabs in various countries; they only care about Arab deaths when Jews are forced to kill Arabs in self-defense.”
Oren also reminded us that the Western news media seldom report that “Hamas starves its own population, blocks trucks coming from Israel with food and manipulates young Palestinians to go to the border fence—all for the purpose of getting killed, so that their sympathizers can get on television and accuse the Israelis of being killers.”
He said that if the statements made by the senator and biased media outlets “persuade Hamas that its strategy is working, so that it sends more young people to the border fence to throw bombs,” then those media representatives and political figures will “become accessories to terror, abettors to terror—the blood of those young people will be on their hands.”
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.