In The WSJ, Michael Oren is Right: Israel’s Enemies Seek Its Delegitimization

In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed (“What Happened to Israel’s Reputation?” May 15, 2012), Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren describes a glowing article about Israel published in Life magazine in 1973 and asks, “Would a mainstream magazine depict the Jewish state like this today?”

As CAMERA’s work attests every day, the answer is clearly “No.”

Oren then asks, “Why has Israel’s image deteriorated? After all, Israel today is more democratic and — despite all the threats it faces — even more committed to peace.” Oren recounts both the dangers Israel confronts and the sacrifices the Jewish state has made for peace, to little avail. But Oren lands on the root cause of negative perceptions of Israel when he notes:

The answer lies in the systematic delegitimization of the Jewish state. Having failed to destroy Israel by conventional arms and terrorism, Israel’s enemies alit on a subtler and more sinister tactic that hampers Israel’s ability to defend itself, even to justify its existence.

Since Israel’s enemies have failed to defeat the Jewish state in numerous wars they have launched against her and since their armed infiltrations and terrorist attacks have also failed, they have initiated a war of ideas aimed at undermining the global consensus on Israel’s very right to exist.

In October of 2010, CAMERA convened a conference, “War by Other Means: The Global Campaign to Delegitimize Israel.” The conference highlighted the various venues used by Israel’s enemies to undermine her legitimacy: college campuses, non-governmental organizations, churches, inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations, and the media. Through these, even people of goodwill are misinformed and misled by those who seek to destroy Israel.

And, as Mark Steyn, who spoke at the conference, correctly stated, “Israel is not primarily a Jewish concern. It’s a Western concern. Israel is on the front line of the battle the West will be fighting. It’s important that Israel survive and it’s important to expose hypocrisy about it.”

College Campuses

Whether it’s conferences at Harvard or the University of Pennsylvania or other universities, the campaign to delegitimize Israel has found fertile ground in academia. Professors have been known to spout hatred and anti-Israel invective at rallies, public meetings, and even in the classroom. As analyst Jonathan Schanzer writes:

The anti-Israel sentiment on American university campuses, encouraged by an anti-Israel professorate, stems in large part from the way Middle Eastern studies is taught at the post-graduate level. When graduate students and PhD candidates are trained to teach anti-Israel invective, they ultimately become anti-Israel professors themselves.

To understand why so many graduate students are trained to teach anti-Israel bias, we need to follow the money.

Much of the funding for Middle East Studies programs comes from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated $20 million to Harvard University and another $20 million to Georgetown.

Groups led by anti-Israel students and professional agitators have organized protests and marches which promote the false arguments of the Boycott, Divest, Sanction movement. So-called “Israel Apartheid” myths are frequently disseminated, attempting to align Israel with the racist South African regime.

Biased anti-Israel campus activity sometimes spreads to the wider community. Harvard’sMiddle East Outreach Center has disseminated skewed curricular materials that potentially mislead young students at both private and public schools about Israel’s legitimacy.

Non-Governmental Organizations

In theory, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are non-profit groups that promote universal moral values such as human rights, democracy and other social interests. In practice, they frequently ignore these very values, instead directing biased attacks on the only open, liberal democracy in the Middle East, Israel.

Even the founder of Human Rights Watch, Robert Bernstein, condemned the very organization which he founded in The New York Times:

When I stepped aside in 1998, Human Rights Watch was active in 70 countries, most of them closed societies. Now the organization, with increasing frequency, casts aside its important distinction between open and closed societies.

Nowhere is this more evident than in its work in the Middle East. The region is populated by authoritarian regimes with appalling human rights records. Yet in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.

Israel, with a population of 7.4 million, is home to at least 80 human rights organizations, a vibrant free press, a democratically elected government, a judiciary that frequently rules against the government, a politically active academia, multiple political parties and, judging by the amount of news coverage, probably more journalists per capita than any other country in the world– many of whom are there expressly to cover the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division pr epares report after report on Israel.

Again, a lot can be gleaned from looking at the funding of these groups. According to NGO Monitor:

As of November 2011, NGO Monitor’s research reports list 23 Israeli political advocacy NGOs funded by foreign governments, all of which actively oppose, in varying degrees, the policies of the democratically elected government of Israel. A number of powerful groups receive more than 70% of their annual donations from foreign governments.


A number of churches including the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, the United Church of Canada and others have a troubling record on Israel. While the overwhelming majority of Christians support Israel wholeheartedly, some are manipulated by false claims.

For example, the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center has promoted an anti-Israel narrative in mainline Protestant churches. Sabeel holds Israel, Jews, and Judaism to unique standards of behavior while subjecting Israel’s foes to virtually no scrutiny at all.

In December 2009, a document written by Palestinian Christian leaders was published. It has come to be called the Kairos Palestine Document and CAMERA Christian Media Analyst Dexter Van Zile describes the document thusly:

The document’s stated goal is to bring a word of truth about the Arab-Israeli conflict to the world, but a close reading of the text reveals many of the tropes Arab Christians often use to indict Israel. The conflict is all Israel’s fault; the Palestinians are innocent. Israelis sin; Palestinians make mistakes. Palestinian violence is justified; Israeli self-defense is not. Palestinian attacks targeting Israeli civilians are not terrorism motivated by a desire to destroy Israel, but “legal resistance” motivated by a desire to liberate themselves from oppression.

This false narrative has been promoted in the Christian community by Israel’s enemies and even embraced by some church leaders.

Thankfully, despite efforts to mislead them through various means including conferences such as the recent “Christ at the Checkpoint,” the vast majority of Christians in North America strongly support Israel. When “60 Minutes” recently broadcast a highly-flawed report mischaracterizing the circumstances of Palestinian Christians, CBS received nearly 30,000 complaints from members of Christians United for Israel.

Inter-Governmental Organizations

Israel receives particular scrutiny from inter-governmental organizations, most notably the various elements of the United Nations. From the Security Council to the General Assembly to UNESCO, Israel features all too prominently in their “work.”

All refugees from all conflicts in the world come under the auspices of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Only Palestinian refugees are served by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). And so are their children and grandchildren. Even when they become citizens of other states, in other parts of the world, they do not lose their refugee status or the right to UNRWA services. This is not the case for any other group of refugees.

Until 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Commission was tasked with addressing human rights abuses around the world. Due to criticism that the Commission was composed of some of the worst human rights abusers and overly focused on condemnation of Israel, it was disbanded and replaced with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC).

Currently sitting on the HRC are, among others, Sri Lanka, Saudi Arabia, Libya, China, Cuba, Sudan, Iran and Congo. In other words, the Council, like its predecessor, is also composed of some of the worst human rights abusers.

And they are still overly focused on condemnation of Israel. In 2007, the UNHRC made Israel a permanent agenda item, namely “Item Number 7.” Of all the UN member states, Israel alone rates its own agenda item. This item is discussed at every HRC session, regardless of what may be occurring anywhere else in the world.

In March, the HRC considered a resolution on “human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan,” at which time the representative of the Assad regime accused Israel of committing “serious human rights violations” against the inhabitants of the Golan Heights. Keep in mind that this is the very Syrian regime that is in the midst of a campaign of violence against its own citizens, slaughtering thousands.

The American Ambassador to the HRC, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe recently criticized the workings of the HRC, stating, “The effectiveness and legitimacy of this council can never be complete as long as one country is unfairly and uniquely singled out for its own agenda item.”

And what practical effect does the UN’s fixation on Israel have? It leads the organization to turn a blind eye to real suffering elsewhere. Former Sudanese slave Simon Deng describes it best:

I claim that the victims who suffer most from the UN anti-Israel policy are not the Israelis but all those people who have to be ignored in order for the UN to tell its big lie against Israel: all those victims of non Western abuse, especially all those victims of Arab/Muslim abuse: women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, homosexuals, in the Arab/Muslim world. These are the biggest victims of UN Israel hatred.

So far, the Israelis have only been cursed by the UN. But look at the situation of the Copts, the Christians in Iraq, and Nigeria, and Iran, Hindus and Bahais who suffer from Islamic oppression. The Sikhs. We all suffer. We are ignored, we are abandoned. So that the big lie against the Jews can go forward.

The Media

In the November/December 2011 issue of The Journal of Applied Business Research, Henry Silverman, Chair of the Information Systems, Accounting, Finance and Real Estate Department of Heller College of Business at Roosevelt University in Chicago, published a paper entitled, “Reuters: Principles Of Trust Or Propaganda?” This study examined articles related to the Middle East conflict published on Reuters Web sites over athree month period. Silverman concluded:

It is inferred from the evidence that Reuters engages in systematically biased storytelling in favor of the Arabs/Palestinians and is able to influence audience affective behavior and motivate direct action along the same trajectory. This reflects a fundamental failure to uphold the Reuters corporate governance charter and ethical guiding principles.

Note that Silverman’s research finds not only systematic bias in the coverage, but also that this flawed reporting is able to influence the audience’s feelings and even to motivate action.

Such coverage of the Middle East is, of course,the reason CAMERA exists and engages in continuous monitoring, exposing and countering of false and slanted reporting in The New York Times, National Public Radio, CBS, The Washington Post and many other news outlets.

There can be no doubt, as CAMERA’s daily blogs and articles demonstrate, that in the war of ideas against Israel, the media battleground is paramount. For us to be effective soldiers, we must utilize our most powerful weapons — our words. If “the pen is mightier than the sword,” then the keyboard is a howitzer. Fire away!

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