WILL HOLLYWOOD BLOW SHOFAR?
WILL HOLLYWOOD BLOW SHOFAR?
Hasbara means public relations in Hebrew, and that’s a loose translation; it’s especially loose as it’s practiced from Israel. Lovers of Zion have no spokesman. We once had Abba Eban. Maybe he was to the Left, but he was good, and now he’s gone. We once had Benjamin Netanyahu, a weak prime minister but a terrific speaker for Israel. But he’s busy doing something else these days.
That leaves us to fend for ourselves, and that’s weak. Centuries ago, as Elie Wiesel reminds us, the great Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev cried out to the Almighty, “Zol Ivan blozen shofar.” Let our enemies praise your glory, since you favor our slanderers and oppressors over us. That was a cry of anguish and helplessness that we feel even today. But we have no Berditchever Rebbe or anything close.
Israelis seem blissfully unaware that their war is being fought on the “front pages”. Our newsprint runs with Jewish blood. The Mohammad Al-Dura incident singularly provoked the Palestinian Arab tempter tantrum that has taken more than one thousand Jewish lives, in addition to thousands more injured and maimed.
Turns out that the whole business was a fraud, that it was staged, but the image of a boy huddled up in his father’s arms against “Israeli gunfire” justified the uprising for the Arab world and for the entire world. Who spoke up for Israel? Nobody. Or if someone did, he or she did a rotten job.
Wars are won and lost on the battlefield of public opinion. Sometimes all it takes is one voice to turn a nation for a fight, as in Winston Churchill, or turn a nation against a fight, as in Walter Cronkite, when, on CBS, he tilted from hawk to dove by proclaiming America’s “experience” in Vietnam a “stalemate”. That was a signal to President Lyndon Johnson that he had lost the support of the American people.
Jews excel in advertising and public relations, but mostly when it comes to beer, shampoo and cars, not the home of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. On that, on making the case for Israel, suddenly there are no words or images. Jews are so good at this business of “image” that Arab nations have been known to seek out their services for the Arab cause.
No wonder the Israelis of Gush Katif and the rest of Yesha (Gaza, Judea and Samaria) are alone and adrift. Who speaks for them?
They have been dramatized by the media and leftist enablers as gun-totin’ messianic nuts. Ariel Sharon has learned from Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal, and the art is to stereotype Jews outside the Green Line as “settlers”, meaning squatters, and the deal is to evict them as a sacrifice to the nations.
As they face deportation, no Israeli voice over there, or Jewish voice over here, has emerged to speak for them as heroic pioneers. By “voice” I mean someone to speak for the “settlers” as persuasively as Hanan Ashrawi speaks for the terrorists. Israel has no such media sweetheart.
Now there’s a training program that’s supposed to help Israeli diplomats get the message across. Now? Now they’re waking up?
The Arab/Muslim message is already rehearsed and spoken for: “The occupation, the occupation, the occupation.” The latest mantra is to keep repeating the word “Palestine”. Guess what? It’s working, and working so well for the Arab side that it has become acceptable media usage.
This much is clear to anyone who watches verbal combat on TV. The Arab is forthright and passionate (“This is our land!”), the Israeli is bumbling, defensive and gives numbers like 242, as if that means anything in Topeka, Kansas – and trust me, Israel’s existence, and certainly Jewish existence in Yesha, depends almost as much on Topeka as it does on the IDF.
Israeli spokespersons never refer to Israel as “our land.”
People here form opinions by a quick scan of the headlines and an image or two on the screen. They don’t give a hoot for 242. They want to know which one is David, which one is Goliath. Israel has been so miserable on this front, so clueless about the power of the press, that hardly anybody knows that five and a half million Israelis are surrounded by nearly 300 million Arabs. That alone makes the case, but the image has it the other way round.
Some time ago, I met an American diplomat who comes from a very pro-Israel Jewish family, and who is now a macher in the Pentagon. After his speech in Washington, I asked Doug Feith if Israel needs something besides military prowess. He said no, the military is sufficient. What about a good press? Matters little, he said, if not in those words.
That’s when I knew we were in trouble. And also when I spoke with an Israeli diplomat who was setting up shop as a consul in a big city along the East Coast. I asked what I could do to help. He said he did not know where to begin himself. He was given office space and a telephone, but not much more from headquarters in Israel.
Hollywood was invented by Jews and is still run by Jews, so they say. So, where are the Jews? Jews invented hygiene and yet movies like Mel Gibson’s show them as unwashed.
Here’s how Jews are depicted on HBO’s Sex and the City, which even on repeats is watched by millions. Charlotte decides to convert to Judaism (if for all the wrong reasons) and knocks on the door of an Orthodox rabbi who promptly slams the door in her face. Yes, Jews make converts jump through hoops first, to prove their sincerity. But something so rude would never happen.
When she’s finally allowed in, it’s the Sabbath. The people around the table, about a dozen, sit there grim and glum, when in fact an Orthodox Jewish home is generally a place of song and joy come Sabbath. A guest, of any faith, is always welcome and embraced. But here, they are so unpleasant to their Gentile guest that it’s as if, well, here’s another Jewish family that got caught scheming to take over the world.
Watching this, I wonder how this plays in Kansas.
If we can’t get that right, if we can’t even get American Jews without horns in America itself, how far are we from getting Israel right?
The director Oliver Stone had no trouble raising money and getting the green light for a pro-Arab, anti-Israel documentary, also seen by millions. Is there a Jewish Oliver Stone anywhere in the building?
Sherry Lansing (though soon leaving) is still powerful at Paramount Pictures and is about the most well-liked studio head in all of Hollywood, and for good reason. (I should know.) She is also Jewish and a friend of Israel, but where’s the movie to tell that story, as Exodus once did? Israel is teetering. So if not now, when?
At this moment, it is the slanderers, Jewish as well as otherwise, who are chalking up America’s hearts and minds.
We could use some help.
As God said to Moses when Moses was up against the Red Sea: Stop praying and do something!
Yes, I know that those of us who dream like Judah Halevi should all pack up and make aliyah. But here we are, for our own reasons and perhaps for God’s reasons. We are in the only place that Israel can count on. If we don’t continue to trumpet for Israel – as Bush seems to be cozying up to the Arabs against Israel – then it will indeed be the others, like Pat Buchanan, “rabbi” Michael Lerner and “Jewish Voices for Peace”, who will blow shofar.