Thursday, June 3, 2010

Abba Eban, 2010

A number of readers have commented on earlier posts that Israel woefully lacks officials who can explain intelligently what we're doing and why; this complaint being part of a larger dissatisfaction with inept Israeli PR. Abba Eban, Israel's mythical diplomat of the 1950s and 1960s was offered as a model for what's missing.

There are two op-eds in the New York Times this morning presenting Israel's position in the aftermath of the flotilla PR fiasco. One by Danny Gordis, who is not an official, and the other by Michael Oren, who is.

I submit that Israel's PR counter-offensive in this case is actually not bad, given the abyss it started from and the somewhat shaky context of the Gaza blockade. I also suggest that Michael Oren is easily the equal of Abba Eben, except that the international climate is far more hostile.

(On the other hand, everything else is considerably better. No one in a sane mind would exchange the precarious and fragile Israel of the 1950s or 1960s, for all its popularity, with the thriving powerhouse and bastion of creativity of today's Israel, for all its unpopularity. There's an existential paradox there).

Update: Avi brings my attention to a CiF column by Seth Freedman, one of the Guardian's stable of anti-Israeli Jews: even he, even at CiF, can see that Israel's version of the event is reasonable. The dissemination of those IDF films is proving to be mildly efficient.


Anonymous said...

The response has been better day by day. Michael Oren is tremendous and has made the rounds on american cable tv. but the slow start is a problem.

also, I would love to see Israel's diversity represented by its government's spokespeople. Frankly, its a problem when most Israeli reps look like they are from an American suburb. And this matters, especially in american politics. -d

Anonymous said...

just to clarify, If you watch the youtube video posted in Yaacov's next post, you see the tact that haters of Israel have taken: Jews are completely alien to the Middle East, they only came here because of the Holocaust, they are white people who took brown people's land.

that is is how its played in many circles in the West. Sephardic Jewry does not exist to them. Some are aware it, many are not. But even those who are aware of it intentionally ignore it.

it would be nice to see Israels' PR officials reflect the jewish demographics in Israel.

Anonymous said...

even if Michael Oren may be "deficient" in "colour" for some

- for others he is an ambassador to America, the country from which he emigrated to Israel and as such can show every American Jews and others alike what a great man you can become if you go where your heart tells you to go and stand up for what you care about and believe in.

Lets hope that lots of young people chose him as an example of what kind of person they want to become themselves. (I for one fell for him with the first couple of sentences I heard from him when he promoted "Power, Faith ...")


Avigdor said...

Just earlier today I sent an email to the IDF Spokesperson office complimenting them on substantial improvements since Cast Lead.

Here's their email, if you'd like to do the same:

I'm sure they could use some positive feedback this week.

There's no need to break out the champagne, and there could certainly be improvements, but this situation was managed far better than previous debacles.

Empress Trudy said...

Just to be clear. Here in the 'liberal' west, the response from the so called progressives is that whatever Israel says, is a lie, it's all a lie. If there's a video tape, it's a lie. Their views are insanely unshakable. The effort to get the truth out has to be directed at the people who are actually in a position to lead and to make real decisions e.g. the government and top of the food chain of the media. Anything else is a waste of effort.

AKUS said...

Abba Eban would have had the sense to know that Israel is completely in the right and the video evidence and other evidence collected from the terrorists and Gaza Now idiots would exonerate Israel.

Israel should DEMAND an inquiry, not object to it. Instead of always playing defence, or attacking the wrong target, let the truth come out via an inquiry by Britain, France and the USA. The video evidence and evdince being collected from the ships - weapons, bullets, etc. is totally compelling.

Israel should demand justice through an international investigation of the Marmara affair

RK said...

I agree that the current efforts are better, in large part because it's focusing on the blockade, rather than the boarding, and also because, as you say, Michael Oren is very good at what he does. Hussein Ibish was right, though, that the initial messaging on the boarding was self-contradictory: on the one hand, we believed the claims that the people on the boats were peaceful, on the other, Ayalon was claiming that the ships had ties to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

In any case, the fact that the IDF video has been successful (and it has been; you can see a distinct turn in the media commentary) indicates that European observers aren't implacably hostile to Israel, and discredits the "Diplomacy is useless! We never WANTED to be friends with Turkey, anyway" brigade.

Anonymous said...

When I was a student at Stanford Oren went to speak at an event before he was ambassador. My impression was that he was articulate, but unable to address people who don't share his worldview.

For instance, there was another student there, a self-described "far-left Zionist" who asked him why Lebanon couldn't be a model for Israel. And Oren understandably just laughed him off. But the student wasn't being malicious he just had a cherry-picked view of history (Chomsky, Finklestein) where he genuinely thought that Lebanon was a success. And later, when I talked to him after the talk, he was open to learning a more balanced history of Lebanon.

My point is, I can believe that Oren is articulate, but we should not mistake inspiring the otherside as a success

Lee Ratner said...

I heart Michael Oren. I thought his history of the Six-Day war excellent and must read. I also thought that his peace in the Times was very good. The Seth Freedman article was refereshing in that he admitted that the activists wanted confrontation, that Israel did everything it good to avoid confrontation, and that the activists deserve the greatest chunk of the blame for this.