Ais Tzarah Hi L’Yaakov

I don’t care so much about what went wrong. I want to know what I should be doing to help. Israel is on the ropes. The people who coordinated the flotilla are part of what is known as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, which seeks to destroy Israel by rebranding it as an illegal, apartheid state. They have much to rejoice about, and may achieve many of their goals in the coming weeks.

Whatever the reason, Israel’s PR machinery cannot adequately do the damage control. Much of that work becomes our responsibility, each of us in our own way.

Within the first 24 hours of the crisis, I have observed what I believe are responsible and irresponsible reactions.

Numerous people and organizations responsibly swung into action, writing important pieces and consolidating material to pass along to members. Alan Dershowitz and Melanie Phillips almost instantly wrote effective op-eds. The National Council of Young Israel and World Mizrachi assembled collections of videos, statements, and articles that were useful for people looking for talking points. (The situation changes by the hour. As of this writing, if I had to share one piece with fair-minded non-Jews, it would be the Wall Street Journal op-ed, which was spot on.)

Completely irresponsible was Satmar’s (Kiryas Yoel) decision to hold a protest rally outside NY’s Israeli Consulate. (The protest concerned construction digs that disturbed bones that Satmar thinks are Jewish, and archeologists – not always known for their honesty or sensitivity, but they might be right this time – believe to be ancient Canaanite.)That meant that on a day that saw almost wall-to-wall condemnation of Israel, New Yorkers were treated to the sight of two protests at the symbol of the Jewish State, one by Arabs, the other by thousands of Satmar chassidim. I cannot fully process this, but will admit to feeling nothing but contempt for, and alienation from, them. It is not what I like to feel about other Yidden.
Much more responsible was the reaction of Satmar (Williamsburg), which recognized the implications for their scheduled march on Washington, and agreed to postpone it.

Entirely irresponsible were the reactions of world leaders, who kept repeating a mantra about much-needed aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza, even though Israel had thoroughly publicized its offer to pass the aid along once it was inspected for contraband. They condemned Israel, without condemning those who invited the violence by resisting the boarding crew (in one boat only!) with what look to be mercenaries with clubs, knives and gas masks. Context and background were not important. (Typical was the reaction of Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We need to establish exactly what happened…. I unequivocally condemn what appears to be disproportionate use of force, resulting in the killing and wounding of so many people.” Not having established the facts is no barrier to unequivocally condemning Israel. Appearances of disproportionality are more important than careful evaluation. Nice.)

Much more responsible was the reaction of President Obama, who underscored that it was a time to gather all the facts, and did not rush to judgment.

Turkey will likely emerge as the party most to blame for orchestrating the fiasco. We should know that, and share it with friends and associates. It is probably not a responsible response to stage public protests against Turkey, replete with signs urging independence for Kurdistan and reminding the world of the Armenian genocide. The sentiments contained in those placards might conceivably be morally correct in both instances, but we ought not be acting as amateur diplomats. The relationship between Israel and Turkey is complex. Turkey relies on Israel for plenty, and Israel makes good use of what Turkey can still provide. It must be up to the elected government of Israel to decide what policies it wants to pursue towards a government that is split between Muslim madmen and secular militarists. We should not contribute to the closing of any doors that are still open. Nor is it responsible to call for boycotts of Turkish goods, without considering the impact on Israeli goods. Do we want Israeli aircraft to be barred from Instanbul, when we talk of staying away from Turkish Airways? Responsibility means more restraint.

The most responsible things that we can do is communicate. We must communicate our fears to the Ribbono Shel Olam, and beg for His help. On the human plance, we must arm ourselves with the best arguments, and communicate them to our friends and coworkers, letting them at least be exposed to FoxNews and the Wall Street Journal.

We need to look for as many friends as we can find.

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24 Responses

  1. aron feldman says:

    . On the human plance, we must arm ourselves with the best arguments, and communicate them to our friends and coworkers, letting them at least be exposed to FoxNews and the Wall Street Journal

    As opposed to Ynet and Haaretz

  2. Tal Benschar says:

    Having read various sources in the last 48 hours, I actually think that the PR fallout from this last event is less than many believe. At least in the Western world, there are many who have come to the conclusion that the picture you get from the main news sources (CNN, the NT Times) is skewed and not to be relied upon. To us, that is a davar poshut, at least when it comes to coverage of Israel, but I think the first thing we should emphasize is that you cannot rely on the story told to you by these outlets. (That Pres. Obama resisted the rush to judgment and asked for all facts first is to his credit.)

    IF you are talking to someone, here is three points I would mention:

    1. Gaza is controlled by a terrorist organization, Hamas, which is officially committed to destroying Israel and has committed numerous acts of terrorism and launched thousands of missiles at Israel. Israel is entitled as a simple matter of self-defense to make sure that any shipment there does not include weapons or what can be turned into weapons.

    2. In pursuit of #1, Israel initiated a perfectly legal blockade — which was supported by the U.S. and even Egypt. What alternative was there if you want to effectuate #1?

    3. The blockade worked as it was supposed to. 5 out of 6 ships surrendered peacefully and no one was injured. Only on the sixth, where there was violent resistance was violence resorted to. (Supposedly this violence was AFTER the ship flew a white flag. Everyone knows a white flag means “we surrender peacefully.” It is an international crime — “perfidy” — to fly the white flag and then engage in violence.)

  3. Menachem Lipkin says:

    As always a voice of sensibility and reason, thank you!

    In addition to the BDS one of the primary organizers of the flotilla was the IHH. The IHH is a Turkish radical Islamic “humanitarian” front organization that has ties to Hamas in Gaza and world Islamic Jihad movements such as Al Qeda.

    Your 100% correct that the best thing each of us can do is to communicate. We’re in an age where little voices can have a big impact. If one isn’t comfortable with social media such as Facebook and Twitter you can write letters to the editor, comment on blogs, and call congressman. You can email important articles, pictures, and videos to your friends and family.

    If you have the inclination, Twitter has become a very important medium for disseminating real-time information. During the Iran revolt last year most of the news coming out of Iran came via Twitter. Since Twitter is often seen as counter cultural, attracting the leftist revolutionary types, it makes it all that more important to get “normal” views into the “stream”.

    You don’t have to have a lot of “followers” to be effective. If you attach hashtag (#) topics to your “tweets” they will flow into the stream of information on those topics, e.g. #flotilla, #freedomflotilla, #gaza, #israel. Twitter information is picked up by search engines such as Google. You can tweet links to news articles, pictures, videos, etc. Or can just send out a pithy statement of your views.

    There’s a free application called TweetDeck which allows you to follow multiple streams in real-time. I’m not saying you should do this obsessively (like me), but if we all just did a few Tweets a day it would help balance the torrent of lies of misinformation that’s being disseminated.

    Tefillah is important, and in the 21st century G-d has made doing our hishtadlus easier than ever.

  4. SMB says:

    It doesn’t have to be this way, so much caos. If we would only wake up and turn our heart to Hashem. He has helped before and will again if we turn to Him

  5. Dov says:

    Two points about the Ashkelon grave-moving issue, since you raised it: First, this is not a religious vs non-religious debate, since last I heard all the chareidi chevra kadisha’s were refusing to bury the moved bones in their cemetaries out of concerns that they were not Jewish. Second, what kind of world are we in that considers Israel having to build a bomb-proof hospital a normal thing?

  6. dr. bill says:

    Excellent article. three minor points: 1) the gratuitous slap at “archeologists – not always known for their honesty or sensitivity, but they might be right this time.” was not necessary, cetainly relative to all that was discussed. 2) The psak to move the bones, even if possibly jewish, is well reasoned; one could (possibly) argue, but in any normative society, such a psak must be at least accorded respect as a legitimate halakhic ruling. 3) perhaps my foolish optimism, but the “peace activists” will try again and Israel will respond when the dust settles. Waiting until all the facts are known is painful, but probably wise on Israel’s part.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Prayer is the main thing, but much could be done to make PR more effective.

    Politicians do a good job in identifying and categorizing sympathetic voters to target with favorable information. Each mini-category of voter gets its own precisely tailored approach.

    Israel, and, if Israel has other priorities, its Jewish supporters, urgently need to do the same. This includes identifying or creating the necessary channels to reach the right people with the right message at the right time.

  8. Yitz Turner says:

    R’ Adlerstein please share with us your opinion. In addition to the geo-political aspects as to why things happen, as Jews we should also take into account our spiritual deeds as well. With out taking the course “what is G-d thinking” ( a line told to me by Rabbi B. Wein) there is an eerie coincidence that the Israeli press vilifies the charadeim, blows things out of proportion and reports facts out of context. This is basicly what the world is doing to Israel. Perhaps the antidote is more than having a good PR team but some introspection in the secular Israeli media is in order.

    [YA – It was the function of the navi to know such things, and I have no such delusions of grandeur. Connecting the dots is not difficult – it is impossible and unreasonable in the absence of a navi. Perhaps the connection is not to the secular press’ treatment of charedim, but to bitul Torah. Or concerts. Or worms in fish. Or sheitels. Or ignoring abuse in the community. Or Rebbes who will stab Israel in the back. Or maybe even the way some charedim treat police officers, or garbage bins, or even secular journalists. Maybe it is to the silence of the majority as a dozen off-the-wall minorities do unspeakable things in the name of Torah.

    My opinion? I will do better than that. I will tell you a vort I heard from R. Yaakov Kaminetsky zt”l at a Torah Umesorah convention. He pointed to multiple opinions regarding when (and if!) Iyov lived. Each opinion conveyed a different moral lesson. The point of the gemara is that in the absence of any information to decide between competing theories, we are obligated to be guided by all those lessons! When we cannot decide which of our shortcomings is responsible for what seems to be an exercise of Midas HaDin, we are dutibound to address all of them!]

  9. Raymond says:

    A local Rabbi, I think, really expressed our predicament accurately when he said, “It is not that we Jews and our Jewish State of Israel have a Public Relations problem. It is that we have an antisemitism problem.” The real facts are inconvenient annoyances to the antisemites of our world. Hatred toward our people has returned with such a vengeance, that if Adolf Hitler himself were alive today, the islamofascists and Leftists would find some way to justify his world outlook.

  10. Adam says:

    I do wonder about the timing of the protest by Kiryas Joel and whether or not the Flotilla news had become a big story yet… a fair question considering the frustration we all feel when people judge the Flotilla event itself before assessing the available information.

  11. rachel w says:

    Did anyone see the video on Arutz-7 of this amazing High School kid, who, on his own, in a calm and informed manner, took on a whole mob. May he be a source of Nachas to the whole Am Yisrael.

    [YA – And to NCSY, from whose West Coast Regional Shabbaton he had just returned.]

  12. Harry Maryles says:

    Much more responsible was the reaction of Satmar (Williamsburg), which recognized the implications for their scheduled march on Washington, and agreed to postpone it.

    That’s what I thought until I read their press release which included the following:

    due to the Israeli military’s actions over the past day, many groups and governments in the world have joined in protest against the State of Israel. The CRC (Central Rabbinical Congress) also joins the world in condemning the Israeli military action…

  13. L. Oberstein says:

    “We must communicate our fears to the Ribbono Shel Olam, and beg for His help”. That is certainly the best idea.
    I have been reading a lot of articles on the internet and the reality seems to be that those who are not pre-disposed to condemn Israel see that Israel was provoked and that the young soldiers were overwhelmed and their lives were indeed in danger.
    What will Israel do next, when the Irish ship approaches? What strategic recalibration will the Army and the political leadership make? Will anyone be blamed or will things go on as before? Paintball rifles against armed peaceniks, something is wrong with this picture. If BP is gettting blamed for the oil spill, who is getting blamed for the blood spill? Maybe the Israeli Army and the political leadership aren”t up to the task and need to be replaced.

  14. Dr. E says:

    When looking at the pictures of the Satmar and Neturei Karta protestors, I am somehow reminded of the bracha of “V’lamalshinim”. Now exactly sure why.

  15. Reb Yid says:

    Yes, we should point out the flaws of some of those on the flotilla. For sure.

    But the government of Israel is not blameless here…the problems are not just tactical but policy-related as well. If we continue to bury our heads in the sand and to lash out at the world’s hypocrisy, we ignore a problem that will only get worse.

  16. Ori says:

    L. Oberstein: Maybe the Israeli Army and the political leadership aren”t up to the task and need to be replaced.

    Ori: Those are the people that Israel has available to recruit, and the political leadership voted for by the people living in Israel. Ultimately, they’re the ones putting their lives on the line, so they’re the ones making the decisions.

  17. L. Oberstein says:

    Reb Yid, you have the luxury of anonymity. I agree with you but, on principal, admit who I am.This has caused me harm over the years as the orthodox community seems to gravitate mostly to the right and actually believe the political articles of faith that so many politicians mouth . Today, someone said to me Now are you sorry you voted for him? I said what has that got to do with the Flotilla? The person had no idea that,at the moment, for political expediency, the Obama administratiion is in a pro-Israel mode. At the moment, and I don’t know how long it will last, Israel is being defended in the international community by the US. Netanyahu is very eloquent and I am on his side on this issue, but Israel needs to figure out a better way of dealing with the world and how to get rid of all these enemies (Arabs) in a way that will not cause more world hatred.Tragically, far too often, those who call anyone who thinks of any kind of settlement as enemies.We need Jewish unity now more than ever.

  18. aron feldman says:


    Your call for accountability is on the mark,but you obviously are blissfully unaware of how things work in the State. Due to certain mitigating factors,when a pol who is popular with the Left makes a bad decision or exercises bad judgement,the powers that be,with the help of the media tend to keep things as under wraps as possible.Why didn’t the Winograd Report make any waves? Due to the fact that Ehud Barack made the call here,he will most probably get away scot-free,one can only imagine if such a decision was made by Avigdor Leiberman

  19. Reb Yid says:

    To Aron Feldman:

    Surely you don’t think Ehud Olmert got a free pass from the “powers that be” or the media, do you?

  20. aron feldman says:

    Reb Yid
    June 3rd, 2010 at 9:46 am
    To Aron Feldman:

    Surely you don’t think Ehud Olmert got a free pass from the “powers that be” or the media, do you?

    He did in the Lebanon War

  21. Daniel Rubin says:

    I also believe we need to thank people such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for their blatant unwavering support. Regardless of whether one appreciates their shows or opinions they are among the few voices that defiantly stand out against the anti semitic media barage around them.

  22. yoel says:

    I wonder if anyone notices that satmar “thinks” and the archeologists “beliieve”
    anyway for some commentors to be aware, they are now digging in yaffo not ashkelon where the ER is supposed to be built.
    it also doesn’t matter so much if it is jewish bones or not since if israel can move cemeteries then our sages and grandparents graves in europe will no longer be safe – jews need to show that they have a feeling for the graves
    I also could not find a single new report reporting that satmar demonstrated for the same reason as the arabs

  23. dovid says:

    “Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for their blatant unwavering support”
    Because it dawned on Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and many like them that most of those who want to destroy Jews all “happen” to be America’s worst enemies.

  24. rachel w says:

    Also, the people who are down on Israel would love to do the same to the USA, except we are too big to take on. Let us get a little weaker, and Israel’s enemies will be taking on the US in the UN, etc. Rush and Hannitty, and anyone with eyes in their head can see this.

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