The war we won and the war we are losing

Although it has been less than a month since what appears to be the end of Operation Protective Edge, it seems like a distant memory to many Israelis. (The one-month window in which the sides agreed to begin negotiations in Cairo ended just as I finished writing this and with no signs discussions will begin; in theory, anything could happen.) With the Syrian civil war spilling over onto the Israeli Golan putting Al-Qaeda within a few hundred meters of several kibbutzim, with ISIS slaughtering innocents and threatening the region, and with resumption of internal budget wars that had been on hold, the largest operation since the second Lebanon war doesn’t seem to be high on the public’s radar anymore. I hope and trust that this is not the case with our political and military leadership. The impressive military achievements of Protective Edge require skilled and subtle diplomacy to ensure they are translated into reality in Gaza and with potentially positive pan-regional implications.

Maybe the vastly reduced public profile of Protective Edge is a good thing. Vast segments of the Israeli public don’t see the larger picture and continue to debate whether the operation was a success or only a stalemate.

In the words of Haviv Retig Gur of The Times of Israel, “At the conclusion of Operation Protective Edge, it is fair to say that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unequivocally won the war he set out to fight – but not, perhaps, the war the Israeli public expected him to fight.”

Operation Protective Edge proved the IDF finally understood and internalized the fact that Arab opponents of Israel have turned to the terror, guerrilla and irregular tactics that Israelis consider immoral and cowardly.

Netanyahu rejected the classic Western approach that employs conventional tactics when confronting an unconventional enemy. He opted instead to adapt to the irregular, psychological nature of Hamas’ style of war. By accepting each cease-fire and letting the world see Hamas endangering civilians on both sides, he was able to minimize global political pressure and hit Hamas when and where the IDF chose. Netanyahu ordered the air force to strike thousands of targets, take out top operatives from the Hamas military and political wings, and to destroy the attack tunnels. Hamas’ capitulation and acceptance of the same unconditional cease-fire that was offered at the conflict’s outset put the official stamp on the success of the Netanyahu strategy. But I do not think that has been internalized by most of us. Many Israelis express frustration at not seeing a white flag over Gaza.

As Rettig Gur writes: “Netanyahu’s strategy has much to commend it. It recognizes and addresses the challenges posed by terrorism and irregular conflict – the civilian toll, the political traps, the importance of the psychological battlefield. But it may suffer from one overwhelming flaw: in the minds of Israelis, it doesn’t look like war. It is hard to explain to millions of Israeli voters under rocket fire, to the families of dead children and dead soldiers, to a nation that expects decisive action from its leaders in wartime, why an enemy as derided and detested in the Israeli mind as Hamas can sustain rocket fire on a country as powerful as Israel for 50 days.”

Time will tell if the military victory will achieve the results it should, or if it will lead to another round of fighting.

But Israel has once again lost the battle in the arena of international public opinion. The results are the inevitable investigation of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, an increase in boycott activity and increased anti-Semitism.

In the current reality, Israel cannot win this war. This battle is a lost cause for the foreseeable future according to journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, whose new book, The Industry of Lies, coincidentally hit the shelves right at the end of Protective Edge. This important work proves that Israel’s already tarnished image continues to further deteriorate due to plain and simple lies. He includes examples of how Israel has become the definition of absolute and unequivocal evil. The book reveals it is now politically correct to accuse Israel of any imaginable crime or offense. Over the last decade, Yemini has tirelessly collected a massive number of statements and positions by academics, political leaders and members of the media exposing what he has dubbed The Industry of Lies.

In recent interviews to mark the release of the book, Yemini explained: “There is not a monolithic or orchestrated mechanism. It is not The Protocol of the Elders of Zion. … It is diffuse and has become in fashion to bash Israel across the spectrum. The common denominator is that Israel is presented as the greatest danger to world peace and stability. And it needs to be noted, that in the 1930s it was commonplace to define the Jews as the danger to world peace and stability.”

One of the thousands of examples in his book is the U.N.’s Special Human Rights Advisor Professor Richard Falk’s numerous public statements in 2013 that the intention of Israel is to perform genocide against the Palestinian people. Yemini tirelessly checked the facts and found that in 2013, 30 Palestinians died at the hands of Israel, the majority of them terrorists.

“The empirical evidence that Israel is designated and singled- out is overwhelming and undeniable to anyone who makes the effort and takes the time to do a thorough examination,” wrote Yemini. “It is an arduous and tiring process to verify, but somebody has to do it and I have found that the results have unfortunately more than backed up my thesis, which led me to undertake this task. Everything is in some way, infected with a lie. For example, during Protective Edge, an article in the Independent did not call Israel by name but rather with the title ‘The Child Murdering Community.’ For the sake of proportion, according to Lancet, which is the definitive professional source for the Independent, in 2004, 36% of the casualties caused in the British invasion of Iraq were children under the age of 15. In Protective Edge, the highest estimates of child casualties in Gaza, and many credible sources claim that this number is high, is 16%. Have you ever called the U.K. child killers? Have you called for a boycott against Britain? You haven’t, because you are lying.”

Regarding the claim more is expected from Israel, Yemini replied: “My comparison regarding failure to observe human rights, harming innocents and children, my frame of reference is England and the U.S. The battle for Falluja, which has similarities to Gaza, saw many thousands of civilian deaths. What about Chechnya, that has a smaller population than Gaza? Accepted estimates are that 150,000 civilians died. Russia is no moral compass, but take NATO’s 1999 airstrikes on Belgrade. There were significantly more civilian deaths, including children than in Gaza, in both relative and proportionate numbers, and nobody was firing rockets and missiles from Serbia to Rome, Paris, London or Washington. And spokespersons for NATO and the Western countries unapologetically stated that they did not start these hostilities and therefore sometimes innocent targets such as hospitals and homes for the aged are bombed, or busses or trains and even the Chinese Embassy. Where was international outrage? It was completely pre-occupied with Israel.”

Yemini claims the U.N. Human Rights Commission is either the source or the result of this obsessive preoccupation. At a time when millions of civilians throughout the world were victims of brutal dictatorships, endless slaughters and pogroms, the commission had passed 33 decisions in total, 27 of them condemning Israel. In 2012 the General Assembly passed 26 condemnations, 22 of them against Israel. Yemini includes these already well-documented figures in his book to expose the institution for its role in legitimizing the industry of lies.

He points to the lesser known fact that the U.N. maintains two separate refugee agencies, UNCHR and UNWRA. The former is active across the globe and has resettled 50 million refugees, who therefore no longer have refugee status. The latter deals only with the Palestinian issue and has a starkly different definition of refugee. According to UNWRA, a Palestinian, wherever he lives in the world, whatever citizenship he or she might have, will always be a refugee, as will his children, grandchildren and all other offspring. Therefore the number of refugees that UNWRA handles continues to rise.

Yemini says, “This is a mechanism for endlessly prolonging the Palestinian problem, to keep the wound open. I say this and believe it, but so do they (the Palestinians) in their own language. It is the best card the Palestinians have to one day destroy Israel one way or the other.”

Yemini is a fascinating character. He has always been associated with left-wing politics and for decades has been critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank. He mentions that in his many lectures and appearances in Israel and throughout the Western world, he is constantly asked about 2 million Palestinians in the territories without a state, with difficult human rights conditions, as part of the problem of “the occupation.” No supporter of this situation, Yemini draws the vast distinction between the actual problem and the prominent place it holds in the industry of lies.

“Let’s talk about the occupation. Is it really a horrible concentration camp? What has happened since Israel captured them in 1967 until today? Even Israelis, not to mention Americans and others, have little or no idea that until ’67, there were no universities and zero higher education in the West Bank, according to Palestinian sources. Today, Palestinians in the West Bank are in first place in the entire Arab world in university graduates.

Wow, what a horrible occupation. It is hypocritical that much of the toxic protests and boycott movement on American campuses is based on the nefarious claim of oppression in higher education. Zero to first in higher education, life expectancy, healthcare, even running water was virtually non-existent prior to ’67. So yes, Israel cannot forever maintain overall control of the West Bank but until that time comes, the lack of context and the way the term occupation is so cynically and universally utilized to trash Israel creates more incitement by the day.”

One of the many comparative tables in the book shows the vast amount of aid international agencies have given the Palestinians over the last decade – more than all other peoples, and which is on average four to five times that of the famine- stricken Somali or Sudanese refugees.

He is the first to admit that Israel does not help its cause with settlements, but that Israel’s mistakes have little to do with the overwhelming wave of unjustified hatred toward Israel. He also spares nothing for Ha’aretz for its role in the industry of lies: “Virtually every anti-Israel website or paper relies on Ha’aretz much more than on the New York Times, the Guardian, even Al-Jazeera. I can give endless specific examples of how the lies of Ha’aretz are one of the primary sources for these services, because Ha’aretz is running a campaign against the country, and not criticizing the country as its journalistic ethics obligate it to.”

He is convinced that the delegitimization caused by these lies is an existential problem. “In my opinion it is more serious than the Iranian problem. It is rampant in the media and academia which influences public opinion, which will eventually impact politicians and policy makers.”

He believes that peace based on a two-state solution is still possible, but that the industry of lies is pushing it further from our grasp. “We must return to a dialogue based on reality. This will only occur when the lies stop, and when this happens, I believe that co-existence will prevail, inshallah!”

Not surprisingly, we lost the battle for public opinion despite a successful, well-planned and implemented operation. Obviously we were never going to succeed in convincing the international community of our right to defend ourselves due to the industry of lies. I agree with Yemini that delegitimization is a threat at least equal to Iran, the threat on which Netanyahu has staked almost all of Israel’s international credit. It’s clear that he must add this problem to his dossier of existential threats facing Israel and attack it as creatively as he attacked Hamas in Protective Edge.

Mylan Tanzer is a Portland native who moved to Israel in 1981. He was the founding CEO of the first Israeli cable and satellite sports channel. Since 2005, he has launched, managed and consulted for channels and companies in Israel and Europe. Tanzer lives in Tel Aviv with his wife and five children. He can be reached at

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