Civilians Or Terrorists / Yonathan D.Halevi

Palestinian Lies Proliferate – Why Does Israeli Public Diplomacy Remain Silent?
The Palestinian human rights organization, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, in its weekly summary of December 23-29, 2009, reported the deaths of three Palestinians killed by IDF fire, as follows:
“Saturday, 26 December 2009
At approximately 00:30, Israeli troops stationed at observation towards along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel to the north of Beit Hanoun town in the northern Gaza Strip opened fire at a number of Palestinians who got close to the border. The Israeli gunfire lasted for approximately 20 minutes, after which an Israeli aircraft fired a missile at the Palestinians. As a result, 3 Palestinians were killed:
1. Basheer Suleiman Mousa Abu Duhail, 20;
2. Mahmoud Jom'a Ibrahim al-Sharat'ha, 19; and
3. Hani Salem Mohammed Abu Ghazal, 20.
The victims are all from al-Nasser village (the Bedouin Village) to the north of Beit Lahia. They were unarmed and were apparently attempting to infiltrate into Israel to search for jobs. A fourth Palestinian survived the attack. Israeli occupation forces did not allow medical crews to enter the area to evacuate the bodies until approximately 15:00. Eventually, medical crews were allowed to enter the area and evacuate the bodies at approximately 16:15.”
The PCHR accused the IDF of killing three innocent Palestinian civilians. To aggravate the so-called Israeli “crime,” the organization added propaganda about the financial straits of the Gazans, claiming that the possibility of finding work in Israel was apparently what motivated the group to try to cross the border. Similar urban legends about young Palestinians killed crossing the border for the same reason abound in Palestinian human rights organization reports and in B’Tselem reports about Palestinians killed.
The current instance provides a number of insights into how the terrorist organizations operate and how Palestinian propaganda works (occasionally supported by Israeli human rights organizations) and illustrates Israeli cluelessness when it comes to public diplomacy. No Palestinian terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the incident. Does that mean that the three were simple Palestinian civilians? Not necessarily.
According to the IDF Spokesman’s report on December 29, 2009, “On Monday morning (Dec. 28), IDF engineering personnel detonated three explosive devices, that were discovered late Friday night (Dec. 25) when four Palestinian suspects were identified crawling near the northern Gaza security fence in a suspected attempt to enter Israel and execute a terror attack. The explosives were found along with a rope ladder during searches that followed the incident, firmly supporting the suspicion that the suspects intended to cross into Israel and execute a terror attack.”
The IDF report is radically different from that of the PCHR. Four young Gazans, three of whom were killed by IDF fire, were not looking for work in Israel. They had been sent by one of the terrorist organizations or by the security forces of the de facto Hamas administration to plant IEDs on the border, either to attack Israeli vehicles driving along the border or to prepare the way for an attack which would channel IDF forces to a mined area near the border. The terrorist organizations’ penchant for using young Palestinians to carry out terrorist attacks without identifying them as operatives is familiar from the past and makes it necessary to use extreme caution when dealing with Palestinian claims of civilians killed by the IDF.
The routine of Israeli public diplomacy failure continues unabated.
The PCHR has caused Israel enormous damage in the international arena. Its reports are considered reliable by UN agencies, which use them to attack Israel, and they were used extensively by the Goldstone Report and influenced its findings. In addition, in recent years the PCHR has waged an international legal battle against senior Israeli political and military figures, and it has initiated suits against IDF officers in Britain, Spain, Switzerland and Australia, to name a few.
So far, Israeli public diplomacy has not challenged PCHR reports or shown them to be at variance with the facts in the hands of the IDF, although to do so would make it possible to damage the organization’s credibility in its slandering of Israel. The affair of the four young Gazans has all the elements necessary for a public diplomacy action, and the IDF report indicates it has photographic evidence of the weapons found.
Why does Israel not exploit its opportunities and attack one of the organizations responsible for so much damage to its image and standing? The answer is simple and distressing: Israel has neither public diplomacy not public diplomacy strategy. Government after government neglects the issue and sabotages interests vital to the State of Israel.
Daniel Seaman, head of the Israel Government Press Office, recently proposed a new concept, which challenges the very existence of public diplomacy. On December 17, at a conference for law and communications at the Ariel University Center, he said that “we should not deal with public diplomacy, we should simply present our position whether it is accepted or not. It is out of the question that to make the world like us, and I say this as a resident of Ashqelon, civilians should be neglected for eight years…We have to strengthen the country and the people, and the rest will take care of itself…Even if we can’t reinvent the Israeli trademark, we have to remember that the world does not like Jews, and that we are here because they wouldn’t accept us there.”
Seaman’s remarks expressed his despair and frustration. The other side of the coin is waging an advanced, systematic information war based on documentation and data bases, because the public diplomacy struggle has become the struggle for the legitimacy of the State of Israel. The continued lack of public diplomacy will not only seriously damage Israel, but it will undermine the support of the Jewish community abroad. Israel is facing a national emergency, and needs real leadership to make the necessary changes.

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