Monday, November 26, 2007

Al Dura and The UN Zionism = Racism Resolution: A Pattern Of Israeli Reluctance

Back in October, Natan Sharansky wrote about the Al Dura trial, especially about the defamation trial of Philippe Karsenty, who called for the firing of two of the France2 journalists--and one of the things that apparently hurt his case:
The defamation trial passed almost unnoticed in Israel, to the apparent detriment of Mr. Karsenty's case. In his ruling in favor of France 2, judge Joël Boyer five times cited the absence of any official Israeli support for Mr. Karsenty's claims as indication of their speciousness.

Israel's decision to stay on the sidelines was unfortunate because the truth always matters. The al-Dura incident wasn't the only media report to inflame passions against Israel in recent years, but it was the one with the highest profile. Moreover, if, as Mr. Karsenty and others have claimed persuasively, the al-Dura incident is part of the insidious trend in which Western media outlets allow themselves to be manipulated by dishonest and politically motivated sources (recall the Jenin "massacre" that never was, or the doctored Reuters photos from Israel's war against Hezbollah in 2006), then France 2 must be held accountable.
But finally, after 7 years, the Israeli government did finally come out with an official statement that the death of Al Dura was staged. Just keep in mind that although the statement was made in a letter by Government Press Office Director Daniel Seaman, Haaretz reported that the Prime Minister's Bureau said that not only was it not informed of the letter--it did not grant its approval for the letter either.

Still, it only took 7 years.

It took longer than that for Israel to actively push for the repeal of the UN resolution that equated Zionism with racism. In his book, Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West, historian Alex Grobman writes about the Israeli miscalculation:
Most Israeli diplomats and government officials believed that the resolution was so outrageous and embarrassing to the majority of the UN member states that it would shortly cease to be an issue. Responding to the charges would only give the resolution undue weight and grant Z=R credibility. The failure to grasp the long-term threat to the State of Israel and Jews in the Diaspora helps explain Israel's reluctance to engage in the fight a t the UN. [p. 96]
The Al Dura film has also been able to exert strong negative PR because Israel badly underestimated its effect. Sharansky writes about this based on first-hand experience:
It is important to note that the al-Dura news report profoundly influenced Western public opinion. When I served in the Israeli government as minister of Diaspora affairs from 2003 to 2005, I traveled frequently to North American college campuses. I heard firsthand how Mohammed al-Dura had shaped the perceptions of young people just beginning to follow events in the Middle East. For many Jewish students, the incident was a stain of dishonor that called into question their support for Israel. For anti-Israel students, the story reaffirmed their sense of Zionism's innately "racist" nature and became a tool for recruiting campus peers to the cause.
Grobman writes that while UN Resolution 3379 was passed in 1975, it was not until 1984 that the Israeli embassies around the world to take a hard look at the damage the resolution was doing to Israel's image around the world [p.98]. In the end, the resolution was repealed in 1991, at a cost.
Vice President Dan Quayle called for the repeal of the resolution in 1988, but the Israeli government was less than enthusiastic about the idea, fearing there would be a high price to pay for U.S. help. They were correct. By initiating a repeal, President George H. W. Bush attempted to finesse the pro-Israel lobby in the United States during an election year while pressuring Israel to acquiesce to its Arab neighbors. European and other allies supported the repeal to give the president that leverage over the Jews and the Israelis. [p. 104-5]
Hopefully, in the case of the Al Dura hoax, Israel will not end up having to pay such a high price for having allowed this lie to go on for so long unanswered. More importantly, the question remains whether Israel will learn to speak up on its own behalf. On this, the jury is still out.

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