February 1, 2022
Sondra Oster Baras
Today I had lunch with a couple of Danish journalists. They were truly interested in Israel and in Judea and Samaria and asked questions,. They wanted to know why I decided to live here and what our life is like here. At one point, I made a statement that I often make in these contexts: “So many people think we are a bunch of militant crazies who just want to kill Arabs at any opportunity, but we’re not.” And then one of the journalists asked me: “Why do you think people think that?”
Her question was posed in a very sincere way. She met me together with friends and neighbors, and she clearly took us at face value — as kind, hospitable residents of a lovely town in a beautiful area of the country. And I suddenly found myself explaining why it is that international opinion has moved against us? Why is there so much hostility to Israel and especially to the settlement movement?
I remember back in the 1970’s when the names Yasser Arafat and the PLO first became widely known. But those names were associated with the most heinous of activities — they were hijacking planes and hooking up with the worst of terrorist organizations around the world. They murdered the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, murdered school children in Maalot in the Galilee, and were a major player in the early years of the Civil War in Lebanon. They were terrorists, murderers, with an insane idea that they could wipe Israel off the map. Of course, they had support from Arab nations throughout the Middle East at the time. But they were the main movers and shakers when it came to terrorist activity.
The West primarily viewed Israel as the victim—the victim of heinous acts of terrors against women and children. No one was taking the PLO seriously as anything other than a bunch of thugs who needed to be stopped.
So what happened? Israel was the David to the Arab Goliath. When Israel was confronted by a united front of its three most powerful neighbors, Syria, Egypt and Jordan, in 1967, the nightly news around the world communicated grave anxiety with regard to Israel’s chances of survival. And then Israel struck back. The IDF destroyed the Egyptian and Syrian fighter planes in the first hours of the war. Israel proceeded to capture the Sinai Desert, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria. But in the years immediately following the war, most Western countries still viewed Israel as a David who had successfully, even miraculously, defeated the evil giant.
Something happened though in the years that followed. Suddenly the David Israel became the Goliath. We were no longer the victim successfully fighting off the evil enemy. We were the evil enemy. We captured Judea and Samaria because we were land hungry or just eager to drive the Arabs from our midst. Our actions of self-defense were viewed as unprovoked, aggressive actions. And Yasser Arafat became a welcome guest in European Capitals.
The result — most UN members vote against Israel on a regular basis and most have recognized the non-existent State of Palestine. And Israel is viewed as an illegal occupier of another people’s land.
There is a theory out there that was recently expressed in the title of a new book — People Love Dead Jews. I have not yet read the book and I have no idea what its main thesis is. But I love the title and I think there is a great deal of truth to it. But I would expand it. People love Jewish victims. They don’t like powerful Jews. They don’t like successful Jews. And they don’t like Jews who stand up to the bullies and defeat them.
Israel is not perfect. No country is. But sometimes it pays to go back to the beginning. How did it happen that an arch-terrorist was suddenly rehabilitated as a peace activist? How did Israel become Palestine?
Many years ago, when I began volunteering in advocacy for Judea and Samaria, I participated in a seminar on how to effectively conduct a media interview. This was in the early 1990’s and the lecturer pointed out a Palestinian technique. When they were still hijacking planes and no one took them seriously, they adopted a short mantra that every Palestinian representative repeated over and over: “the inalienable right to a Palestinian State.” When they first said it, they were mocked. No one had ever heard of a Palestinian People, let alone a state. But they kept saying it and no one argued back. Few took their statements seriously — after all since when do you listen to a bunch of thugs. And then, before we knew it, every prime minister confirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to a state of their own.
The power of language. And the responsibility that we have to discern the truth, to refute the lies we hear and to confirm the truth. Today, in an era of powerful social media, when lies are repeated using complicated algorithms, the danger of the lie said over and over is more serious than ever before.
If you repeat a lie often enough it will become the truth. So goes the popular adage. But it’s time for us to take back the truth. If you repeat a truth often enough, it will be accepted as the truth. Don’t ever tire of speaking the truth, of advocating for Israel by repeating the most important truth of all: The Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. Always has and always will.