During this last war against the Hamas, Israel lost the media battle in most of the world. In Europe, and needless to say in the Arab and Muslim world, most people believe Israeli soldiers are war criminals and that Jews abroad who support the “Zionist entity” are complicit in those crimes. More and more, people think it is acceptable to assault Jews and burn their synagogues.
During the coming months, Israeli diplomats and IDF officers are likely to be threatened with prosecution for their “war crimes” during the last operations in Gaza. Indeed the IDF now asks that soldiers’ faces be covered up in photos lest they be the object of legal prosecution. You may think this is bad. However, based on my experience, this might be Israel's only chance to survive in the long run.
During the past seven years, I, with many others in Israel and around the world, have been fighting to expose the al Dura story, the first blood libel of the 21st century, as a hoax, promoted and defended by the French public TV, France 2, and its correspondent in Jerusalem, Charles Enderlin. Enderlin and France 2 sued me for defamation, a long and costly law suit that dragged on for years, and which I only won after many set-backs.
During all those years, I got the cold shoulder from Israeli officials. With the exception of a few mavericks like Danny Seaman (director of the Government Press Office), Raanan Gissin (Spokesman, Prime Minister’s Office), Shlomi Amshalom, former deputy spokesperson for the IDF, or former ambassador Zvi Mazel, the vast majority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs personnel treated me and others who pursued this case, as embarrassments - conspiracy nuts who they wished would just disappear.
So, when I listened on January 17th to the interview broadcast on Channel 1 of the Israeli TV, I was surprised to hear what Aviv Shir-On (deputy director at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs) remarked to Yaakov Achimeir that his ministry, the State of Israel and the IDF helped me during this battle.
Shir-On either has a sense of humor, or a bizarre notion of what help is.
In 2002, when it was still possible to do something immediate, Nissim Zvili was the Israeli ambassador to Paris. He listened courteously but explained to me that he was a friend of Charles Enderlin, the French journalist who narrated the al Dura hoax.
In 2006, Zvili was replaced by Daniel Shek, who refused to shake my hand, and later commented on a Jewish radio that I was defending “conspiracy theories.” When I asked his colleague in charge of communication at the embassy in Paris, Daniel Halevy Goitschel, why he never returned my phone calls, he responded: “the phone doesn’t work at the embassy”. We are not even dealing with a lack of support here. On the contrary, I was being sabotaged.
When I won the case in May 2008, Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: “Karsenty is a private individual and no one in the Israeli government asked him to take on his battle against France 2. Karsenty had no right to demand that Israel come to his aid. All calls on the Israeli government to come and ‘save’ him are out of place. He was summoned to court because of a complaint of the French television channel. I don’t see where there is room for the Israeli government to get involved.”
Last December, I went over the evidence with Aviv Shir-On, who now claims to have helped me, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). After two hours he repeated the old MFA refrain, “I’m not convinced”. Let’s say, for the sake of generosity, that Shir-On is just one more timid defender of Israel, so afraid of what “others” might say, that even the judgment of an independent (and hardly well-disposed) French court in favor of his own country, does not give him the courage to speak. So even though I won the case, and the new evidence from France 2 sharpens our argument, I could not count on Israeli officials to help move into a counter-attack. Enderlin, humiliated by the court decision, was allowed to bluff his way back to prominence, and recently, in the Gaza war, lead the journalists’ attack on the Israeli government.
But this case is far more significant than the solitary career of one self-aggrandizing and dishonest journalist. The al Dura story was only the most devastating of a host of blood libels against Israel that have inflamed both Muslim and leftist hostility to Israel and any Jews who dare support her, in the diaspora. When I tried to explain to Shir-On how the passive attitude of the Israeli Foreign Ministry towards these libels - in many cases, like al Dura, fabricated by Palestinians and disseminated by the Western media -harmed the Jews in the Diaspora, he became agitated and curt.
“If there is anti-Semitism in Europe, you should come to Israel”. When I explained that this anti-Semitism was fed by their lack of reaction, rather than attack the anti-Zionists and their enablers, he attacked me, his own ally.
On January 2009, I met Tsipi Livni, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and asked her about the al Dura story and the lack of reaction of the Israeli officials. Why didn't the State of Israel demand that France 2 admit their blood libel following the court decision? I was stunned by her answer: “Well, it happens that we kill kids sometimes. So, it’s not good for Israel to raise the subject again”.
In other words, my victory in court meant nothing to the Israeli establishment. They are still stuck in the same passive, defensive mindset that allowed the al Dura libel - Israeli soldiers intentionally killed an innocent child - to spread the world over, unopposed. As the first French court, which ruled against me, put it, “Why should we believe Karsenty when the Israelis, who are the ones accused of the murder, say nothing?”
Let’s return to the Gaza war. Israelis did much better in the media than they did in earlier crises. They were less quick to apologize; much faster to challenge but only the Palestinians. Heaven forbid, they should challenge a news media that consistently attacked Israeli representatives even as they allowed Palestinian spokesmen to claim anything they wanted, and then repeated those claims to their audiences.
What further tragedies need to occur before they wake up to the necessity of fighting back? More disasters? Another Durban Conference (arriving in April) in which they have no response, no strategy, no counter-attack?
It certainly will not happen as long as these diplomats are concerned above all with currying favor with the media and foreign diplomats, and reserving their moral indignation and hostility for those of us who, fighting the hatred against Israel, merely embarrass them.
PS: Knowing the courage and good faith of some of the people I mentioned here, I’m sure you will soon read some vigorous denials. Knowing how they fight for their good name (but not for the good name of Israel), their words will be strong and assertive. Ask them, then, why they didn’t use their strong words to confront France 2 and other media outlets with their criminal negligence.