MTW Joel Fishman, “Palestinians lose Prestige: A Major Paradigm Shift Underway”

[As part of the Herzilya conference, I will post either the papers of those who give me permission or the abstracts we have received here, then link their presentations. I hope to be able to post the audio of each session as a podcast in the coming week. This is the first of the papers. This paper was delivered at the heavily criticized panel on Paradigm Shifts.]

Text of Paper Read at the Conference: The Media as Theater of War, the Blogosphere, and the Global Battle for Civil Society, IDC Herzliya, Monday, 18.12.06

At last January’s Herzliya Conference, Prof. Paul Bracken of Yale, stated that the objective of the systems analyst was to identify a range of outcomes for a given situation. In this spirit, I would like to point out a new and highly interesting addition to the range of potential outcomes of the present conflict. There are some signs of a readiness, both in Israel and abroad, to place the responsibility on the Palestinian side for the continuation of the war against Israel. The evolution of this paradigm shift must be monitored, because it may present new advantages to Israel.

Because the facts are not conclusive, I must present my observations with due caution. Nevertheless, it is still possible to identify certain tendencies which may result in a major change of widely held perceptions concerning the Palestinians, their claims against Israel, and the widely accepted proposition that world justice depends on the satisfaction of their absolute demands. In short, their standing and prospects for the future may be declining.

If one views the subject in historical perspective, it becomes clear that a change has taken place. What a change has taken place since the early nineties when American academics predicted that there would be a “Palestinian Exception!” They optimistically speculated that the PA would be the first real Arab democracy and it would have a vibrant civil society [Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand (Washington, 2001), 70-76; editor’s note: a reference to the work of people like John Esposito and Augustus Richard Norton]. Since then, they are bogged down in corruption, lawlessness, and civil war. One could say that their image is returning to what it once was in the seventies – that of an outlaw terrorist group. They are no longer considered to be a potential peace partner, and their cause has lost the glow of historical inevitability. The clock has struck midnight for the Palestinian Cinderella, and her coach is turning back into a pumpkin.

There are several reasons why this happened. The first is the shakeout following the Mearsheimer and Walt Report, the Baker-Hamilton Report, and Jimmy Carter’s new book. The intention of these individuals has been to discredit Israel, its advocates in America, and destroy the special relationship between Israel and the United States, a vital relationship of strategic importance. These challenges also threaten the status of American Jewry. If such views prevail, American Jewry will be forced back into the status of second class citizens, as was the case before the Second World War. Feeling threatened, American Jewish thinkers have joined this battle and are fighting vigorously. In order to win, they have to discredit the authors of these reports hard and make the Palestinians look bad. If one reads their arguments, it is clear that the gloves are off. They are bringing up historical arguments – the kind that the well-meaning friends of the Palestinians have tried to suppress. They are targeting the Palestinian cause frontally and advancing Jewish claims dating from Biblical times and recalling the British Mandate.

In a related development, Prime Minister Olmert has spoken with world leaders abroad and attacked Iran verbally because of its genocidal intentions combined with a nuclear program, state-sponsored antisemitism, and Holocaust denial. These efforts to draw attention on Iran have raised the long-ignored issue of state-sponsored Arab antisemitism, and, indirectly, have raised other serious questions. What makes the Palestinians different from the Iranians? Why should Mahmoud Abbas, an unrepentant Holocaust denier, enjoy respectability? And what about the well-documented stream of antisemitic incitement which the PA officially sponsors and broadcasts?

Further, one of the after effects of the second war in Lebanon has been a gradual shift of perception in the ranks of Israel’s political class. A consensus has silently emerged that Oslo failed and that the proposition, “land for peace,” is wrong. This has resulted in a reexamination of the articles of faith which, for more than a decade determined official Israel’s view of its place in the world. For example, Chairman of the Knesset, Dalia Itzik, articulately revealed her discomfort an interview with Ma’ariv (1 October 2006) when she declared: “All these years, I thought that all that keeps us apart from them [the Arabs] was territory. If we returned the territories, there would be peace. This equation ended. What reason do they have to continue to fire [on us]? And we left from Lebanon. Where does all this hatred come from?”

Similarly, Deputy Defense Minister, Ephraim Sneh in a debate at the Knesset on the subject of civilian casualties at Beth Hanoun told the Arab MKs that “There is a cultural gap between us….” (ynet, 13 November 2006). And at the beginning of December, Major General Uzi Dayan told a small group at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs that the Oslo accords did not benefit Israel and that the PA cannot deliver the goods.

On the level of international affairs, there appears to be an incipient awareness that the Palestinian Authority will not be a partner in a peace settlement with the State of Israel. In fact, Prime Minister Tony Blair stated at a White House press Conference of December 7, 2006 that “The major difficulty is that the Palestinians don’t accept Israel’s right to exist.” (Jerusalem Post, 8 December 2006). This public acknowledgment of the Palestinians’ real intentions represents a change of perception which is immensely important, because Prime Minister Blair directed the world’s attention to the fact that it is the Palestinians who are unprepared for a political settlement based on compromise. According to Yehoshefat Harkabi, who wrote in the seventies, the “adherence to politicide is the Arab’s main ideological weakness.” [ASIR, p. 106]. Here is their point of greatest vulnerability.

There are some indications that a new more realistic perception of what the Palestinians stand for may replace the rosy image which their indulgent and well-meaning friends have conferred upon them. The time has come for the world to learn about their reality of unfulfilled expectations, violence, corruption, and intimidation. This change of perception could take place suddenly or as a result of a gradual process of erosion, but there is a clear need for a catalyst. In order to win the media war against the Palestinians, it will be necessary to expose their true intentions, shift the discussion to their genocidal aspirations, draw attention to their sick society, and place the burden of proof on them.

What I have described are the first signs of a new opportunity. Israel and its advocates should make the most of it.

Dr. Joel Fishman is a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center of Public Affairs.

Literature by Dr. Fishman: “Israel’s Information Policy and the Challenge of of Ideological Warfare,” Nativ Vol. 15, no 6 (November 2002): 58-64. (in Hebrew); “Information Policy and National Identity: Israel’s Ideological WarA,” Ariel Center for Policy Research Paper No. 142 (January 2003).; “Ten Years Since Oslo: The PLO’s ‘People’s War’ Strategy and Israel ‘s Inadequate Response,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Viewpoints No. 503, 1 September 2003. “The Cold-War Origins of Contemporary Anti-Semitic Terminology,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Viewpoints No. 517, 2-16 May 2004. La Guerre d’Oslo (with co-author Prof. Ephraim Karsh), Paris: Editions de Passy, 2005.

11 Responses to MTW Joel Fishman, “Palestinians lose Prestige: A Major Paradigm Shift Underway”

  1. Kesher Talk says:

    The Media as Theater of War Conference: the debate begins

    I have a lot to say about the Media as Theater of War Conference, but like most attendees I am still digesting it and taking care of other business. Lisa is not happy about the conference, but she’s moving this…

  2. M. Simon says:

    Jew hatred in America peaked in 1944 and virtually collapsed in 1945.

  3. Voyager says:

    The Palestinians have spent 60 years without finding a solution in any form; they have not created a functioning state-in-exile; they have not established proper government; they have persisted in one simple agenda – to eradicate The State of Israel.

    The Palestinians have no objective beyond blind hatred for a functioning State, something they cannot create. It is simply a tribe of nomads who live off welfare from Europe and the USA and look for opportunities to loot and murder.

    It is the first time in history that a group has had welfare payments for so long and on such a scale to cheat the Malthusian Trap………all that has happened is to create a festering abcess of youth unemployment as recruiting fodder for businessmen growing rich on ghetto politics.

  4. Moshe says:


    Sorry I missed the conference. The lineup was fantastic and I’d certainly have come if it were possible.

    I admire your patience in responding to the facile remarks at nothing nothing. Keep up the good fight.


  5. Rob says:

    Richard, I’ve been following the debate on the Israeli blogs about the conference and posted this at Good Neighbours.


    I’ve been reading the posts on the conference here and at Liza’s place and Yaeli’s and all the comments that have been made.

    I’m conscious that Lisa said on some post or other that people outside Israel tend to make fools of themselves when commenting on what goes on there. I’m writing as a friend of Israel — though not an uncritical one — living in Australia, so I may well fall into that category.

    That said, I want to say a couple of things in defence of Richard Landes and what I think was trying to be achieved in the holding of this conference.

    Perhaps one thing we see more clearly than you do is how badly Israel is imaged in the international media, and the way that impacts the legitimacy of Israel in the court of (educated) public opinion. The relentless negativity seeps out from the media’s coverage into community perceptions, with all the implications for political support that entails. A while back, I said to my wife that I wanted to visit Israel some time in the near future. Why on earth, she asked? To show that I support Israel, I said. She paused: funny thing, that, she said thoughtfully; almost nobody else does.

    Do you guys realise that ‘progressive’ public opinion in the west — and I think you would see yourselves as ‘progressive’, right? — has swung way, way over from opposing specific Israeli actions to supporting exterminationist programs? Do you realise that the broad left in the US, Australia and Europe has few problems and no apologies in absorbing classic anti-semitic tropes into its anti-Israel rhetoric? That tens of thousands of people world-wide rallied behind the Hizbollah flag during the July-August war, and chanted ‘Palestine will be free from the river to the sea’, fully aware that what they were calling for was the extirpation of Israel?

    Israel’s supporters in the west have real problems with this. (I am sure Israel does too.) But because of the way Israel is routinely portrayed in the west — as a genocidal apartheid state by such luminaries as Jimmy Carter — we’re now a dwindling few. Not one in a hundred thousand who remember the media stories about massacres in Jenin knows that they were shown by the UN itself to be false. Not one in a hundred thousand who responded with revulsion to the media images of the deaths in Qana knows that rockets were fired from there into Israel, or that the recovery of the bodies was staged as a deliberate propaganda exercise. Not one in a hundred thousand who saw the stories about the attack on the Red Cross ambulances knows the stories were false. And virtually none of the millions who watched the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah know the footage was faked. That’s the work that Richard Landes and others have been doing: to try and turn the lies and libels around.

    I could not count the number of arguments I’ve had on the blogosphere here in Oz defending Israel, popularly described as ‘a self-contained axis of evil’. How many times I’ve pointed out that it is Israel that accepts a two-state solution, but that Hamas, Hizbollah (explicitly) and the Arab and Islamic states (implicitly — explicitly in Iran’s case, of course) do not. That Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbours, and the fanatics against whom it is ranged simply want to see it cease to exist. Hollow laughs all round, folks.

    Richard Landes has been pointing these things out for a long time now. It was disturbing to see him castigated at Liza’s place. Maybe the conference played host to some fanatics on the Israeli side, though Landes was not one of them. But let’s be cautious of naivete. Perhaps if things were as they ought to be, the milk of human kindness would be just what it takes to resolve all the problems of the world. But that’s not the real world and some, inside Israel and outside, can recognise that.

    Of course there are many good people on both sides, and it’s truly great to see sites like this one where they can come together and talk. But the men with the power and the guns don’t come here. And the chilling thought is that if they did, they would come here with one intention and one intention only.

    Not the right kind of comment for Good Neighbours, I realise that. But Blogger doesn’t let me comment at Liza’s where this contribution more properly belongs.

  6. Liza says:


    Nothing nothing, eh? My, my! Aren’t we creative? How long did it take for you to come up with that bit of wit? My friends and I think it’s rather hilarious, so kudos to you for your creativity!


  7. RL says:

    Liza, i wdn’t bother with the sarcasm. after all, efes efes is the beginning of an international call, no?

  8. Liza says:

    We use “012”. :-P (I know, I know. I can just use 00 also, but old habits die hard).

    Sorry for the sarcasm – I try to keep a lid on it, but sometimes an opportunity presents itself that’s just too good to pass up.

    BTW, I’m finding the exchange in my comments’ section fascinating, so thanks for being involved in such an excellent (for the most part, anyway) dialog.

  9. ellen says:

    For what it’s worth, I thought the conference went well and presented bloggers, academics and government hasbara
    representatives a remarkable opportunity to network.

    My take on the conference can be in today’s Jerusalem Post at


  10. Media as Theater of War:

    In his latest podcast, Israellycool talks about the Herzliya Conference on Media as Theater of War, which he attended. Included are interviews with bloggers Richard Fernandez (Pajamas Media Sydney editor), Michael Totten, Martin Solomon, Richard Landes…

  11. Kesher Talk says:

    Conference on Media as Theater of War: collected blog links

    This is the home post for my blogging about the Media as Theater of War Conference in Israel Dec 15-17 2006. I’m keeping it at the top of the page for a few days. I might also post links to…

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