Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR)


ACPR Research – Summary


Information Policy and National Identity:
Israel's Ideological War

Joel Fishman

Policy Paper No. 142, 2002

From the time of Ben-Gurion, Israel’s leaders have viewed defense policy as the utmost priority of the State, while overlooking the strategic importance of information policy. During the period from 1967-1973, Israeli leaders, through arrogance, indifference, and passivity, allowed its enemies to represent the country as an aggressor, as Goliath. Israel, which was not prepared for such a challenge, now faces an aggressive ideological assault whose objective is to delegitimize the State as a first step toward its physical destruction. Ideological warfare, as opposed to public relations and marketing, represents a compelling danger requiring a vigorous and focused response.

If Israel is to make its case before world public opinion, its policymakers must have a clear idea of its history and national identity. Israel’s enemies have endeavored to attack its legitimacy by falsifying both the history of the State and the history of the Jewish people. When combined with current post-Zionist thinking, this has created a situation harmful to a positive information policy. Because the present derives from the past, the importance of history as the foundation of information policy is basic.

Although totalitarianism is a European import to the region, and due consideration must be given to the prevailing traditions of political culture, there is sufficient evidence to advance the new interpretation that totalitarian principles define the structure and function of the Palestinian Authority. The PA uses propaganda, terror, anti-Semitism, and falsehood, together, in the manner which Hannah Arendt originally described in her study, The Origins of Totalitarianism. Myths, ideology and a sense of historical inevitability drive this regime. From the point of view of ideological warfare, deconstruction of the PA is the ideal solution as well as shattering the false reality of its creation.

Several methods of ideological warfare are identified. One is the “Big Lie”, which English propagandists introduced during the First World War and German Nazi leaders adopted and refined. A second tactic, the combination of propaganda with political agitation, may be identified in Israeli domestic politics. Lenin developed this method in the early 1920s, as a means of destabilizing his adversaries through an appeal to pacifistic sentiments. Such tactics, perfected by the foremost totalitarian states of the twentieth century, now represent a threat to Israel, a democracy at war.

Israel has a strategic interest in responding proactively and vigorously to the very considerable danger of ideological warfare. The government must speak clearly with one voice. It must challenge misrepresentations and lies and discredit those who spread them, be they individuals, the press, governments, international bodies, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). In the broadest possible perspective, Israel has a strong interest in maintaining, at home and abroad, an ideological environment compatible with its own moral principles and the defense of its democracy founded upon the rule of law and equal standards for individuals and governments. Israel, a democracy, must be seen to be waging a just war of defense by fair means against an evil regime.*

*  This is a reformulation of the objective of the Coalition in the Gulf War. Philip M. Taylor, War and the Media; Propaganda and Persuasion in the Gulf War, Manchester: Manchester U. Press, 1992, p. 29.

The caricatures which appear in this paper were created by Kariel Gardosh (Dosh), z”l, and appeared in the book, Hasbara by the Foreign Ministry, Moshe Yegar (ed.), Jerusalem: Foreign Ministry, 3rd edition, 1984. Used with the generous permission of Michael Gordosh.

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