Thursday, July 22, 2004

A Modest Open Letter

Unsolicited advice for the State of Israel

Dear Israel,

It has become painfully clear over the past few days years decades that you, as a nation, have a severe image problem internationally. This problem is not just with openly hostile governments that have promised on many occasions to destroy you and murder your citizens wholesale; rather, it extends to inter-governmental assemblies such as the United Nations, progressive non-governmental organizations, the global press, and the academic intelligentsia, combining into what has commonly come to be called "world opinion." I believe it would be of some benefit to consider the ways in which you can bring this world opinion to your side, and gain sympathy and respect, if not outright admiration, from nations the world over.

(Some may be tempted to ask why a sovereign nation should give any consideration to this "world opinion" to begin with. Some may even ask how this world opinion came to be considered a moral authority, especially given the rather shaky moral record of virtually all nations that presume to hold it. Such questions are beyond the scope of this letter. Suffice it to say that your UN ambassador probably does not enjoy being berated daily by virtually every country on the planet, including those that have more mass graves than your entire population.)

Let us consider the strategy you have employed for the past few decades: namely, to demonstrate your strength, but seek peaceful solutions instead, as with Egypt and Jordan; to strive to kill terrorists, but spare innocent civilians, as in Jenin; to occupy after being attacked, but not engage in genocide or ethnic cleansing, as in the West Bank; to give sworn enemies the benefit of the doubt and test their word, as with Arafat; to give all those within your borders citizenship and basic rights; to respect all your citizens' freedom of speech; to discuss your flaws openly and honestly; and to admit imperfection, but expect the world to understand the difficulties you face; to protect reporters and their freedom of speech, expecting them to report honestly and contextually; to respect world opinion while expecting it to recognize your right and responsibility to your own citizens. In short, you have tried to do the right thing, and expected the world to reciprocate. This foolishness has to stop, and it has to stop right now. It has brought you neither love nor respect from your fellow nations, and it is unclear as to why you expected anything else. But we'll get to that.

First, let us consider some suboptimal ways of getting on the good side of global opinion. These work, but the harm they do to your own nation tends to outweigh any benefit, so they aren't particularly recommended:

  • You can surrender to the Arabs. Put down your weapons, drop to your knees, and allow them to overrun the place. This will reduce you from your current position of strength, to that of innocent victims. The world loves helpless, innocent victims! Consider all the sympathy and support you got just after the Holocaust, when Jews was synonymous with skeletal Auschwitz victims. Why, the Europeans couldn't support you enough, just as long as you didn't hang around in Europe! (After all, helpless innocent victims are fine and good, as long as they are not camped out on the front lawn. That just spoils the scenery!)

    This solution has been employed multiple times over the past 100 years or so, all with roughly the same results: sympathy galore. Just ask the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Rwandans, or the Sudanese in Darfur. The problem, of course, is that sympathy is all you get, and that's worth about as much as one of Arafat's commitments to peace -- so you'll end up exactly like the Tibetans, the Kurds, the Rwandans, or the Sudanese in Darfur. Or, more likely and more to the point, like the Auschwitz victims that never left the camp.

  • You can become an enemy of the United States. It's wacky but true: if you are opposed to the United States, you can expect widespread global support, regardless of your own failings. You can set up a mass-murdering police state, invade two countries, and kill entire villages with poison gas, but if you oppose the United States, you'll be the lesser evil. There are several problems with this approach, of course, not least of which is that there is no guarantee that it will work for you. There simply isn't enough empirical data to determine whether, in opposition to the U.S., you'd actually be viewed as the lesser evil. It certainly worked for Iraq and North Korea, but then neither of them is run by Jews.

    Another problem is that being an enemy of the U.S., while popular, is exceedingly dangerous. Since 2001, at least two countries that engaged in this have had a radical change of government, preceded by some very loud urban renewal courtesy of the U.S. military. (By contrast, slaughtering Spanish citizens and Filipino expats has brought extremely promising results. You should keep this in mind.) At any rate, when picking one's enemies, the United States is probably not the best choice. Of course, in your case this option is barred even more by your strategic dependence upon the U.S. That problem is addressable, and we'll get to it shortly; nonetheless, it's easy to see that gaining popularity by being anti-U.S. is not really a viable option.

Now that we have eliminated the false leads, we shall examine the actions you will have to take in order to receive positive press and start benefitting from friendly world opinion. As you consider these options, you will no doubt find that they violate your principles, and contradict your very strongly held morals. Well, frankly, you'll just have to deal. When getting on the good side world opinion and the progressive intelligentsia, real morals are a nuisance you simply cannot afford. If you're going to insist on something as silly as principles, and be bothered by something as trivial as rank hypocrisy, you'll just have to hang out with the other pariahs, such as the U.S. and Australia. So forget it: just make like the French, and shrug it off. Principles are so simplisme.

The French actually have much to teach you about the benefits of moral flexibility: it has taken them successfully through World War II and the Cold War -- to say nothing of the many crises in Africa and the Middle East since then -- with virtually no damage to their economy, infrastructure, or reputation. The Americans, Brits, and Russians may have fought World War II to the bitter end, while the French surrendered after a few weeks and started working for the Germans, but guess who still ended up on the Security Council? That is skill, my friends!

Anyway, enough babble -- on to the plan!

  • The first thing to realize is that negative opinion is created by negative reporting. You have naively assumed that if you allow jouralists to report everything, they really will report everything -- the good and the bad, the claims and the counterclaims, the bloodshed and the background. Such foolishness! How many reporters can you name that have won awards for reporting something positive, especially where a Western society is concerned? Reporters don't merely report facts; reporters look for "the story," and that story had better have some bloodshed, preferably involving defenseless and oppressed people. Well, there is certainly no shortage of that on the planet, but someone who is willing to kill thousands of rival tribesmen is unlikely to spare a BBC crew, so the number of opportunities to wear khaki and film misery is actually much more limited. Then, as if to answer the prayers of every Pulitzer chaser, you walk right in, with the ethnic conflict, the weak Arabs, the poweful Jews backed by the U.S. -- and all perfectly safe to film! What kind of news stories do you expect, anyway, when even the lowest al-Jazeera staffer can stand in the middle of Tel-Aviv and safely curse the Zionist entity, while every TV crew in the West Bank knows that simply showing Palestinians doing what they do best gets your press credentials revoked.

    So let's cut the crap. Close the West Bank and Gaza to journalists, and remove any who resist. Cut phone lines and satellite links; use missiles as needed on the rest. Isolate the West Bank and Gaza entirely; nothing, not even an SOS gets in or out of there without your say-so. Throw a couple of reporters in jail, just on general principle. Make it really clear that anyone who embarrasses the State of Israel can receive the same treatment; then make good on the threat. (I suggest using as examples reporters from respected but unimportant countries -- New Zealand, say, or Belgium -- you get the idea.) Make journalist visas nearly-impossible to obtain, and hold them as prizes. Demand to review all footage before it's broadcast or taken out of the country. Hey, it works for Arafat and the Saudis; it'll work for you.

    This will obviously cause you some difficulty with your own journalists, especially the more left-leaning ones. Give them the same treatment as the foreign journalists. Remember: you are trying to be a respected member of the global community. Niceties like freedom of the press are not something you can afford.

  • A large portion of your population will object to this, on account of some silly notions like freedom of speech and the need for open discussion in a democracy. I won't bother telling you how to get rid of them. All you really need is a couple examples. Just remember: you control the press, so it's not like anyone will know. (Eventually, no one will care. More on that later.)

  • There's also the whole problem of various activists and outright terror sympathizers. All I have to say is that you don't really see too many protestors in Pyongyang or Damascus. Sure, it's partly due to the fact that their political leanings match those of North Korea and Syria to some degree, but mostly it's because they doubt they'd come back from such an adventure. This seems easy enough to arrange. Let's just say that ever since Rachel Corrie became one with the earth, not too many ISMers are eager to stand in front of a bulldozer. You don't need to be too obvious: a few examples and some rumors that those who protest in Israel tend to disappear, and the activists will seek new protest venues elsewhere.

  • This only leaves one type of negative publicity: the pundits and commentators outside your borders. Without live pictures, though, the world will quickly tire of hearing their cries of "occupation!" -- that stuff is boring, and the world has a very short attention span. Still, if you're worried, surely it's not that hard to remove one or two of the more annoying ones. The rest will quickly get the message. It works for the Chinese in Hong Kong, or the Iranians with Rushdie, and it will work for you.
Simply following these guidelines should reduce to virtually nil the flow of negative publicity. That by itself is not enough, though: you need to get the world on your side. And as everyone from the USSR to the PLO to Saddam Hussein has demonstrated, you can't do that without getting really nasty.
  • First off, you need to put yourself in a position where other nations need something from you. This is the only way most of them will ever support you, under any circumstances. There's a reason why everyone pays so much deference to the Saudis, and it's not because the world loves fat men in Maybachs. Like it or not, the world is not in dire need of more Sabra oranges or high-tech toys, and advanced cancer research just makes them feel inadequate. So what you need is control of a strategic resource. My suggestion would be to push the Egyptians out of the Sinai, and take over the Suez Canal. There's not much they can do about it, especially if you quietly point out that, well, you might just have some tactical nukes that might just find their way into Cairo. It's amazing how accommodating people can be when properly motivated. You can even let them save face through nominal control of some worthless port; no matter.

    The point is, once you have control of a waterway so crucial the the Euroid economy, expect to see a radical change of tune from the French and the rest of Europe, especially the Old side. Don't bite off more than you can chew, though: it's probably best not to tweak the Brits this way, and I strongly suggest you give Americans perpetual free passage. As to the rest, you can pretty much do as you wish -- and I suggest making it really clear that you intend to play favorites. It'll certainly alter the calculus a bit: the Arabs may have oil, sure, but it still has to get to Europe somehow. And that's really hard, especially what with all those sabotaged pipelines. What sabotaged pipelines? You figure it out.

    Oh, please, don't blanche at me now. This is global opinion we're talking about. Just imagine how much the Europeans will love you once they realize their economies are now completely dependent on your whim. I predict a total love fest. Chirac will go nowhere without his yarmulke.

  • You should also throw a bone to those intellectuals and progressives who are not rotting in your jails, just to make them forget their comrades. This is not too hard to do. Some anti-U.S. rhetoric might be nice, but you can do well enough just by espousing some pet issues of theirs, and adopting their language. For example, instead of the boring moniker State of Israel, perhaps you can adopt the name The Jewish State of Social Justice. Progressives love the phrase "social justice," and they'll accept anyting that promises it, no matter how absurd.

    (Sort of like "free universal medical care." Which I also suggest you implement, at least in the West Bank. It doesn't have to be medically competent, or especially caring -- the point is, it's "free" and "universal." A couple of Potemkin villages and some carefully orchestrated trips with properly instructed reporters will do wonders. It worked for the Russians and the Cubans; it will work for you. Progressives are much more willing to accept a boot in someone's face, if the wearer of the boot explains that the face receives free universal medical care. Like quantum mechanics, it's weird and counter-intuitive, but it works.) By the way, now that I think about it, you should probably remove the "Jewish" from the new name of the state -- it polls negatively with global opinion. Perhaps the Hebraic State of Social Justice, or maybe something like the Multicultural State of Social Justice. Don't worry about what that means; it's the name that counts.

As you can see, you've been going about this world opinion thing all wrong. Silly Jews, you've tried to do the right thing under difficult circumstances, and -- oh the hilarity! -- expected fair treatment from the same people who brought you the Crusades, the Pale of Settlement, the pogroms, the Dreyfus Affair, the Holocaust, and exploding buses. Now you'll probably just ignore me, stick to your silly morals and principles, and wonder how a Communist dictatorship manages to castigate your behavior without even a slight trace of irony.

You naive fools.

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