May 28, 2024

With the events that have been transpiring in Israel and Gaza recently, a conversation I had with the Consult General of Israel has flooded my mind. Last April, I was interviewing then Consul General Hillel Newman for an upcoming JLife SGPV article. During our conversation, I asked him why it seems that Israel has a huge PR problem and how Israel is addressing it. His response was different from what I expected. He said that people don’t quite understand that before Israel makes a comment or statement following something that transpires, they do everything they can to verify the information they share is accurate and correct and that the “other side” does not. From this comment, one could infer that Israel holds itself to a higher standard.


So, as we have seen since October 7, while the “other side” is quick to share information and have the upper hand in swaying public opinion, Israel has continued to operate with the mentality that it is better to share correct information rather than share something that they cannot verify to be accurate quickly. Thus, their message can often be several days after an event and society, especially the media, has moved on. And in so doing, Israel misses “the window” for people to see and learn what happened.


I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, but we often jump to conclusions and decide before we have all the facts. These decisions change our perception, and when additional information comes to light, we are not willing to accept it or truly consider its validity because our minds have already been made up. And, when additional information becomes available, it is often seen as a “defensive” response rather than what it is intended to provide - context and greater clarity that people might not be aware of. And sadly, since people’s minds have already been made up, it is not considered.


As an example, think back to when news first broke that a hospital in Gaza was “attacked.” The initial reports did not accurately convey what truly happened, that the IDF was targeting Hamas operatives, who were using the hospital as a cover to carry out attacks and/or make preparations for further battle against Israel. People rushed to judgment. They were already made to believe that Israel was targeting civilians and committing war crimes because they attacked a hospital.


I bring this up as reports continue to pour in following the attack in Rafah on Sunday that saw over 40 innocent Palestinians killed. I wish people understood that with each death, Israel and American Jews mourn. And remember that each of these incidents is not isolated… they are occurring because Hamas started a war with Israel with their attack on October 7. And sadly, as we have seen with every war, innocent people die. During wars fought by other nations, innocent people have been killed, including by the US, at a significantly higher rate than Israel has thus far. I wish people were willing to comprehend this fact. However, for whatever reason, Israel continues to be held to a higher standard than any other nation, and people not being aware of this is a significant problem.


With this in mind, I want to share that news is finally coming out that not only did the IDF take steps to reduce the chance of harming civilians, including aerial surveillance, the use of precision munitions, and additional intelligence information, but there are now reports that secondary explosions after the airstrike indicate Hamas weapons in a vehicle which was hit was the cause of the fire spreading through the Rafah tent camp.


Again, while the fact that innocent people were killed is horrible, and even Prime Minister Netanyahu called it a mistake, the facts are the facts… even if they come out a couple of days later.


The question is… will people ever be willing to wait until they have all of the information before deciding for themselves what actually took place?


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