Global Anti-Semitism on the Rise, as Israel ‘Has no Strategy’ to Oppose It, Ex-Diplomat Says


by Elizabeth Blade

In 2014, during Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge”, the country invested only 0.38 percent of its total budget in foreign relations and diplomacy, way less than the Palestinian Authority and Iran. Years later, in 2021, the situation hasn’t improved and the reason for this is the reluctance of the Israeli leadership to adopt certain policies.

Recent weeks have seen a surge in anti-Semitic incidents around the world. It started off with a call to rape Jewish girls in London. Then a couple of incidents were registered in New York City, but didn’t stop there, spreading to other parts of the US.

According to reports, in the last week of May, the Anti-Defamation League received 193 complaints of anti-Semitism in the US, a 47 percent increase from the previous week, and Danny Ayalon, Israel’s former ambassador to the US, says the recent surge can be put down to two major factors.

Root of All Evil?

The first of those is Israel’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls” that kicked off on 10 May following a barrage of rockets emanating from the Gaza Strip.

During the eleven days of Israel’s military campaign, more than 250 Palestinians were killed and over 1,600 were injured. Israel claims most of those eliminated were militants. The Palestinians say they were civilians.

The campaign also destroyed a thousand buildings, including residential facilities, causing severe damage to clinics, police stations, and schools.

The images of that destruction grabbed the attention of the international media. Neither could they skip over the various pro-Palestinian groups that staged anti-Israel demonstrations.

“[In the US] there is a well-oiled machine of Palestinian propaganda. Over there, you have the unholy coalition between the extreme right and groups belonging to the radical left that were hijacked by the Palestinian agenda. And it’s tough to fight them because there are also Jews, who believe in what they are doing”.

But it is not that Israel hasn’t tried to tackle the problem. Over the years, the country’s various ministries have attempted to raise the world’s awareness about anti-Semitism. They set up conferences, mega-events, and workshops,  even working together with governments in other countries to make sure that Jews are protected.

Those efforts have largely borne fruit. During the last round of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, several countries hoisted the Israeli flag over governmental buildings as a sign of solidarity with a nation defending itself. Others sent delegations to express support for the Jewish state.

Losing the Grassroots

But when it comes to ordinary people, Israel, it seems, has lost its battle, and the reason for this, says Ayalon, is social media networks.

“In the past, the US had several newspapers and several channels and we knew how to work with them. Now, in the era of social media, when there are no checks and no restrictions, when anyone can post anything they want, getting our message across has become challenging. Palestinians know that and they are active on these platforms”.

Israel, considered a high-tech nation, could easily handle the problem, says the former ambassador. But the problem is that it has never adopted a policy to uproot this issue.

The way it stands now, the fight against anti-Semitism is handled by several governmental bodies. Partially, it is the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the Ministry of the Diaspora. The IDF also plays a role in explaining Israel’s stance to the world and so does the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry for Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy.

Yet, there has never been a centralised body assigned with the task and Israel hasn’t allocated much funding to its advocacy efforts.

In 2014, for example, it was reported that Israel invested only 0.38 percent of its overall budget in foreign relations and advocacy, far less than the Palestinian Authority and Iran.

The situation hasn’t improved over time and during “Operation Guardian of the Walls” some Israeli experts lamented that the state didn’t do enough to change that equation.

And Ayalon says he couldn’t agree more. “The Israeli government doesn’t see it [advocacy] as a priority. There is no strategy, no policy, and no management that would cope with it”.

Part of the problem is Israel’s political stalemate. In the past two years, the country has gone through four national polls and the lack of government hampered the nation’s ability to handle many acute problems, including its advocacy efforts to combat anti-Semitism.

Now that seems to be changing. On Wednesday, the head of Israel’s opposition informed President Reuven Rivlin that he had succeeded in forming a coalition. His government is expected to be sworn in as early as next week.

Will he manage to change the tide, improve Israel’s image across the globe, and address the acute issue of anti-Semitism? Ayalon believes it will largely depend on the policies enacted.

“The Palestinians have never given up their goal of destroying Israel. Hamas does it through rockets. The PA – through delegitimisation on the international arena. But we can change that. Israel needs to work on the grassroots and social media networks. But, most importantly, it needs to do a lot of rethinking and revamping of Israel in the eyes of public opinion”.



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