Lorna Fitzsimons: Israel faces a battle for credibility. But it's winnable

The truth is no one looks good in war. We all need to live to a higher standard

Share
Related Topics

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you... My message to Israel and her friends is you may be right that they are out to get you but it does not and should not change your priorities.

The bottom line that all decent people want to know is not, "Are you perfect?". Instead, they need to know, "Are you sincere and can I believe you? Can we give you the benefit of doubt?" The public know there is no such thing as a perfect democracy. Just like Britain, Israel has and will make mistakes. It is what you do about your mistakes that defines you.

As scrappy and challenging as Israelis undoubtedly are, it takes a nanosecond to realise that their tough persona is all to protect a soft core. They care. They care deeply what people think about them. The "no one like us, we don't care" stance is a fraud. The truth is it does matter to Israel what the world thinks of it, and so it should.

It matters because of Jewish identity and values and for deeply strategic reasons about the ability of the state to defend itself. This is not about a smoke and mirrors PR operation.

It is a very serious new security front that faces us all in modern warfare. In this theatre, there is not a tank or a boot in sight. It is the diplomatic campaign being fought in international political arenas. Israel's enemies have worked out something that even the brightest general in Israel is only just getting. They have discovered that the way to stop Israel's undoubted military superiority is to limit their ability to use it and to force Israel to fight with her hands tied behind her back – levelling the playing field in what otherwise is a very asymmetrical situation.

Whether you like or loathe Israel it should give us all pause for thought that for a country like Britain, a key pillar of our international power and influence is our standing army – our deterrence or force projection.

If our enemies can convince us that it is simply unethical for us to use that deterrence, then in one fell swoop they get rid of our advantage. Some may think this is a good thing. But I disagree. The use of force is always undesirable, and we should all understand it is an admission of failure. But sometimes necessary and justified.

The truth is war has never been anything else other than horrific. Anyone who thinks there has been a clinically perfect war is naive and dangerous. They may be less ugly than they were in the past – and I say that with a family member who fought in the trenches in the First World War and became a conscientious objector in the Second, and a husband who has served in Iraq.

But through modern technology, empowered electorates, the internet and 24-hour TV, we see things we were shielded from before. In the past, if you did not have a family member with military experience you had nothing to counter the Hollywood-sanitised version of war where there is always a clear winner.

The truth is no one looks good in war, and when it comes to our record in independent judicial reviews of our military campaigns, we in Britain live in a glasshouse. We all need to live to a higher standard.

The grubby truth is we are all flawed, and Israel is no different. Any of her supporters trying to pretend otherwise just are not credible to the public. All people care about is credibility. They want to see that Israel is sincere and trying hard to make peace. Not who they are or what they are but what they do and how they treat others.

This is why the answer to Israel's strategic security challenges is to remember that the public are not daft. They know the share of the blame that the Palestinians shoulder, but the public think that is the Palestinians' problem. We have to remember that how we refer to the other defines us more than them. What Israel needs to concentrate on to establish her credibility is of its desire for peace.

It is a message that has the merit of being true. At Israel's premier defence and security conference at Herzliya, Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, set out unequivocally the overwhelming case for the creation of a Palestinian state as vital to Israel's national security interest. And Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Prime Minister whom Israel had invited to attend, was treated like a rock star even when he was delivering a tough message to a cynical audience. This says much more about what is happening in Israel than others would have you believe.

Lorna Fitzsimons is CEO of Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre (BICOM)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mary Christmas: the Bethlehem story is Mary's moment, when a poor peasant girl gives birth to the Son of God in a stable  

The appeal of the Virgin Mary: A supernatural hope at a time of scepticism

Peter Stanford
 

Letters: Why Cameron is wrong about EU child benefits

Independent Voices
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there