World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder said on Monday.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post while in Israel for a gathering supporting persecuted Christians throughout the region, Lauder explained that he believed Israel was falling behind in the battle over its image abroad.
Referencing Sweden’s recent recognition of a Palestinian state in the absence of a negotiated resolution to the conflict, Lauder said that the Palestinians “have been sending delegations up there for years working on the country” and that the Arab world has spent “hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars on public relations.”
Israel, he said, “has paid almost nothing,” and the Jewish state “needs a certain amount of PR.”
Lauder suggested that given the strategic imperative of presenting its case before a world audience, Jerusalem should build one less warplane and put the money toward hasbara, the Hebrew term for public diplomacy.
“Israel is being defined by its enemies,” he said. “Israel should be defining itself and should be defining its enemies.”
Jewish life in Europe has been made more difficult by a growing Muslim population on the Continent, but dire predictions of the end of Jewish life there are overblown, Lauder believes. Taking France as the “worst case,” he said that while this summer’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic protests were frightening, only a small percentage of French Muslims took part in them, indicating that a majority wish to live in peace.
In order to “get beyond the agitators,” increased government involvement and a strong stance against racism are necessary, he said.
“I was recently in Berlin at Brandenburg Gate with Chancellor [Angela] Merkel, saying that there is no place for anti-Semitism in Germany, with thousands of people in front of us, and that had a major effect. The minute the government starts taking a strong hand in this we see it diminish,” Lauder said.
While immigration to Israel by French Jews has risen significantly and many French Jews have indicated a desire to emigrate, they are not leaving in great numbers, he said. “They just want to live in peace.”
While leaders in France, Germany and Italy have all taken positive steps toward combating anti-Semitism, Lauder said that he believes that Britain is “moving backwards” with its upcoming non-binding vote on recognition of a Palestinian state.
“While only symbolic, it says a lot,” he said.
Lauder also critiqued the international community for declining to link funding the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip with demilitarization or the entrance of Fatah as a governing entity in the coastal territory, explaining that “we will never get another opportunity” to do so.
“This is the only way to take them [Hamas] out,” he explained, adding that with Hamas retaining power in Gaza, the possibility of a Hamas takeover in the West Bank following a peace agreement will remain a serious worry.
Much of Lauder’s trip has been focused on the of the persecution and murder of Christians in the region, and he said that he finds it ironic that he, as the leader of a Jewish organization, is one of those leading the charge on this issue.
“I don’t know why he world is so silent and doesn’t realize what is happening, the slaughter. Were talking about the slaughter of thousands of Kurds in a town no one has heard of before yet, there are tens of thousands of Christians being slaughtered and no one talks about it. I don’t understand it,” he said.
“The world is silent and they are silent because there is no one beating the drums and yet they are talking about Gaza day in and day out but they don’t talk about what is happening to the Christians,” he added.
Christians populations are dropping precipitously in “the birthplace of the Christian world,” and the only place in which the Christian population is growing is in Israel, he said.
“In the case of Gaza, what you had was a well-oiled PR campaign to make Israel Goliath and them David. There is no campaign like that by the Christians because they never had that type of campaign and that’s the question: why not. And since we the WJC has started speaking about it its gotten some traction.”