How to Cure Israel's Diplomatic 'Leprosy'

Precisely because Israel is considered a legitimate state and a longstanding, proper member of the family of nations, the entire world demands that it follow this family’s accepted rules.

Israeli soldiers walk near a temporary checkpoint at the entrance of the Palestinian village of Yatta in the occupied West Bank on June 9,2016.
Israeli soldiers walk near a temporary checkpoint at the entrance of the Palestinian village of Yatta in the occupied West Bank on June 9,2016. HAZEM BADER / AFP

The government is allocating 128 million shekels ($33 million) this year to fight a serious disease that has infected the country. According to the director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, Sima Vaknin, Israel is viewed overseas as a “leper state.” Therefore, she has set out to ensure that within a decade, no one will question Israel’s right to exist anymore.

As part of the ministry’s effort to cure Israel of its “leprosy,” a 10-person task force has been set up to try to craft an alternative narrative that Israel will seek to disseminate. But the heart of Israel’s problem is the warped view that it is a distorted narrative, or its disseminators, that shoulder the blame for the way Israel is viewed.

Due to this same blindness, which holds boycott advocates responsible for the implosion of Israel’s standing overseas, the Strategic Affairs Ministry and the Interior Ministry have announced that they will work to prevent foreign activists who support the anti-Israel boycott from entering the country and will deport any such activists who are already here (Barak Ravid, yesterday’s Haaretz).

One could certainly question the wisdom of this plan, which seems unlikely ever to be implemented, and may have been intended only to reap political capital in the infighting on the right. But in any case, its message is an attempt to throw sand in the public’s eyes. Can Israel really conceal information from the world by barring the entry of activists from foreign organizations? If so, then taking the proposal to its logical conclusion, the necessary corollary would be to censor every article about events in the territories, deport any foreign journalist who dares to describe reality in a way that contradicts the Israeli narrative and expel any consul or ambassador who refuses to fall in line.

If Israel’s international image is indeed what concerns the ministers, we can absolutely guarantee them that initiatives of this sort will only ensure that the “diplomatic leprosy” afflicting Israel will continue ravaging it.

The occupation, which Israel has maintained for 50 years already, is no mere narrative. Land thefts, a suffocating closure on some two million people, settlement construction and restrictions on commerce and movement aren’t fairy tales that we can replace with more attractive stories and thereby change reality.

The calls to boycott Israel aren’t intended to deny its legitimacy, but to encourage it to end its policy of occupation in the territories. Precisely because Israel is considered a legitimate state and a longstanding, proper member of the family of nations, the entire world demands that it follow this family’s accepted rules.

A 50-year-old occupation isn’t part of these rules, and that will remain true no matter what decorative narrative the experts of the Strategic Affairs Ministry try to concoct. They would do better to devote their time to solving the real problems instead of proposing such idiotic plans.