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April 29, 1988 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-04-29

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Advice To Shamir,
Rabin: Curb Thy Tongue


Special to The Jewish News

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t appears that Israel
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir has forgotton the
axiom that if one possesses a
big stick, he may speak soft-
ly — and in the current Arab
uprisings it would serve his
purpose to do so.
Perhaps one of the gravest
mistakes of the Israel govern-
ment in the current crisis has
not been the use of force but
the failure to communicate
with appropriate diplomacy.
Shortly after the riots
started, Defense Minister
Rabin, defying traditional
political language, faced the
world's television cameras
and pledged continued
"beatings" if order was not
Then, Prime Minister
Shamir seemed to revel in the
use of touch language, stating
that Arabs are "grasshoppers
compared to us," adding:
"Anyone who wants to
damage this fortress and
other fortressess we are
establishing will have his
head smashed against the
boulders and walls."
Such inciteful rhetoric is
counterproductive and con-
tributes little to an ultimate
Blaming the media,
whatever their shortcomings
— and they are many — is
misdirected in this case.
Reporters thrive on controver-
sy and confrontation.
Politically sophisticated
leaders should be aware of
that and avoid the pitfalls.
The government's public
posture is puzzling and may
be the result of several
• Officials simply want to
win the fight on principle and
public relations is not their
objective. That is a commen-
dable view but hardly
realistic. lb suggest that com-
munication is vital seems
somehow elementary. The
late Egyptian President An-
war Sadat, at one point, hired
former White House press
aides to advise him on public
• The government has
become fatalistic, beieving
that no matter what the
issue, Israel will always be
the target of criticism. That
may be true and seemed to be
the position taken by former
Prime Minister Menachem
Begin. But its frustration not-

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Shamir: Puzling posture.

withstanding, Israel cannot
afford a "to hell with 'em"
posture if, for no other reason,
than the danger of alienating
its few supporters.
• Officials may not unders-
tand the impact of their
statements nor public rela-
tions in general. That is hard
to believe but, if true, they
have some important lessons
to learn — and they need to
learn them quickly.
Whatever the reasons, and
it may be a combination of
these or simply the result of
the political personalities in-
volved, Israel's image is tak-
ing an unnecessary beating
because- of communications
My criticism of the public
statements of Israeli leader-
ship is not an indictment of
their policies. Presumably,
Israel is using the ap-
propriate force necessary
given the risks involved.
But how much better it
would be for Israel's leaders
to explain to the world that
the government is using the
"minimum" force and, more
importantly, that it deeply
regrets the loss of life — on all
The Jewish tradition has
never reveled in the misfor-
tunes of others, even in war.
Human life is sacred and the
callousness expressed by
government leaders does a
disservice to that tradition.
Instead of alienating public
opinion, Israel should be
seeking support. And that is
very hard when headlines are
ablaze with the Shamir-
Rabin rhetoric.
Jews and non-Jews alike ex-
pressed outrage at the gleeful
reaction of Arab terrorists
who labeled "heroic" the
massacres of civilians, in-
cluding children. Their
language lacked decency and
any sense of civility.

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