Thursday October 8, 2015
Israel Hayom
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Yaakov Ahimeir

Lone soldiers of public diplomacy

They were like the lone soldiers in Israels military, fighting for their cause anonymously and alone. But today, although they are still alone, two of their names are well known: Dr. Yehuda David and economist-politician and media commentator Philippe Karsenty.

I can recall the days when Karsenty, a French citizen, ran around Jerusalem, from one clerk to another, from one minister to another, begging: Please help me expunge the blood libel surrounding Mohammed al-Duras death. He was so frustrated back then -- they all thought he was the village idiot with this cause. Very soon, a French appeals court in Paris will rule on Karsentys claim that it was not Israeli soldiers who killed al-Dura in 2000, contrary to what the television network France 2 reported at the time.

Let us hope that the court will side with Karsenty, just as David was cleared this week of libel.

But we must mention another soldier in this battle a truly unknown soldier who served on Israels front lines: the lines of public diplomacy. In the face of tall tales spun by the media and facts taken out of context, British Jewish attorney Steven Sugar battled in court to compel the BBC to release an internal report, dubbed the Balen Report after its author, senior editor Malcolm Balen. The report contains the conclusions of an internal investigation into whether the BBCs reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shown anti-Israeli bias.

This week, Britains Supreme Court rejected Sugars suit and upheld the BBCs right to withhold the information. But why is the BBC so adamant on keeping this report secret? Sugar, who has since died, does not know that the court shot him down. But for years, like Frances Karsenty and Israels David, he fought. I must ask: Did the state support, encourage and show pride in this incredible trio throughout their protracted battles? The answer is unequivocal: no, not at all.

This week, with a bill initiated by the prime minister, the cabinet will vote on whether to reimburse David for his vast legal expenses. David, like the other two members of the trio, fought this battle for us. After all, they say that modern wars arent limited to the battleground, but rather include the arena of public diplomacy. There is no doubt that the battles waged by Karsenty, David and the late Sugar will not be the last. This war will go on. There is no way to predict the outcome. But from now on one important lesson must be learned and be implemented: At the very start of future battles waged by future nameless soldiers, the state must stand behind them, offer assistance and praise, and declare: You are no longer alone!

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