"WHAT HAPPENED," asks Michael Oren, "to Israel's reputation?"
The Israeli ambassador to the United States, a noted historian, combat veteran, and bestselling author, raised that question in a Wall Street Journal essay last week. Writing on the 64th anniversary of Israeli independence, Oren began by quoting from Life magazine's salute to the Jewish state on its 25th birthday in 1973-- a 92-page special issue that honored the "astonishing achievement" of modern Israel, an island of enlightened democratic courage flourishing against all odds amid a sea of Arab hostility and violence. From "a tiny, parched, scarcely defensible toe-hold," Life declared, the people of Israel had forged "a new society … in which pride and confidence have replaced the despair engendered by age-long suffering and persecution."
Needless to say, media descriptions of Israel today are rarely so admiring. When the spotlight turns to Israel now, it is typically harsh and unflattering. Though Israeli society remains robustly democratic and free, though its dictatorial and jihadist enemies still yearn to see it wiped out, international opinion treats the Jewish state as a pariah. Israel is accused of lurid war crimes and smeared as an "apartheid" regime; it is routinely portrayed by UN panels and campus activists as an occupying Goliath brutally oppressing a Palestinian David.
"Why has Israel's image deteriorated?" Oren asks. "Why have anti-Israel libels once consigned to hate groups become media mainstays?" Especially now, after nearly two decades in which Israel has gone to such extraordinary lengths to end its conflict with the Palestinians.
The concessions Israel has made in pursuit of peace are unprecedented in diplomatic history. Oren mentions some of them: Recognizing the PLO as a diplomatic partner, creating an armed Palestinian Authority, twice offering the Palestinians a sovereign state, agreeing to share control of Jerusalem, removing every Jewish community in Gaza, and repeatedly inviting Palestinian leaders to negotiate without preconditions.