Can you remember the 1960s? I can! It was a time when the entire western public seemed to be in love with Israel. The state now so reviled was the miracle nation which, against all odds, had survived repeated onslaughts by surrounding countries bent on its destruction; it was the land of plucky pioneers who had made the desert bloom; it was the land of Jaffa oranges, of kibbutzim, of the venerable Ben-Gurion, of Yigael Yadin, Daliah Lavi, and Esther and Abi Ofarim.
How my entire class of girls yearned to follow the example of our young non-Jewish teacher, who had spent her summer vacation picking fruit on a kibbutz! How vividly I recall the thousands of non-Jewish young men who on the outbreak of the June 1967 War volunteered - nay, clamoured - to fight for the little Jewish State; how vividly I recall the numerous non-Jewish men and women (many of them of very modest means) who - with touching spontaneity - sent unsolicited gifts of money to Israeli embassies and Jewish communal institutions for the war effort of a people that appeared to be on the brink of a second Holocaust. When, in just six days, the imperilled David achieved a stunning victory against Goliath, most of the western public appeared to rejoice. A one-eyed general captured the imagination; so did the now iconic press photo of Israeli troops at the Western Wall, awed and exhilarated at having liberated the Jewish holy site to which Jordan had forbidden access since 1949.
Forty-three years later, although plenty of people can see through the false guise of Islamic fundamentalists posing as "peace activists", decades of subtle and not-so-subtle bias against Israel by left-liberal media outlets has worked its mischief. Not only do such outlets give scant coverage to the Israeli governmental viewpoint, in many instances they ignore it altogether.
Inexplicably, Israel has been singularly maladroit in meeting this challenge. Once upon a time it had an effective and urbane spokesman in the late great Abba Eban, whose mother tongue was English. Then came an unfortunate period in which the voluble Hanan Ashwari made a personable communicator for the other side, while with the notable exception of Bibi Netanyahu a series of lacklustre spokesmen with a poor command of English were trotted out by Israel. It is, of course, in English, the lingua franca of our times, that the battle for hearts and minds is won or lost.
And while Israel now has a cogent and unflappable media spokesman in Mark Regev, his advocacy is not enough. Fine representatives of Israel's cause such as he can only be as effective as the airtime they are allowed. Israel's pressing need is for its own English-language television channel broadcasting to the world, a channel countering lies, misconceptions and distortions by detailing Israel's history and showing the true image of Israel's vibrant democracy and culture in all its aspects - not least the medical breakthroughs and humanitarian initiatives of which few people outside Israel are aware because a media obsessed with portraying a mere sliver of a country facing existential threat as a ruthless and imperialistic military leviathan seldom if ever reports such developments.
An English-language TV channel acting as the world's window on Israel would be expensive. But in a world which receives the bulk of its Israel-related news from the BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera and Press TV, failure to go ahead with such a project will prove costly in ways that no friend of Israel would wish to contemplate.