Israel Advocacy - Applying the Basics

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Justice for Jews and Israel

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The Case for Israel


Concepts & Definitions



Forming Opinions

Narratives and Issues


Applying the Basics

Techniques & Tactics

Grass Roots Activism


Using the Web

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Anti-Israel Narrative

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Making the principles of persuasion work for you in a hostile environment, such as a live debate, and being aware of how opponents misuse the "hidden persuaders" is an art as well as a science.

Never underestimate the other side

The assault against Israel is being managed by experts who are often the best of their kind at what they do. Learn what they do and how they do it and take these people on. Be prepared. They will dish out fake or mutilated quotes much faster than you can ever hope to debunk them, and generate obscure "facts" that are often irrelevant even if true, and move them to the center of the dispute. However, a few exposes of fake quotes and face media photos can help deconstruct some of their hype.

The communications teams, infiltration strategies and messages are shaped by talented people and repeatedly tuned to provoke sympathy in audiences.

Palestine Solidarity Movement and others have well designed strategies for infiltrating just about any sort of organization, including some very unlikely ones, and using it for their own ends. Whether the group was originally about Women's rights, a union or a church group, a professional association or even a gay rights group, soon after it has been targeted, it will start cranking out Israel boycott and divestment resolutions couched in the same monotonously familiar terms. Our side has to reach these groups early, with our side of the story, and prevent them from being subverted. We need to make groups aware that they are being targeted as part of an insidious campaign.

Opposition media people have awesome prowess in staging "events" that didn't happen and getting journalists to use their "stories" because they are attractive. We need to make sure that justice and truth are seen as well as done.

Understanding Enemy Tactics

The anti-Zionist, pro-Arab and pro-Muslim propaganda machine has greatly emphasized and exaggerated the "Israel Lobby." The role of the Arab lobby, the Muslim lobby and the Palestinian lobby are practically unknown and unappreciated. Without understanding the Arab and anti-Israel lobby, their size, and the tactics used against us, it is impossible to stop the onslaught of unfair propaganda.

The techniques of building any political movement are well known and apply equally to good causes and bad ones. Many of them were pioneered by obnoxious characters including V.I. Lenin, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. Likewise, you can find an edifying and very important "how to do it" guide in the approach of the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM), a Palestinian group that seems to have read all the above masters and is assiduously applying their doctrines: http://www.zionism-israel.com/ezine/PSM_Palestine_Subversion_Movement.htm. Their basic plan is to form alliances with like-minded groups and to subvert existing groups and institutions that were formed for other purposes. These include churches, women's groups, labor unions, universities and media. In each case, the Palestinian activist is instructed to blend in with the group. PSM tells their people to go to churches and "act like Ned Flanders" (the Simpsons' "pious" animated cartoon character, meant to be a caricature). Palestine Solidarity Movement is a branch or affiliate of the "International Solidarity Movement." These groups did not spring up spontaneously. ISM is the result of the careful work of a tiny group of organizers whose offices are in a nondescript building in Beit Sahour, near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, home to an innocuous seeming "rapprochement" center. The creation of these groups was the result of a lot of difficult and imaginative work and probably some ingenious channeling of funds from various European funding groups and other sources that were intended for other purposes.

The principle of subversion - The principle that makes subversion work is that most members of the target groups are apathetic and leave the activism to a few leaders. Only that small leadership group must be subverted, either by convincing existing leaders or by inserting leaders of the subverting cause. If the chair of the union meeting is anti-Israel, the union is going to keep considering boycotts of Israel until the rank and file adopts a boycott resolution. In this way, "ownership" of key positions in an organization can be leveraged into control of the organization. An existing structure, with all its acquired resources and prestige is harnessed for the anti-Israel cause. After it is done, it is too late, as the anti-Israel people control the key positions, and therefore they control the organization. They pack meetings with their followers, call meetings on Saturday to keep out observant Jews, and invite the Sabeel organization or the Palestinian Academic Boycott groups to address the union or church group.

Logic and objective self-interest play little role in choosing ideological stands, the choice often being based on group pressure and manipulation. Homosexuals are convinced to support regimes that hang and beat homosexuals. Women's groups lend their enthusiastic support for societies and regimes that repress women, practice child marriages, stone adulteresses, advocate wife beating and practice honor killing and Female Genital Mutilation. Churches can be made advocates on behalf of a society and a religion that burns churches and murders Christians.

The allegiance of media can be bought by buying financial interest in corporations or through pressure of advertising revenue. Suddenly and inexplicably, respectable Western mainstream media publish articles favoring and justifying the wearing of the Hijab or "explaining" that the Quran does not really prescribe wife beating. What would move Time Magazine or the Washington Post to plead for sequestration of women or false interpretations of the Qur'an?

Generous consultancy fees to academics as well as more public and spectacular endowments of "Middle East Studies Centers" help to ensure control of Academia. They may explain how known and self-confessed terrorists can be offered academic positions in Western universities, and why a university would host an organizational meeting of a group like PSM.

Subversion of NGOs or NGOs and "think tanks" set up for the purpose of propaganda are another means of obtaining influence. Recently, the respectable Human Rights Watch NGO began soliciting funds from notorious human rights violator Saudi Arabia. The value of such an investment, buying a human rights NGO, is not lost on shrewd businessmen.

The power of the method is illustrated by the recent career of Charles Freeman, who headed the "Middle East Policy Council" (MEPC) one of many groups that is the Arab equivalent of the Zionist AIPAC. MEPC had gotten a million dollar grant from the Saudi royal family. Freeman was almost appointed to a key intelligence post in the United States government. Though there was a clear conflict of interest, his supporters protested bitterly that his appointment was foiled by the "Israel lobby" and "neo-cons."

Be Prepared: Know Your Materials<

It is really heart breaking to see some of the "great and famous" advocates of Israel go down before opponents because they were not prepared. They didn't bother to check facts, didn't prepare for well-honed attacks by the other side, or they tried to use arguments that might be convincing to sympathetic Zionist audiences, or sources that only have credibility among Zionist audiences. "There are no Palestinians" may sound great to committed followers in a Jewish center, but it is not true and should not be used as an argument for Israel.

>Talking Points

Talking points can be a useful tool or a pernicious obstacle depending on how they are chosen and how they are used. Remember that the goal is to persuade neutral people by providing credible information that speaks to their values and helps them builds a correct "schema" with regard to Israel, Zionism and the conflict.

Useful Talking Points

"Talking points" in the positive sense are a way of organizing your knowledge and ensuring that you have not omitted anything important from a presentation. They should be researched, honed and reduced to the bare minimum of concepts, issues and dramatizations that are well founded and likely to convince. They help you reduce a mass of information to manageable proportions. They should always be judged by a neutral or skeptical observer for effectiveness and accuracy.

Examples of useful talking points:

Israel is a democracy - This point is admitted by Palestinians as well. Arabs in Israel have more rights than they do in most surrounding Middle Eastern countries. The point can be illustrated easily by discussing the history of oppression of Bahai in Iran compared to their freedom in Israel, gay rights, women's rights, political rights of Israeli Arabs versus one party states and fake elections in Syria, Egypt and Iran and the appalling record of the Palestinians.

Right of Return of Palestinian refugees is a bogus claim intended to destroy Israel - This can be extensively documented with quotes from Arab sources, international legal documents and opinions (see discussion in previous chapter).

Pernicious Talking Points

"Talking points" in the negative sense are a series of slogans that are gleaned from reading propaganda literature. They represent very little knowledge. While they may help to rally your own adherents they will probably only annoy neutral observers. They may be "bad" because

  • They can't be defended because they are based on dubious or incorrect information.
  • They don't really support any important point.
  • They challenge accepted values and portray Zionists as intolerant and unfair.

In a debate situation, they may be attacked and dissected by the opponent, with embarrassing results.

Examples of "bad" talking points:

"There are no Palestinians" - While there might not have been a Palestinian people 100 years ago, the world accepts that there is one now, and the Palestinian Arabs assert their peoplehood. The counterpart of this statement is the obnoxious claim that the Jews are not a people. Neither claim is accepted by neutral observers and both can be shown to be incorrect by various criteria. Nothing much is usually gained for the cause of Israel by stating that there are no Palestinians. It can be pointed out that Palestinian peoplehood arose in modern times, and that many "Palestinian" heroes like Izzedin al Qassam were immigrants from surrounding countries. This point is as useful or useless as the Palestinian claim that the Jews are all European immigrants who came from abroad and "stole" "their" land.

"God promised all the land to the Jews" - Indeed He did, according to the Old Testament, but He did not state when or how He would fulfil his promise. During most of history Jews were exiled from the land, and when they ruled the land, they ruled only parts of it. Claims to be the agent or interpreter of God are usually looked upon with skepticism by neutral observers, especially if they have a different interpretation. Zionism is not a religious movement and does not claim the land for religious reasons. It never proposed to set up a religious state. Anti-Semites point out that according to the Old Testament, God also warned that he would exile the Jews from the land if they misbehaved. According to anti-Semitic versions of Christian doctrine, God's covenant was taken from the Jews and given to the Church. You do not want to get into that argument! The Hamas claim that Allah promised all the land to the Muslims. You probably don't want to get into an argument on the level of "my religion is better than your religion, my god's better than yours."

"The Jews became a nation in 1312 BC" - Statements such as this may generate enthusiasm among the faithful, but there is no way to defend them. The importance of this statement is unclear, since the Iroquois Indians became a nation before the American people, but do not have a recognized national claim to their land. Presumably the date mentioned is the supposed date when the Jews received the Torah according to the Old Testament, but there are different estimates of the actual dates of biblical events. There is no way to know if the event took place in 1312 or 1315 or 1500, even for those who believe the literal truth of the Old Testament. The Old Testament indicates that the Jews remained a collection of tribes without national leadership for many years after receiving the Torah, and when the Jewish state was formed as a kingdom, it quickly split into two nation states.

"Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map" - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that the Ayatollah Khomeini wanted a world without Zionism and without America, and that this goal is achievable. He talked about erasing the stain of Zionism or the Zionist regime, but he didn't literally say "wipe Israel off the map." Making that claim can get you into a pointless argument.

Don't Fall into Obvious Traps

The worst aspect of pernicious talking points is that they are easily turned to the advantage of the other side. They aren't just "incorrect" - they score an "own goal." Palestinians and their supporters LOVE to hear you say, "There were no Arabs in the land in 1900," because it is not true and their side has gone to a lot of trouble to disprove it. Likewise, they have taken special pains to discredit and ridicule Golda Meir's unfortunate statement, "There are no Palestinians." Don't even think about using this sort of argument. For the same reason, don't imply or state that the Zionist claim to Israel is based on the Jewish religion, or on God's promise to Abraham. Zionism is a national movement. Israel is a nation state, not a religious institution. Use historical and cultural arguments that are really Zionist ideology and are an acceptable basis for establishing the claims of a national movement. Otherwise, your anti-Israel opponent will be quick to point out that religions do not get their own states (with the possible exception of the Vatican).

Israel is a nation state, not a religious institution. Use historical and cultural arguments that are an acceptable basis for claims of a national movement. Otherwise, your anti-Israel opponent will be quick to point out that religions do not get their own states.

Universalist Rather than Particularist Approach

People are interested in themselves and in those like them. Palestinian and Arab propaganda failed as long as it was couched in particularist terms and had a negative slant. It began to succeed when it created images and slogans that had a universal appeal: Suffering children, appeals for rights, destroyed homes, tales of cruelty, appeals to peace and to universally accepted rights.

Proud of who we are

It is silly to try to conduct Israel advocacy while hiding the fact that we are Zionists and support Jewish rights. However, emphasizing these words is not always going to be helpful. Focus group studies by Frank Luntz suggest (not surprisingly) that people seem to have an aversion to the words "Jew" and "Zionism." We already knew that though, didn't we? We have to use these words and defend them, but when we use these words we have to know why we are using them. We must be sure to explain why we are proud to be be Zionists and to defend Jewish rights.

Be Persistent

It may take a long time to build a local activist movement and then a network of such movements, and then a national movement. The Anti-Israel groups spent many years and a lot of money to make slogans like "Israel Lobby" and "Israel Apartheid" respectable, and to get otherwise respectable and logical people to advocate genocide and murder of civilians. The unfortunate truth is that the rules that govern advocacy work just as well for vile causes and lies as they do for good causes and truth, and sometimes work even better.

Be opportunistic - in the good sense

"Opportunism" sounds bad, but every movement or idea succeeds by taking hold of opportunities and using them. The success of the Six Day War put Israel and Zionism into the news and was successfully exploited to create, for a time, a ground swell in support for the Zionist movement. For various reasons, this was not exploited very well. However, events such as the attacks of 9-11 and personalities such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can provide opportunities for activism and advocacy that need to be acted upon.

Another sort of opportunity is provided by the opponent who asks a deliberately loaded question or yells out a slogan in a talk. Don't evade the question. Use the opportunity to expose the reasoning behind it and turn it to your advantage. If the opponent yells about "Israel Apartheid," stand on Israel's record of democracy and integration, ask them to explain why intermarriage between Africans and Bedouin is frowned upon. Ask them to explain why Christians are separated and suffer persecution in virtually every Arab and Muslim country, why Egyptian religious leaders declared that it is a sin to build a church (See http://www.christianpost.com/article/20090901/egypt-muslim-council-building-of-churches-is-sin-against-god/index.html). Ask them if their use of the false "Apartheid" slogan indicates that they are opposed to the existence of Israel as a Jewish national home, rather than to any particular Israeli policy.

Censorship versus Proactive Creativity

It seems there is a great attraction to censoring or attempting to suppress other groups and Web sites. If you get that Nasrallah page off Facebook, stop a group that distributes Holocaust denial information, or point out the bias in a movie about Jenin you attract Zionist adherents to your group, because you are perceived as "effective." Such initiatives certainly can help curb the worst excesses of racist anti-Israel propaganda. But sometimes it is better to ignore the enemy and to expend your energies in creating and distributing your own, truthful information. Some of the drawbacks of censorship:

You are drawing attention to the offending item or group: The boycott initiative, Web site, Facebook page, play, book, group, university activity etc gets a lot of free publicity. As soon as the neo-Nazis learn there is a new anti-Semitic Web site they will flock to it. Hundreds of pro-Israel bloggers and Web sites linking to the Drive the Zionazis into the Sea Web site, articles discussing it in the press, picketing of an obscure play about the evil Elders of Zion, front page articles about the obscure boycott Israel initiative of the Amalgamated Brotherhood of Belly Lint Pickers all popularize the Web site. They call attention to efforts that may be worse than mediocre and are often made by peripheral organizations with little or no previous following. They can turn jerks into media heroes. They are interviewed and get a world audience. Previously their lies were confined to an audience of the faithful. Now they are given a platform to tell the entire world about the Zionist conspiracy and the international finance Jews through syndicated journalism.

You may not be able to stop them. Universities often barricade themselves behind "academic freedom" and newspapers invoke freedom of the press. That is their right. It is sad that these freedoms may be abused, but there is often little that can be done. Your failure will be turned into a "victory" over the "Israel Lobby" that is supposedly trying to stop "legitimate criticism" of Israel. You cannot, for example, get Google to de-list Web pages even if they are blatantly racist. Jewwatch.com and Jrbookonline's "International Jew" are among the top ten Google search engine listings for keyword Jew. There doesn't seem to be a way to remove them.

The same claims will appear in different form. Even if you succeed in "nailing" a group because of a specific claim they make such as Holocaust denial, this may only constitute a valuable lesson to them in how to fashion their message to deliver the same information, without being liable to prosecution for racism.

It's harder to create our own original materials, but the investment is worthwhile. The only way to really stop the hate mongers and the liars is to make the truth popular.

Learn from mistakes

If nobody showed up at a demonstration you organized, or your 2,000 page Web site is not attracting any visitors, or your group has been trying to change media attitudes but has not been successful, try to find the reasons why this is so and fix the problem. You need to make an objective assessment of whether there is a better way to achieve your goals.

Build on successes

A successful activity gets publicity for you and your group. Be prepared to film a lecture or demonstration and be sure to alert media. Use the film and the media publicity to popularize your group further. A lecture or demonstration that reaches 50 or 100 people originally, can be and should be made to reach thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands.

Empathy and Self-knowledge

Empathize with the other side. Don't fake it for effect. Do it! It will help you understand them better and it will help you understand yourself better. If will help you to see yourself and to see your favorite advocacy points, the ones you thought were the strongest arguments, as others are apt to see them.

The person on the other side does not see themselves as the incarnation of evil. Even Waffen SS had wives and kids and really believed in what they thought was correct. Your heroes are their villains.

To fashion your message for a neutral audience, have empathy with neutral people. Try to picture your own reaction to a conflict in which you are not involved and haven't taken a stand. What sort of arguments might convince you? What sort of arguments leave you indifferent? What sort of arguments will repel you? What arguments would cause you to support the other side? Follow the golden rule - do not do to others what is hateful to you. When anti-Israel authors write that there is no Jewish people or that Jews have no rights in Israel, how does that make you feel? Do you think those ideas persuade or repel neutral people? Are those legitimate positions? Is it morally OK to use that sort of hate rhetoric to defend Israel? Would it be convincing?

Red Herring Issues

Remember the core issue - the Jewish right to self-determination. Keep the discussion in focus and don't let it be sidetracked. Your opponents will want to talk about issues such as settlements and the "right" of return and their latest fabrications about massacres, IDF organ theft etc. For legitimate issues, respond by saying that such issues, while difficult, can be dealt with in the context of peace and mutual recognition. Ask your opponent if he or she would recognize Israelís legitimacy as the state of the Jewish people if Israel were to withdraw to the June 1967 lines. The response you will almost always get is "no. " Then point out that Israel has no incentive to withdraw if the other side promises more war. Moreover, the so-called "right" of return would eliminate Israel as the state of the Jewish people. Thus, you unmask your opponent as not someone in favor of Palestinian rights, but as someone who simply is opposed to Jewish rights.

The core issue in other words: Our war is peace

In the previous chapter, we explained that the core issue of the conflict is Arab refusal to recognize the Jewish right to self-determination. Keep the discussions focused on that issue. As much as possible, opposition debaters will try to evade that issue and it is your job to pin them down.

Recognition of "Israel" is not enough, if they mean an Arab state called "Israel." "Peace" is not enough, because peace is meaningless if the Jewish state is wiped out. Do your opponents want peace with Israel, or peace without Israel?

Do your opponents want peace with Israel, or peace without Israel?

Another way of saying the same thing is that peace is the number one issue for Zionism and it always has been. Peace requires that the Arab states recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people and admit that it is legitimate for there to be such a state. The goal of Zionism, a national home for the Jewish people secured in international law, cannot be achieved without peace.

The core issue of the conflict is Arab refusal to recognize the Jewish right to self-determination. Keep the discussions focused on that issue.


This material is copyright © 2009 by Ami Isseroff and members of the Zio-Web group. No part may be reproduced without permission in any form.

See Also - Zionism and Israel- Issues and Answers   Zionist Quotes    Explaining Zionism Be a Proud Zionist 

More Commentary about Zionism

Zionism and Peace - A Zionist Credo

Zionist Quotes

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Was Israel Founded Because of the Holocaust??

The Two State Solution is the only solution for peace

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Zionism - Table of contents at the Jewish Virtual Library

Zionism article at Infoplease

Zionism - Definition and Brief History - A balanced article that covers the definitions and history of Zionism as well as opposition to Zionism and criticisms by Arabs,  Jewish anti-Zionists.

Labor Zionism - Early History and Critique - Contribution of Labor Zionism to the creation of the Jewish state, and problems of Labor Zionism in a changing reality.

The US Library of congress has a comprehensive and balanced set of articles about Zionism:

Zionist Precursors - US Library of Congress

Political Zionism - US Library of Congress

Cultural Zionism - US Library of Congress

Labor Zionism - US Library of Congress

Revisionist Zionism - US Library of Congress

Jewish Agency Zionism pages - Links to basic information about Zionism from the Jewish Agency

Ambassador Herzog explains Zionism in the UN


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