Israel Advocacy - Basics

Zionism maps biography definitions e-Zion about FAQ timeline photos books links contact

Justice for Jews and Israel

Handbook of Israel Advocacy

Download the Israel Advocacy handbook as a PDF File


The Case for Israel


Concepts & Definitions



Forming Opinions

Narratives and Issues


Applying the Basics

Techniques & Tactics

Grass Roots Activism


Using the Web

Proactive Advocacy

Anti-Israel Narrative

Zionist Narrative

Web Use Guide

Grass Roots Guide

Israel Advocacy
Web links

Having defined what advocacy and Zionism are, we can begin to discuss the basics of advocacy and persuasion in this and the following chapters.

This is a chapter about principles. They are not ideological principles. Rather they are basic concepts important to advocacy. It is misleading to call them techniques or strategies because that might lead people to think they are "spinology," deception or rhetorical tricks. That is not the case. A different chapter covers technical issues. Here we are trying to lay some conceptual and ethical foundations.

Always Tell the Truth

Never, never, never let someone persuade you to adopt a position you know to be untrue. Never! In a way, though only in a way, you are like the disciple of a religion. Truth is your biggest stock in trade. If you do not believe in what you are saying and doing, you will not be motivated to go on, because you are doing Israel advocacy voluntarily. It will also generally be apparent to others. If you are caught in a few "fibs", you have destroyed your credibility, and you will not be able to convince others.

The need to tell the truth is one reason why you should be very familiar with all the issues and history insofar as possible. You are not the Israeli government or IDF however. You cannot know and nobody should expect you to know information that is not public. Don't allow yourself to be maneuvered into a position where you are answering questions like "Will Israel bomb Iran?" How could you possibly know the answer to that question without a crystal ball and a spy in the Israel Ministry of Defense?

Do not ever engage in passing on hoax letters or propagating hoaxes. Always check the reliability of sources. The reputation of advocacy volunteers and information is the most precious and important asset we have. The credibility of Arab "information" was destroyed for quite a long time when Gamal Abdul Nasser was caught lying about supposed US participation in the 1967 Six day war.

Do No Harm

The first principle of anything you do should be "Do No Harm." You can do harm if:

  • Your statements can be shown to be false, implying that the arguments they support are false.
  • Your actions, statements or slogans can be used to portray Zionism or Jews as racists, extremists, warmongers, and reactionaries or hard hearted.
  • Your themes or "explanations" can be used to delegitimize Zionism.
  • Your statements offend particular groups or insult their leaders.

Examples of statements and actions that do harm:

  • Claim that there were almost no Arabs in Palestine circa 1900, originating with Joan Peters, was easily shown to be false.
  • An article that advocated "nuking" Mecca.
  • An article that appeared in a Zionist publication, advocating a particular stand about US health care policies that was in no way related to Zionism or Israel. The title of the article called for denying medical care to AIDS patients. What does that have to do with Zionism or Israel?
  • Excessive zeal in the cause of "peace" - a "Zionist" group featured a film by anti-Zionist Azmi Bishara; a "pro-Israel" group insists that the security fence is a "land grab." If these groups really have differences of opinion with Israeli policy, they should find constructive ways to express them.
  • Settlers who beat Arabs and uproot olive trees are used to show Israeli brutality. The problem is not just "Hasbara." The actions themselves do great harm to Israel and to Zionism, and the ideology they represent should not have any place in Zionism.
  • Claim by right wing extremists and some others that Zionism was always about use of force and that transfer was an integral part of Zionist ideology. Both claims can be shown to be false, but advocacy of these positions by persons who identify themselves as "Zionists" makes it easy to paint Zionism as heartless and evil.
  • Holocaust - In 1948 and since, Zionist advocacy used the Holocaust extensively as an emotional tool and as a rationale for "justifying" the need for a Jewish state. The Holocaust was a tragic illustration of the correctness of Zionist doctrine, but it should not be referred to as the "reason" for creating a Jewish state, because it is not a good reason and it was not the reason for Zionism, which began long before. It should not be used to excuse extremism and errors in judgment on the part of Israeli Jews. Zionist emphasis on the Holocaust helped to encourage the shibboleth that Israel was created only because of European guilt over the Holocaust, erasing the previous history of international commitment to a Jewish national home and the history of Zionist construction and settlement in Ottoman and mandatory times. Arabs were quick to say that they should not be made to suffer because of the Holocaust, as though Jews had no other claim on the land. The Islamic Republic of Iran may or may not be preparing second Holocaust for the Jewish people, but the fact is that talking about it is not going to do much good and won't convince many non-Jews that Iran is dangerous. Explaining that Iran oppresses women and homosexuals, and that Iran is seeking "A world without America" is probably going to be much more effective.
  • "Anti-Semitism," like the Holocaust, has been overused and abused. It should be applied only when appropriate and when its use can be defended. A person who is opposed to the Israeli occupation is not an anti-Semite unless they use anti-Semitic terminology and ideas. A person who claims "Zionists" control the world or the U.S. government really is an anti-Semite.

"Advocacy" that brands all liberals or Democratic party voters as anti-Israel people with dangerous "leftist" ideas. Over half the American public voted for the Democratic party in the last election. Most of those people support Israel Don't lose half your audience for no reason. Anti-Zionists are quite happy to label all Zionists as "neo-cons." Don't fall into their trap.

Get the Facts Straight

You must get your facts right. For example, don't tell people that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened to wipe Israel off the map. He never said that - it was a mistranslation. He said things that were just as bad or worse, but he did not say, "Wipe Israel off the map." If you attribute that to him, you may lose credibility. You will let yourself in for a very long and irrelevant debate about the different versions of what he said, and you will lose the debate. Don't insist that there were no Arabs in the land of Israel before the Zionists arrived. The population figures say otherwise. Don't claim that Arabs started all the wars. Literally, it is not true, though Israel had sufficient cause for the Suez Campaign and the Six-Day War.

Learn to Shut up when Necessary

In some situations, the biggest contribution that one can make to Zionist advocacy is to shut up. Knowing when to shut up is important. It is the most important part of "doing no harm."


A hostile telephone interviewer - You are being interviewed live by an interviewer who is badgering your or twisting your words, and who will not let you get your point across or even finish a sentence, Say politely, "It was nice talking to you, but I'm afraid I have to go now," and hang up as graciously as possible. Interviewers are usually very good at what they do and unless you are adroit, you aren't going to outsmart the vicious ones.

Impaired capacity - An anti-Zionist interviewed drunken American students in an Israeli bar. He got them to cuss out President Obama, use racial slurs and exhibit their gross ignorance. One "expert" didn't know who Benjamin Netanyahu is. If you have such views and they can't be corrected, please don't share them in the name of Zionism or Israel. Never give an interview when your judgment is impaired. The cameras were rolling. Over 600,000 people saw these interviews of "racist Zionists." Even after the video had become infamous, the same interviewer was able to entrap a second set of people.

Hostile media - Hostile media routinely go to the West Bank, find the most extreme group of English speaking settlers imaginable. They get them to make statements that paint Israel as a state of religious fanatics more extreme than the Islamic Republic of Iran. If you live in the West Bank, and can't speak responsibly and give a representative view, please do not give interviews. You are not helping your cause. You are certainly not helping Zionism or the state of Israel by making extreme statements. Even if you do give a reasonable interview, be aware that your words may be excerpted, twisted and distorted. If you have to give an interview, be sure to emphasize that you are for peace and justice, but that you think Jewish rights need to be respected as well as Palestinian Arab rights.

Advocacy as War

There are two aspects to advocacy. One of them is simply spreading basic information to interested parties. Do not make assumptions about the motives or political positions of those parties that are not warranted. Arabs and Muslims are not necessarily anti-Israel. An Arab wrote and asked for a book that explains Zionism. He just wanted to know. A Muslim wanted information about Judaism and Zionism in order to make a documentary dispelling common anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic slanders.

However, the second aspect of advocacy is very much adversarial. "The enemy" are anti-Israel groups that were formed precisely for that purpose, anti-Zionist groups using various issues to try to discredit the Zionist idea or anti-Semitic groups "taking a ride" on the Israel-Arab conflict. The war is conducted using all the strategies and principles that are set forth in books of strategy beginning with the "Art of War" by Sun Tzu. (http://www.chinapage.com/sunzi-e.html) The most important ones to remember are:

  • When at all possible, choose the battleground and the time - be proactive.
  • Attack where the enemy is weakest.
  • Be on the lookout for opportunities and exploit them.
  • Follow up and reinforce successes.
  • Do not defend hopeless positions.
  • When you are strong act weak.
  • When you are weak, act strong.

Some examples of the above, applied to advocacy:

Choose the battleground - be proactive - Don't wait until there is an "Israel Apartheid Week" on your campus. Initiate a "Middle East Peace week" or a "Human Rights week."

Attack where the enemy is weak - Expose the Palestinian record in peace negotiations and support for terror, where they are weakest, rather than allowing them to drag you into discussions about the latest human rights allegations about the IDF.

Be on the lookout for opportunities and exploit them - When the other makes a mistake or commits an atrocity like burning churches, be sure people know about it.

Follow up and reinforce successes - If you succeeded in stopping a boycott initiative in your university, make sure people know about it, and help others to do the same in their university or union.

Do not defend hopeless positions - If you are alone in an auditorium full of Kaffiyeh clad students yelling "one state, one state, Kulu al Ard Arabi!" (all the land is Arab) don't start a fight. Get out.

When you are strong, act weak - People sympathize with the underdog. Never announce that you are bringing vast resources to bear against the anti-Israel camp, even if you somehow have such resources. Don't announce "Public Relations" campaigns. Let the other side be surprised.

When you are weak, act strong - Groups composed of only a few enthusiasts or extremists have often created the impression of being an important  movement. They demonstrate, attract publicity, claim a wide following and pretty soon they may really have one. Anti-Israel extremists do it all the time. They tell reporters, "We represent the silent majority of progressive Americans who are sick and tired of the Zionist Occupied Government." In reality, the group may have three members. Every large group had to start as a small one.  

Advocates of the anti-Israel cause have succeeded so well in part because they have internalized and applied each and every one of the above maxims, and because they focus on outreach, rather than preaching to the convinced. They cultivate churches, unions and women's groups and others that are not Arab or Muslim, and aren't intrinsically interested in their cause. They also implement another of Sun Tzu's maxims on a grand scale: Deception. 


Sun Tzu stated "All warfare is based on deception." Palestinians and Anti-Israel groups have internalized and practiced this percept at all levels. Hamas and the Fatah have used ambulances to transport terrorists and arms, and Hamas leaders hid in a hospital during the 2008 Gaza War. Propaganda groups then claimed that Israel committed "war crimes" by attacking ambulances. The boycott and divestment campaign, ostensibly aimed at "ending the occupation" is really aimed at ending Israel. Though the goal is usually hidden, a quote from a meeting of anti-Israel activists is revealing. The boycott and divestment campaign is meant to block the two state solution:

http: //www.badil.org/Campaign/Expert_Forum/Haifa/Summary.htm

In the past, we used to assume that our struggle has two stages: the struggle against occupation and struggle for a just solution of the conflict and peace. We used to say that the end of occupation will not bring about an end of the conflict, but is a condition for the latter. We had short term and long term objectives, i.e. ending the occupation by means including armed struggle vs. the debate over one- or two state solutions. The idea was that the final settlement should take place in a peaceful context rather than within armed struggle.


Now that we face the paradox of a so-called ‘two-state solution’ without an end to occupation...

Translating from their jargon, they intended to first end the occupation and then end Israel as part of a "just solution."

The speaker continued:

About sanctions/boycott campaigns as a necessary means:

- The legitimacy of Israel’s regime must be challenged for its racism on the one hand, and its colonialist character on the other. The only way this regime can be brought to collapse is from outside. We have to call for boycott and sanctions against Israel.

The speaker gave these interesting instructions:

Divestment, sanctions and boycott campaigns should be launched in ways that best fit the specific circumstances of organizers and their constituency...

Translated into regular English, that means, tell whatever lies you have to tell in order to convince people to support boycott and sanctions.

Faked photos, fabricated "Zionist quotes" like the recently exposed "quote" of Moshe Yaalon, the fake Amos Oz Sharon interview and others, fabricated massacres as in Jenin, organized violence like the Second Intifadah disguised as a "spontaneous uprising," exaggerations of Israeli misconduct in the 2008 Gaza war - all these are part of the repertoire. There is an ongoing fable about the "Gaza Siege" that is supposedly causing a "humanitarian crisis." To support it, candle-light vigils protest electricity cuts, but electric lights are visible in the background. Photos and videos show full shops amidst the supposed "famine." We must expose the deceptions wherever possible. We should keep in mind that they are usually not that effective. Despite the propaganda about the "Gaza Siege" aimed at legitimizing the Hamas, western countries have not yet been moved to recognize the Hamas regime, and even Egypt has not opened the Gaza border. Everyone understands what the game is about. 

We cannot, should not, and do not need to lie. Palestinian lies, when exposed, are shrugged off by media or excused as the last resort of the weak. Any error or attempt at deception in Israel advocacy is immediately pounced upon as a "Zionist PR" trick. The excuse is that "we expect more from Israel." Unlike its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians, Israel is an open and democratic society with a free press. Our own side will not let us lie. Israeli journalists and historians are often to the first to expose deceptions. Sometimes they "expose" deceptions that never happened as well.

Leave the lies to the other side, and expose their lies. Tell the truth, but do not be naive about telling the truth, because the other side is not going to be naive either. A hostile interview or panel discussion is not a pristine academic forum. They are going to distort any unfavorable information or speculation you give them about Israel. There is no need to give them ammunition, especially if you cannot put it into context, and most especially if you are not sure of your facts. "I heard from another soldier that a third soldier said that in his unit some people looted Arab homes" is going to be taken by an anti-Israel audience as a statement of fact, regardless of whether or not it really happened. It will be taken as characteristic of IDF behavior even if it only happened one time. Be aware of the limitations of your audience and the ways in which statements that are quite true and not necessarily harmful can be misunderstood by people who do not have sufficient knowledge, or twisted by those who wish to distort what you say.


Don't Telegraph Your Punches

We are engaged in a war, and the other side views it as such and acts accordingly. While we cannot and should not lie, discretion and good judgment about tactics are obviously needed. Israel advocacy groups and Israel government agencies often announce far and wide that they are starting an Israel advocacy or Public Relations campaign. This is done by press releases and media events. These are often the only visible product of their activities ever. Officials need to show they are doing something and groups need to raise money and support. These announcements provide an excellent target for anti-Israel activists who are quick to announce that the "Israel Lobby" is going to spend a lot of Zionist money to lie to people and use the "Zionist controlled press" to "shut out the truth" about Israel and Zionism. An announcement that you are going to be doing "Public Relations" and "image improvement" can be, and is, interpreted to mean that you are not sincere and that you are about to engage in lies and trickery. Advocacy for a cause or providing information is not "Public Relations" in the sense of spin doctoring and should never be confused with it.

Advocacy for a cause or providing information is not "Public Relations" in the sense of spin doctoring and should never be confused with it.

Be Proactive Rather than Reactive

A frequent question of volunteer Israel advocates, too frequent, is something like this: "X has just published a book claiming that all Zionists have horns and tails, how do I counter it?" or "The Drive-em-into-the-sea group is running a 'Zionism is Racism' week at our university, what should we do?" The best answer, though it is not always accepted, is "be pro-active." If people are already familiar with our side of the story, have the basic facts and are at least vaguely sympathetic, then the Zionism is Racism week and the book about Zionists with horns and tails is not going to have much effect. If on the other hand, you spend all your time trying to debunk fake Zionist quotes in the latest anti-Zionist book, you will find yourself in a hopeless endeavor. The other side can invent a new fib every minute, and it may take a month to disprove each one. Of course, you should be picketing outrageous "one state" events and debunking books about the "Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine," but don't expect that that type of activity will win many new friends for Israel. At the most, it will limit the damage a bit. Think carefully about why you are not convinced by the latest anti-Israel book or the university Israel apartheid week. You didn't get convinced by some counter-pickets. . In subsequent chapters, we will explore how opinions are really formed - they are not formed just by reading a few bits of propaganda.

You have a complex set of knowledge - basic facts and views about Israel, built up over many years, that tells you that these people cannot possibly be right. That's what prevents you from falling prey to propaganda. It is that sort of basic knowledge, that schema of the way the world works, that narrative, that we must impart to others. It can only be done by proactive education and advocacy. Proactive advocacy is the only real way to counter fallacious propaganda.

Advocacy manuals that consist of an aggregation of answers to "tough questions" are reactive. A strategy that is based only on such manuals is going to fail. It allows the other side to choose the "battleground" - the issues, which are often red herrings or fake slogans, and it allows them to attack where we are weakest. Avoid participation in panels that discuss loaded questions like "Removing the Israel Apartheid Wall" or hostile interviewers. You are being used. You are going to find yourself answering questions of the type of, "How often do you beat your wife?" - go explain that you aren't married. If you are exclusively reactive, you are always going to be fighting the enemy on grounds they choose You will be fending off attacks where you are weakest, and where they have meticulously prepared their case. You have to be prepared for these situations, but they can't be the basis of your entire advocacy program.

Proactive advocacy is the only real way to counter fallacious propaganda.

Be pro-active - If you understand the basic principles of advocacy and persuasion, you are in a better position to define the issues and chose them. Set the "battle field" and make sure the other side has to answer tough questions about their positions. Putting across a coherent view or "narrative" requires a coordinated effort by a large organization or organizations, which is notably lacking in the field of Israel advocacy. The last chapter in this guide gives a few examples of possible pro-active campaigns and issues.

Even in reactive and hostile situations, if you are skilled in presenting materials, can think on your feet in debate, and understand the major points, you can turn the situation around. Move the debate away from red-herring "issues," like "proportionality" and empty slogans about "Israel Apartheid," into the substantive issues and the unacceptable positions of the other side that these smokescreens are meant to avoid.


You are a Zionist, Not Zionism

Be careful to distinguish your own views on specific issues from those of the Zionist movement or the state of Israel. That frees you from the burden of defending policies you may not like and allows you to speak your mind freely (within the bounds of good taste and civility) and honestly. It frees Israel and Zionism from being saddled with your ideas in the minds of your audience.


Stick to the Zionist Issues- "What business are we in?"

Don't ever prostitute Zionism or Israel advocacy in order to advance a different cause or a political party or issue that have nothing to do with Zionism or Israel. Don't tell people that "Candidate X is good for Israel" has anything to do with Zionist advocacy unless it is provably true. Zionism and Israel have nothing to do one way or the other with most American or other foreign local issues such as abortion, gay marriage, drilling for oil in Alaska, or global warming. Don't use mailing lists constructed for Zionism in order to "push" these other issues or sell "I am a conservative" T shirts.

Zionism is not anti-Islam and should not be confused with anti-Islam campaigns and "Islamophobia" or identified with them. However, radical Islamism is unabashedly anti-Semitic as well as anti-Zionist, and manifestations of racism in the Muslim and Arab world need to be pointed out. When Israel is attacked for "human rights violations", it is legitimate and necessary to point out egregious oppression of minorities, women, gay people and Christians in Muslim and Arab societies. However, campaigns against the Qur'an or the Muslim religion, have nothing to do with Zionism and must be separated from them. Do not identify Zionism or Israel advocacy with anti-Muslim politicians, academic figures, and spokespersons.

Sticking to the program is a basic tenet of business administration. If you are in doubt about an issue, always ask yourself, "What business are we in?" You are not in the Muslim bashing business or the anti-abortion business or the global warming business or the anti-global warming business or the Democratic or Republican Party business. Make allies with anyone who will listen, but keep focused on your business - defending Israel and propagating the Zionist idea. Don't make needless enemies by announcing positions on irrelevant issues and defending them.


Z-Word J-Word and H Word

"Jew" has always been a word with bad connotations unfortunately, but we are stuck with it. The entire point of Zionism is the right of national self determination for Jews.  A tenacious campaign has turned "Zionist" into an equally bad word. It is usually and not too subtly used as a synonym for "Jewish." It is pointless to try to evade the problem, because whatever we call ourselves, the same groups will attach the similar sets of slanders to the term. The "Jew Zionist" business is the business we are in.

"Hasbara" has also undeniably assumed a very negative connotation, as has Israel advocacy. Anti-Israel groups, to hear them tell it, are never doing "advocacy" or "PR," they are simply "explaining their position," and "demanding their rights." Be ready to expose their techniques and pretences.

Be aware of these issues and the problems they will cause, even if we do not have a good solution right now, but don't pretend you aren't Jewish if you are, or aren't Zionist. Present your case and explain that you are fighting for your rights and for justice.

Be efficient and focus your efforts

Ask yourself if what you are doing is the best use of your time and limited resources. Size of your audience is one criterion, but not the only one. Not everyone can address a nationwide TV audience or write an editorial for the New York Times.

Commenting in talkbacks is not usually a substitute for advocacy. It is important to comment from time to time in certain well-read venues, but that should not be the organized focus of your advocacy activity. Occasionally, talkbacks may be read and discussed, but usually they are forgotten. If the issue you are addressing is marginal and the people who read your comments are not likely to be convinced by them, then you are probably wasting your time. Voting in Internet polls is always a waste of time. Polls in Al-Jazeera,net will always be anti-Israel and polls in Jerusalem Post will invariably be pro-Israel. One enterprising person or group produced a fake polling site that was touted for months as a "CNN poll." The only purpose of the site was to draw partisans who would click on the advertising. If you can spend that time developing your own Web log or speaking to a university group or writing a letter or article for your local newspaper, you are far more likely to have an impact. If you are known from your own writing, your occasional comments will also have more importance.

If some obscure anti-Israel group started a tiny Web site or action group around an issue that isn't attracting much attention, there is no point in "going after them" because very likely you will only succeed in getting them some publicity. Any publicity is usually good publicity for a small group. That's true for your small group as well.

Make certain you have an issue

Do not start a petition to boycott France or Germany over "Anti-Semitism" or anti-Israel actions unless you are certain that the facts of the case are correct. Don't start a campaign over a "false" Palestinian allegation if the IDF has already admitted it is true and if there is proof that it is true.

There are numerous ways to check allegations. Never send out e-mails or start an initiative based on the say-so of one person whom you think is a "reliable source." Check on the Web and ask others for advice. Use the Google search engine to look for mentions of the issue with the word hoax. For example, search for Holocaust teaching in UK hoax. Look up the issue in www.snopes.com and urbanlegends.com, which often list such hoaxes.


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

Not in My Name - Don't Let Extremists Hijack Zionism

Was Israel Founded Because of the Holocaust??

The Two State Solution is the only solution for peace

External Zionism Links

This site provides resources about Zionism and Israeli history, including links to source documents. We are not responsible for the information content of these sites. These links are NOT intended to be an exhaustive reference about Zionism, but the list will keep growing...

Please tell us about your favorite links and we will review them for inclusion.

Please do copy and use materials from this Web site, but please be careful to credit the Zionism pages and link to us. Please do copy materials from this site, especially these links to your Web site,  giving credit to  http://www.zionism-israel.com Zionism and Israel Information Center

Sister sites  http://zionism.netfirms.com Zionism Pages  and Zionism On the Web

 Thank you.

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


Dvar Dea - Israel & Zionist advocacy

Realistic Religious Zionism - moderate religious Zionist Web site

ZioNation - Zionism-Israel Web Log    Israel News  Israel: like this, as if Christian Zionism Albert Einstein Bible Palestine Nakba 1948 Israel Independence - Birth of a Nation Six Day War War of Independence History of Zionism Zionism FAQ Zionism Israel Center Maps of Israel Jew Zionism and its Impact Israel Christian Zionism Site Map

Presenting Zionism - Zionist advocacy