Justice for Jews and Israel
Handbook of Israel Advocacy
This handbook is for Israel advocates, primarily volunteers. It is intended to give you better grounding and awareness of what you should be trying to accomplish, why it is worthwhile and how to accomplish it.
Advocacy is best done by devoted amateurs who are convinced that their cause is right. An ideal or an ideology cannot be sold with gimmicks as if it was hand cream or feminine hygiene products. If you don't believe in the ideals, you will not be able to convince anyone else. Why would you want to do advocacy if you do not believe in the cause? However, amateur enthusiasm must be backed by professional know-how and experience.
A brief summary of main points that characterize our approach is here: Be a Proud Zionist.
If you don't believe in the ideals, you will not be able to convince anyone else.
Statement of Need
Since the foundation of the state of Israel and particularly in the last decade, there has been a dangerous and steady erosion in international perceptions regarding the legitimacy of Israel. Concomitantly, there is an erosion of support for Israel on particular issues in both the United States and Europe. The two problems are intimately related.
Ideas that used to be relegated to lunatic fringe groups have become popular in the United States and Europe. You can see and feel the problem. It expresses itself in openly hostile media, in popular books by political personalities and others with titles like "Israel Apartheid" and "Israel lobby." Popular British magazines see nothing wrong with showing a US flag with Jewish stars to illustrate "Zionist control," or a cartoon of an Israeli Prime Minister eating Palestinian children.
Even so-called "Jewish" groups are willing to express support for the genocidal Hamas in one way or another. A check of search engine results for keywords like "Zionism" or "Israel Apartheid" reveals a nightmare. Dozens of groups and Web sites "explain" the "pernicious" nature of Zionism, expound on imaginary Jewish and Zionist control of Europe and the USA and urge boycotts and divestment from Israel. The miasma is caused by a concerted effort to delegitimize the idea of Jewish self-determination and it is not confined to, or due to, a specific issue or action of Israel. Issues are used as platforms to rally support for the basic themes of destroying Israel and Zionism.
There has been a dangerous and steady erosion in international perceptions regarding the legitimacy of Israel.
A New Strategy is Needed
Obviously, whatever Israel advocates have been doing, it has not worked very well. This handbook is predicated on the assumption that Israel advocacy needs to learn from the opposition and from our own mistakes and build a new strategy, based on these principles:
Outreach - Jews constitute 2% of U.S. population, and are even a smaller minority in Europe. It is absurd and hopeless to try to build an advocacy network or a movement based exclusively on this tiny and often socially isolated minority. Unfortunately, that is what Israel advocacy movements do. Their messages are directed at Jews, often in closed forums or "Jewish" venues such as Hillel. They think they are doing Israel advocacy, when at most they might be doing "Jewish education." We have to reach the vast majority of people, who are not Jewish. This can only be done by advocacy that is conscious that it is talking to the world and doesn't label itself as extremist and by forming strategic alliances with non-Jewish groups that have common interests. That's how anti-Israel advocates, themselves a tiny minority originally, managed to get the attention of church groups, unions, students and academics.
Universal message - Israel is not just about Jews. It is about freedom, social progress, democracy and other ideals that appeal to large groups in the Western world. Our message has to be couched in these terms.
Proactive - Israel advocacy seems to focus on protesting this or that outrageous claim or initiative or trying to shut up obnoxious views. Usually these activities only give more publicity to the views they are trying to protest. People are only persuaded by proactive advocacy that tells a coherent story. It provides a schema and narrative that people use to understand the world. Once they are persuaded of a particular viewpoint, they won't change their mind because of a single book, article, demonstration or initiative. Proactive advocacy has to tell our story at the time and place of our choosing. Let the other side scramble to react.
Basic Information - The various "issues" that are raised from time to time are used by smart advocacy as vehicles for building a movement. In reality, what is important is to use the issues to impart basic information, which people lack in order to make informed judgments. The purpose of the proactive initiatives is not just to "win" on a particular issue, but to educate the public about all the issues, and to change their perception of Israel.
Focus on the core issue - In reality, there has only ever been one set of issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict: recognition that the Jews are a people, recognition of the historic rights of the Jewish people in the land and recognition of the right of the Jewish people to self determination in our own country. In other words, acceptance of Zionism as a legitimate movement. All the "issues" and boycott initiatives, books and pamphlets written by anti-Zionists are in the final analysis, about the core issue and their goal of delegitimizing the Zionist movement. All stands on the different issues depend on the answer to the question of whether the Jews are in the land by right, on sufferance, or because of a monstrous mistake. If we have no right to be here, then of course we have no right to defend ourselves, no right to live in Jerusalem and no right to live in Tel Aviv for that matter. Proactive Israel advocacy has to focus on this central issue. There is no way to do advocacy for Israel and avoid saying we are Zionists and no reason to do so. When we do reactive advocacy, we let the other side use issues to delegitimize Zionism. Rachel Corrie is not the issue and neither is Muhammed al Dura. The issue is whether or not the Jewish people exist and have a right to a national home in Israel. Anti-Israel activists have convinced the world that the "issue" is Israeli occupation, and propose to end it by ending Zionism. We must reframe the discussion.
Advocacy vs "PR" - Advocacy can only succeed if the people doing it are sincere and enthusiastic. Advocacy for a cause is not "Public Relations." We can't sell Zionism like laundry detergent or soft drinks. PR campaigns (like the "branding campaign") backfire because people are conscious that they are being manipulated. PR usually gets far away from the core issue and becomes irrelevant. So what if we have pretty girls and thriving businesses and help sick people around the world? If we did not belong here, if we stole the land from its rightful owners, it would not matter.
Grass Roots - Top-down advocacy through "honored leaders" worked in the closed societies of nineteenth century Europe. Such "lobbying" is still the mainstay of Israel advocacy. In open societies where information is spread by the Web and cell phones, it is a fossilized anachronism.
The Internet - The Web is a major tool of advocacy and dissemination of information for every cause except Israel and Zionism. Zionist groups continue to treat their Web sites as after thoughts, not as communication tools. Since mainstream journalism is now moving to the Web en masse, it can no longer be ignored.
Getting Information about Israel and Zionism
This document is about principles of advocacy. It provides a few examples of specific issues and events. It shows how they are used and abused in advocacy. However, the range and depth of information about the conflict, the history and the issues that you need to know are very large. It could not possibly be presented in one document. Don't despair, you will always be learning! Use articles at Zionism & Israel and elsewhere, history books and other materials to find the information you need. The Stand With Us Israel 101 booklet has a very competent introductory summary and survey of the history and issues. ADL has published a condensed reference survey of the issues intended for Israel advocates.
Brief History of Israel, Palestine and the Israel-Palestinian Conflict is a fairly balanced (not "Zionist") historical summary. There is also a summary of the history of Zionism at Zionism & Israel. These two documents are also hyperlinked to various in depth articles and source materials.
These summaries should be supplemented by extensive, in-depth study. Especially if you do not have access to a good library, learn how to do research using the facilities of the Web. Materials on the Web now include scientific journals available to those with university or other special accounts. It is not quite a substitute for a library yet, but the Web can provide you with a pretty fair education in the issues.
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.
More Commentary about Zionism
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.comZionism Pages and Zionism On the Web
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:
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