Justice for Jews and Israel
Handbook of Israel Advocacy
Advocacy that does not attract adherents and attention is not accomplishing its goal. The problem of advocacy is not just to formulate logical positions, but to popularize them and to persuade: to tell the world and get them to understand. Very often the resources available to volunteers are very limited and they must work with what they have, rather than with what is desirable or needed.
This chapter and the following ones on grass roots activism and use of the Web are about the "how" of advocacy. They show you how to implement the principles explained in previous chapters. At the nuts and bolts level, the Web site, rally, article or television appearance for which you are frantically preparing, is your "goal." But you always need to keep in mind the larger goals that the particular tactic or issue serves. Remember too that "techniques" or "tactics" should never be a euphemism or lying or deceptive practices. Techniques and tactics are about how to make the truth shine through and how to spread the word.
At the same time, remember that in practical work, details count - and there are a lot of them. The best Web site with the best information is worthless if you do not know how to promote it and ensure that you will get visitors. The rally for the best possible cause will not attract any people if you neglected to write what city the rally is in (a frequent failure) or what time it is supposed to happen, or if you didn't provide transportation to a remote location.
Thes chapters are oriented to North America. Specifics of political organization, culture of demonstrations and university behavior and other conditions may be different in other parts of the world, including UK and continental Europe. However, the principles are often the same.
Advocacy activities have a number of tactical goals:
Each of the above requires somewhat different tactics and approaches. When done well, activities and initiatives can serve all the goals. When done poorly, they may conflict. Focusing too much on mobilizing existing opinion and drawing people to a particular group may discourage cooperation with competition. It may make a message that is too narrow, extreme and particularist to appeal to a broad audience. Suppose for example, that the Palestine Islamic committee to drive the Jewish sons of dogs and apes into the sea needs to raise money. It also needs to attract outsiders such as church groups. On the one hand, calls to Jihad and promises to liberate Tel Aviv are very effective in gathering the hard core of the faithful and attracting funds from Wahhabi oil Sheikhs. On the other hand, such calls may repel broader sectors of the population in the United States, that have to be sold a message of "human rights" and "Palestinian suffering."
The last goal, making your group grow, should be achieved as a byproduct of serving the main cause. It is the least important from the point of view of serving the cause. However, organization-centered promotion often becomes the paramount activity. It drives all others because of the realities and economics of advocacy. Advocacy requires labor, much of which is not available for free, and advocacy requires money. An organization is set up. The salaried employees of that organization often spend a large part of their effort in raising more money to support their salaries - "development" rather than in publicizing the cause itself. A considerable quantity of their publicity is devoted to showing how much their group did and why they are worthy of support by their own public, to the exclusion of "competition" For cultural and sociological reasons, this seems to be truer of Zionist advocacy organizations. At that point the organization is no longer doing Israel advocacy. It exists to support itself. It does advocacy for their own group rather than advocacy for Zionism and Israel. It refuses to cooperate with other groups.
The necessary revolution in Israel advocacy
Zionist and Israel advocacy outside the Jewish community has usually relied on expensive organizations and on targeting of governments and opinion makers. This approach evolved in a European culture of autocracy and racial and religious oppression, where Jews were not really part of the community. They communicated with the community leaders through their own leaders. Jews may be very prominent in grass roots advocacy for peace, social justice and civil rights, but grass roots Jewish Zionism and Israel advocacy are almost completely lacking. They seem to go against ingrained cultural habits. In modern European and North American society, that is surely an anachronism. The only real way to build solid support for an idea in a democracy is through grass roots activism, rather than by addressing centers of power through power brokers. Israel advocacy cannot be effective without a large grass roots movement that does the normal things that grass roots movements do, and that involves large segments of the community who support Israel, not just handfuls of Jews.
The best things in life are free
Especially in times of economic hardship, grass roots activism and voluntarism become a vital factor in pleading your cause. Large organizations require an infrastructure and overhead. A dedicated corps of volunteers can often minimize the need for money and make the same investment provide a much more effective return. Computers and printers, available in virtually every home, allow production of printed material that in the past would require a lot of money to print. Blogging is free, and Web sites can be set up at low cost as a means to disseminate information. A Web site that costs $30 a year and is staffed by volunteers can reach a million people in that year. A colored brochure that cost $5,000 to produce may be seen by a thousand people, most of whom discard it without reading. E-mail communication can eliminate the need for a physical office. Social networking applications like Twitter and Facebook are creating a revolution in the way information and opinions are disseminated. Technology has allowed volunteers to leverage their labor into far more influence than ever before.
Some advocacy organizations are far more effective than others, even though their budget is much smaller. The difference is often in how the successful organizations can use grass roots techniques to mobilize unpaid volunteers, how well they use the Web and Internet, how successful they are in employing creative strategies that attract the attention of media and provide free publicity,
The Tools, Tactics and Techniques
In building a political movement your aim is both to convince and to organize. The organizational aspect consists of compiling ever-larger lists of contacts who are going to support your work, and of gathering resources to help generate various initiatives and publicities.
The Contact List
A central tool of advocacy work is the contact list and a great part of your time should be expended on making that list grow. The contact list or lists are the basis of any political organization as they are the basis of any marketing organization. The Web is often a good place to recruit new contacts through newsletters, petitions and sign up forms. However, for local activities, you will need to identify those of your contacts who live in your area, and it is usually better to gather such contacts through local demonstrations, petitions and tables that might be set up at a public event or university.
The contact list is your means of organizing and directing activities, calling for volunteer support, running letter-writing campaigns and any other directed activity, as well as being a means to project your point of view through newsletters. Be careful not to abuse the contact list and the people on it, who have placed their trust in you, by releasing their information for use by others, or by using the list to propagandize for political candidates or causes unrelated to Zionism. There is no official Zionist position on global warming, abortions in the United States, health care in the United States or other domestic issues; these issues have nothing to do with defending Zionism or Israel.
The way in which you identify your movement, cause, publication or Web site depends on its nature and on your goals. Are you conciliatory or confrontational? Are you trying to mobilize people who are already sympathetic, or are you trying to attract outsiders? Are you trying to legitimize a specific terminology or term or are you trying to sell an issue?
Communist Party of the USA - it says what it is right on the label and attracts the convinced and sympathizers.
- These are typical names for Stalinist front groups, some real and some invented. They were intended to appeal to a wider audience that would be repelled by a "communist" label.
Electronic Intifada - Attracts sympathizers and legitimizes a term that really stands for violence and terrorism.
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - There is nothing in the title of this publication to indicate that it deals exclusively with anti-Israel and anti-Zionist propaganda, as though the Israeli - Palestinian conflict is the only issue in the Middle East. Nor is its bias evident from the title. In its own way, it is every bit as vicious and biased as Electronic Intifada.
DrivetheZioNazisIntoTheSea - The goal is in the name of this Yahoo group.
International Solidarity Movement - An innocent sounding name for a group that has about the same goal as DrivetheZioNazisIntoTheSea.
Al-Awda - "The Return" - basically, still the same goal as DrivetheZioNazisIntoTheSea. The Arabic name tells us that the group is focused on a particular audience.
http://www.jihadonline.bravepages.com/ - is there any doubt what they are about?
Alternative Information Center - A group with an ideology that is not much different from DrivetheZioNazisIntoTheSea, but with no hint of that in their name.
Whatever you name your group, Web site or publication, your sympathies will soon be evident to most people. It is hard to get confused between "Palestine Remembered" www.palestineremembered.org/ and "Palestine Facts" www.palestinefacts.org/ after visiting their Web sites. If you are trying to reach a neutral audience, you will probably need to present a reasonably balanced perspective, not just a neutral or innocent name.
People who tell you that they know what communication channel or method is best, or that "Internet is a waste of time," are leading you astray.
Firstly, you have to ask "Best for what?" A talk to a closed group of 500 invited Zionists is probably the most effective way to raise money for a Zionist cause. However, you are not going to reach many new people who could be converts to your cause.
Some channels and approaches might be a waste of time for most of the things you will be doing. That depends on your goals and on the activity. A campus Hillel group might be a good place to recruit volunteer activists, but you won't make new converts there for Zionism. All the people who would go to Hillel are generally pro-Israel. Of course, if someone shows a film about Israeli "atrocities" at a university Hillel or in a Jewish center or film festival, they are reaching a new audience for that sort of material.
Secondly, you have to ask "Best for whom?" A large organization can buy television or radio advertising time or organize public relations coverage of an event. A small group of volunteers may have no money for any of that. Likewise, while books are wonderful, not everyone can write a book or produce a major motion picture. But almost everyone can make a placard and march in a demonstration or set up a table. Everyone has the money to make a Web log because it is free, or to picket an embassy or give out handouts. The French, American and Soviet revolutions came about without television or the Web.
Books and dramatizations - especially historical novels and dramatizations, works of fiction and history, and likewise movies, can have an enormous influence on public opinion. It is regrettable but true that people may form opinions about conspiracy theories or Jihadist terrorists based on the latest spy thriller. Academic history and analysis books are going to reach fewer people, but those people may be the decision makers.
Examples of books and movies that have undoubtedly affected perceptions of the Middle East, for better or worse:
O Jerusalem - This book by La Pierre and Collins, a factual dramatization, which told the story of Israel's war of Independence in Jerusalem, was so well done that it became a favorite of both Arabs and Zionists.
The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem - Benny Morris's 1987 book that provided the "facts" used by most anti-Zionists to discredit Israel. Morris eventually corrected most of the imbalance in later books and articles, though he never fixed many of the inaccuracies, mauled quotes and disputed assertions.
The Israel Lobby - by Walt and Mearsheimer - a purportedly "Academic" study that is a systematic and groundless smear of Israel and its supporters.
Palestine Peace not Apartheid - Jimmy Carter's ill-informed screed that mainstreamed anti-Israel slogans and Palestinian "narratives" about the conflict.
Rachel, Seven Jewish Children and Jenin, Jenin - These plays and films have spread a lot of fictions as if they were fact. Fortunately, they are not mass appeal films.
Exodus, Cast a Giant Shadow, Schindler's List and similar movies have brought Zionist and Jewish issues to a large popular audience. Dramatizations are effective in conveying and exciting emotional messages and changing points of view. Madonna's recent (2009) concert in Israel can do more for Israel advocacy than dozens of speeches.
Grass Roots activism and initiatives as communication - Grass roots activism and face-to-face talks are also a "communications channel." Demonstrations, petitions, boycott or anti-boycott initiatives make news and may get wide coverage in different media. An event shown on nationwide television can give your group and your views instant fame or perhaps notoriety, but intimate talks with local groups may be more important in cementing allegiances and making real friends for the cause, and occasionally they will get wider coverage and allow you to publicize your side of the story.
Rallies and "tables" at universities and elsewhere - A local rally is good for influencing local public opinion and forming local grass roots groups in your town or university. No matter how many people you can reach by television, there is no substitute for talking to people face to face. If you can have your rally AND get television and other media coverage for it, then you can benefit from several different channels. Make sure your posters and spokespeople transmit an effective and intelligent message. Palestinian and Muslim groups get coverage for many of their rallies, but it is not clear if they are really helping their cause by people chanting "Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas" or holding up posters that say, "Europe is the Cancer, Islam is the Answer" and "I hate Juice" (Jews).
Format and Presentation
The medium may not be the message, but it is often a big part of getting the message across. Effective format and presentation, adapted for the medium you are using, are important. You know what you want to say. Deciding how to deliver the message is the hard part.
Presentation is nine tenths of the work in marketing and in political advocacy. Many of the same rules apply to advertisements, to a journal you might produce, to handouts and to Web pages. They are rules that apply to audiences that are NOT committed - casual readers whose attention you want to engage:
People do not generally read a lot of text. Use photos and white space extensively.
In a handout or advertisement, you have one page or less to promote your message.
You can only get across one message in one handout or advertisement.
The page should focus on a single message or slogan.
Summary: "One page, one issue, one 'take away' slogan or sentence.
Do not spend money on colored multipage "brochures" as advocacy material - nobody will read them except possibly donors to your organization. Plain white sheets of paper have a better chance of being read.
One page, one issue, one slogan
Advocates produce a wide variety of written content and videos for different purposes: Newspaper and Web site articles, historical materials, advertisements, letters to editors and letters to organizations, histories, fact sheets, brochures, handouts for use in demonstrations, rallies and tables set up at rallies.
The content of all materials you distribute should be accurate, concise, appeal to common values, and avoid divisiveness and un-provable accusations. Hysterical, un-provable assertions repel fair-minded people. Attacking popular American leaders is committing political suicide.
Content can be prepared at different levels for different purposes and audiences. Some content must consist of thoroughly researched academic accounts which should include detailed references. However, advocacy content must follow rules of good journalistic practices, scientific writing and advertising copywriting. That doesn't mean it is "PR" or "hype." It means it has to be interesting, concise and include effective graphics. Even academic papers should follow common sense rules of clarity and conciseness that apply to scientific writing.
The same rules apply for most content.
Keep it Short Stupid
Keep it General
Be personal and concrete
Use credible, accepted sources and provide references
Evil ugly Jew Zionist war criminal
Terror victim: Dangerous Zionist racist settler executed by brave Hamas resistance fighters in the illegal Zionist settlement of Sderot
Appeal to peace, decency and Fair Play
Repeat the same themes in different ways
Use enemy propaganda against them
Make the audience identify with you and your cause Ask for participation Get objective opinions about your presentation
Appeal to peace, decency and Fair Play
Repeat the same themes in different ways
Use enemy propaganda against them
Make the audience identify with you and your cause
Ask for participation
Get objective opinions about your presentation
Many of the videos that our group has reviewed were unconvincing or ineffective. Sometimes they unintentionally carried the message of the other side. One video showed Jerusalem full of orthodox Jews. The message people got: it's an issue for religious fanatics, and we think Jerusalem is only for Jews. Another video that intended to be pro-Israel was apparently hijacked by Palestinian activists who got the best of their interviewers. They were able to use the video to convince people of the Palestinian viewpoint.
Contact - Always make sure that your organization and contact information, including a Web site and email address, are visible somewhere.
Bad Content - a Case Study
Here is an example of bad content. It is deliberately chosen because it seems to be very popular with Israel advocates - but only with Israel advocates. It is adversarial, makes unsupportable assertions and will repel most neutral observers. Comments in red point out specific errors and assertions that outsiders may find to be obnoxious. They undermine the credibility of valid claims. The document is so very popular that it has been posted at various Web sites with different authors, and in perhaps slightly different versions. It is posted here anonymously and here with the supposed author's name and elsewhere with various provenances given.
This exercise may be painful for you if you are a great enthusiast of the Zionist cause. Remember that the aim of advocacy is not to convince or satisfy you and your friends, but to bring our case to ever widening circles of people.
The document sets up straw men for the opposition to shoot down, and is a fairly good way to ruin the Zionist case by making extravagant and abrasive claims.
As an exercise, how could you get across the same or similar points with accurate information that would be accepted by a neutral audience?
Here is the document, with comments in red.
A Crash Course in the Real Facts.
Mayer Gniwisch (2 Apr 2001)
1. Nationhood and Jerusalem Israel became a nation in 1312 B.C.E., two thousand years before the rise of Islam.
Comment - Islam is not a nation but a religion and community, so the relevance of the assertion is not clear. It is comparing apples and pears. There is no record that can determine when Israel became a nation and according to what definition. Certainly not with the accuracy claimed above. After forming a kingdom under David, the Jewish commonwealth soon split into two separate kingdoms. Despite the title, no facts are given about Jerusalem which was not completely conquered until the time of King David.
Comment -The Fatah movement
was formed in 1957, before the Six-Day war. It spoke of the "Palestinian
People." Moreover as early as 1913 there was an Arabic journal with the name
Comment -The date of the Jewish conquest is unclear. It is certain that Jews did not have "dominion" over the land during the time of the Babylonian exile, and they lost dominion again in the conquest of Alexander. It was restored as a protectorate under the Maccabees, but the entire period of Jewish dominion could not add up to a 1,000 years.
4. The only Arab dominion since the conquest in 635 C.E. lasted no more than 22 years.
Comment - Palestine was conquered by Umar in about 637. Thereafter it was ruled by various Arab dynasties continuously until its conquest by the Seljuk Turks about 1080 - for several hundred years, not 22 years. After that, it was under Crusader or Ottoman Turkish dominion, with the exception of the Mongol invasions. http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/palestine.html
5. For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit.
Comment - Some of this could make a good point, but according to tradition, King David conquered Jerusalem and turned it into the capital about 1,000 BCE, and 3,300 years have not elapsed since then. Prior to that time the capital was in various places, when there was one. From 70 AD, Jerusalem was not the capital of any Jewish state, because there was no such state until 1948.
6. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in Tanach, the Jewish Holy Scriptures. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.
Comment - The statement is evidently intended to show the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, but as it stands it is not clear what this proves - Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran, but the Quran does mention "the furthest mosque" - taken to be the mosque in Jerusalem. If someone writes a book that mentions Paris a thousand times, do they get to own Paris?
7. King David founded the city of Jerusalem. Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.
Comment - Muslims assert that Muhammad did fly to Jerusalem. Parts of Jerusalem had been under Jewish rule since the days of Joshua, though it was not the capital of any Jewish state then. According to the Old Testament, the city was founded as Jebus by the Jebusites, not by King David.
Comment - This argument about
religious ritual has no place in a document discussing national rights in a
city. The argument, out of context, looks like Jonathan Swift's satirical
comment on wars between those who open eggs from the large end versus those who
open eggs from the small end. .
9. Arab and Jewish Refugees: In 1948 the Arab refugees were encouraged to
leave Israel by Arab leaders promising to purge the land of Jews. Sixty-eight
percent left without ever seeing an Israeli soldier.
10. The Jewish refugees were forced to flee from Arab lands due to Arab brutality, persecution and pogroms.
Comment - True.
11. The number of Arab refugees who left Israel in 1948 is estimated to be around 630,000. The number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands is estimated to be the same.
Comment - Basically true. The accepted estimates of the number of Palestinian
refugees and the number of Jewish refugees are larger. .
12. Arab refugees were INTENTIONALLY not absorbed or integrated into the Arab lands to which they fled, despite the vast Arab territory. Out of the 100,000,000 refugees since World War II, theirs is the only refugee group in the world that has never been absorbed or integrated into their own peoples' lands. Jewish refugees were completely absorbed into Israel, a country no larger than the state of New Jersey.
Comment - Mostly true, but many Jewish refugees fled to the United States,
France and other countries. Not all of them settled in Israel. .
13. The Arab - Israeli Conflict; The Arabs are represented by eight separate nations, not including the Palestinians. There is only one Jewish nation. The Arab nations initiated all five wars and lost. Israel defended itself each time and won.
Comment - The Arabs did not initiate the Sinai campaign. It is not clear that there were five wars (outdated information) and Arabs insist that they won the "October War." The importance of the fact that there are eight or more (or less?) Arab states is not made clear.
14. The P.L.O.'s Charter still calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Israel has given the Palestinians most of the West Bank land, autonomy under the Palestinian Authority, and has supplied them with weapons.
Comment - The P.L.O charter was supposedly revised, though the status of the revisions is unclear. The rest is true.
Comment - What is the
significance of the date cut-off? The basic facts are true. Remember though,
that the other side uses UN bias as "proof" that Israel is an international
pariah that doesn't obey UN resolutions and is a pariah. This point may not be
17. Of the 690 General Assembly resolutions voted on before 1990, 429 were directed against Israel.
Comment - Again, why the date cutoff? What happened after 1990? Did the UN reform?
Comment - True (number of
synagogues given varies). The UN was also silent when the Jews of the old city
of Jerusalem were ethnically cleansed from there. There is a great story of
injustice to Jews in Jerusalem that is not told well, systematically and
19. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians systematically desecrated the ancient Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
20. The U.N. was silent while the Jordanians enforced an apartheid-like
policy of preventing Jews from visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall.
These are incredible times. We have to ask what our role should be. What will we tell our grandchildren we did when there was a turning point in Jewish destiny, an opportunity to make a difference?
Comment - All times are usually incredible. It's always better if you can tell people what we ought to do, rather than just wringing your hands in despair and mouthing clichés!.
Making the Audience Identify with your Cause
Make your audience identify with you and your cause. To do that you must know who your audience is, how to talk their language and what is of concern to them. If you are holding a rally, or a counter-rally, your audience is not the people already on your side (though you would certainly like to identify them in order to enlist them to your cause), nor is it the people who are committed to an anti-Israel position. It is the group in the middle. If you divide the public into "saints, sinners and salvageables" then it is the salvageable group that you want to reach.
Those on our side already may come up to you and ask, "How can I help?" Sign them up to your mailing list and get them involved. Those who hold firm positions on the other side say, "Why should I listen to you?" Donít waste your time on people who just want to give you a hard time. But those in the middle, or those who may not even come to the rally ask, "Why should I care about this?" To get them to care you have to appeal to them in language that resonates with them. Show them that Israel, like the United States and European countries, tolerates diversity and respects individual rights. The goal is show the reader or listener that his or her values are much better represented in Zionism than in the ideologies of the International Solidarity Movement, the Hamas, the al-Awda movement or the Free Gaza Movement.
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