Justice for Jews and Israel
Handbook of Israel Advocacy
This guide explains the details of using the Web in advocacy including creating Web sites and Web logs and popularizing them. Web sites and Web logs are important grass roots tools that cannot be ignored by advocates and advocacy groups. In the past, Web sites were ancillary "addresses" of organizations that did other things, but there is an increasing need for organizations and volunteers that create Web sites whose mission is propagation of information through the Web site. The Web site has become one of the major tools of advocacy.
On the anti-Israel side, we can count Electronic Intifada and Palestine Remembered as such Web sites. On the pro-Israel side there are large Web sites like Jewish Virtual Library and Front Page Magazine and smaller sites like Zionism-Israel.com and palestinefacts.org that may provide basic information as well as topical articles. There are also Israel government Web sites like the Web site of the Israel foreign office and that of the IDF, which provide "official" versions of the information. Organization Web sites increasingly may have basic information and articles as well, like the Web site of the "Stand With Us" organization.
Web logs are appropriate for topical and opinion articles. The largest and best Web logs may do original research such as debunking of media canards. All Web logs serve a positive function if they link to favorable articles and materials, and thus increase the visibility of those materials on the Web. Large Web sites, including organizational sites, may have associated Web logs as well.
Organizational Web sites
A Web site is not a "one time affair" that is set up by a technician or Web design firm and forgotten. It is a living and growing center that should be updated regularly. It must be simple for non-technical members to update your Web site, add new content and new pages and links. A Web log offers the easiest, simplest and cheapest (it's free!) method of providing non-technical Web access, but sites with Content Management Systems can do so as well. A Web log can be part of a Web site, and if need be, it can be the means to provide easy access for non-technical people.
Be sure to exchange links with any group or person who offers to do so - that is the best way to popularize your Web site. Links are important not for the traffic they bring from another Web site, but because they improve the visibility of the Web site in search engines. Search engines are the primary source of visitors to Web sites.
Don't count on the Web site as a means of publicizing events. A Web site is not a local tool, and small Web sites generally reach only a small audience. A page may get a few hundred views at most in a week, and most of those people may be out of your area. However, events can be publicized using search engine advertising directed at people who live in a specific area and linking to a specially prepared target page in the Web site.
Content of a Web site
The Web audience is free to do as it pleases. Give the people what they want, and they will beat a path to your door. The number of visitors your site gets depends on the content of your site. If it is all articles duplicated from other journals, you won't get many visitors, because they will tend to go to the source. Search engines will list the original source first. If you include maps, documents, history and definitions that people can use, they will come to your site, and after they find what they want they may stay to see what you want them to see.
Basic information versus topical articles - Authoritative, reliable and balanced articles about basics of Middle East history and geography, the fundamentals of Zionism and related issues including maps and statistics should be the staples of good Web sites. These articles and materials, properly updated, may get thousands of readers each week for many years, as opposed to a topical article that may be read by 10,000 people before it is more or less obsolete. This difference between topical and basic articles is especially important for smaller Web sites. A CNN news article or an entry by an alpha blogger may get hundreds of thousands of viewers in a day, but an article in your little Web log will not unless you are really lucky. Save your effort for well-constructed and researched information articles and issues pages. A page that presents an issue such as human rights in the Arab and Muslim world or Holocaust denial has just as much "punch" as a topical article, but it will not go out of style very soon. It will continue to get hundreds or even thousands of visitors every week for many years. A site like Jewish Virtual Library that focuses on "Boring" history gets about as many visitors as "hot" news sites, but has far fewer pages. The factual articles do not go out of style.
Authority and reliability - A Web site that provides balanced and correct information is usually going to attract more visitors and convince more people than one that is obviously biased. Your site should have a "fairness and accuracy" policy explaining how you gather information and research your assertions, and announcing that your are prepared to correct inaccuracies. You should be prepared to back up your claims with actions. Even opinion articles should not include erroneous assertions of fact. Check dubious assertions to the best of your ability, though such care is NOT always practiced in professional journalism and accuracy of opinion articles is not always required by standards committees and review boards. Try to provide reasonable documentation for sources of information and always document the sources of quotes.
Don't plagiarize - Don't take material from other Web sites without permission and without credit. You are not helping the Zionist cause that way. You are sabotaging the cause and serving your ego. Duplicated content is discounted in search engines. Web sites that consistently have their content stolen by others may lose audience. They may be forced to close down. Never post any material without giving the source, which you can usually verify on the Web, and if possible get permission.
Format and Presentation - Rules for presentation of Web pages are the same as rules for presentation of all materials. Make the page attractive and attention getting. Use illustrations when possible and try to organize issue pages around a single theme and slogan.
If nobody sees your Web materials, it doesn't matter how good they are. Web page visitors come primarily from Web search engines, though social media referrals may become more important in the future. The Google search engine is the largest source of online traffic for most successful Web sites, except perhaps the largest and those that invest heavily in advertising. A major effort has to be made to optimize your pages for search engines.
A small amount of thought and effort directed at optimization of your Web site can double or triple your audience. The main factors are content and links:
If your page is not among the top ten listings returned by Google for its "keyword" or keywords (for example "Zionism" "Jew" "Palestine Nakba" "Israel Apartheid") it will not get many visitors.
Look at the positioning of http://zionism-israel.com in Google results for each of those keywords. That is not an accident. It took a lot of work. Where is your organization's listing? What other results do you see on those pages? We can all do even better than that. Search Engine Optimization is what makes the difference. It is a mixture of common sense, trial and error and a bit of white magic - and above all, continuous improvement.
You need to choose keywords to optimize carefully. Some keywords are very popular, and some get hardly any traffic. There is no point being number 1 for a search phrase if nobody is searching for it. On the other hand, it is probably hopeless for a small Web site to try to get near the top of the Google list for a popular keyword like Israel.
Interactivity - Any Web site should have a contact function where people can report errors and ask questions, Every such query should get a prompt and courteous response if possible. This is especially true of organizational Web sites. The interactivity function must be maintained even if it brings with it a lot of abuse, spam and irrelevant queries. Failure to provide this function or to reply to inquiries is one of the common errors of Web site management. Web logs should provide a space for comments, even though policing comments and controlling spam can be tedious. You should allow for reasonable discussion. You have no responsibility to allow people to use your site for abusive or racist comments, or for identical comments that they post repeatedly at numerous Web sites and Web logs.
Allowing people to comment at a Web site gives them a feeling that they are participating - because they are. At least one of our commenters also became a blog contributor. Comments, as well as your writing, can also draw others to your Web site or Web log. E-mail queries can help cement a relationship with supporters who are thousands of miles away, provide you with feedback about errors or important information and give people the feeling that a "real person" is behind the virtual site. Of course, organizations and institutions need to reply to queries promptly. You should not spend too much time replying to people who are obviously destructive.
Don't Do this
Never Link to "bad guy" Web sites - Organizations that debunk media articles or critique NGOs frequently link to the original pages or Web sites of the "bad guys." For example, someone writes an article about the anti-Semitic Web site Stormfront. They link to the site and the articles there to show how bad they are. This gives those articles a tremendous boost in search engines. Search engines count the number of links to a page and use that number to determine the position of the page in the results they return for a query. Optimization firms pay hundreds of dollars for such links, but our own organizations give them away for free to the wrong people! If you must link to an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic Web site, use the "rel = nofollow" tag in the link, so search engines will not follow it and will not count it. Like this:
<a href ="http://stormfront.org rel = "nofollow">Stormfront</a>
Never link to bad guy Web sites!
Never Move or remove a Web page or Web site - Each page on your site may get links from many other Web sites. That is why your site has visitors. It took a long time to accumulate those links. If you remove the site or page or change the name, all those links are lost. Your "brand new" Web site, if you have one, will need to start over from scratch. If your domain name is changed or lost, it may be taken by a gambling Web site or a teen porn Web site and anyone who gets to those pages will see "interesting" information. It is not expensive to maintain old domains and sites and it is a good investment. If you own the Web host or have appropriate permissions, you can also use 301 server redirection commands, which permanently redirect from an old URL to a new one when you have changed the file name of page.
Don't rely on a free Web site - Free hosting deals may be withdrawn (as happened to all Geocities users) or may become "for pay" services at exorbitant prices. You may lose all of your work just because you would not spend $30 or so on a Web site. This is a consideration for free Web logs as well.
See Search Engine Optimization http://seo.yu-hu.com for a more detailed introduction to search engine optimization.
Email as a means to popularize a Web site or Web log
Every Web site or Web log should have an email list associated with it, or should be propagated through someone else's email list. Every post with material from your Web log or Web site should contain the entire article and must have the literal URL address of the article. Send the article content only, not the entire Web page with sidebars etc. Be sure to include copyright warnings as appropriate.
Common errors of organizational and government Web sites are
Sending a post without the address of the material on the Web - The post will be sent to forums and used by bloggers who are too lazy to look up the URL. That means you lose valuable Web links that could otherwise boost the popularity of your site in search engines, and others may take credit for your work
Sending a post with only an embedded link - the link states "click here to see the original" in html format. When the post is forwarded in text only format, the embedded link will be lost.
Sending part of a post - At most about 10%-20% of readers will click a link to see the entire post at your Web site. If you want them to see the information, send it to them.
Getting Active: Creating a Web log
Anyone, and we do mean anyone, can create a Web log. That can make you an active participant in Israel advocacy. Web logs have several advantages over E-mail lists that many of you now use:
1- They are public - everyone can see them. If you are sending around articles that have been published and you want to call them to the attention of others, a Web log can be a better or additional way to do it, reaching the unconvinced, rather than just those who are in your email list and already share your views.
2- Your links to published materials that you think are important boost the popularity of those materials in search engines and ensure that they get more visitors.
3- A Web log gives others a chance to comment as well.
Of course, Web log entries can also be sent by email to a subscription list to increase their readership. You can make a sign up for emails using Feedblitz, or you can make a Yahoogroup or Google group and send the mails to those groups.
For bloggers, our group offers access to the ZNN list - http://groups.yahoo.com/group/znn/ which at present has over 2,000 subscribers. Posts must conform to content guidelines similar to the philosophy of this handbook and to format guidelines that help ensure that our readers get mail they will want to read and will read.
A Web log with less than a few hundred pages will not attract more than a few visitors each week, so be prepared to invest time in your Web log over the long haul. However, it is really easy to do. Probably, it has far more impact than comments you may leave as "talkbacks." One thing that a Web log can do is to provide links to articles and Web sites that you like, which helps boost the visibility of those sites in search engines and on the Web.
Part of your work as a blogger must be exchange of links with other blogs and Web sites. This is done to popularize your own Web log as well as theirs, and make sure your Web log and its articles are visible in search engines. Members of the Zio-Web group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zio-web/) will be glad to exchange links with any serious Web log (more than a few entries) that follows the guidelines of this handbook. You will also want to establish a Twitter account to send news of your entries and a Facebook account which you can set up to show your blog posts.
A Web log entry can be a long essay, or it can be a link to an interesting paragraph or two in an important bit of news or commentary, with your own comments added. Remember that what you write in a Web log is visible all over the world, and that your opinions may be misconstrued as representing those of "Zionism."
A big advantage of Web logs is they come with automatic syndication feeds (RSS and Atom) - a way of transmitting the titles and, if desired the content, of your Web log articles to other Web sites. Register your Web log at http://technorati.com to help ensure that others see it.
Technical aspects - The easiest way to get started with a Web log is through the free Weblogs offered by Wordpress or Google. Get a Google ID by registering at http://Google.com Go to http://blogger.com and follow their instructions. Use their help facility if you have a problem. If you don't understand any point, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will show you how. Remember though, that free services might be withdrawn at any time.
What should not go in a public Web site?
A Web site is public. Don't put information in a Web page that you would not want someone in China or Africa to read. That may include "thinking out loud" or "wishful thinking" that can be misinterpreted, discussions of internal strategy and tactics and personal information like your telephone number or address. If you need to give a postal address, get a post box.
A Web site is not very localized. You can announce local events there, but don't count on getting big crowds for your demonstration in Cheboygan from a Web site page. You can show photos and tell the story of a successful local event. You will need to advertise your event in local media, with posters and through local contact lists by email and telephone in order to bring people to the event.
Types of Web files
Information hiding is a principle of software design. It is not appropriate for advocacy. You want people to see the information you put on the Web. A good way to bury your information totally is to put it in a PDF file or a large Powerpoint or Flash presentation. Elaborate media presentations of this kind often require a lot of production work, all of which is wasted because the files are not indexed well by search engines. Don't use PDF files rather than HTML unless you must, and always make an html page that introduces the material in the PDF, flash or Powerpoint presentation and links to it. Videos should be put at YouTube (not your own site) and also embedded in one of your Web pages with appropriate text. YouTube can get you many more visitors than your site can.
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