- Much of Israel advocacy concerns being reactive and defending
Israel against unfair accusations. However, it is important that Israel
activists are proactive too. Proactivity means taking the initiative and
setting the agenda. It means being on the "attack", trying to
create positive impressions of Israel. Audiences who have a favourable
general impression of Israel are likely to respond favourably when specific
issues arise. It is a mistake to only try to promote Israel when she is
being strongly criticised in the press.
- Why Be Proactive?
- Agenda Setting
- The person who sets the agenda will usually win the debate.
Reactivity forces Israel activists to be constantly on the defensive ("no,
Israel is not all that bad"). However, by setting the agenda, Israel
activists get to determine what to talk about, and can therefore discuss
the things they feel help promote the pro-Israel message. Being proactive
keeps the right issues in the public eye, and in the way Israel activists
want them to be seen. It is much easier to get Palestinian activists defending
Arafat against charges of being a corrupt terrorist than it is to explain
to disinterested students that Ariel Sharon didn't kill anybody at Sabra
and Chatilla (which of course he didn't). It is much easier to feed students
falafel at a party than to explain why Zionism isn't racism to a student
who doesn't even know what national self-determination is.
- To understand the value of agenda setting, consider the
6-Day War of 1967. When the war was inevitable, Israel decided to seize
the initiative through a pre-emptive strike. This allowed them to control
the war from the beginning. In 1973, the Yom Kippur was fought on the defensive.
Many lives were lost in trying to turn the situation around. When Israel
activists are proactive and set the agenda they don't need to waste energy
trying to turn things around.
- For more on this point see "How to score points
while avoiding debate" in Communication Styles: Point Scoring and
- People Believe What They Hear First
- Uncritical audiences believe something if they hear it
first and hear it often. People tend to believe the first thing they hear
about a certain issue, and filter subsequent information they hear based
on their current beliefs. Once people believe something, it is hard to
convince them that they were wrong in the first place.
- Motivation and Morale
- Constantly being on the defensive can be demoralising
and de-motivating. It is important that Jewish students feel good about
Israel and feel positive about their roles. In the short term, defending
Israel might give activists a motivating adrenalin rush, but in the long
term it is draining and can lead to a feeling of isolation. Being proactive
is more enjoyable than being reactive, can leave Jewish students smiling,
and can force Palestinian activists to struggle to make themselves heard.
- Ways to Promote Israel and Be Proactive
- There are many proactive events and activities you can
organise. Find more ideas in the "practical pointers" section
of each of the articles in the 'Israel: Accusations and Rebuttals' section.