How To Be Proactive
And Promote Israel

From World Union Of Jewish Students

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 Genuine Debate
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.

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