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An app to fight BDS
By YER SHACHAR
05/08/2014
A rabbi’s response to countering the call to boycott Israel.
 
The “Fight BDS” app is a 21st-century PR tool. In the battle to win hearts and minds for the Jewish state, it is designed to revamp Zionism, build a worldwide online activism network and empower lovers of Israel with the technological tools and knowledge to reclaim the just cause of Jewish self-determinism and sovereignty.

Rabbi Avi Schwartz, son of the legendary Palmah fighter and commander Mordechai Schwartz, and founder of teknerd.info, a software and app design company, together with his team of designers have created a PR app enabling users to have instant access to a wide array of interface capabilities.

Compatible with android devices and the iPhone, the app provides the resources to present Israel’s case in a well-informed, comprehensive and entertaining manner against its detractors and to those sitting on the fence.

A filmmaker and author of the acclaimed and fast-selling book Through Fire and Water, Schwartz has been a student of the Palestinian- Israeli PR war since his graduate school days.

“When researching both global and Jewish Diaspora opinion and sentiments towards Israel, a drastic shift clearly took place during the 1982 Lebanon War which Israel is still reeling from its effects,” says Schwartz. “On a personal level I clearly remember how my peers regarded me preand post-Lebanon. Pre-Lebanon, I was one of the coolest kids in Bronx High School of Science because I was Israeli. Several months into the war and all the media distortions that was then broadcast on the nightly news eroded my status. Shortly thereafter being an Israeli became a liability. Perceptions is reality no matter how wrong the facts may be. But most observers don’t investigate the facts, rather they interpret the facts on first impressions. And first impressions count.”

He points to the Holocaust as a classic case of anti-Zionist distortion to delegitimize and discount the 70 years of Jewish immigration, land reclamation and state building prior to the Shoah. He persuasively argues that it was economic self-interest and not non-Jewish guilt that changed the course of history, as many tend to believe, by presenting the fact that the UN vote for the two-state solution under the Partition Plan was originally set for November 26, 1947, but was tactically delayed by the Jewish Agency UN delegate, Moshe Sharret, after assessing that disastrous failure was inevitable due to a lack of votes. Sharret’s tactical maneuver to filibuster that Wednesday delayed the historic vote on account of the Thanksgiving recess, allowing the Jewish delegation, the White House, Congress, Harvey Firestone of the Firestone Rubber Company and senior US statesman Adolph A. Berle 48 hours to cajole, persuade and place heavy economic incentives before the Philippines, Spain, Haiti and Greece to vote for the Partition Plan.

Even war-torn France was earlier informed by the White House via Bernard Baruch that if it did not vote for partition needed aid would not be forthcoming. He further reinforces that claim as the nations of the world stood by watching seven invading Arab countries alongside the Palestinian forces under the leadership of the grand mufti attack the 600,000 Jewish inhabitants of the fledging state with the intention of genocide – only two-and-ahalf years after the Shoah. “Had it not been for the thousands of brave and self-sacrificing youth who gave life and limb in 1948 there would have been two Holocaust Remembrance days, one for the Jews of Europe and one for the Jews of Palestine.

Nonetheless, BDS rhetoric manipulate the events… and those ignorant of the truth are their prey, turning good-hearted intelligent people, both non-Jewish and Jewish, especially college students, into manipulated and exploited agents of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionist aspirations.”

Though the PR battle shifted in favor of those who oppose Zionism, the blame cannot be placed only on Arab rhetoric and certain Israeli policies, but also on the lack of what made Zionism a revolutionary, utopian and historic movement, namely, a coordinated and sophisticated PR strategy.

Israeli policy in the ’80s and ’90’s to PR had become indifferent, even disdaining the consequences bad press could produce, as opposed to the architects of Zionism and early Israeli policy of the ’50s and ’60s, particularly David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, Moshe Sharret and Abba Eban, who masterfully presented the Jewish people’s need, right and hope for self-determinism in its historical homeland.

“The first public relations practitioners were employed by Zionist institutions.

They used PR to enlist the new immigrants to the challenging tasks involved in building a nation and a state. They also provided the enlisting narratives, symbols and emotional messages that inspired the sacrifice of personal individual goals, and sometimes, lives, for the sake of building a state,” said Margalit Toledano and David McKie, authors of Public Relations and Nation Building Influencing Israel, in a recent Routledge interview.

It was only in 2011 that Israeli universities officially begin to offer an academic program in public relations. Israeli governmental PR tactics are still lacking when compared to BDS’s considerable tactical achievements since 2005, including the recruitment of Prof. Stephan Hawking, the Association for Asian American Studies, the American Studies Association, the threat of the EU halting grants to Israeli research groups, increased world anti-Semitism and the intimidation on American campuses endured by pro-Israel Jewish and non-Jewish students alike. Even calling Chloe Simone Valdary, an African-American student at the University of Louisiana, “a Zionist Uncle Tom” for standing against BDS.

“Pro-BDS groups expanded use of guerrilla and intimidation tactics... At New York University Jewish students in a dormitory were served with ‘eviction notices’ by Students for Justice in Palestine. The leaflets stated that the students’ suites were scheduled for demolition.... Similar ‘eviction notice’ intimidation campaigns directed at Jewish students have occurred at the University of Michigan, Rutgers, Harvard, Florida International, Yale, the University of Chicago and other schools,” wrote Alex Joffe, an archeologist and historian specializing in the Middle East.

Heeding Herzl’s advice that Zionism must use contemporary technology to communicate its ideals and vision, the Fight BDS app employs smartphone technology to allow the user to obtain facts and information regarding the 2,000-year-old Jewish longing to return home, the history of Zionism, organized counter-BDS arguments, Israel’s amazing world contributions, the advantages and rights of Israeli Arab citizens, daily news, video presentations ranging from icon Zionist leaders such as Abba Eban to clever rap songs about Israel’s vibrant democracy, blogs, photos, and how to help Israel through networking and donations with one simple tap. In the palm of one’s hand, teens, college students and others now have all the knowledge, reasons, facts and resources to support the Jewish dream for self-determinism, connect to Israel, fight BDS and have an online network to communicate and inspire.

The app has been well-received by Israel supporters. Spreading the app through college campuses via Hillel both in the US and Israel, Christian groups and organizations, and to people of conscience via social media, it grants individuals the apparatus to unite in one strong voice and revamp Zionist spirit and pride as they present their quest for freedom, equality and justice to the world, demonstrating that Israel is not an apartheid state but a strong democracy with Jewish values and Middle Eastern roots extending back 4,000 years.

Recently Finance Minister Yair Lapid asked for an improvement in Israel’s counter- boycott tactics. One hopes the app will be a major tool and PR stepping stone, since it allows iusers to interact and exchange ideas to foster the Zionist dream and develop tactics to further its legitimacy and beauty.

“Zionism is justice after 2,000 years. All who support Justice must support Zionism. And justice can only be brought by reasonable individuals dedicated to fairness and equity through peaceful and truthful dialogue,” says Schwartz.

The app is available at the Google Play Store and ITunes.
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