Eisenbud's Odyssey: The art of the intellectual war

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December 2, 2011 16:52

When it comes to Israel’s narrative, as the IDF has illustrated on the battlefield, incessant political infighting and interests must be set aside to address the larger picture: our survival.




IDF Soldiers at Western Wall on Memorial Day

IDF Soldiers at Western Wall on Memorial Day 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Several weeks ago I wrote about the necessity for Jews to fight, and win “the intellectual war.” Briefly stated, the intellectual war is based on correcting the profoundly distorted narrative about the Jewish people that has dogged us to near extinction for millennia.

It is the war for hearts and minds, and requires proactive and heightened composure, elevated thought and group cohesion against a backdrop of irrational hate, fear-mongering and seemingly endless patent lies and dangerous diatribes.

Not an easy proposition, by any means.

However, as history has taught us all too well, Jews have never been afforded the luxury of a fair fight.

Yet it is critical to stress that this war cannot be won by any weapon other than the mind.

Indeed, attempting to fight this conflict with guns, missiles or violence of any kind will prove as futile as using an AK-47 to cure a metastasizing, invasive form of brain cancer.

AS WE all know, a war that is not tactically driven and well thought out is destined for failure.

With that in mind, I want to revisit this subject with a more substantive analysis of how we must fight this important conflict unilaterally, based on an international media-relations initiative I created and presented to several members of Knesset, roughly one year ago.

WITHOUT QUESTION, Israel has an outstanding, cohesive and proactive military that is internationally respected and feared. No expense has been spared to make it as united, efficient and powerful as possible – out of necessity.

Conversely, Israel’s media-relations counterpart is weak, driven by wildly disparate political entities and interests, and definitively reactionary by today’s sophisticated media-dominated standards.

Indeed, sensitive and important state announcements are often poorly timed, disjointed, inconsistent, and defensive measures are routinely – and ineffectually – relied upon instead of offensive ones.

However, the problem remains largely unaddressed, with the exception of “hindsight is 20/20” excuses and promises to get it right “next time” – the equivalent of putting a Band-Aid on a tumor.

ISRAEL’S INTERNATIONAL media relations and diplomacy have not been assigned nearly as much importance and resources as the IDF, and it is painfully evident on the world stage. There are simply too many parties with too many self-serving interests attempting to control our narrative, and it is weakening us.

Israel is constantly under attack, and in today’s world, international media relations and diplomacy must be as cohesive and disciplined as varying IDF army units that works together in crises to maintain safety and clarity.

The world is informed through the media in a highly rapid, competitive and unforgiving news cycle, and Israel’s narrative has been so grossly manipulated as to represent a false reality – indeed, a dark parallel universe – by our enemies.

That said, Israel is – and always will be – “David.” Yet it has become successfully misidentified as “Goliath” the world over.

We must finally reverse this narrative, and the only way to do this is by becoming exponentially more proactive and polished, and taking this fight to our enemies as one – a lesson learned long ago on the battlefield by the IDF.

In short, we must put our political inclinations aside and beat our enemies at a game that must focus like a laser on our greatest strengths: Intellect and truth.

TO DO this, it is imperative to immediately allocate all necessary resources and training to create a Media Relations Defense (MRD) unit (or Intellectual Israel Defense Force, if you will), that is as united and skilled at media relations as the IDF is at military planning and execution.

However, before we can execute our offensive, we must know our enemy inside and out.

There are numerous NGOs that effectively monitor and archive information about what is being said and written about Israel in the media, however these organizations’ intelligence have not been properly centralized.

Therefore, we must create a central database to store all records of what is being said or written by all relevant news organizations. Additionally, an archive of the last 60-plus years must also be created for historical record.

To efficiently navigate through the enormous breadth of information sent out daily regarding Israel, we will assign every news organization a status of one of three categories: “primary,” “secondary,” or “tertiary,” based on circulation. Statuses in the central database will be categorized by level of importance (i.e. a media organization that reaches 500,000 to 1 million or more will be considered primary; organizations reaching a marginal population will be considered tertiary).

The database must be updated in real time and identify each organization, as well as classify how its content affects Israel’s reputation. These classifications should be divided into three broad categories: (1) hostile, (2) neutral, or (3) helpful.

THE CENTRAL database will enhance clarity, organizational effectiveness, accessibility and speed, and ensure thoroughness.

To be most effective, the response time to any libelous publication or broadcast should ideally be within 24 hours – and never more than 72 hours following an objectionable broadcast or publication. News cycles move far too quickly to wait any longer, and opinions will already have been formulated, and the damage done.

After an article or video is categorized and stored, every manipulated/inaccurate sentence/word will be highlighted and given a priority – similar to the color-code system used in America to alert the public to terror threats.

Primary news sources will be assigned the highest level of “alert” and corrected rapidly. A 48-hour response time will be upheld for secondary organizations, and 72 hours for tertiary organizations.

Nothing of importance will be ignored.

WHEN IT comes to Israel’s narrative, as the IDF has illustrated on the battlefield, our incessant political infighting and interests must be set aside to address the larger picture: our survival.

That said, an international editorial team of experts – across political lines – will comprehensively evaluate all incendiary content in non-Hebrew and non-English speaking regions, and compose a factual and powerful written or televised retort within the aforementioned timelines.

Because this is a global struggle, an international team of talented researchers, writers, journalists and camera-ready “talent” will serve as the first line of defense. The team responsible for correcting inaccuracies must be “blue chip” – highly intelligent, polished, accurate, consistent and thorough.

Perhaps most importantly, this team cannot be limited to Israeli borders – it’s simply not practical in today’s international media web. We must create satellite offices overseas and work with Diaspora Jews (or non-Jewish supporters of Israel) from whatever region of the world is most responsible for objectionable content.

Global offices will ensure the response will be fashioned in a tone and style familiar to those who have been exposed to the distortions (i.e. in Russia, a Russian writer or speaker will respond; in the UK, a British writer/speaker, etc.).

The importance of working indigenously cannot be overstated: It is a fact that audiences are far more likely to be convinced of something by news in their native accent and language than those with less familiar accents and languages.

Therefore, all respective linguistic idioms, anomalies and provincial narrative forms will be incorporated into each country’s style guide.

SYNCHRONICITY BETWEEN the MRD and IDF is imperative. Thus, the MRD must work in lockstep with the IDF with respect to all information given to the media.

There needs to be complete consistency in terms of outgoing information at all times – particularly following any given military operation, controversy or civil unrest.

The MRD will exclusively deal with all media queries that arise from military conflict to eliminate potential inconsistencies or gaffes.

ULTIMATELY ISRAEL’S “intellectual war” has been assigned secondary importance, and there are simply too many warring internal political factions attempting to control it, and present it in their own parties’ image.

Yet we must work together on this battlefield and leave our personal differences aside – just like the IDF. Indeed, the MRD needs to transcend political ideologies to be as efficient, well-trained, productive and respected as the IDF.

We must change the false narrative of Israel as “Goliath” back to “David.” This will be a Herculean undertaking, but it absolutely can be accomplished. Maybe even within our lifetime.

NOW IS the time to join together and take charge of Israel’s narrative.

No reasonable expense should be spared to fund this necessary initiative.

It is time to take the fight to our enemies, stop playing defensively and sending out conflicting messages.

This is the only way to win hearts and minds on a scale that no military machine can match.

dan@jpost.com


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