Israel Flag March 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Researchers’ messages have been consistent for several years: traditional Israel
advocacy is losing its effectiveness.
The ways in which we have become
used to defending Israel in the non-Jewish world – through talking points,
politico-legal defenses, and black/white answers – are applicable to far fewer
situations than ever before.
The latest research commissioned by the
Brand Israel Group and the Council of Presidents shows that non-Jewish liberals
– who constitute a huge majority of the population – are most “at-risk” of
falling prey to arguments eliminating Israel’s right to exist. These non-Jewish
liberals “don’t like black-and-white answers... are not as motivated by religion
and are mistrustful of governments.” A population with fundamental assumptions
such as these must be addressed differently.
At the same time, the Reut
Institute tells us that Israel is under increasing attack in communities and
campuses around the world. Not only are “delegitimization coalitions”
active and growing, but the bid to declare a Palestinian state looms large on
everyone’s agenda. At the precise time when Israel appears most vulnerable, our
most trusted advocacy strategy may be inappropriate to the
Thankfully, the news is good, though perhaps unexpected. The Brand
Israel report, together with the “Israel in the Age of Eminem” survey before it,
tell us that when talking to the younger generation of non-Jews, it is best to
hold a conversation, not a debate. We need to accentuate nuance, avoid
group-talk and acknowledge doubt. In this way, we may succeed in driving a wedge
between the “swayable” non-Jewish majority in the Western world, and the true
enemies of Israel who wish to co-opt others in their assault on Israel’s right
Thankfully the Jewish world is full of professionals dedicated
to nurturing young Jews who are capable of conducting this form of
“conversational defense” of Israel. They are called
Effective educators recognize that not only do Israel’s
defenders need to deal with a different kind of interlocutor, but that our young
Jews themselves often are this kind of interlocutor. The days when we could
generalize about Jews in contrast to non-Jews have long passed. The Jew
lives in the non-Jewish world more than ever before, and shares most of its
political, social and national assumptions. Just like the non-Jew, significant
numbers of Diaspora Jews see Israel as another foreign country that may or may
not deserve their attention. Makom among others recognizes that as well as
teaching our youth how to engage with others about Israel, we ourselves need to
engage with them in this way, too.
JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:
A vibrant, thoughtful and authentic
conversation about Israel is now exactly the kind of “training” a defender of
Israel will need. An ongoing relationship with a multi-faceted Israel that is
cultural, tangible, political and spiritual will empower our young people to
converse about Israel with passion and nuance.
This shift from the
”confrontation” model to the “conversation” model relates to more than
tactics. While training our young in the techniques of hasbara was
crucial for Israel, it did little for the integration of Israel into their
Jewish life. As Israel’s “lawyers” and not Israel’s “lovers,” young Jews were in
danger of seeing Israel as their client, rather than as a dynamic part of their
With the High Holidays approaching and the possible
declaration of a Palestinian state at hand, a unique opportunity falls our way.
The media coverage of the UN decision will allow us to galvanize young Jews
through conversation. Not only will this approach cultivate more non-Jewish
friends and isolate our enemies, but it will enable us Jews to develop a
healthier, more sustainable relationship with Israel.
Yonatan Ariel is
the executive director of the Jewish Agency's Makom, and Robbie Gringras is
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>