“Why is Israel carrying out apartheid against the Palestinians?”
I am sure you have encountered a statement that resembles this question plenty of times.
Often when Israel supporters are presented with this sort of question, they find themselves unsure of the best way to answer. So they remain silent.
But the problem is that this silence creates a vacuum that raging antisemites fill with attacks on Jews at an LA restaurant, on a Jewish man walking down a street in Manhattan, and numerous BDS resolutions on college campuses.
If Israel’s detractors continue to fill the space left by our silence then things can get worse.
UK lawyer Trevor Asserson once said that his greatest fear is that, “the democracies of the West and in particular America will get to such a pitch in terms of their attitudes towards Israel that it is simply politically not viable to be seen in any way to be supporting Israel.”
If this happens, Asserson warned, “we are finished.”
And while many Israel advocacy groups work non-stop to promote the truth, it's often the one-on-one conversations that will change someone's mind.
The anti-Israel haters are hell-bent on vilifying Zionism and ultimately destroying Israel through their false narrative and delegitimization campaign. We cannot afford to lose the battle for public support, and we need every voice to help win the battle.
So how do we respond when faced with these absurd accusations?
David Olesker, founder and director of the Jerusalem Center for Communication and Advocacy Training (JCCAT), explains that the key to winning the war is by controlling "conceptual frame."
Conceptual framing is where you define the parameters of a discussion and frame an issue with only what you deem relevant and omit everything else. When you’re in control of the conceptual frame, you're most likely in control of the outcome of the discussion.
These Israel-haters have embedded in much of the world’s perception that Israel is the aggressor, and the Palestinians are the victims. And if only Israel would go away, all the problems in the Middle East would disappear.
Thus, any conversation about Israel always starts with the Jewish State at fault. This makes it difficult to change anyone's mind because they've bought into the accepted framing of the conflict.
This false narrative is believed over the truth and facts because anti-Israel activists wrap their lies in an emotional story of oppression and victimhood. To the uninformed, that’s always more appealing than objective statistics and data .
Olesker offers techniques to “obtain and maintain the conceptual frame” and change people's accepted version of reality.
Firstly, arm yourself with the facts.
There are myriads of videos, websites, and resources where you can get accurate information that will help to distinguish the truth from the lies.
Start the conversation.
Initiate a dialogue and set the agenda before the other side does. Instead of waiting for someone to ask about the lie of "Israel’s apartheid policies," begin a conversation with someone about the Jewish state’s rich diversity and inclusivity.
Don't respond to questions filled with false assumptions. Instead, start your own answer with laying down the basis of your own argument. Don't answer why Israel isn't carrying out offensive policies against the Palestinians. Point the question back to them and have them explain the real Palestinian suffering happening in Lebanon and Jordan, where Palestinians are discriminated against in almost every part of life, but no one cares because Israel cannot be blamed for it.
Tell a story.
A personal, relevant tale is much more compelling than a list of dry numbers and facts. Instead of explaining why Israel has specific security measures, for example, share a story about when an Israeli soldier stopped a murderous terrorist at a checkpoint and saved dozens of innocent civilians.
When Israel supporters control the conceptual frame, the antisemites and Israel haters will have no choice but to back down, and as Olesker says, they’ll be forced to “lose sleep over how to answer us."
Don’t take Israel’s standing in the world for granted.
While our adversaries have failed multiple times to distort and vilify the extraordinary Zionist story, we all need to make sure that they’ll never succeed.
Elisheva Aarons is the digital director for United with Israel. As a dynamic and perceptive digital marketer, Aarons creates and implements successful strategies to promote the truth about Israel. This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Risto Huvila