Sunday, July 5, 2009

Advocating for Israel - Part 1

With Cartoons like this, from America no Less, Israel Advocacy is Vital

Israel is under attack, and while the IDF has proven time and again to be more than capable of fending off military threats, there are other arenas in which the Jewish State's enemies are waging war. On these new battlefields, Israel's most important weapons are not fighter jets, missiles or guns, but persuasive arguments, truth-telling and education.

Between June 28 and 30, 2009, I participated in an Israel Education and Advocacy Seminar in Boston, MA, hosted by the David Project and Birthright Israel NEXT. Prominent speakers like Ehud Eiran, an expert on Israeli security, David Saranga, the Israeli Consul for Media and Public Affairs at the consulate General in New York, and Naomi Nuta, AIPAC's Boston Area Director, gave talks dealing with their respective fields of expertise. There were numerous group activities, break out sessions, and PowerPoint slides to digest, all with the intent to turn the attendees into educated and well prepared advocates for Israel. The seminar covered the following topics:
  • The Ideological Assault Against Israel
  • An Analysis of Israel's Security Challenges
  • Israel and the Media
  • Branding Israel
  • The US-Israel Relationship Today and Tomorrow

It's difficult to pack 3 days of lectures and activities into one blog post, so I'm going to briefly cover half of the topics in this post, leave you with a cliffhanger, and cover the second half in the next post.

The Ideological Assault Against Israel: The parties waging an ideological assault against Israel are varied, yet their main objective is the same; to mentally prepare the world for Israel's elimination. We discussed the 3 major aggressors and their tactics in the ideological battle; Arabs/Muslims, the ultra-left, and the ultra-right on the political spectrum. The tactics include dehumanizing Jews/Israel, painting Israelis as modern-day Nazis, accusing Israel of running an apartheid state (I'm looking at you, Jimmy Carter), denying historical Jewish claims to the land of Israel and especially Jerusalem, and economic and intellectual divestment. We broke into 4 groups dealing with a real-life divestment scenario in Somerville, MA, discussing our strategies and methods for countering Somerville's attempts to divest from Israel. Somerville's arguments for divestment were fairly typical:
"Palestinians have been subject to a system of extreme discrimination and human rights abuses including the forced dislocation in 1948."

"Somerville has money invested in Israel Bonds as well as military companies benefitting off of the attacks on Palestinians."
There was broad consensus amongst the seminar attendees as to how a divestment effort should be countered:
  • Build a diverse coalition of academia, politicians, Evangelical Christians, AIPAC, Arab Zionists and everyday people who support Israel (think Joe the Plumber) to combat the divestment efforts.
  • Craft a message that exposes the divestment supporters for totally ignoring the reasons why Israel needs to use force to keep its citizens safe, while making the case that the United States and Israel face similar threats of terrorism and are combating the same foes, and that the United States and Israel are both liberal democracies with similar ideals and principles that respect minority rights.
  • Strategically deliver the message through our coalition to refute the arguments made by the divestment supporters, illuminate the threats to Israel's security, and prove that the USA and Israel have similar interests and goals through lectures, town halls, debates and other public events.

This may seem like an excessive effort to keep a city of less than 80,000 from divesting from Israel, but it is important to consider that if one city divests from Israel, what's stopping others from following suit? Sending Israel's ideological opponents a clear message that Israel's supporters and advocates won't stand for the demonization, divestment or defamation of the Jewish State makes others less likely to attack Israel in the future. Just as the IDF serves as an effective deterrent to terrorists and Arab/Muslim states on the battlefield, so too can Israel advocates serve as effective ideological deterrents to Israel's enemies in the war of ideas.

An Analysis of Israel's Security Challenges: After discussing Israel's struggle against ideological enemies, Ehud Eiran, Research Fellow for the Belfer Center’s International Security Program at Harvard University, broke down Israel's current security threats by providing an historical context. Israel's historical threats stemmed from a variety of claims and beliefs on the part of Israel's enemies:
  • Jews are not a national group and therefore do not deserve a state
  • Historic Palestine is land entrusted by Allah to Muslims
  • Europeans created Israel out of guilt from the Holocaust
  • The 1948 War of Independence created Arab refugees
  • Israel is an affront and a humiliation to Muslim hegemony in the region
  • The neighboring regimes are not free and democratic societies
  • The 1967 6-Day War left Israel with millions of Palestinians under its control
  • And, let's face it, the Middle East isn't exactly Mayberry.

These conditions and beliefs gave rise to the attempted wars of annihilation against Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, Palestinian terrorism as exemplified by the 1st and 2nd Intifadas, Hezbollah's creation in Lebanon, and the continuing policy of Arab/Muslim rejectionism.

Today, Israel still faces these attitudes and threats from its neighbors, with the added wrinkle of an Iranian regime bent on Israel's destruction by means of a nuclear bomb. Aside from its pursuit of nukes, Iran is also the primary funder of both Hamas and Hezbollah, and is attempting to export its Islamic Revolutionary worldview throughout the region. Needless to say, Iran's maniacal quest for atomic weapons and patronage of genocidal terror organizations are Israel's highest priorities on the security front today.

Our group activity dealt with preparing a strategy to communicate the reasons behind a hypothetical Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear sites. While this situation is not (yet) real like the Somerville Divestment case study, it is still useful to proactively craft a message justifying a strike on Iran's nuke sites. Each day that diplomatic overtures fail to contain Iran's nuclear program is a day closer to an Israeli strike being necessary, and it's far better to have your message at the ready. I'm sure Israel's PR people are diligently planning for such an event right now, and might even find an unlikely, albeit tacit, friend in attempting to justify its strike on Iranian nuclear sites; Saudi Arabia.

This wraps up the first part of my Boston odyssey in Israel advocacy. Stay tuned for part deux in the next couple of days.

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