How to become effective pro-Israeli explainers?
Writing: Raz Smolsky; Editing: Hagar Rabat; Translation: Eli Klaiman
Proper advocacy that works and changes attitudes is a complex challenge and to do it right you need to address the main questions – who are you addressing and how do you talk to them convincingly?
Who are we talking to?
Influencers and content creators are very limited in choosing their target audience due to the wide distribution of their content by other users, but users who reply to comments can certainly choose more reasonable audiences to talk to.
“We realized that the world is divided into three groups: 5-10 percent who love Israel and will always support it, 5-10 percent who will always hate it and the rest, who are the great majority, who know almost nothing about Israel, Israelis or Palestinians, and are very quickly influenced by the content they encounter on social networks. This is the audience that needs to be addressed,” explains Rotem Benkel, director of student programs at StandWithUs Israel. To identify this group, you can enter the commenter’s profile, see the type of content he uploads and where is he from.
Ran Nathanzon, head of the Israel Innovation and Branding Branch at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says that it is necessary to focus on the less engaged audiences with limited knowledge about Israel, and to ignore the audience on the edges. “It’s a shame to waste time and energy on extremist people and our main audience is the general and not necessarily engaged audience, who wants to act and doesn’t know the big picture, but does so because it is exposed to random information at a certain moment.”
In terms of political affiliation among the American audience, he notes that the vast majority of Republicans support Israel and Democratic Party supporters are divided into 25% who support Israel absolutely, 25% who are the progressive core with whom there is no point in arguing, and 50% who are neutral. It is difficult to identify political affiliation on social networks, unless you have time to check the user’s profile and if in the past he has uploaded content that indicates this.
“We are looking for the moderate audiences with moderate liberal views and not hard-core progressives, and we need to expose them to the facts and show that in practice they are people similar to us and we hold the same set of values, the so-called Like minded people” adds Nahtanzon.
Nathanzon emphasizes that any online discussion should be conducted in pro-Israeli posts in order to promote them and not the anti-Israeli narrative. Benkel adds that it is desirable to respond to content that is surrounded by other Israeli comments and a supportive audience, and this usually happens in pro-Israeli posts, where you can also respond to anti-Israel claims. Benkel also differentiates between the social networks and notes that Twitter has a tendency for long discussions, but on Instagram and TikTok it is sometimes better to transfer the conversation to private correspondence.
Another audience that is worth and very important to focus on is acquaintances abroad, near and far: “It helps to pass the initial barrier, any person with whom we had contact or prior acquaintance, even distant from a trip abroad or a meeting within the framework of work, also acquaintances from interest groups on Facebook,” Nathanzon points out, “these are the people who will be more open to hearing our side.”
Benkel tells of a Jewish trainee she mentored at a summer camp in the United States who shared a post by Bella Hadid and because of their early acquaintance, she decided to contact her privately and explain to her who Bella Hadid is and what lies she is publishing. “I told her what happened in Israel on October 7, I shared that my partner is in the reserves and I explained to her about the industry of posts that go out against Israel and I also brought her more examples of posts that Bella Hadid put up. She came back to me after two days that she understands that Bella Hadid hates Israel and she doesn’t upload posts just because of her concern for human rights.”
How do you respond?
Not every post or comment requires a response. “I don’t respond to casual posts like Free Palestine,” Benkel shares, “but recommend responding to specific lies that have something concrete and true to say about them, for example those who claim that Gaza is an open air prison or that Israel is an apartheid state, these are two common claims that can easily be proven to be false.”
In terms of the content of the response, Nathanzon emphasizes that it is also worth adding an acknowledgment of the other side’s suffering or supporting part of what was said, for example: “What you wrote in the beginning is true, but in the second part you are wrong…” This prepares the ground for listening to your arguments. Someone who is in Europe or the US sees the suffering in Gaza and it cannot be ignored, but it is important to explain that Israel has no desire to harm the innocent and the goal is to reduce harm to them. You can bring up the story of the Shifa hospital, which the IDF gave enough time for the evacuation, delivered baby food and incubators, and it was Hamas that prevented the evacuation.”
Sometimes it seems that the Israeli messages are complex and long and require attention resources, so Nathanzon recommends keeping the contents short and focused and the tone should be pleasant and not preachy. “The disclosure of the facts is very effective, the disclosure of the horrors in a low dose and not in a blatant graphic way and you always have to go back to October 7 and say where it all started, because it already seems like distant history and the narrative that has been burned in is only what happened this week.”
Nathanzon adds additional tactics: paralleling the events in Israel to well-known events abroad, 9/11 being relevant to Americans, terrorist attacks in Europe and the comparison of Hamas to ISIS. It is important to bring personal stories; If there are music lovers, you can talk to them about the festival, and if there are supporters of women’s rights, talk to them about the rape, talk to parents about the murder and kidnapping of children and ask what they would do if it was their child, their mother or their brother.
Several messages that should be repeated and work well:
- The attack, murder and kidnapping was of citizens from 40 countries, including Germans, British, Americans, Thais and Arabs, so this is not an attack only on Israel but on the most basic human rights.
- The war is against Hamas and not against all Palestinians.
- It is advisable to use the phrase organized army of terrorism to emphasize the military power of Hamas and its financing, so that it is not implied that it is a small group of terrorists.
- Hamas is a threat to humanity, human values and human rights all over the world. It starts in Israel but will not end in Israel and this violence will reach everywhere, terrorism has no borders. The war in Gaza will prevent the spread of terrorism in the world.
- The goal of the war is to free Gaza and the Palestinians from the reign of terror.
- The pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the world are aimed at the erasure of Israel and not at peace in the Middle East.
- Hamas and its leaders do not care about sacrificing Palestinian citizens, including children, that is why it speaks of them in terms of martyrs and chooses to operate from hospitals, schools, and kindergartens. The IDF, on the other hand, makes a maximum effort to reduce the damage to the civilian population.
- When Hamas went on the attack on October 7, it knew what the scale of the Israeli response would be and how many victims it would claim on the Palestinian side.
- Hamas aimed to harm civilians, families, children, men, women and the elderly, and had no military objective.
- When reacting – it is always important to return to the context and mention that the war began on October 7, one of the biggest terrorist events of our generation, which was preceded by a ceasefire, and what happened that day.