Monday, July 28, 2014

The Pro-Israeli Defense Script

Updated December 2016

Sometimes when you listen to Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or other representatives of the "Israel's right to exist" movement speak to the media, you'd swear that you were listening to an American politician.  As you will see in this posting, you're not far from wrong.

The Israel Project (TIP) is an American-based "non-partisan" educational organization that claims  to be "a one-stop source for detailed and accurate information" that is "dedicated to informing the media and public conversation about Israel and the Middle East."  TIP has an Arabic Facebook page, Israel Uncensored, as well as an Arabic language news site, Al-Masdar, that "delivers a balanced and honest picture of the Jewish world, Israel and the international scene" although when you look through their coverage, you'll find that it's pretty much pro-Israel/IDF.

Now, that we have a bit of background about The Israel Project and have a sense of its leanings, let's look at a publication from TIP that gives us a sense of how Israel is using the world's media to promote its agenda.

In 2009, The Israel Project asked a Republican Party strategist, pollster, political consultant, commentator on FOX, author and communication specialist by the name of Dr. Frank Luntz to prepare a media guide for those who were on the front lines of Israel's media war, noting that the publication was quite clearly "not for distribution or publication".  This report was commissioned when public sentiment towards Israel turned negative after Israel's 2008 war with Gaza and after President Obama denounced Israeli settlements on the West Bank.  In case you've never heard of Dr. Luntz, here is a YouTube video of his “Words that Work”, a set of suggestions that can be used to persuade people see things the way that you see them:

Back to the TIP 2009 Global Language Dictionary.  Here is a screen capture showing the cover:

Now, let's look at some interesting extracts from Dr. Luntz's guidebook, starting with the opening paragraphs:

"Persuadables won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Show Empathy for BOTH sides! The goal of pro-Israel communications is not simply to make people who already love Israel feel good about that decision. The goal is to win new hearts and minds for Israel without losing the support Israel already has. To do this you have to understand that the frame from which most Americans view Israel is one of “cycle of violence that has been going on for thousands of years.” Thus, you have to disarm them from their suspicions before they will be open to learning new facts about Israel.

The first step to winning trust and friends for Israel is showing that you care about peace for BOTH Israelis and Palestinians and, in particular, a better future for every child. Indeed, the sequence of your conversation is critical and you must start with empathy for BOTH sides first." 

Here's how those involved in discussing Israel's relationship with Palestinians can get around the sticky issue of Hamas:

"There is an immediate and clear distinction between the empathy Americans feel for the Palestinians and the scorn they direct at Palestinian leadership. Hamas is a terrorist organization – Americans get that already. But if it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public support. Right now, many Americans sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians, and that sympathy will increase if you fail to differentiate the people from their leaders."

Here are some talking points, or what Dr. Luntz calls "Words that Work", suggestions that make the speaker look more sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian children:

Are Israelis perfect? No. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But we want a better future, and we are working towards it.
  And we want Palestinians to have a better future as well. They deserve a government that will eliminate the terror not only because it will make my children safer—but also because it will make their children more prosperous. When the terror ends, Israel will no longer need to have challenging checkpoints to inspect goods and people. When the terror ends we will no longer need a security fence.” 

This is a rather telling paragraph:

"A patronizing, parental tone will turn Americans and Europeans off. We’re at a time in history when Jews in general (and Israelis in particular) are no longer perceived as the persecuted people. In fact, among American and European audiences—sophisticated, educated, opinionated, non-Jewish audiences—Israelis are often seen as the occupiers and the aggressors. With that kind of baggage, it is critical that messages from the pro-Israel spokespeople not come across as supercilious or condescending.”  (my bold)

I find it interesting that Dr. Luntz terms those who are less than sympathetic toward today's Jews as "opinionated".

Here is a paragraph that can be used to show skeptics the lengths to which Israel has gone to improve the lot of its Muslim neighbours:

"Americans want a team to cheer for. Let the public know GOOD things about Israel.
 Once you have established that you care about both Israelis and Palestinians and that Israel wants peace, you can begin the process of establishing a strong connection between Americans and Israel based on shared values and interests, including:
--  Israel’s cooperative efforts with Jewish and Muslim citizens working together to create jobs, cutting edge technology, science and research;
--  Israel’s remarkable advances in alternative energy;

--  The work Israel has done in Arab neighborhoods and communities to raise health and living standards, including access, as full Israeli citizens, to Israel’s world-class national health care system. 

Information about the cooperation of Israeli doctors and scientists – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others alike - in solving important health and technological challenges can be helpful. So can demonstrating that Israel and America share a commitment to freedom of religion, press, speech as well as human rights, women’s issues, and the environment.”.

Here are some suggestions that can be used for those who argue against Israel's continued occupation of lands taken in the 1967 war:

"Americans agree that Israel “has a right to defensible borders.” But it does you no good to define exactly what those borders should be. Avoid talking about borders in terms of pre- or post-1967, because it only serves to remind Americans of Israel’s military history. Particularly on the left, this does you harm.  
For instance, support for Israel’s right to defensible boarders drops from a heady 89% to under 60% when you talk about it in terms of 1967.
  In fact, when you talk about land in terms of 1967, you can completely flip public sentiment against you. But if you call into question the danger of terrorists shooting down planes, you shore up support. 

Last but not least, by drawing parallels between the United States and Israel, a skeptical audience will be won over to the Israeli side by the similarities between the two nations, particularly in their approach to the dreaded spectre of terrorism:

Draw direct parallels between Israel and America—including the need to defend against terrorism. From history to culture to values, the more you focus on the similarities between Israel and America, the more likely you are to win the support of those who are neutral. Indeed, Israel is an important American ally in the war against terrorism, and faces many of the same challenges as America in protecting their citizens. For example, on September 11, nineteen suicide terrorists hijacked American planes and killed our citizens. Today, when we go to the airport, we are screened and checked. Following an attempted “Shoe Bombing” we now have to take off our shoes. It slows travel down, is expensive, and invades our privacy. But imagine what we would do if more than 250 times terrorists had crossed into our land and killed our children while they were riding buses or eating pizza? What would America do? What would America do if America’s neighbors in Canada or Mexico were firing rockets into America? 
These four words are at the core of the American political, economic, social, and cultural systems, and they should be repeated as often as possible because they resonate with virtually every American. This is not rhetoric. It is fact. Despite the non-stop coverage of Israel in the press, the positive news about Israel remains untold.”.
 (my bold)

With this information in mind, we now know why so many interviews with representatives of the Israeli government sound like they are coming from the mouths of American politicians and why we often seem to hear the same talking points again and again from those who defend Israel’s right to exist no matter what happens in Gaza and the West Bank.


  1. Replies
    1. What an insightful critique! You raise many well-supported points.

    2. Danny, I'm just reporting the facts. Stupid they may be but in clicking on your name, it became quite apparent which side you are on.

      You are welcome to your opinions the same as every one else.

    3. Sux to be you, you religiously fanatical ultra-nationalist IDF skinhead.

      You can't use automatic live fire, skunk water cannons, torture, kidnapping or "administrative detention, bulldozers, or bombing raids here.

      Vacuous verbal abuse must be a real letdown from the sublime pleasure that you suck from your usual activity of ethnic cleansing military violence, huh?

      Congratulations on your gormless advertisement of the many ways in which military ultra-Zionism has annihilated the tradition of Jewish intellectualism.

  2. Interesting... How about a follow-up delving into the intricacies of Hamas' propaganda machine and its ability to charm a certain subset of its Western audience, or would that just be too easy?

    1. Why don't you provide that "follow-up" yourself, or would that be just too hard?

    2. Israel bears responsibility for *everything* which occurs in the Occupied Territories and in Gaza. Try as they might the Israeli government cannot wash their hands of this culpability.

      As the military occupying power and colonial whipmaster, Israel is the real power and government of Gaza and the West Bank.

      Israel controls even the finances of the PA.
      Gaza is NOT an autonomous nation.

      Israeli soldiers and Mossad agents swarm both regions.

      Gaza is strangled by a total land, air and water siege. The siege is one of the oldest forms of warfare in history. When you wage war upon a region, it is entirely to be expected that there will a warlike reaction.

      As we learn from modern anti-colonial history. And as the right to resist occupation is enshrined in International Law.

      1/Israel was instrumental in the creation of Hamas. They were to be used as a foil against Fatah.

      Once again Israeli interference must be taken into account whenever we consider Palestinian affairs.

      ""Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994,"

      "Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today;"

      2/Israel had absolutely no right to be colonizing the Gaza Strip. All their actions in Gaza were illegal.

      3/Israel scorch earthed Gaza upon leaving it.

      4/Israel then tried to organize a coup against Hamas after Hamas won the Gazan elections.

      5/It is blatantly false that Israel's actions are "defensive".

      They are offensive and colonial. They have been from the very outset. 1948 onwards.

      6/What has become the dominant position in Israeli politics is the ultra-Zionist position of Eretz Israel. Again, Eretz Israel has been a Zionist project and position from the beginning.

      This can be clearly seen from the Likud Charter which completely rejects ANY two-state solution.

      Which involves the complete expulsion of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants.

      7/New Gas reserves have been found in the Seas off the Gazan coast.

      This material economic reason informs Israeli Gazan policy.

    3. “"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.

      Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas.”

      “according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

      Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization)," said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.

      Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official.”

      “An American intelligence report discussing relations between Israel and Hamas was recently published by the news leak website Wikileaks.

      In the leaked document, dated September 23, 1988, U.S. intelligence officials say,

      “Many in the West Bank believe that Israel actively supports Hamas, in its effort to split the Palestinian nation and weaken the Intifada.”

      The document also notes that although Israel was arresting a number of Palestinians at the time, very few were members of Hamas. The document went so far as to say,

      “We believe that not only does Israel turn a blind eye on Hamas activity, but even supports it.”

      You reap what you sow. There are countless examples of countries supporting groups that end up coming back to bite them in the ass (the U.S.-trained mujahideen are a good example).”

      “Speaking in Jerusalem Dec. 20, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer made the connection between the growth of the Islamic fundamentalist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Israel's promotion of the Islamic movement as a counter to the Palestinian nationalist movement. (…)
      Kurtzer said that the growth of the Islamic movement in the Palestinian territories in recent decades—"with the tacit support of Israel"—was "not totally unrelated" to the emergence of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and their terrorist attacks against Israel. Kurtzer explained that during the 1980s, when the Islamic movement began to flourish in the West Bank and Gaza, "Israel perceived it to be better to have people turning toward religion rather than toward a nationalistic cause [the Palestinian Liberation Organization—ed.]." It therefore did little to stop the flow of money to mosques and other religious institutions, rather than to schools.”

      “Israel funding Hamas, Olmert admits”

    4. How about you stop with the idiotic tactic of whataboutery and take some moral responsibility?

      There is a massive bloodsoaked beam in thine own eye.

      Hamas has "charmed" Western audiences? Really?

      You're such a self-pitying, self righteous mass murderer and Lady Macbeth handwasher that's it's simply inconceivable that precious princess Israel could ever commit a war crime? Or millions of them.

      Israel is gross criminal violation of, and open contempt for, EVERY SINGLE article of the International Law of Military Occupation.

      “The duties of the occupying power are spelled out primarily in the 1907 Hague Regulations (arts 42-56) and the Fourth Geneva Convention (GC IV, art. 27-34 and 47-78), as well as in certain provisions of Additional Protocol I and customary international humanitarian law.

      Agreements concluded between the occupying power and the local authorities cannot deprive the population of occupied territory of the protection afforded by international humanitarian law (GC IV, art. 47) and protected persons themselves can in no circumstances renounce their rights (GC IV, art. 8).

      The main rules o f the law applicable in case of occupation state that:

      The occupant does not acquire sovereignty over the territory.

      Occupation is only a temporary situation, and the rights of the occupant are limited to the extent of that period.

      The occupying power must respect the laws in force in the occupied territory, unless they constitute a threat to its security or an obstacle to the application of the international law of occupation.

      The occupying power must take measures to restore and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety.

      To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the occupying power must ensure sufficient hygiene and public health standards, as well as the provision of food and medical care to the population under occupation.

      The population in occupied territory cannot be forced to enlist in the occupier's armed forces.

      Collective or individual forcible transfers of population from and within the occupied territory are prohibited.

      Transfers of the civilian population of the occupying power into the occupied territory, regardless whether forcible or voluntary, are prohibited.

      Collective punishment is prohibited.

      The taking of hostages is prohibited.

      Reprisals against protected persons or their property are prohibited.

      The confiscation of private property by the occupant is prohibited.

      The destruction or seizure of enemy property is prohibited, unless absolutely required by military necessity during the conduct of hostilities.

      Cultural property must be respected.

      People accused of criminal offences shall be provided with proceedings respecting internationally recognized judicial guarantees (for example, they must be informed of the reason for their arrest, charged with a specific offence and given a fair trial as quickly as possible).”

  3. Actually I think that the Palestinians, and others who have an interest in framing the debate in their favour, have things pretty well figured out too -- even if they don't have Fox News people helping them out.

    In the cases that leap out at me, the common threads are the portrayal of the conflict in colonial terms (colonizer vs. colonized) and the minimization of the roles historically played by Hamas and by other Arab countries.

    These threads show up in the constant references to occupation or "occupied Palestine", to an Israel-imposed "siege", to "sprawling refugee camps", to Hamas as a "democratically elected government" while also minimizing the threat of its arsenal.

    1. THE HAGUE, 9 July 2004. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), principal judicial organ of the United Nations, has today rendered its Advisory Opinion in the case concerning the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (request for advisory opinion).

      In its Opinion, the Court finds unanimously that it has jurisdiction to give the advisory opinion requested by the United Nations General Assembly and decides by fourteen votes to one to comply with that request.

      The Court responds to the question as follows:

      - “A. By fourteen votes to one,

      The construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated régime, are contrary to international law”;

      - “B. By fourteen votes to one,

      Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated, and to repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto, in accordance with paragraph 151 of this Opinion”;

      - “C. By fourteen votes to one,

      Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem”;

      - “D. By thirteen votes to two,

      All States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction; all States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949 have in addition the obligation, while respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law as embodied in that Convention”;

      - “E. By fourteen votes to one,

      The United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and the associated régime, taking due account of the present Advisory Opinion.”

    2. Most of the international institutions consider the blockade illegal. In September 2011, the Chair and Vice-Chair of a UN Panel of Inquiry concluded in the Palmer Report that the naval blockade was legal, based on the right of self-defense during a period of war, and had to be judged isolated from the restrictions on goods reaching Gaza via the land crossings. Concerning the restrictions on goods reaching Gaza via the land crossings the Palmer report stated that they were "a significant cause" of Gaza's unsustainable and unacceptable humanitarian situation.[27][28][29] However a Fact-Finding Mission for the UN Human Rights Council chaired by a former judge of the International Criminal Court, as well as a panel of five independent U.N. rights experts concluded that the blockade constituted collective punishment of the population of Gaza and was therefore unlawful.[30][31] UN envoy Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Rights Council head Navi Pillay, the International Committee of the Red Cross and some experts on international law[32] consider the blockade illegal.[33][34][35][36][37]

    3. >>>"minimizing the threat of its arsenal."

      Arsenal? Hamas' "arsenal" is so feeble that it causes minimal casualties even though the "Iron Dome" defence system is a total crock.

    4. >>>"portrayal of the conflict in colonial terms (colonizer vs. colonized)"

      I defy you to come up with a non-fantastic alternative description of the Zionist project. And of the military state of Israel.

      Ze'ev Jabotinsky was NOT an individual working for Hamas!

      ""We cannot give any compensation for Palestine, neither to the Palestinians nor to other Arabs. Therefore, a voluntary agreement is inconceivable. All *COLONIZATION*, even the most restricted, must continue in defiance of the will of the native population. Therefore, it can continue and develop only under the shield of force which comprises an Iron Wall which the local population can never break through. This is our Arab policy. To formulate it any other way would be hypocrisy."

  4. Hpw can there be rational discussion when one side sees the other as nonexistent?
    The Jews believe the Palestinians have a right to certain territory in Israel.
    The Palestinians believe the JEWS HAVE NO RIGHT TO LIVE IN ISEAEL.
    IF THE PALESTINIANS LAY DOWN THEIR WEAPONS, THERE IS PEACE. If the Israelis lay down their weapons, they are attacked.
    Don Levit

    1. >>>"one side sees the other as nonexistent?"

      Golda Meir described the Palestinians as an "invented people".

      This is laughable sanctimony. As if the skinheads of the IDF would ever let go their NUCLEAR arsenal.

      "The root cause of the settler violence
      phenomenon is Israel’s decades-long
      policy of illegally facilitating the settling
      of its citizens inside occupied Palestinian
      This activity has resulted in the
      progressive takeover of Palestinian land, resources
      and transportation routes and has created two
      separate systems of rights and privileges, favoring
      Israeli citizens at the expense of the over 2.5
      million Palestinian residents of the West Bank.
      Recent official efforts to retroactively
      legalize settler takeover of privately-
      owned Palestinian land actively promotes
      a culture of impunity that contributes to
      continued violence."

      "The Israeli authorities repeatedly fail
      to enforce the rule of law in response to
      Israeli settlers’ acts of violence against
      Israeli forces often fail to stop
      attacks and follow-up afterwards is inadequate
      or poorly conducted. Measures of the current
      system, including requiring Palestinians to file
      complaints at police stations located inside
      Israeli settlements, actively work against the rule
      of law by discouraging Palestinians from filing

    2. >>>"The Jews believe the Palestinians have a right to certain territory in Israel."

      Except for the Illegal Settlers And all the rest of the ultra-nationalist Eretz Israel ultra-nationalists.

      "...from the Likud Platform of 1999:

      a. “The Jordan river will be the permanent eastern border of the State of Israel.”

      b. “Jerusalem is the eternal, united capital of the State of Israel and only of Israel.
      The government will flatly reject Palestinian proposals to divide Jerusalem”

      c. “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.”

      d. “The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values. Settlement of the land is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and constitutes an important asset in the defense of the vital interests of the State of Israel. The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting."

  5. Don

    When it comes to Israel and Palestine, nothing is rational. What concerns me is that both sides do whatever they can to try to convince us that their way is the right way.

  6. Why does the US send money to either of them again?