A Field Guide to Hasbara ( Propaganda) from the WUJS
[-----This post contains 'highlights' from their Hasbara Guide.-----]
World Union of Jewish Students
Influencing Public Opinion
The first aim of Israel advocacy is to influence public opinion. Public opinion is very important to Israel, and Jewish communities around the world. Firstly, in the field of international relations, foreign policies are heavily influenced by politicians' perceived electoral interests. If politicians detect public support for Israel, they will be likely to support Israel themselves. Secondly, Israel benefits from public support economically - in terms of willingness to visit Israel and buy Israeli goods.
Influencing Public Leaders
The second aim of Israel advocacy is to influence public leaders. It is possible for citizens to influence public officials and leaders directly. Politicians respond to public pressure. If politicians receive dozens of letters calling upon them to support Israel, they will be more likely to do so. Israel benefits from political support abroad, because it ensures a more sympathetic response to Israeli policies.
Influencing the Leaders and Opinion Formers of the Future
Campuses are the breeding ground for the next generation of politicians and opinion formers. For this reason, the third aim of student Israel advocacy is to influence campus leaders. Student union leaders might end up as government ministers, student journalists might end up as national newspaper editors. Because people often form and refine many of their political ideas at university, it is important for the long run security of Israel to try to influence student leaders and journalists to understand Israel and to be favourable towards her. In the years to come, Jewish communities will be glad this has been done.
Approaches to Israel Advocacy
There are two main approaches to Israel advocacy that allow Jewish students to achieve the aims outlined above. These approaches apply to everything Israel activists are trying to achieve in their advocacy for Israel. These approaches can be called "neutralising negativity" and "pushing positivity".
Neutralising negativity is about attempting to counter harmful impressions and accusations. This is the side of hasbara that is concerned with the defence of Israel.
"Israel is not bad because…." "This action was justified because…"
This often involves arguing over sequences of events, attempting to reframe debates to focus on different issues, and placing events in a wider context, so that the difficulty of Israel's situation is understood in a more positive light.
For more on this point see Communication Styles: Point Scoring and Genuine Debate
Neutralising Negativity is usually reactive and responsive. Pushing Positivity attempts to demonstrate the good things about Israel's case. The aim to is make people see Israel in a good light and have sympathy with her.
"Israel is a democracy" "Israel wants peace"
This often involves setting the agenda, focusing on some of the more positive features of Israel, and taking the lead in attacking the Palestinian leadership in an effort to allow people to view Israel favourably in comparison.
For more on this point see Being Proactive and Promoting Israel
BEING PROACTIVE AND PROMOTING ISRAEL
Much of Israel advocacy concerns being reactive and defending Israel against unfair accusations. However it is important that Israel activists are proactive too. Proactivity means taking the initiative and setting the agenda. It means being on the "attack", trying to create positive impressions of Israel. Audiences who have a favourable general impression of Israel are likely to respond favourably when specific issues arise. It is a mistake to only try to promote Israel when she is being strongly criticised in the press.
Why Be Proactive?
The person who sets the agenda will usually win the debate. Reactivity forces Israel activists to be constantly on the defensive ("no, Israel is not all that bad"). However by setting the agenda Israel activists get to determine what to talk about, and can therefore discuss the things they feel help promote the pro-Israel message. Being proactive keeps the right issues in the public eye, and in the way Israel activists want them to be seen. It is much easier to get Palestinian activists defending Arafat against charges of being a corrupt terrorist than it is to explain to disinterested students that Ariel Sharon didn't kill anybody at Sabra and Chatilla (which of course he didn't). It is much easier to feed students falafel at a party than to explain why Zionism isn't racism to a student who doesn't even know what national self-determination is.
For more on this point see "How to score points while avoiding debate" in Communication Styles: Point Scoring and Genuine Debate
People Believe What they Hear First
Uncritical audiences believe something if they hear it first and hear it often. People tend to believe the first thing they hear about a certain issue, and filter subsequent information they hear based on their current beliefs. Once people believe something, it is hard to convince them that they were wrong in the first place.
COMMUNICATION STYLES: POINT SCORING AND GENUINE DEBATE
There are two major approaches to communication to use during Israel advocacy. These two approaches are used in different situations, and are designed to achieve very different things. These two approaches - 'point scoring' and 'genuine debate' - require different techniques, and the Israel activist must know how to use each technique at the correct time.
Point scoring is a method of communication that prioritises making certain points favourable to the speaker, and attacking opponents of the speaker by trying to undermine their positions. Point scoring communication ought to give the appearance of rational debate, whilst avoiding genuine discussion.
The aim of the Israel activist point scorer is to try to make as many comments that are positive about Israel as possible, whilst attacking certain Palestinian positions, and attempting to cultivate a dignified appearance.
Point scoring works because most audience members fail to analyse what they hear. Rather, they register only a key few points, and form a vague impression of whose 'argument' was stronger.
How To Score Points Whilst Avoiding Debate
Central to point scoring is the ability to disguise point scoring by giving the impression of genuine debate. Audience members can be alienated by undisguised attacks, so all point scoring needs to be disguised. To disguise point scoring, comments need to seem to be logical, and to follow from what was said before.
What Points To Make
Point scoring needs to be focused. Because the people listening to 'point scoring' are only paying partial attention, only two or three points have a chance of 'sticking'. For this reason, focus point scoring on a few points supporting Israel, and a few points pointing out weaknesses in Palestinian positions. These points should be made again and again, in as many forums as possible. If people hear something often enough they come to believe it. Attempts to make too many different points will result in the audience remembering nothing.
Where an act might have been motivated by Antisemitism, but this is unclear, it is often worth expressing some form of disapproval, but refraining from levelling public charges of Antisemitism. Depending upon the local situation, it is often worth expressing personal upset, saying that one was "hurt, as a Jew" by the controversial act.
SEVEN BASIC PROPAGANDA DEVICES
Propaganda is used by those who want to communicate in ways that engage the emotions, and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote a certain message. To effectively present Israel to the public, and to counter anti-Israel messages, it is necessary to understand propaganda devices.
This article applies a list of seven propaganda devices to the Israeli situation, and by doing so allows an understanding of some of the ways in which public opinion is fought for in the International arena.
Through the careful choice of words, the name calling technique links a person or an idea to a negative symbol. Creating negative connotations by name calling is done to try and get the audience to reject a person or idea on the basis of negative associations, without allowing a real examination of that person or idea. The most obvious example is name calling - "they are a neo-Nazi group" tends to sound pretty negative to most people. More subtly, name calling works by selecting words with subtle negative meanings for some listeners. For example, describing demonstrators as "youths" creates a different impression from calling them "children".
For the Israel activist, it is important to be aware of the subtly different meanings that well chosen words give.
Call 'demonstrations' "riots", many Palestinian political organizations "terror organizations", and so on.
Name calling is hard to counter. Don't allow opponents the opportunity to engage in point scoring.
Simply put, the glittering generality is name calling in reverse. Instead of trying to attach negative meanings to ideas or people, glittering generalities use positive phrases, which the audience are attached to, in order to lend a positive image to things. Words such as 'freedom', 'civilization', 'motherhood', 'liberty', 'equality', 'science', and 'democracy' have these positive associations for most people. These words mean different things to different people, but are used to gain the approval of an audience, even when they aren't used in their standard ways. Consider the use of the term 'freedom fighter', which is supposed to gain approval for terrorism by using the word 'freedom'. Or, consider why it is so beneficial to bring home the point that Israel is a democracy.
Enemies of Israel will be keen to cast doubt on Israeli claims to be democratic, to guarantee freedom for all, and so on. In place of these 'glittering generalities' favourable to Israel, they will associate Palestinian behaviour, including terrorism, with terms like 'anti-colonialist' and 'freedom'.
Transfer involves taking some of the prestige and authority of one concept and applying it to another.
Jewish student groups in the Diaspora can use the flag of their own country side by side with the Israeli flag, where appropriate, to lend support to Israel. In a sports-loving country (such as Australia), students can make people aware of famous Israeli sportsmen and sportswomen, in order to transfer positive feelings (about a football team) to Israel.
Testimonial means enlisting the support of somebody admired or famous to endorse an ideal or campaign. Testimonial can be used reasonably - it makes sense for a footballer to endorse football boots - or manipulated, such as when a footballer is used to support a political campaign they have only a limited understanding of. Whilst everybody is entitled to an opinion, testimonial can lend weight to an argument that it doesn't deserve: if U2's Bono condemned Israel for something that it didn't do, thousands would believe him, even though he was wrong.
Enlisting celebrity support for Israel can help to persuade people that Israel is a great country.
Obviously some celebrities are more useful than others. Students are probably a little too sophisticated to be affected by Britney's opinion on Israel, but those associated with intelligence like professors, actors, radio hosts, sports managers and so on can be asked to offer testimonial.
A celebrity doesn't have to fully support Israel to be useful. Quotes can work as testimonial, even when they might be old or out of context.
Most celebrities will care more about their public image than they do about the Middle East. Threats of tainting a celebrity's image will usually persuade them to back away from controversial political issues.
The plain folks technique attempts to convince the listener that the speaker is a 'regular guy', who is trust-worthy because they are just like 'you or me'. Often politicians present themselves as being from outside the standard 'political cliques' and above political bickering, and then call for tax cuts to help the 'regular guy'. More often than not these politicians are multi-millionaires financed by large corporations, but the plain folks technique allows them to obscure that fact by presenting their 'common' characteristics.
Support for an alleged underdog in a certain situation can often be part of a 'plain folks' agenda.
Pro-Israel activists can use the 'plain folks' technique by speaking as a 'person from the street' whilst supporting Israel. The 'average guy in the street' would happily condemn terrorism in all its forms and support 'Western ideals'. In the context of a debate on the Middle East, this can easily be equated with support for Israel.
Care must be taken when adopting populist positions. There are some ethical boundaries that ought not to be crossed - for example tapping in to general anti-Arab feeling, or Islamaphobia. Remember that Israel can be supported without resorting to mass generalizations or racism.
[----- WUJS WOULD NEVER ADVOCATE ' tapping in to general anti-Arab feeling, or Islamaphobia ' would they?????
That's why they say ' Call 'demonstrations' "riots", many Palestinian political organizations "terror organizations", and so on.' in the NAME CALLING section above!-----]
When a speaker warns that the consequences of ignoring his message is likely to be war, conflict, personal suffering, and so forth, they are manipulating fear to advance their message. Listeners have deep-seated fears of violence and disorder, which can be tapped into by creating false dichotomies - 'either listen to me, or these terrible things will happen'. Listeners are too preoccupied by the threat of terrible things to think critically about the speaker's message.
Fear is easily manipulated in a climate that is already steeped in fear by the threat of global terror.
Fear can be successfully utilized by pointing out the consequences of terror.
Most people, when in doubt, are happy to do what other people are doing. This is the bandwagon effect. People are happy to be part of the crowd, and subtle manipulators can play on this desire by emphasizing the large size of their support. Although it is reasonable that people are given a chance to find out how many other supporters a speaker or movement has, often it is possible to create the impression of extensive support - through gathering all supporters in one place, or through poorly conducted opinion polls - in an attempt to persuade people who are keen to follow the crowd.
Israel activists can commission opinion polls amongst groups who favour Israel, and use these to give the impression that Israel is the 'team to support'.
Demonstrations, and even photos that give the impression of large numbers can help to create the impression that Israel is even more popular than it is.
PERSONAL POLITICS IN ISRAEL ADVOCACY
There is an argument that Jews living in the Diaspora have no right to get involved in debates about Israeli policy, and ought instead to support Israel's every action. However, the fact remains that Israel activists are used by Israel for an important purpose, and this means that Jewish student activists around the world are involved, in some way, in the Israeli political process.
RUNNING A CAMPAIGN
Organized campaigns allow Jewish students to exert a huge influence on public opinion and the political process.
Once a general idea of what the aim of a campaign is going to be has been obtained, and the organizational infrastructure for realizing the campaign is put together, one of the first things that needs to be done is research.
Although campaigns generally aren't conducted like intellectual arguments or debates, they do need to be backed up by facts and expertise. Before a campaign is launched, start gathering information from trust-worthy sources.
It is important to define clearly who the audience is for a campaign. Different audiences need different approaches, and are accessible in different ways. The audience or audiences that are targeted in a campaign should be worked out by looking at the aims and objectives. For example, if a campaign is seeking to get a certain piece of legislation passed, the primary audience has to be politicians, because they have the most influence over this. Secondary audiences might include any group that can influence politicians, such as the general public or Jewish political organizations.
The decision about who the primary audience for a campaign is determines what methods should be used to meet the campaign objectives. Once the audience is set, the methods can be worked out.
There are, broadly speaking, two potential audiences for campaigns. The first is the public, including students and perhaps the wider community. The second audience is a more limited audience of public and corporate officials.
These two audiences are reached in completely different ways. If a campaign aims to get Pepsi to refuse to join the Arab Boycott of Israel again, then the primary audience needs to be people working at Pepsi, and handing out leaflets at college is useful only so far as it creates pressure on Pepsi.
METHODS TO USE WITH THE PUBLIC
Student support for Israel is valuable in and of itself. Try to get student support, and the support of the general public, in the following ways:
Give out leaflets.
Put up emotive posters.
Get articles in the student paper.
Talk to people one-on-one to persuade them.
Perform high-visibility stunts in central places.
Invite inspiring speakers, and especially high-profile speakers.
Run a related charity campaign, to raise money (and awareness) for a relevant cause.
Build coalitions with other groups and run joint awareness-raising events with them.
Show films with an Israel or peace theme.
Hold cultural evenings or Israel fairs, with falafel, belly-dancing, trance music, and so on.
Run small components of larger campaigns, such as a briefing on the Middle East as part of a nuclear awareness week.
Organize consumer boycotts of certain companies, and let their management and other companies know why they are being boycotted.
Remember to go off campus to get support from the general public. Often it is possible to work with schools, or near schools, to get support of children.
[-----THE SUPPORT OF CHILDREN!!!!-----]
Ask students to talk to their parents about a campaign, to try to build support. Some methods for raising awareness and garnering support can work be made to work in a 'pyramid', where supporters enlist people they know. Ask supporters to give out leaflets, help raise money for a charity campaign once they have already given a bit of money, or talk to people their friends to build wide support for a campaign.
METHODS TO USE WITH PUBLIC OFFICIALS
Before engaging in a campaign to influence a certain politician or company, it is first necessary to do a bit of research. There is nothing worse than organizing a boycott of a company when they didn't even do what you thought they did. Next, once you are sure that they really are as bad as you suspect, approaching them formally and ask them to change. Although in many situations there is little chance that there will be a big change in behavior just because you ask, a polite approach at the start of a campaign keeps things civil.
Documenting what is said in this meeting ensures that they can't lie about went on later.
Reaching Officials by influencing students and the public
Student support for certain issues can also create pressure on decision makers. Once student support has been obtained, work to demonstrate the strength of this support. If a campaign aims to get student support in order to show leaders that their supporters want them to take certain action, it is important to show people how strong this support is.
Take photos of events, and send them to leaders, with short write-ups of what took place.
Compile petitions, and present these to the relevant leaders.
Write letters to leaders and politicians, and get people to sign them, or send their own version.
Publish a poll or survey that quantifies the strength of support for an issue.
Hold a demonstration.
Hold a photo-stunt and invite the press.
Get on to radio and TV, or get interviewed by the newspaper, to show that an issue is 'hot'.
Write letters to newspapers, and try to get the press to give an issue coverage.
Approaching Officials Directly
Most democratic representatives, including student leaders, are accessible to voters and other interested parties. It is possible to write to, and to meet with, most leaders, in most countries. Follow the general guidelines for approaching officials when approaching them directly. Primarily, this means being polite, making it clear that you are approaching them as an individual, being factual, and being clear about what action they are expected to take.
We have detailed information about approaching public officials as part of a campaign.
FORGING CAMPUS ALLIANCES
Encouraging support for Israel on campus, and limiting anti-Israel activity on campus relies heavily on the ability of Jewish student groups to form strong alliances with other groups on campus. Support can then be traded on key issues, ensuring that Jewish students' interests are met.
Mobilise Students to Get Involved on Campus
Before a Jewish student group can consider forming alliances, it is necessary to mobilise students to build the strength of the group. As many Jewish students as possible need to be encouraged to get involved in campus life. Jewish students ought to attend student union meetings. As many Jewish students as possible ought to be encouraged to join clubs and societies that are active in campus politics. Jewish students should be mobilized to vote in every campus election, to stand for election as student representatives for any and every forum, and to write letters to campus newspapers.
It isn't necessary to attempt to fill the top positions on campus; the main point of mobilization is to ensure that Jewish students are a strong electoral force. In fact, powerful Jewish student leaders can occasionally work against the wider efforts of Jewish student groups; in an effort to prove their neutrality and assert their independence, Jewish leaders can refuse to cooperate with Jewish groups.
Mobilisation of Jewish students is a question of creating a culture where involvement in campus activity is seen as the norm, and of persuading students individually to get involved on campus. This takes time, but is essential in the long run for defending Jewish students and Israel.
Jewish students who are already involved on campus, but who might not be closely involved with Jewish student activities, ought to be approached and befriended in an effort to include them in Jewish student mobilization efforts.
Try to explain the need for Jewish student solidarity, and encourage them to help other Jewish students as necessary.
Support Active Students
Once Jewish students are involved in campus activities, they need to be supported. It is important to check that people are coping in their positions, to deal with any difficulties that might arise, and to ensure that they are enjoying things at least enough to stay involved.
It is important to stay in touch with Jewish activists, so that when it is necessary to mobilize Jewish students for some reason or other, contact is considered normal and doesn't come 'out of the blue'. Meetings or mailings for Jewish activists, or even a special party can ensure that they feel wanted, and remain happy to work for the good of Jewish students.
Demonstrate Potential Strength
Jewish student involvement on campus needs to be recognized by mainstream campus groups. This is done by making Jewish student presence visible in a subtle way that other campus groups understand. For example, Jewish students can sit together, hold a visible 'caucus' meeting before a student council meeting, or if the situation on campus if comfortable, turn up at a meeting wearing 'Jewish' T-shirts.
Concentrate on Personal Relationships
Build personal relationships with campus leaders and opinion formers. This can be done in a variety of ways - extend invitations to key students to attend Jewish events, such as Friday night meals, speaker meetings, or parties.
If you have the money, you could even sponsor a trip to Israel for student journalists or such like. Meet individually with campus leaders and befriend them. Listen to them; find out what they believe is important. Whenever a student leader does something that went well, consider dropping them a note to say 'well done'.
Don't leave managing your relationships with campus leaders to chance. Be methodical. Make a target list of the key students that you will need as allies. If you want, even keep records of your conversations with them, and about them. Spread your net wide, and target students whom you believe are likely to become leaders on campus in the future.
Form Alliances with Powerful Groups
The point of mobilising Jewish students to get involved on campus, and of befriending campus leaders, is to allow the forging of alliances with powerful groups on campus. If Jewish students work together as a strong electoral block, if Jewish representatives in clubs and societies are busy trying to strengthen a pro-Israel agenda on campus, and if
Jewish leaders are friendly with the leaders of other campus groups, it ought to be possible to form strong alliances. Student leaders will recognise that Jewish support on key issues could be helpful. Where these same student leaders have no strong opposition to a 'Jewish agenda' - such as support for Israel, support for ethnic minorities, and such like - they will likely be willing to support these issues in return for support on other issues by Jewish students.
Which groups to try to form alliances with obviously depends upon the situation on each individual campus. In general, alliances should be made with groups that are either natural allies or else neutral towards Israel and the Jews. For example, middle-of-the-road political groups, some moderate Christian groups, and ethnic minority groups where these aren't dominated by radical Moslems. The more powerful a group is on campus, the more useful an ally they will make. Take a long-term approach to alliances - it is often worth giving support to a group even when it doesn't give any immediate benefit, just to build reliance and obligation on their part.
[-----RELIANCE AND OBLIGATION ON THEIR PART!!-----]
Exchange Support on Key Issues
Once an alliance is formed, and there is a general understanding that support will be exchanged on key issues, begin to exploit this relationship. Use the fact that Jewish students are highly active on campus to deliver support to allies on certain issues; in return for Jewish support, ensure that allies deliver votes and support on issues that are important to Jewish students.
It is possible to be pretty open about trading support, but of course it is important to keep in mind university and student union regulations.
PREPARING A SPEECH FOR HASBARA
THE NEED TO PREPARE
Even the best public speakers need to prepare. In fact, the best public speakers are good because they prepare.
Especially in a particularly charged area, like hasbara (explaining Israel's positions to non-Israelis and non-Jews), it is important to prepare to speak, both in terms of content, and in terms of style.
RESEARCH THE AUDIENCE
A well-prepared speech given to the wrong audience is as bad as a terrible speech given to the right audience. It is vital to learn who the audience is going to be, and tailor speeches to them. There is a big difference between talking to a group of Christian Zionists and talking to a mixed group of Jewish and Moslem students. Adjusting to the audience means delivering a speech at the right level; telling the audience, roughly, what they want to hear; and allowing the audience to feel that you care about them.
Before planning a speech, find out the following information about the audience (or expected audience) from the organizer of the event, or from people who are familiar with the setting:
Numbers expected to attend
Level of understanding of the subject
Likely opinions on the subject
What the audience needs to get from the talk
What the audience wants to get from the talk
This information will allow a speech to be written and delivered in the right way. Because there is such a big difference between speaking to a big hostile audience and a small friendly one… find out which you will be talking to, and prepare accordingly.
When talking about Israel it is likely that the audience will consist of three main groups - allies, neutrals, and opponents. Opponents, where these are people who are deeply anti-Israel or anti-Zionist, are unlikely to have their minds changed in any sort of public venue. In a mixed audience, it is generally more important to motivate and reinforce allies, and persuade neutrals, than to answer the charges of opponents.
GATHERING MATERIALS AND INFORMATION
Hasbara is not about factual argument. However, it is still important to prepare strong arguments and points, even if they wouldn't really stand up to closer examination. Hasbara is not the same as an International Relations or philosophy essay. However, although hasbara is often more about the emotional than the factual, it is important to be prepared with facts and figures.
Hasbara speakers need to be familiar with the topics that they are going to be dealing with. It is important to read before preparing to talk about Israel - if you don't know what the Lebanon War was, you won't be able to say why Israel wasn't directly responsible for the Sabra and Shatilla massacres. Collect information about the subjects you are going to be talking about, take notes, and make sure you are generally familiar with the background to things.
Use Inclusive Language
Try to use language that allows your audience to identify with the pro-Israel cause. For example, instead of saying 'Palestinian terrorism is a danger to stability in the Middle East' use the more inclusive 'we all understand what a danger to Middle East stability Palestinian terrorism is…'
PURPOSE OF SPEECH IN ONE LINE
The first step in writing a speech is to work out, in one line, what the speech is intended to convey. This line should bring together all of the arguments and points that will be made in the speech.
For example, the purpose of a speech given to a neutral but interested audience of students about Israel's attempts to make peace at Camp David (2000) might be 'To persuade the audience that Israel has made extensive attempts to make peace, and that these have failed has not primarily been Israel's fault'.
This one line purpose will then drive the rest of the speech. Everything in the speech should be based on driving home the one simple message ('Israel has tried to make peace, and the fact it hasn't managed isn't Israel's fault') that the purpose contains. The message a speech gives should be agenda setting, and not a response to the arguments others bring.
Once the purpose of the speech is clear, the rest is much easier to prepare. Working out the purpose should be done before too much work is done on writing the actual speech, in order to keep the speech sharp and the message simple.
Remember that the purpose of a speech is dependent upon the audience. It is possible to convey a more complex message to a sophisticated audience. Where an audience will consist of many people who are opponents of Israel, remember that the purpose and message of a speech is better aimed at neutral listeners and allies.
PERSONAL STORIES AND HUMOR
Powerful speeches engage the emotions. Personal stories, or stories told from a human dimension, can often do this well. What better way to make a point about victims of terror than to tell a story about them? More powerful than telling a story about a child in hospital who might never walk again is telling a story about one's own visit to see that child in hospital, and how sad it was to see it. This, rightly or wrongly, gets the audience to tune in, listen, and take notice. It is much easier to listen to a story, especially an emotionally charged one, than to listen to abstract concepts. Stories make powerful points and get the audience's attention. (Just think - would Martin Luther King Jr's 'I have a dream' speech have been as powerful if he had said 'many people rightfully demand'?)
Jokes can often liven up a presentation. Obviously remember that not everybody is good at delivering jokes. For those people who aren't, it is often better not to bother. A bad joke is definitely worse than no joke at all. Moreover, jokes aren't always suitable - don't tell jokes about terrorism, Palestinian children, or other sensitive subjects, unless (or even if) you are sure that the audience will be receptive. Finally, avoid making fun of the audience. Although it might get a laugh from some people, others are bound to be offended.
PREPARE VISUAL AIDS AND MATERIALS
Particularly in the field of hasbara it is important to use any possible avenue to get one's point across. Use overheads, slides, pictures, flyers, and handouts to reinforce the message conveyed in a speech.
If pictures speak a thousand words then it makes sense to use some pictures to strengthen an argument.
BODY LANGUAGE AND GESTURES
Successful communication involves verbal and non-verbal parts. Effective speakers use body language and gestures to project the right image and make their speeches work better.
Make eye contact with members of the audience.
Use facial expressions to communicate. Smiling works to convey a likable, non-aggressive image.
Use an open body posture. Face the audience, and deliver at least some of a speech without the 'barrier' of a table or lectern. Moving to deliver the speech from a different position on stage can mark transitions, but be careful not to move around too much whilst speaking as this can be distracting.
Use hand gestures to emphasize points.
Point using the back of the hand, or the thumb. Note
that effective speakers never point at the audience with a finger as this is seen as aggressive. Other aggressive gestures, which should be avoided at all costs when talking about Israel, include standing with hands on hips, and holding both hands behind the head.
Vary one's voice to retain the interest of listeners. Vary the speed a speech is delivered at and introduce pauses. Try to feel emotion whilst talking to convey feeling with one's voice. Lower one's voice to draw the audience in, perhaps whilst telling a personal story, and then raise it again to make a point.
In an area like hasbara where it is very unlikely that the audience will be fully satisfied by a speech, it is inevitable that questions will be asked. These will generally divide into three types - genuine questions (somebody wants to know something, or the speakers opinion on something), supporting points, and hostile points. (For example "But don't you think that Israel is actually racist?" - which is more of a hostile point than a genuine question.)
It is important to remember that questions should be anticipated and prepared for. Not all questions can be anticipated, but many can.
Distinguish between questions that should be answered genuinely, and those that shouldn't.
Hasbara is about setting the agenda. If somebody uses a question to make a point, it doesn't need to be answered, only addressed.
Always stay friendly and keep smiling, especially when being asked hostile questions. Body language is particularly important during confrontation, and neutral audience members will tend to side with the person who kept their cool the best.
When asked a hostile question, don't try to answer it. Rather, try to counter the point that was made by making another point.
LETTERS TO POLITICIANS
REASONS TO WRITE TO POLITICIANS
Politicians consider each letter they receive to be representative of 100s of voters' feelings on a subject. If a politician receives a handful of letters in support of Israel, they are likely to believe that their voters support Israel.
Grassroots pressure won't get a politician to radically alter their views, but it might well give them the confidence to act on their pro-Israel feelings. Thanking a politician after they do something to help Israel will encourage them to continue in the same vein.
Conversely, grassroots pressure on politicians who are generally hostile to Israel might persuade them that they will be punished by the electorate if they don't moderate their actions.
HOW TO WRITE TO POLITICIANS
Identify as a Concerned Citizen
Politicians are quick to discount letters that they see as part of organised campaigns conducted by pressure groups. For this reason, letter writers should identify themselves as concerned citizens, and not as members of organisations.
Handing Out Leaflets. Unlikely as it may seem, it is possible to be good (or bad) at this seemingly simple task:
Dress in a usual way. If dressing unusually, make sure it is as something with a friendly and light-hearted image. Better to dress up as a clown than a skeleton.
Make eye contact with people who are approaching. Making eye contact is the key to handing-out leaflets. Notice people approaching from a long way away - staring into somebody's face as they are next to you is too pushy.
Smile at people.
Hold leaflets so that the title can be clearly seen by passers-by.
When handing a leaflet to somebody who isn't talking to somebody else, consider a short phrase like "this explains why we're here today".
Don't get involved in long conversations, as the aim of leafleting is to hand out leaflets. Offer to talk to genuinely interested people later.
Don't get drawn into arguments. The aim is to convince the middle ground. Remember the basic hasbara principle that those who are deeply opposed to Israel aren't the target of efforts to explain what Israel is about, and are highly unlikely to genuinely listen. Certainly, the street is not the right time to persuade somebody to really change his or her views. If somebody confronts you and tries to argue, say politely "Perhaps if you read this leaflet you might start to change your mind".
In some areas, it might be sensible to hand out leaflets at least in pairs. Consider the possibility of being attacked.
Pick up leaflets that people have thrown away before leaving an area. It reflects badly on a cause if it is seen littering the street.
Jewish students at Durban show how PR should be done
'Some of the contingent members did reassure their worried parents back home, disturbed by images of their sons and daughters handing out flowers to Palestinians, that it was just a public relations stunt.'
[------WELL ISN'T THAT A RELIEF!-----]
World Union of Jewish Students