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Explaining Zionism I:  America 2020

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Explaining Zionism I:  America 2020

Toward the end of 2004, Frank Luntz published a seminal and relatively perceptive study of the attitudes of American university students to Israel and Zionism. Despite some obvious faults, Luntz's study was probably the best of its kind - maybe the only one of its kind. The study, commissioned by the Israel project, was frightening. Even in the United States, traditionally pro-Israel, a large body, perhaps a majority, of university students believe that American policy toward Israel is dictated by "the Jewish Lobby." The best informed stratum in American society, the future leaders, believe that Jews constitute 20% of the population of the USA (in reality Jews are roughly 2%, and many Jews are not pro-Israel). Luntz noted:

  Never in the modern history of the Jewish state has there been more outspoken public opposition on the ELITE college campuses to the basic principles and tenets of Israel.  To be brutally frank, if current trends are not averted, America’s core commitment to and alliance with Israel may not survive.

In some cases, Luntz's conclusions ring true. Unfortunately, in the form the study was seen by most people, the heart of it was ripped out, because the facts did not agree with the political orientation of the people who presented the material. The full study should still be available from the Israel Project (it comes by overland camel apparently, but you will get it eventually) - it is worth reading. Luntz also found that the most effective "propaganda" was created by the disengagement and Israeli peace efforts. The study notes:

The only way for Israel to create sympathy is to be the side working hardest for peace. The best case for Israel is to demonstrate that she is willing to go twice as far as her neighbors to establish peace.

Most American Zionist advocates don't understand that this is so. As an example of "words that work," Luntz cites the following:

I am determined to implement this disengagement plan, which can bring about peace and stability if both sides commit themselves to real change and progress.

We must measure each other's commitment to peace based on actions, not words. That is the best way we can secure a two-state solution that allows for true peace and tranquility

Let us come together and bring about a new era of openness and tolerance. Today, we must all declare that violence and bloodshed will not prevail. We must provide hope for all people of the Middle East. We must provide hope for those who have little. It is my hope that we may all live in liberty, prosperity and peace - now and forever.

-- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

In other words, the best "propaganda" is the truth. However, we haven't seen enough of that in pro-Zionist messages.  The truth is "improved" and loses credibility. The problem remains  that the most vocal representatives of Zionism in the USA and Europe are often those who are way to the right of the Israeli government, not progressive Zionists. Progressive Zionists in the US, very probably a majority, are too busy protesting the occupation to engage in defending Israel. Luntz noted:

Message: The student elite needs to hear from pro-Israel Democrats and left-of-center voices from the US and Europe as well as from Israel. They won't listen to people from the right, and they don't trust Israelis who won't acknowledge responsibility for Palestinian hardship.

However, the people who put together the fancy study brochure didn't think about what this implies. The forward has a nice message from Nathan Sharansky. While he may have many merits, Sharansky is not the sort of fellow to attract  even supporters of Ariel Sharon, let alone  "left of center voices." I have the feeling that someone like myself would feel very lonely at a gathering of such "Zionists."

Luntz himself, in the text, does not always follow his own conclusions and recommendations. In addition to recommending fairness to Palestinians and advocating peace, he also recommends "watching your language."

Recommendation: Be more careful in phrase creation. Once a phrase is created, it cannot be edited. For example, this group is split whether the term “suicide bomber” or “homicide bomber” is more accurate. However, they are unanimous in their opinion that “suicide bomber” is the more objective term, simply because it was the first term used in press accounts. Any effort to change that terminology is perceived as spin or propaganda. Similarly, Israeli spokespeople need to consider how terms translate into English. “Separation” may sound fine in Hebrew but in English it sounds like “segregation” which is always a bad thing.

That makes sense to me, but then Luntz tells us:

Recommendation: They’re DISPUTED TERRITORIES, not occupied territories.   Especially given this audience’s vast ignorance of history, there is no reason to concede that the West Bank and Gaza are “occupied” as opposed to “disputed.”

Is there anyone who has a pulse, who doesn't know that a right-wing Israeli apologist can be spotted a mile away for using the term "disputed territories?" Israel government spokespeople who have to use it, do so, but nobody else should use it, except perhaps for areas like Jerusalem or no-man's land that are really disputed.  Even Ariel Sharon called them "occupied territories." In Hebrew, by the way, it is worse - "conquered territories."

Then Luntz tells us:

Recommendation: They’re ARABS, not Palestinians .  The term “Palestinians” evokes imagery of refugee camps, victims, and oppression.  “Arab” says wealth, oil, and Islam.  Americans are far more sympathetic to Palestinians than they are to Arabs.  Remember, when it was the “Arab-Israeli Conflict”?  It still is.  Even though the word Palestinian is used repeatedly throughout this document, the more often you can call them Arabs, the less sympathetic the young elite will be.

I confess that I have a personal problem with the word "Palestinian." Hardly any Arabs living here called themselves Palestinians before 1948. My mother had a Palestine passport and was a Palestinian, born in Hebron. However, she was a Jewish Palestinian. Mahmoud Abbas's parents did not call themselves Palestinians. However, people should be called by the name they give themselves. True, they are Arabs, but they are different from Egyptian or Syrian or Jordanian Arabs. Just as I insist on my Jewish national identity, I must allow my neighbors their Palestinian Arab identity. We do not gain anything by calling them "Arabs." Not among the intellectual elite.    Moreover, there is a not-too-subtle appeal to racism here. I get pretty sore when people say Zionists are racists, and even angrier when people (as they often do) try to use anti-Semitism against Israel. I don't think it is right to use racist arguments. If people are prejudiced against Arabs, it is a problem that we, as decent people, should fight, rather than a weakness to exploit. Leave that tactic for Radio Islam, ABBC.COM and the other bottom-feeders. By succumbing to these tactics, we become hateful and we  label ourselves as hateful. In the long run, it it not good strategy. So much for fairness and balance and credibility.

Luntz missed the significance of some of his major findings, and therefore his recommendations are often incorrect. He notes:

The pro-Palestinian attitudes among these students originate with their professors.

That is very likely true. However, if it is true, then all the conclusions of his focus groups and all his recommendations about how to "market" Israel miss the point. Students may respond favorably to imagery or phrases in focus groups and experiments. However, as soon as those students get the authoritative word from their professors, the effect of the advertising will be nullified. TV advertisements for pain relievers are very effective. However, if your professor at Yale University School of Medicine tells you that plain generic aspirin is just as good, you will believe your professor. Luckily for manufacturers of pain relievers, most people aren't studying medicine. However, many of those students are studying the Middle East conflict with their professors.

Having told us of the importance of the professors, Luntz nonetheless writes:

...these young men and women are searching for “root causes” and “solutions” that address “today’s challenges” (violence, suffering and land) as though there was no past to explain anything.  History does matter to them, but they won’t take the time to learn it. 

Message: decide the five facts – no more -- that matter most in defining the past AND are most relevant to the future then and go out and educate

Yeah right. What happens when these supposed airheads (the intellectual elite of America get to their classes with their five facts that they were educated in by zealous disciples of Luntz, and their professor blows them out of the water with ten facts? I bet Rashid Khalidi or Charles Smith  know even more than ten facts. It is also hard to believe that Luntz didn't meet the students who know ten facts too, not all of which are flattering to Israel.

Luntz seems to fall into the error of confusing between opposition to Israeli policy, and opposition to Israel in principle. He notes correctly:

 Support exists and is growing for a NON-JEWISH one-state solution.   Of all the findings, this one is perhaps the most dangerous. 

He got that right. It is the heart of the problem. In Europe, this problem is much more pronounced. But Luntz also tells us:

The “cycle of violence” is a code word for Israeli culpability.  Whenever you hear people complain about the cycle of violence, know that a condemnation of Israel is coming.

We know a great many people who use the "cycle of violence" terminology - including President Clinton, who are not anti-Israel or anti-Zionist. Some may have a different view of what Israeli policy ought to be, or may counsel restraint in retaliation, but the fact that they may disagree with Luntz's point of view doesn't make them anti-Israel, anti-Zionist or even necessarily wrong.

Luntz also let the importance of the Internet whiz right by him. None of his recommendations involve use of the Internet. It is not even discussed, but it is right there in his findings. He wrote:

First and foremost, they know nothing about the history of the Middle East.  Nothing.  Their only context is the morning’s headlines which they get from some Web site.

What they have heard second hand or read on the Web has taken the place of genuine reality. 

Campus life revolves around the Internet

And yet, Luntz could not reach the obvious conclusion that something has to be done about getting the message about Israel and Zionism out on the Web. It didn't occur to him to look on the Web to see what is there - he would probably be appalled.

So, Luntz found that the two greatest sources of information about the Middle East - and bias - in these students - are the Internet and their professors. Nonetheless, he didn't explore that the professors are saying, and he didn't look at how Israel and Zionism are presented on the Web, and he did not make a single recommendation about dealing with either problem.

Luntz may have missed another point. He takes his participants word for it that they read articles in the New York Times - though perhaps they read only the headlines. They get their information from the Times, he claims, and that is why they are biased, because the Times is biased according to him. He should have probed further. He would have found that these students do not read the New York Times at all. When they say that they read the Times on the Internet, they probably mean, more often than not, that they read excerpts or quotes from NYT articles at different blogs, articles by Noam Chomsky or perhaps in emails that they got from friends and activists. At least in the case of the New York Times, it is probably not the media that are biased, it is the sources who are summarizing the media.

Luntz's study was also not scientific in any sense of the term, or at least if it was, you could have no way of knowing it from the brochure I read. There is everything you might want in this finely produced work. There are color photos and fine artwork. Whole pages are devoted to a one line quote. The layout is superb. The production is perfect. However, there is not a shred of evidence of scientific method. There are no numbers and no protocols and no methodology. . No chi-square, no t-tests or ANOVA or factor analysis or error terms. There is not one table or percentage or figure in the whole book. It is all "they said" and "people say," and "everyone knows." There are great quotes, but no evidence of how many people might hold this opinion. Luntz doesn't tell us how he chose his subjects, or how many subjects there were. He doesn't even tell us what universities were studied or how many people were involved in the study.  He uses terms like "most participants" or "nearly all," or "often," or "hardly ever,"  but we don't know what they mean, if anything,  in terms of percentages or how representative they are of the population at large. All we've got to inspire confidence is the foreword by Sharansky.

This effort suffers from the disease of large organizations. It was printed in huge type in an almost 50 page color glossy brochure. The price of printing that brochure could have paid for 10 Web sites like this one for 10 years. Color glossy brochures are not necessarily  the way to impress left-leaning students and serious thinkers. However, even in a color glossy brochure, it is possible to include statistical figures, number of subjects, tables and graphs. A few 3D colored pie charts would be decorative at least.

However, if that is what there is, then so be it. It is not the best study that was ever done, but it is the only one we've got now, and even with its limitations, if half of what Luntz found is true, it is frightening. We can be fairly sure that more than half of it is true, because it is an exact mirror of what we can see on the Internet and what we hear people say - down to the same quotes.

By all means, get it, read it and use it - but use it with care. It ain't necessarily so. The things that you're liable to read in glossy colored brochures designed to impress donors, they ain't necessarily so.

Ami Isseroff

The text above is copyright by the author and may be used only by permission of the author.

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See also Zionism and Peace - A Zionist Credo History of Anti-Zionism Zionism and its Impact  Campus Doves - Zionism with a difference  Zionism and Israel- FAQ - Issues and Answers     Be Proud-Presenting Zionism The Myth of the Israeli Bantustan offer at Taba and other myths


[These excerpts are not the entire study. They are based on materials published on the Web, but were updated according to the final version. The final version of the study may differ, I strongly recommend that you ask for the study itself from the source. The quotes above were checked against the final study]

AMERICA 2020: HOW THE NEXT GENERATION VIEWS ISRAEL

 

WHY THIS MATTERS

“I think that what Israel’s doing to the Palestinians is effectively what was done to the Jews in Europe during World War II.  I understand they’re living in a regime of terror but, frankly, if I were a Palestinian, I don’t know that I wouldn’t strap on a bomb and go and kill myself.”      (focus group participant)

            That statement would be hardly acceptable coming from an uneducated, unemployed immigrant that plans to leave America and return to her homeland this year.  Unfortunately, it was spoken by a female Harvard Law School student who someday hopes to run for political office.  She is a future leader of America and she is not alone.   

            The ongoing crisis on university campuses is one of the most disturbing trends in American public opinion toward Israel.  The problem is simple and its severity cannot be overstated —particularly at America's most elite institutions of higher learning. Tomorrow’s leaders are increasingly hostile to the Jewish State.  The students at the finest graduate schools in America are turning against Israel in alarming numbers.  What’s at stake is nothing short of American foreign policy toward Israel in the years to come. 

            Never in the modern history of the Jewish state has there been more outspoken public opposition on the ELITE college campuses to the basic principles and tenets of Israel.  To be brutally frank, if current trends are not averted, America’s core commitment to and alliance with Israel may not survive.

            This report is based on face-to-face and group interviews with dozens of students under age 30 who are attending the top graduate schools in America – including the top business school, the top law school, the top school of government and the top school of journalism.  Today these students are opinion influencers.  Tomorrow they will be opinion leaders.  And by the year 2020, they will be the decision makers.  The people we talked to in generating this report are virtually guaranteed a place among the Who’s Who in American society. 

            The future legal eagles, CEOs, editorial page editors and, most importantly, the next generation of congressmen and senators, sat with us for many hours of often brutal discussion about Israel and the Palestinians.  Their blunt assessment of how they relate to Israel in the 21st Century should serve as a wake-up call not just to the current Jewish leadership in America but to the proponents of Israel – from Israel – that their efforts are failing.  More accurately, they have already failed. 

            We confirmed what some readers knew already: a growing impatience with Israel and a growing emotional connection with the Palestinian cause.  What we heard was outright anger toward Israel, sympathy towards the Palestinians – and even an occasional rationalization for terrorism.  What we discovered was that the momentum away from Israel is even greater than we once feared.

            This is a new phenomenon.  Until now, there was something in America’s political zeitgeist that had always predisposed a majority of Americans to instinctively favor Israel.  A combination of our Cold War alliance, successive pro-Israel American Presidents, a friendly news media and the acceptance of Jews into the fabric of American life had continued to fuel this positive disposition.   

            But even if the high school history books remain the same, something more significant has changed.  Those on the political left put the Palestinians up on a pedestal and consider their cause one of basic human rights denied by force by a militarist and oppressive Israeli regime.  Those in the center and on the right have a more balanced view, but almost no one is prepared to speak up or speak out in favor of Israel.  And the fact that their views are now “balanced” rather than pro-Israeli ought to raise alarm bells.

            A number of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations have risen up to fight back on the campuses across America, but this problem transcends the classrooms and dorm rooms of the nation.  This is not about rallies for Israel.  This is not a judgment about the activities of AIPAC or Hillel.  These graduate students at the most elite universities aren’t picking up their information from student clubs, pamphlets they read on their way to class or from the college newspaper.  They’re getting their information from the New York Times, from CNN, and even from the BBC.

            The fact is, we are losing the communication war in the elite media, and it will cost us the support of a generation of elites.  The enemies of Israel will always exist; the names may change but the threat will not.  Unless we stand up, fight back and reverse this trend, the next generation of American leaders – those who will assume power around the year 2020 – will not see Israel as an ally.  They will see Israel as a burden – and one that may not be worth carrying.    

            

            “When you have women trying to blow themselves up, that’s a huge thing they’re trying to say to the Western World and to everyone.”  

                                                                                                (focus group participant)

            “[Israel’s] provocations lead to more violence.  The assassination of Palestinians is not the answer to the violence.”        (focus group participant)

 Tomorrow’s leaders tell us – in their own words – that their early education and environs instilled instinctive pro-Israel sentiments, yet they are now drifting away from Israel and toward the Palestinians.  They explain their shift in terms of greater “education,” sophistication, and understanding.  In their own words: 

--          To be pro-Israel is to close their eyes to reality and cling to obsolete loyalties.

--          To support the Palestinians is a mature moral judgment based on the facts of today. 

The end of the Cold War and the invasion of Iraq have inspired a reconsideration of old sympathies, and Israel has come out on the losing end.  No, these students don’t blame Israel for 9/11, but they have clearly forgotten that it was the Palestinians that danced for joy in the streets while we were burying our dead. 

These future leaders don’t accept the old arguments as articulated by the old politicians because they have heard them all before.  In fact, so-called “talking heads” have very little impact on these people.  They simply don't trust politicians or the professional pundits who question them. They prefer the editorial pages and the more analytical and intellectual approach that emphasizes balance -- even when balance (i.e. support for suicide bombers) is inappropriate.

Message- Anything that is overtly political and/or pro-Israeli is considered propaganda and therefore dismissed.

An important aspect of the politicization of the Arab Israeli conflict is the friction between these left-of-center students and their right-of-center President- the perception that Bush has unequivocally embraced a right-wing Israeli government at the expense of the Palestinian people. They have conveniently ignored the President's outspoken public commitment to a vibrant, viable, democratic Palestinian State, but that doesn't really matter.

Message: The student elite needs to hear from pro-Israel Democrats and left-of-center voices from the US and Europe as well as from Israel. They won't listen to people from the right, and they don't trust Israelis who won't acknowledge responsibility for Palestinian hardship.

...these young men and women are searching for “root causes” and “solutions” that address “today’s challenges” (violence, suffering and land) as though there was no past to explain anything.  History does matter to them, but they won’t take the time to learn it. 

 

Message: decide the five facts – no more -- that matter most in defining the past AND are most relevant to the future then and go out and educate

We found that most of the lingering support for Israel is just that—only the lingering vestiges of a fading allegiance.  These students say that they used to support Israel because their parents and their ninth grade geography teacher said some positive stuff, or because they heard something affirmative in church when they wre younger, and yes,  and they do remember having a more positive opinion, but that was long (a few years) ago. 

The case for Israel must be re-argued … from scratch.

            The disconnect between professional advocates for Israel and the campus audience is nowhere more evident than in their perceptions of the media.  Within the pro-Israel community, the existence of an anti-Israel media bias is part of the catechism.  It is a given that the media – particularly the elite media like the New York Times and CNN – is openly hostile to Israel despite having Jews high up in their organizations. 

 The best read and most informed of their generation, actually believe the American media is anti-Palestinian and pro-Israeli.

While it may be hard for people reading this report to imagine, the students we talked to could not have been more emphatic in exactly the opposite conclusion. They believe press reports from the region, especially the print sources where they get the majority of their news, are overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Israeli point of view.  The primary reason?  They cite the emphasis on suicide bombing attacks instead of Israeli-inflicted civilian casualties.  This perceived media bias fuels the impression that Palestinians are the underdogs and victims of injustice and that the Israelis have too much power and control.  It also has the potential to breed a latent anti-Semitism, but that is for another analysis.

Truth is, it's there already

WHAT THE YOUNG OPINION ELITE THINK OF JEWS

“My only friends who care who they marry pretty much are Jewish.  I personally don’t understand it.  I see nothing wrong with a big mixing bowl of all the races and religions coming together through marriage and then having children with a little bit of each.” 

“People that are over-represented at Ivy schools.”
           

“They have banded together in their way of life much more than a typical Christian would.”

             

WHAT THE YOUNG OPINION ELITE THINK OF PALESTINIANS

"What must have been done to the Palestinians to make them so angry?"

 "When I saw the Palestinian mob scene, I got a flashback to old civil rights footage.”

 "I feel sorry for the Palestinians as much as I'm angry with them."

 "It's awful that they're being used but when I see those children speak [in a Palestinian rally], I feel like he must be living in a totally terrible place."

            “I can rationalize suicide bombing for a military target, but for a civilian target I can’t rationalize that.”                                                  (focus group participant)

            "I'm sure there are Jewish mother who are happy when Palestinians die.  We just don't see them."                                                       (focus group participant)    

......           

In our research, support for Israel was described as a vestige of upbringing, a sense of allegiance that used to exist widely in American culture.  Those who were introduced to Israel at an early age and in a religious setting were far more likely to remain favorable toward the country, while those who first learned of Israel in their teenage years at school had much more negative opinions.  Participants often cited interaction with Jewish friends as a source of information - and most of these people hold at least some primordial notion that Israel is America’s ally. 

But that was all in the past.  Virtually every student we interviewed said they had drifted away from Israel and toward the Palestinian point of view over the past few years.  Most said that “learning more about the situation” had sent them into the Palestinian camp.

So how do you reach an audience with such a radically different understanding of the world?  How do you apply the values of today’s young leaders to the conflict in the Middle East?  How do you appeal to very smart people who fundamentally oppose America's military intervention in general and perceived one-sidedness in the Middle East in particular? What are the messages that will turn the tide? 

            In a word: peace.

Above all else, tomorrow’s leaders want an end to the violence -- permanently.  Sure, all Americans want a peaceful resolution to the conflict – but this group more than most.  As “future leaders,” they assume that every dispute can be resolved, and the best resolution is to remove the root cause of that violence.  The problem is, they make little distinction between the violence inflicted by terrorists and the preventive efforts and/or retaliation of the Israeli army. 

            Today’s campuses are bastions of moral relativism.  Some of the Harvard, UCLA and University of Chicago graduate students we spoke to actually justified the suicide bombings.  All the participants, even those who were in New York City on 9/11, said they had grown increasingly numb to the bombings over these past few months, and that the horrible violence of  terrorism does not justify Israeli retaliation - or even Israeli self defense (including the security fence). And any statistics you tell them (such as the 95% reduction of successful suicide bombings) will be met with even more strident complains about "Israeli tactics" or "What about the Palestinian deaths, huh?"

In their eyes, any violence in the Middle East is either because of Israel's actions (supported by America) or the invasion of Iraq, and both mean more attacks on America like those of 9-11. So, from a purely self-interested perspective, the best way to end violence is to put further pressure on Israel because it is stronger and should therefore be doing even more than the Palestinians to end the cycle of violence. 

REACHING OUT TO THE LEADERS OF 2020

The only way for Israel to evoke their sympathy is to be the side working hardest for peace.  The best case for Israel is to demonstrate that she is willing to go twice as far as her neighbors to establish peace.

            

            We have lost the advantage – and it will get even worse unless the current political and media environment is significantly altered.  So let’s take a look at what America’s Best & Brightest think about Israel and the Palestinians:

 

1)         First and foremost, they know nothing about the history of the Middle East.  Nothing.  Their only context is the morning’s headlines which they get from some Web site. Now remember,  the students who participated in this study are the best of the best, and yet they know nothing about the circumstances of Israel’s founding, the details of the 1967 war, the rise of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the history of the disputed territories, or any other historical facts relevant to the current conflict.

 

Let's get specific:

  • They don’t know the U.N. was involved in Israel’s founding.  Many believe the U.S. simply created Israel and some believe Israel has no historic claim to the land.
  •  Most don’t know Israel’s Arab neighbors attacked en masse in 1948 and that the Palestinian state that was to be created alongside Israel became Jordan.
  •  Most believe the 1967 war was a border dispute, and are not sure who started it. 
  • Most don’t know that the Arabs attacked Israeli in 1973 on the holiest day of the year.  (Learning this fact did change some minds, particularly among the women.)
  • Most believe that Israel is NOT a democracy. When they listen to speeches or several pro-Israel ads, they react negatively toward Israel's democratic ideals because they don't consider them true.
  • Most believe that Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens and are surprised to learn that Arabs vote, serve in the Knesset and even serve as judges.

            You can blame the high school and college history professors, the media for not providing the historic context to their stories, their parents or themselves, but it does not alter the fact that the people who will be making the political, legal, business and media decisions for the rest of America are hopelessly ignorant when it comes to the Middle East in general and Israel in particular. 

 

2)         The “facts” they do “know’ are often wrong, and they all work against Israel.  It is important to point out that, for this elite group of adult students, the process of learning had little to do with reality.  What they have heard second hand or read on the Web has taken the place of genuine reality.  Some of the so-called “facts” cited by participants include:

  • The supposed Israeli practice of “rounding up and executing entire villages.”

  • Accounts of Israel’s founding that denied the existence of Jews in the Middle East at any prior point in history. 

  • So called "occupied" Arab villages within 1948-67 Israeli borders.

  • Jews make up 20% or more of the American population and that's why America is so biased in its support for Israel.

  • One participant decried the fact that “Israel was just placed there” in the midst of Arab homelands.  Others felt Israel’s claim to pre-67 borders was equal to the Palestinians.  Remember, these are America’s best and brightest.  Someone is “educating” these kids, and it is not the pro-Israel community.  It should therefore not surprise the reader to learn that for some of these future elite, if Israel didn’t exist, neither would the conflict.    

3) They believe that Palestinians don't have a homeland because of Israel. Before Arafat's death, many blamed his intransigence for the deplorable Palestinian conditions. After his death, some of that blame has been transferred to the Palestinian government. But there is a bigger problem. The young elites may see the Palestinians as helpless, but worse, there's a prevailing opinion that Israel is holding back its neighbors from controlling what is rightfully theirs. In fact, those that are most supportive of a Palestinian state are most hostile to the assertion that Israel is a true democracy. They see no reason for a "roadmap" or "confidence-building measures." To them, human rights trump security. Israel should pull out of Palestinian areas now.

 4)         Support for Israel is intellectual, while support for the Palestinians is emotional.  We have found this among the better-educated adult community so it is not surprising that the same sentiment exists among their children.  Any lingering support for Israel is a largely rational, cerebral matter, and is not especially passionate.  More men than women express this support and they do so based on geopolitical considerations and strategic calculations: that Israel is America’s ally and it has the right to defend itself. 

The Palestinians are the "underdogs." Sympathy for the Palestinians is expressed in emotional terms:  they are “displaced,” they “have no voice,” they are an “underclass.”  Americans cheer for the little guy. And if they view the Palestinians as innocent and defenseless, they will support their cause even without knowing their full intent.

....

In the end the Palestinians are winning hearts and minds because they have humanized the conflict. When the elites think of Israel, they thing of the political leadership -- and their thoughts aren't pleasant. But when they think of Palestine, they thing of suffering people. One solution is for Israeli politicians to sound less political and more human with they communicate on American television.

--“These people are stuck in refugee camps.  When you have someone blowing themselves up, they’re trying to say something.” 

           

--         “I am numb to it, with the exception of if it is a woman or a child bomber.  It makes me wonder about the desperation of the Palestinians.  It also makes me wonder who would send a woman or a child.”


 

The instinctive support for Israel we have relied upon for decades is rapidly being subsumed by instinctive support for the Palestinians, including their most extreme tactics.

...

THE YOUNG ELITE IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Q:        What is your reaction to someone saying they’re Jewish first, an American second?

A:        Frustration.  Because they can get away with that but if I said I’m Catholic first before I’m an American, there’d be problems with that.  But they can get away with it because of the way things have been throughout the years.  But I’m not afforded the same rights.  I feel like it’s a double standard.

A:        Annoyance.  I would understand more if it was an ethnic group, but because it’s a religion, I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m Catholic first.

A:        I think it’s kind of sad.  I think the American cause has to be at the top.

 

 

5)      They’re sure the Palestinians are suffering unjustly…and it's easiest to blame Israel.            This audience empathizes deeply with Palestinian suffering, and Israel is the obvious and easy scapegoat, but it's not that simple. While they certainly oppose Israeli tanks in Palestinian villages and even the security fence, they have doubts about the Palestinian leadership as well. And while they are sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, they do not share the same positive feelings toward other Arab states like Syria and Saudi Arabia.

 

There is a genuine opportunity here to help shift the blame and in so doing, change the elite's perspective about the Palestinian political culture -- even with the change in political leadership. The key word is RESPONSIBILITY. If presented with the facts and quote and allowed to draw their own conclusions, these students' negative impressions of the Palestinian government and the neighboring Arab countries will be confirmed.  So we remind them that:

            --          According to Forbes Magazine, Arafat  at his death had amassed a personal fortune of at least $300 million - and according to 60 minutes, closer to $2 billion- putting him at #6 on the list of the world’s wealthiest leaders. That money was siphoned from international and humanitarian aid by those who STILL run the Palestinian Authority, while the Palestinian people were living in abject poverty. Can't blame Israel for that.

            --          Saudi Arabia (and previously Iraq) has funneled millions into the Palestinian territories to pay the families of suicide bombers, but not a cent to build schools or economic infrastructure. Can't blame Israel for that. [Ed. - I believe it is not strictly true - Saudi Arabia is paying for reconstruction]

            --          Hamas and Islamic Jihad have publicly and repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel regardless of whether a Palestinian state is created- not just in the last decade or the last year, but even with the last month.  Can't blame Israel for that.

...

 

After learning these things, and also contemplating the vast wealth of the Palestinian’s Arab neighbors, the group began to shift blame away from Israel.  When asked who was responsible for the Palestinian’s poverty, some did say Israel, but many more mentioned the Palestinian Authority, and the “Arab elite” who “wants to keep them that way.”

 

6) There is even some sympathy offered to suicide bombers....

 

7)The pro-Palestinian attitudes among these students originate with their professors.

 

8)        The “cycle of violence” is a code word for Israeli culpability.  Whenever you hear people complain about the cycle of violence, know that a condemnation of Israel is coming. These future leaders – especially the women – equate Israeli violence with Palestinian violence.  They equate suicide bombings with Israeli incursions.  They justify the Palestinian terror because they say it is caused by Israeli terror.  They even say they understand the motivation of suicide bombers.  In their own words:

--          “I’m tired of both of them.  Neither side is negotiating in good faith.  Israel is a wild historical experiment and Israel is behaving more poorly.”

--          “It’s our support of Israel that makes the Middle East hate us.”

With this audience, it will not work to justify Israeli actions in the context of fighting terrorists.  They abhor ALL violence, but Israel must clear an even higher hurdle:   The elite graduate population sees Israel as the root instigator because it is the stronger power and is not hesitant to use its military might.  The net result is that Israel is held to a higher standard and they expect Israel to go farther out of its way to make peace. 

 

 

9) They consistently refer to Israel's security fence as a "wall," and so what is entirely a defensive measure is now seen as offensive and aggressive....

 

10) There is a direct correlation between presidential preference and attitudes toward the Middle East. Bush voters are almost all supporters of Israel, while Kerry voters almost unanimously back the Palestinians....

 

11) Most of the young elites say Palestinians are trying harder to achieve peace....

12) Disengagement is either unknown or not credible. ....[presumably this changed somewhat since the study was done --ed]

 

13)         Support exists and is growing for a NON-JEWISH one-state solution.   Of all the findings, this one is perhaps the most dangerous.  To up-and-coming elites, the notion of a “Jewish State” rings of an ethnic nationalism that has been widely rejected.  It sounds religious, extremist, and even racist.  A Jewish state also suggests to these people that the Palestinian struggle is a “civil rights” struggle for rights and recognition.  For an audience desperate for any solution at all, a secular bi-national State seems a rational option at least worth exploring.

The necessity of a Jewish State can only be explained by reviewing the prevalence of anti-Semitism around the world and across the decades.  Remember, they know little or nothing of the historic claim to the land -- but they are well aware of prevalent violent actions against the Jewish people    

 

14)        Diffusing the one-state solution is achievable if you play on the emotions of Palestinian sympathizers by emphasizing that the Palestinians themselves oppose this solution. ...

 

14)        The young elites won't look past the conflict until you actually get past the conflict. Advocates for Israel have complained that the media only writes about the worst atrocities and ignores the scientific, technological and environmental breakthroughs by Israeli scientists, doctors and other professionals. True enough. The problem is, the elite doesn't care and won't read these stories until they stop reading about the conflict.

 

.......

Reaching America's Future Leaders

“I lean toward the BBC because they view the Arab-Israeli conflict as a post-colonial situation and the American media views it through the lens of American interests.”          (focus group participant)

“The American media is pro-Israel because that’s where our interest lies…When Palestinians attack it’s described as offensive but when Israel attacks, it’s presented as retaliation.” (focus group participant)

            The first step in reaching the elite grad student audience is in understanding their unique habits of media consumption.  This generation gets their news from very different sources than their elders or their less sophisticated colleagues, and their perceptions of media bias shape how they digest information.

            Let us be clear about the challenge you face.  The new elite believe there is a “pro-Israel slant” in the American media,  and this belief is fueling the perception that the Palestinians are the underdogs. In fact, some... actually cited a pro-Israeli media bias as a major reason for their support of the Palestinian cause.  Yet, while nearly all participants... believed the American press was pro-Israel, almost none could explain the foundations of that belief:

  • The closest thing to a reasoned explanation for the perceived bias was that suicide bombings always make the front page, while Israeli incursions do not -- and that discussion led some to morally equate suicide bombers with the Israeli military.

  •  Others traced the bias to the practice of reporting terror attacks at the top of an article and the retaliation (and Palestinian casualties) in subsequent paragraphs.  It didn’t matter to the respondents that this was chronologically natural.

  • Still others were highly critical of the media for not emphasizing the fact that a lot more Palestinian children have been killed than Israeli children -- ignoring the cause of those deaths.

The consequences of that perceived bias are significant.  If the media is pro-Israeli, Israel’s crimes and transgressions must be even worse than reported.   Participants assumed that Israel must be committing atrocities that go unreported, and these imagined atrocities balance and therefore somewhat justify whatever the Palestinians may do. It all goes back to the cycle of violence, and that makes Israel the long-term loser.

If you want to address the perception-deception gap and address the challenge, here’s what you need to know:            

1)         The new elites get their information from the newspapers evenn more than television—and the New York Times is their Number One source.  But it is the NYT Online, not the print edition.  Campus life revolves around the Internet, and therefore it is no surprise that most graduate students get their news from online editions of newspapers – with The New York Times as the most popular site by far.  Even the California elite graduate students are more likely to turn to the New York Times rather than their own Los Angeles Times.

          This is an important visual and content distinction  : the printed headlines in the paper are not the same as in the online edition -- and those reading the online edition are less likely to read the entire article for the full perspective.  If there is a bad story on the New York Times website, it’s going to do damage. Keep in mind that most stories about Israel in The New York Times, CNN and BBC are researched, prepared and sent straight from Israel. It is critically important that the reported in Israel have the facts and visuals they need to get the Israel story right before they go to press.  If you have to fight for anything, fight for fair online headlines.   

 

2)         Most spend only 10-15 minutes on the news per day.  Not only does this audience get their news online, they only get a cursory summary.  Citing the difficulty of “reading on the screen” and an aversion to clicking through more than once, most read the headlines and the first few paragraphs of any given story.  The result?  Unless our spokespeople are quoted near the top of an article, their message won’t get through.     

  

3)         Those few that do watch television regularly say CNN is the most credible American network for international news.  Very few get their information from either Fox or MSNBC – the two cable news networks more sympathetic to Israel.  Despite Jewish complaints to the contrary, most of these elite graduate students see CNN as leaning toward Israel. On another television front, network news just doesn't matter Even though the Jewish leadership gets apoplectic over a bad network news story, it doesn't have significant impact on the next generation of elites because they just don’t watch network news anymore.

 

4)         The British press matters.  The BBC matters a lot.  A surprising percentage of elite grad students say they also seek international news from the website of the BBC.  The students, especially those on the Left, say the BBC is “more neutral” and “more balanced.”   The Internet allows easy access to the European press and reinforces the urgent necessity of correcting the extraordinary biases that exist within and among the British media.  Unfortunately, thus far, efforts to discredit the BBC have not succeeded.  In fact, in the eyes of the campus audience, it is the American press whose coverage is tainted.

HOW TO REACH THEM…

            "I think there are ways in which the Israeli politicians can use the tragedy to their own advantage."                      (focus group participant)

            “There are atrocities on both sides and the only reason I lean toward the Israel government is because I have a lot of Jewish friends.”   (focus group participant)

...          

 Reaching America’s future decision-makers requires special sensitivities with regard to both substance and style.  Speaking to these individuals is VERY DIFFERENT from speaking to any other audience you may encounter.  This is an exceptionally skeptical, if not hostile, group that is already predisposed against any kind of marketing, public relations or lobbying.  They will assume you’re biased or lying until you tell them something they know to be true – which isn’t much.  So be very, very careful.

....

11)         Moms can make a difference. The  messenger is as important as the message.  You can deliver a perfectly constructed message, but it will still fail if it comes from a less than credible source. Stylistically,  It is always better to be soft-spoken and mild mannered. 

  •  Aggressive, loud men are a turn-off. 

  • Broken English or a heavy accent is a turn-off. A British accent is the  most appealing. 

  • Attractive women are always a plus,  T

  • Be reasonable. Talk about compromise. Seek common ground.

   

 

12)         MESSAGE MATTERS. The future leaders are acutely sensitive to “rhetoric.”  This will be tough because this group is extremely sensitive to spin, and extremely hostile when they feel they are being spun.  More troublesome is the negative reactions to any Israeli spokesperson they deemed insensitive and uncaring.  The problem is... they see most pro-Israel spokespeople as insensitive and uncaring.   

 

Recommendation:  Be more careful in phrase creation.  Once a phrase is created, it cannot be edited.   For example, this group is split whether the term “suicide bomber” or “homicide bomber” is more accurate.  However, they are unanimous in their opinion that “suicide bomber” is the more objective term, simply because it was the first term used in press accounts.  Any effort to change that terminology is perceived as spin or propaganda.  Similarly, Israeli spokespeople need to consider how terms translate into English.  “Separation” may sound fine in Hebrew but in English it sounds like “segregation” which is always a bad thing.

 

Recommendation: They’re DISPUTED TERRITORIES, not occupied territories.   Especially given this audience’s vast ignorance of history, there is no reason to concede that the West Bank and Gaza are “occupied” as opposed to “disputed.” ...

 

Recommendation: They’re ARABS, not Palestinians.  The term “Palestinians” evokes imagery of refugee camps, victims, and oppression.  “Arab” says wealth, oil, and Islam.  Americans are far more sympathetic to Palestinians than they are to Arabs.  Remember, when it was the “Arab-Israeli Conflict”?  It still is.  Even though the word Palestinian is used repeatedly throughout this document, the more often you can call them Arabs, the less sympathetic the young elites will be.

 

....

 

            If the pro-Israel community has one priority in the coming months, it must be to address the communication crisis on America’s elite campuses.  We can no longer dismiss the Ivy League and similar institutions as hotbeds of vocal, but small, populations of extremists – or grad students at those institutions as overeducated dilatants.  More companies will eventually be lead by these students than by any other segment of the American population.  More Senators and more Congressmen will come from these institutions.

            The students in this study—the ones who say they empathize with suicide bombers—are not just the opinion-influencers of today.  They are the opinion-makers, and the decision-makers of tomorrow.  Unfortunately for us, that tomorrow is not far off.  It could be a matter of months, not years.

 

            We have squandered the cultural advantage that has been our foundation for decades.  We must now re-make the case for Israel on new terms, terms that tomorrow’s leaders understand and that are in accordance with their values.  Nothing short of America’s alliance with Israel is at stake.

 

See also - History of Anti-Zionism Zionism and its Impact  Campus Doves - Zionism with a difference 

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