Israeli Communications Priorities 2003

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Posted by Sadie from ? ( on Tuesday, April 29, 2003 at 10:53AM :

Israeli Communications Priorities 2003

ADC has obtained, and is publishing in full, a vital new Israeli propaganda strategy document for the period following the war in Iraq.

The document, entitled “Wexner Analysis: Israeli Communications Priorities 2003,” was prepared for the Wexner Foundation, which operates leadership training programs such as the “Birthright Israel” project which offers free trips for young Jewish Americans to Israel, by the public relations firm the Luntz Research Companies and the Israel Project. However, please note that the report’s suggested language is written in a distinctly Israeli, as opposed to a Jewish American, voice.

The world has changed. The words, themes and messages on behalf of Israel must include and embrace the new reality of a post-Saddam world.

In the past, we have urged a lower profile for Israel out of a fear that the American people would blame Israel for what was happening in the rest of the Middle East. Now is the time to link American success in dealing with terrorism and dictators from a position of strength to Israel's ongoing efforts to eradicate terrorism on and within its borders. In the current political environment, you have little to lose and a lot to gain by aligning with America. With all the anti-Americanism across the globe and all the protests and demonstrations, we are looking for allies that share our commitment to security and an end to terrorism and are prepared to say so. Israel is a just such an ally.


The fact that Israel has remained relatively silent for the three months preceding the war and for the three weeks of the war was absolutely the correct strategy - and according to all the polling done, it worked. But as the military conflict comes to a close, it is now time for Israel to lay out its own "road map" for the future which includes unqualified support for America and unqualified commitment to an ongoing war against terrorism.

Perceptions of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are being almost entirely colored and often overshadowed by the continuing action in Iraq. Partisan differences still exist (the political Left remains your problem) and complaints about Israeli heavy-handedness still exist. Advocates of Israel have about two weeks to get their message in order before world attention turns to the so-called "road map" and how best to "solve" the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Developing that message is the purpose of this memo.

Author's note: This is not a policy document. This document is strictly a communications manual. As with every memo we provide, we have used the same scientific methodology to isolate specific words, phrases, themes and messages that will resonate with at least 70% of the American audience. There will certainly be some people, particularly those on the political left, who will oppose whatever words you use, but the language that follows will help you secure support from a large majority of Americans. These recommendations are based on two "dial test" sessions in Chicago and Los Angeles conducted during the first ten days of the Iraqi war for the Wexner Foundation.


This document is rather long because it is impossible to communicate all that is needed in simple one-sentence sound-bites. Yes, we have provided those on the pages that follow, but we have taken the space to explain why the language is so important and the context in which it needs to be used. If you only read two pages, these are the key conclusions:

1) Iraq colors all. Saddam is your best defense, even if he is dead. The worldview Americans is entirely dominated by developments in Iraq. This is a unique opportunity for Israelis to deliver a message of support and unity at a time of great international anxiety and opposition from some of our European "allies." For a year - a SOLID YEAR - you should be invoking the name of Saddam Hussein and how Israel was always behind American efforts to rid the world of this ruthless dictator and liberate their people. Saddam will remain a powerful symbol of terror to Americans for a long time to come. A pro-Israeli expression of solidarity with the American people in their successful effort to remove Saddam will be appreciated.

2) Stick to your message but don't say it the same way twice. We have seen this in the past but never so starkly as today. Americans are paying very close attention to international developments and are particularly sensitive to any kind of apparent dogma or canned presentations. If they hear you repeating the exact same words over and over again, they will come to distrust your message. If your speakers can't find different ways to express similar principles, keep them off the air.

3) It DOES NOT HELP when you compliment President Bush. When you want to identify with and align yourself with America, just say it. Don't use George Bush as a synonym for the United States. Even with the destruction of the Hussein regime and all the positive reactions from the Iraqi people, there still remains about 20% of America that opposes the Iraqi war, and they are overwhelmingly Democrat. That leaves about half the Democrats who support the war even if they don't support George Bush. You antagonize the latter half unnecessarily every time you compliment the President. Don't do it.

4) Conveying sensitivity and a sense of values is a must. Most of the best-performing sound bites mention children, families, and democratic values. Don't just say that Israel is morally aligned with the U.S. Show it in your language. The children component is particularly important. It is essential that you talk about "the day, not long from now, when Palestinian children and Israeli children will play side-by-side as their parents watch approvingly."
5) "SECURITY" sells. Security has become the key fundamental principle for all Americans. Security is the context by which you should explain Israeli need for loan guarantees and military aid, as well as why Israel can't just give up land. The settlements are our Achilles heel, and the best response (which is still quite weak) is the need for security that this buffer creates.

6) The language in this document will work, but it will work best when it is accompanied with passion and compassion. Too many supporters of Israel speak out of anger or shout when faced with opposition. Listeners are more likely to accept your arguments if they like how you express them. They will bless these words but they will truly accept them if and only if they accept you.

7) Find yourself a good female spokesperson. In all our testing, women are found to be more credible than men. And if the woman has children, that's even better.

8) Link Iraqi liberation with the plight of the Palestinian people. It is likely that the most effective argument(s) you have right now are those that link the right of the Iraqi people to live in freedom with the right of the Palestinian people to be governed by those who truly represent them. If you express your concern for the plight of the Palestinian people and how it is unfair, unjust and immoral that they should be forced to accept leaders who steal and kill in their name, you will be building credibility for your support of the average Palestinian while undermining the credibility of their leadership.

9) A little humility goes a long way. You saw this with your own eyes. You need to talk continually about your understanding of "the plight of the Palestinians" and a commitment to helping them. Yes, this IS a double standard (no one expects anything pro-Israeli from the Palestinians) but that's just the way things are. Humility is a bitter pill to swallow, but it will inoculate you against critiques that you have not done enough for peace. Admit mistakes, but then show how Israel is the partner always working for peace.

10) Of course rhetorical questions work, don't they? Ask a question to which there is only one answer is hard to lose. It is essential that your communication be laced with rhetorical questions, which is how Jews talk anyway.

11) Mahmoud Abbas is still a question mark. Leave him that way. You stand much more to lose by attacking him now. But similarly, he is not worthy of praise. Talk about your hopes for the future, but lay out the principles you expect him to uphold: an end to violence, a recognition of Israel, reform of his own government, etc.


This document is about language, so let me be blunt. "Saddam Hussein" are the two words that tie Israel to America and are most likely to deliver support in Congress. They also just happen to be two of the most hated words in the English language right now.

Without being repetitive, Americans fundamentally believe that a democracy has a right to protect its people and its boarders. Unfortunately, as a democracy, we tend to dwell on our failures (Vietnam, Watergate, etc.) more than our successes. It is essential for the long-term support of a strong military and a commitment to national security that we remind people again and again...and again that there are times when it is necessary to take preventative action and that military intervention is better than appeasement.


There are some who would say that Saddam Hussein is already old news. They don't understand history. They don't understand communication. They don't understand how to integrate and leverage history and communication for the benefit of Israel. The day we allow Saddam to take his eventual place in the trash heap of history is the day we loose our strongest weapon in the linguistic defense of Israel.

References to the successful outcome of the war with Iraq benefit Israel. While Americans don't want to increase foreign aid in a time of significant budgetary deficits and painful spending cuts, there is one and only one argument that will work for continuing Israeli aid (in four easy steps):


(1) As a democracy, Israel has the right and the responsibility to defend its borders and protect its people.

(2) Prevention works. Even with the collapse of Saddam's regime, terrorist threats remain throughout our region.

(3) Israel is America's one and only true ally in the region. In these particularly unstable and dangerous times, Israel should not be forced to go it alone.

(4) With America's financial assistance, Israel can defend its borders, protect its people, and provide invaluable assistance to the American effort in the war against terrorism.

This is important. All the arguments about Israel being a democracy, letting Arabs vote and serve in government, protecting religious freedom, etc., won't deliver the public support you need to secure the loan guarantees and the military aid Israel needs. All the language we have written in past memos will not work when it comes to U.S. tax dollars. You need a national security angle - one that clearly links the interests of both Israel and America:


"It was Israel who risked their pilots and planes in taking out Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactors and thus thwarted his quest for nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

It was Israel who provided much of the intelligence that helped America defeat Iraq back in 1991.

It was Israel alone among Middle Eastern nations that supported America's successful effort to remove Saddam Hussein and liberate the people of Iraq.

We stood without you against the Saddam regime from beginning to end. Israel has been a key regional asset and military ally of the United States for more than 50 years. That relationship must continue, even and especially in the post-Saddam era. It is a partnership of democracies devoted to the war against terrorism and the fight for freedom."

As we have seen, the news cycle during and immediately following a war is is not a matter of idle curiosity, it is compulsory viewing. Even more than in Israel, where conflict has tragically been almost commonplace, war means a new and real threat to personal and familial security in America. And Saddam Hussein, dead or alive, still embodies that threat.

Americans have been thinking and talking about the war on terror for almost a year and a half now, and they have come to conclude that Saddam Hussein is a sponsor of world terror and is a particular threat to the democracies of the world. New and shocking revelations about the brutality of his regime are discovered daily, which only reinforces American support of military action. But the fact that Hussein was a direct threat to Israel is especially important. Israel opposed his cruel ambitions for decades - a decade longer than the U.S. Remind audiences that Israel and America have common values, but then stress that we also share common enemies.

But deterrence is only half the message. You really do need to emphasize your historic willingness to compromise and sacrifice on behalf of America. This may not play well among some Israeli politicians but it will certainly play extremely well in the States.


"During the Gulf War, Iraq attacked Israel with Scud missiles 39 times. Israel stood by each time, not knowing if the next missile contained biological and chemical weapons. Israel chose restraint instead of war, because it was what the U.S. asked. It was Israel's way to support our ally, America, and its troops during the Persian Gulf War. We put supporting American priorities higher than our own. But now, with our national security at stake, we need America's financial help."


While the Chicago and Los Angeles sessions yielded significant new language and several new communication "principles," most of our previous observations hold true. Too many in the Jewish community are too linguistically hostile at a time when the other 97% of America wants a resolution to the conflict. In particular, you cannot just issue recriminations, however justified, against the Palestinian Authority and expect American elites to be suddenly convinced of your righteousness. All the evidence and common sense can be on your side, but the hostility and negativity will be rejected as biased and one-sided.

Here's a specific example:


"There is no moral equivalency. On one side you have duly elected and appointed Israeli officials from a democracy that has been operating for more than half a century. On the other side you have corrupt Palestinian officials who have lied, cheated and stolen from their people. Israel will not negotiate until they have someone to negotiate with."

While the statement above is perfectly accurate and justified, it will not work. Individually, the words are good, the facts are accurate and the message is correct. But this communication effort fails miserably because it is regarded as a complete rejection of negotiations and peace. Listeners see it as accusatory and contentious - exactly what they don't want to hear and will not accept. We have a better approach, one that says virtually the same thing but in a more effective way:


"Whatever the root causes of the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, there are certain tragic cultural facts and differences that stand in the way of peace negotiations between the people of Israel and the Palestinians. No Israeli child has ever strapped a bomb to his back and gone off to kill civilian Palestinians, and yet the Palestinian leadership does too little to dispel the notion among its more extreme citizens that killing Israelis with a suicide bomb is the surest route to heaven. How can Israel deal with a population of parents that stand aside or even encourage their children to become martyrs?"

Yes, this is harsher and more explicit than the previous paragraph, but it works for several reasons:

(1) The human touch. Mentioning parents and children humanizes and personalizes the terror that Israel has to face every day.

(2) The rhetorical question. Even pro-Palestinians have a tough time answering that final question. It's time for Israeli spokespeople to ask a lot more unanswerable rhetorical questions as part of their communication effort.

(3) Acknowledging a cultural difference between Israelis and Palestinians is stating the obvious - and good for your case. Even those Americans that have sympathies for the Palestinian struggle have an easier time relating to the Israelis because of the similarities between America and Israel in culture, tradition and values.

With this in mind, we have identified four specific spokesperson themes and emotions that appeal to American opinion influencers when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and whatever negotiations may or will take place:


"I am hopeful that with the end of this war, the peoples of the Middle East will celebrate life and freedom. I am hopeful that the scenes of Iraqis throwing off the yoke of tyranny and fear will serve as a model for all peoples of the region. Yes, I do have hope that by reaching out to the stars, we can bring something good back to earth."


"What we are hoping for is that the Palestinian people recognize the leadership they have right now has unfortunately a very different agenda than the agenda of the real Palestinian people...We do not have the right to tell the Palestinians who to elect to represent them but we hope they will choose leaders that will listen and truly care about them. "


"It's very difficult for us. We know that going into these Palestinian cities creates hardships and dilemmas for the Palestinians. But it is even more difficult to look our own children in the face knowing that that there are people in these cities planning to commit terrorist acts and not go in there and try to stop them before they kill."

-- Sadie
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