The Academic Friends of Israel 

Vol.10 No7                                                                       21 December 2011  

AFI Digest: Israel advocacy and what messaging works 

In the wake of two very successful Israel advocacy events, The Big Tent For Israel conference in Manchester and the Zionist Federation skills conference in London this issue of the digest focuses on Israel advocacy.  

Digest contents: 


1.    Israel advocacy and what messaging works

2.    Israel advocacy and how Israel is connecting to the global 21st century agenda ‘beyond the conflict’

3.    Israel advocacy: The Truth about the Refugees: Israel Palestinian Conflict (video)

4.    Israel advocacy: The Reut Institute 2011: The Year we punched back on the assault on Israel's legitimacy 

The view from Britain  

5.    Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2010

6.    MPs challenge antisemitism in the UK

7.    Union official accuses critic of Israel Boycott of being ‘one of the chosen people’ and ‘a modern-day Nazi’

8.    The anatomy of a Guardian smear against Israel

9.    The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is Powerless

10. Palestinian Mission in Britain removes Atzmon articles  

11.'Dual loyalty' row MP is forced to say sorry   



 1. Israel advocacy and what messaging works (Courtesy of the Zionist Federation 

There is much debate over what words and lines are effective when discussing the Israel Palestinian conflict and how an advocate for Israel can put their case in the most favourable manner.

Recently, ‘The Israel Project’ has run a number of focus groups to find out what messages work with the general public and how best to present Israel’s case. The most recent research was carried out with British University students and the preliminary results may come as a surprise to some readers.

Although the general anti-Israel message does seem to have had an effect in the overall perception of the conflict, the specifics of roadblocks, settlements and other such activities were not brought up those being surveyed as reasons for this sentiment; more it was a general sense that Israel had committed humanitarian violations which had, in turn, disenfranchised the Palestinians. Yet despite this, there was no consensus of one side being right and the other being wrong. Those surveyed saw things in shades of grey rather than black and white.

Perhaps reassuringly, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) did not appear to have made much traction with any students beyond those attending particularly aggressive campuses; and boycotts, particularly academic ones, had very little support both as a concept and as an effective technique to pressurise Israel.

What we can learn from this is that we do not necessarily need to be overly concerned about dealing with specific attacks and accusations made against Israel by our opponents and should concentrate on delivering a simple, positive message about Israel in order to counter them.

The strongest messages appeared to be centred around the inclusivity of Israeli society and Israel’s leading position in alternative energy and technology advancements. Among the students surveyed, the fact that Muslim and Christian Arabs have the right to vote and serve in the parliament proved both surprising and very encouraging. And although the students did not see Israel’s scientific strengths as reason to become supportive of the state, the issue does allow the discussion to become broader based.

The weakest message for this particular group seemed to be the religious one that G-d gave the Land of Israel to the Jews and they have lived there for thousands of years.

Also, there is a consideration to be made about discussing the advances and contributions Israel has made to the world in such a strong manner, as the natural response to this was that if it was so good then it must be able to solve the conflict if it really wanted to.

Overall, what we can take from the focus groups is that students who may not instantly become pro-Israel are open to discussion and that the BDS movement have been quite successful in creating a general negative image of Israel without the use for specifics.

Moving forward, although the focus group, where these result emanated, concentrated on university students and its findings are very preliminary, there is no reason to limit the conclusions to just this demographic group. These ideas can be conveyed in debate with other groups as well and should be used as a guide rather than the rule for all cases.

2. Israel advocacy and how Israel is connecting to the global 21st century agenda ‘beyond the conflict’ (Courtesy of ) 

As a further element of this values-based approach, we should be pro-active in highlighting, in appropriate forums and at appropriate times, how Israel is connecting to the global medical, environmental and humanitarian agenda, and reaching out to the Muslim and wider world even in the midst of conflict.  

Over 1000 Palestinian children from Gaza and the West Bank have received free, life-saving heart surgery in recent years at Israel’s Save A Child’s Heart medical centre near Tel-Aviv. The work of the 70 volunteers at Save A Child’s Heart is inspiring and a unique bridge-builder.  

The MASHAV division of Israel’s Foreign Ministry is expanding its international cooperation activities.  There’s IsraAid which functions as an umbrella body of international humanitarian groups operated from Israel. IsraAid were very quick to mobilise to support the people of Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake earlier this year, complementing the efforts of the IDF field hospital team. And there’s Israel’s recent collaboration on disaster relief with the most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia. 

Meanwhile Israel is making major advances in medical research and innovative healthcare, advances which stand to benefit millions around the world (and in some instances, such as the fight against malaria, already have).  Israel is making significant strides in combating global warming. Its solar energy projects, its efforts to help other countries combat ‘desert creep’, and its water management and recycling knowhow all offer a huge amount to the world.

The world is coming to recognise this, as shown by the massive numbers of delegates from Africa, Asia and elsewhere who now converge on Israel for its conferences on water technologies and on other environmental themes. Indeed, behind-the-scenes, Israel is working with Palestinian and Jordanian scientists and planners in many of these areas. (For many more illustrations see  

All of this demonstrates how Israel is connecting to a global humanitarian agenda. It's not Israeli creative energy as such that is a powerful Israel advocacy platform. It’s the way in which that creative energy can be harnessed and is being harnessed to help make the Middle East region and the world a better place.

These Israeli contributions shatter the stereotype of the callous and heartless Israeli. And they can help in building fresh alliances, and other forms of support. You don't rebut demonisation just by saying "we are not demons" but by tangibly demonstrating how Israel furthers universal values which liberal-minded people care deeply about.

Key resources:

 Israel 21:

Israel Up Close:

Positive Israel news:  

3. Israel advocacy: The Reut Institute report 2011: The Year we punched back on the assault on Israel's legitimacy

A report by the Reut Institute shows that efforts in 2011 to counter attacks on Israel’s legitimacy were successful.These achievements are primarily the result of growing attention dedicated to the challenge, increasing comprehension of its global nature, and timely dedication of resources to fight against it. Indeed, all over the world, Israel and its allies have achieved small but significant ‘triumphs.’…….To read the full report:   

4. Israel advocacy: The Truth about the Refugees: Israel Palestinian Conflict 

 Israel's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Danny Ayalon explains the historical facts relating to the issue of refugees in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The video explains the reason there are still refugees after more than six decades is because of Arab leaders' recalcitrance to accept their brethren and the United Nations which created a separate agency with unique principles and criteria.

The video also highlights the issue of the Jewish refugees who were forced out of their homes in the Arab world, and were subsequently absorbed by the State of Israel.  

5. Antisemitic Discourse in Britain in 2010 

The Community Security Trust (CST) has just published its fourth annual report on antisemitic discourse, examining public discussion of antisemitism, Jews and Jewish issues in mainstream media and politics.  

The two largest sections in the report concern the old antisemitic charge of secret Jewish power (which distinguishes antisemitism from other forms of racism). There are two cases from within the Palace of Westminster, featuring two (then) Labour MPs, Gerald Kaufman and Martin Linton at a Friends of Al Aqsa meeting, and Lord Phillips at a Palestine Solidarity Campaign meeting; two articles in the Independent concerning American pro-Israel lobbyists; Oliver Stone in the Sunday Times; articles on the website of Middle East Monitor; an article on Guardian Comment is Free, and a BBC Radio 4 broadcast in which a guest stated that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Jews (i.e. over 5% of diaspora Jews) “will help the Mossad”. 

The second largest section discusses the misuse of the Holocaust. There are three cases of the British National Party denying or minimising the Holocaust. This is then followed by examples of the Socialist Workers Party obscuring an Auschwitz related-insult; the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign repeatedly abusing the Holocaust in its anti-Israel propaganda; experienced anti-racism activist Lee Jasper equating Israel with Nazis at an Islamic Human Rights Commission event; and a highly abusive Holocaust-Israel exchange of letters in the Morning Star, made even worse by the newspaper’s choice of headlines, such as “Israeli road could lead to a holocaust” (sic) and “Israel is happy to exterminate Palestinians.”  

To read the full report:   

6.  MPs challenge antisemitism in the UK By John Mann MP

As chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, I like to think I can see some progress in getting things done. Our inquiry into antisemitism raised the profile of the fight against this ancient hatred. Our work in Parliament and outside with stakeholder groups like the Community Security Trust (CST) has led to tangible results. The police now detail antisemitic hate crimes in a way they did not before, the Crown Prosecution Service has reviewed its procedures and is better at understanding and prosecuting hate crime than ever before, and Jewish schools in the state sector now have adequate funding from Government for their security needs. Recent weeks have served as a stark reminder of the remaining challenges…

To read the full report:  

 7. Union official accuses critic of Israel Boycott of being ‘one of the chosen people’ and ‘a modern-day Nazi’ 

At a meeting  hosted by  London Transport Region of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) an RMT official  in an anti-Semitic outburst accused a critic of the Israel Boycott of being ‘one of the chosen people’ and ‘a modern-day Nazi’

You can read and watch the video of the incident here   

The meeting was held in commemoration of International Workers’ Day, the Palestinian trade union movement formed the: Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS). In July 2011, the London Transport Region RMT voted by 12 branches to 1 (1 abstention) to fully support the PTUC-BDS Statement including the call to sever links with the Israeli Histadrut.

Two weeks later Steve Hedley issued a statement in which he “apologises to anyone who may have been offended by this remark” and “regrets that I was provoked into making statements that could be deliberately and maliciously misconstrued by right-wing Zionists who are openly hostile to trade unions, openly consort with the neo-fascist EDL and who wish to smear my reputation and that of my union.”

Not an apology in the accepted sense, but a least a move in the right direction.  

8. The anatomy of a Guardian smear against Israel

A Guardian report on December 16th had all the ingredients of a classic Guardian smear.

1. Palestinians level a wild accusation against Israel with little or no actual evidence.

2. The Guardian publishes the allegation with a dramatic headline, downplays even the most emphatic Israeli denials, and fails to conduct any independent research which could prove or disprove the allegation.

3. The Guardian further contextualizes the baseless story in a manner consistent with a broader narrative of Israeli racism or villainy.The dramatic title, Palestinian envoy’s wife ‘forced back to Jerusalem during cancer treatment’, in a report written by the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Julian Borger, parrots an accusation by Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Envoy to the UK, which seems, by all available evidence, to be without merit……

To read the full report:

CiF Watch has developed a reputation as the leading monitor of the Guardian, and its blog ‘Comment is Free’, exposing and combating their assault on Israel’s legitimacy, and tolerance of antisemitism.

1. CiF Watch is ranked 23 in the Technorati Top 100 World Political Blogs category, with only two other overtly pro-Israel blogs ranking higher.

2. CiF Watch was responsible for having the new Gilad Atzmon book removed from the on-line bookstore of the Guardian and causing the Guardian much embarrassment in the process.

3. CiF Watch was at the forefront of taking Guardian columnist Deborah Orr to task over her use of the antisemitic chosen people trope, which resulted in an apology from the columnist and favorable publicity for CiF Watch.

4. Evidence that the Guardian takes our criticisms seriously can be found in a recent essay by the paper’s readers’ editor, Chris Elliott, titled “on averting the charge of antisemitism”. Elliott wrote: “organizations monitoring the Guardian’s coverage examine the language in articles (and the comments posted underneath them on-line) as closely as the facts.” – a clear reference to our blog. This Guardian mea culpa was reported by The Commentator, The Jewish Chronicle, Honest Reporting, and Haaretz 

 9. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is Powerless By Anthony Cooper of Exposing Antisemitism

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is in crisis. In recent months, branch after branch has been found to be tainted by antisemitism. The PSC’s response has been to quietly encourage certain members to step down but this has been met with vocal opposition.

One crucial question is what can the PSC do to rid its branches of those who would deny the Holocaust or who believe in anti-Jewish myths?Based on my understanding of the structure of the PSC, the answer is not very much at all.

There are three key documents. The first is the Articles of Association of the PSC, the second is the PSC constitution and the third is the constitution of local branches (examples can be found here, here and here)……….

To read the full report:   

10. Palestinian Mission in Britain removes Atzmon articles 

The Palestinian Mission in Britain has bowed to pressure from the Board of Deputies and removed articles by Israeli-born antisemite Gilad Atzmon from its website. The Palestinian Authority's UK envoy Manuel Hassassian ordered the removal of links to Atzmon's work, including to one article which accused Israel of organ trafficking and harvesting, after he was told of the complaints from the Board…… 

To read the full report:   

11.'Dual loyalty' row MP is forced to say sorry  

The Labour MP who questioned the loyalty of the UK's first Jewish ambassador to Israel has apologised for his remarks. At the same time, the Green Party issued an apology on behalf of its deputy leader in Wales for similar comments she made.In a letter to the JC on Wednesday, Paul Flynn, MP for Newport West, accepted that his "clumsily expressed remarks" had caused anger and upset. "I greatly regret the interpretation that has been placed on them and I fully understand why offence was given," he said. "Some of the interpretations of these words were exaggerated suggesting malign intent that was never present or intended."

Mr Flynn had told the Public Administration Select Committee of his concerns that Matthew Gould, who took up the post last year, "has proclaimed himself to be a Zionist"……

 To read the full report:    




Patron: The Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks

Advisory Board: 

Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld - Chairman of the Board of Fellows, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Vivian Wineman - President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews

Amir Lev

 John D A Levy - Director of the Academic Study Group on Israel and the Middle East

Andrew R. Marks, M.D. - Columbia University, USA

Professor Leslie Wagner CBE

Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham

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