Mr. Dershowitz would have us believe that Israel has lost its standing in the world not because of its repressive occupation without end, amounting to a regime of apartheid, but because of Mr. Soros and two organizations to which he has given funds, Human Rights Watch and J Street. Why are Israeli government partisans unable to resurrect Israel’s reputation in the face of a mere billionaire and two groups?
Roth is being disingenuous. It isn't only two groups that have joined the anti-Israel jihad - it is the media, the entire "progressive" movement, most of the Arab world and much of the EU. And it is difficult to find an unapologetic pro-Israel position in the mainstream media.
But beyond that, it is a reasonable question. Why can't we "partisans" make more of a difference?
The answer is psychology.
People almost never objectively weigh facts and decide which side is right based on pros and cons. That is a fiction that we all tell ourselves, but it is not true. People make their decisions primarily based on emotions and then justify those decisions with a skewed selection of facts or half-truths that support them.
People love underdogs. Before 1967, Israel was accurately regarded as a besieged nation surrounded by enemies that wanted to destroy it. That was the era of Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow.
But since then, the anti-Israel advocates have managed to chip away at that. Their biggest insight was to recognize that perception is everything and facts are secondary at best. They essentially created the Palestinians to be a "people" to be the underdog in the narrative, pretending that the huge Arab bloc was not an issue. They want the world to see this:
But never this:
When you look at reports by HRW and Amnesty, they spend a great deal of time humanizing Palestinians as victims, while Israelis are unnamed oppressors who don't suffer nearly as much pain and anxiety. This is a conscious decision to get people to hate Israel, not an objective description of facts - which they use very selectively anyway.
The media follows this pattern. Ratings follow eyeballs, and the wide eyes of a Palestinian child in front of rubble are always more compelling than Jews. They adopted the narrative of Israel as oppressor and they don't let the facts change their reporting.
Context is to be avoided at all costs. Israel's supposed crimes always happen in a vacuum; there is never any justification that is worth mentioning and the ones that Israeli officials mention are derided as lies. But Israel can never be compared to how other nations at war act. The standards that Israel is expected to live up to are impossibly high and sometimes contradictory, while no one else is asked to do anything close.
One obvious example is the extensive and expensive campaign Amnesty mounted against AirBnb and other companies, as they mounted huge campaigns against them listing homes in the territories - a non-issue that does not violate a single law and that doesn't hurt a single person. Amnesty never mounts campaigns of that scale against any other country for something so trivial.
There is another factor that cannot be underestimated, and that is old fashioned antisemitism. The entire world isn't antisemitic, but perhaps 20%-30% of the Western world harbors some antisemitic sentiments. As many as one out of four people in the West want to believe that Israel is worse than other countries, and they will eagerly believe even the tiniest scrap of information that confirms their bias. Education does not inoculate one against this disease, so there are plenty of articulate, well-read people who are happy to inflate Israel's mistakes and ignore its achievements; at the same time minimizing Palestinian and Arab crimes.
In the NGO world, this is far worse: the antisemites are attracted to jobs where they can do damage to the Jewish state. It is no coincidence that so many of the employees at HRW and Amnesty had previously been anti-Israel activists. Objectivity is a bug, not a feature.
This is what the pro-Israel crowd is up against: a core of antisemites, some of whom are very smart, surrounded by a sea of people willing to give the benefit of the doubt to the perceived underdog, fueled by media that loves a narrative of an ultra-right wing Israel hell bent on denying human rights to non-Jews.
What is the solution?
Back in 2011 I wrote an article about that very topic. And it holds up very well.
One problem that we Jews have is that we are too logical. Thousands of years of studying Talmud may have made us good at arguing, but it also convinced us that anyone can be swayed by a good argument. So we happily read and write long texts explaining why the “settlements” are legal, why US Resolution 242 does not imply that Israel must stay within the Green Line, and why a blockade of Gaza does not flout international law.Our enemies, on the other hand, spend their time reaching people on an emotional level. They show photos and videos of crowded camps, of bombed out buildings, of old women crying.In the real world, the emotional argument wins.As much as we like to pretend that everyone shares the Jewish love for an innovative and logical thought process, in reality people usually make up their minds about Israel (and everything else) based on their gut. If a person who is not already emotionally invested in the argument one way or the other sees a tear-jerking film that pushes one side of the story, nine times out of ten that person will instinctively gravitate towards the side that pulled at his or her heartstrings.We need to prioritize our emotional arguments. We need to talk about our deep connection to the land of Israel. We need to emphasize how we have cried every year over the destruction of the Temples. We need to show the human toll that would result from hundreds of thousands of Jews who the world wants to uproot from their homes. We need to describe the pain that would result from losing Har HaZeitim again, and what happened to it during those tragic 19 years that Arabs had control.Not only is our emotional connection to the Land far deeper than anyone else’s, but no one can argue against love and fear. Emotions are our most potent weapon, but one that we are ceding almost completely to those who hate Israel. We know that we are right from a legal, historical and moral perspective – but we need to humanize the message.It is not only the message that must hit emotional chords – but also the media that the message is communicated in. People respond to messages that are visceral, and that hit all of their senses. Powerpoints, posters, songs, poetry, film, novels, plays, even cuisine - all need to be employed to impact people on every possible level. Text alone generally does not have the same impact as more visual media.