Have you ever found yourself in an argument during which you felt like throwing up your hands and saying to your opposite number, “Don’t you get it? This is so obvious!”
Have you ever mustered a long list of facts, irrefutable facts, and presented them clearly, in black and white, only to be greeted with the response, “So what?”
Have you ever tried to demonstrate what you take to be the moral rectitude of your position and noted how it is shared by persons of unimpeachable integrity, only to find that your listeners are tuning out and focusing only upon the issues that matter to them?
Anyone who’s engaged in a political discussion, for example, has likely encountered at least one of these scenarios.
Anyone who has engaged in a discussion of Israel’s conduct vis-à-vis the Palestinians, or Israel’s societal challenges, or indeed almost anything to do with Israel today, has certainly found him or herself confronted with the reactions described above.
Many passionate advocates for Israel simply cannot understand how anyone can be virulently opposed to or unsupportive of Israel, given Israel’s extraordinary achievements, the incredible challenges Israel faces, and the remarkable efforts Israel has made simply to live quietly in its neighborhood.
To such advocates, the fact that their arguments fall upon deaf ears is nothing less than maddening. But simply stating the same messages more loudly and with increased ferocity seldom makes anyone more amenable to information that might disrupt established narratives.
Advocacy generally, and perhaps particularly advocacy that relates to Israel, requires a sensitivity to medium, message and audience.
Some people are moved not so much by data and abstract facts, but by personal stories. Others find that individual stories distract from the data and the irrefutable facts that data deliver. Still others find that stories actually inform the data, bolstering conclusions driven by data. And so on.
Those who seek to build support for Israel or indeed for any cause about which they are passionate must occasionally engage in difficult conversations, listening more closely and becoming attuned to a different vocabulary. We must learn to see things not only through our own eyes, but with increased flexibility and through other lenses.
Such is the real challenge of advocacy – to move beyond the familiar, to develop a heightened sensitivity to our audiences, and to create a more refined set of means by which to reach them.
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