Gissin’s stop in San Francisco is part of his month-long tour of the United States with the JNF Caravan for Democracy program. Currently out of government, Gissin is working on a yearlong research project at the Herzyliya Institute on ways to spread Israel’s message despite an indifferent and often hostile media. That is more or less what Gissin speaks about in American cities.
For example, Gissin said, instead of a giving diatribe about Islamic terror and Israel’s virtues, why not try telling a couple of jokes?
“You can make the same message by retelling 4,000 years of Jewish history and boring [your audience] or by telling two good jokes in 30 seconds.”
What kind of jokes, you might ask?
“I don’t have any jokes!‚” Gissin blasted at a decibel level roughly equivalent to a steam train plowing into a drum factory.
“But young people, bloggers, could do a marvelous job of this counter-insurgency warfare in the media without using weapons.”
Bloggers, by the way, are high on Gissin’s list of what Israel and her supporters need more of. He claims that mass-blogging revealed the identity of the man who conveniently dug up an infant’s corpse from a Lebanese apartment leveled by an Israeli bomb as throngs of photographers giddily snapped away was the same man who unearthed a baby for the cameras in 1996.
“I know news editors at major networks who, instead of tearing off [copy] from the wire and rewriting it, are browsing through blogs to find stories and elements they missed,” he said.
What is pleasing to me about this is not just that he sees the importance of bloggers, but also the fact that he has clearly been influenced by what he heard at the recent Media as a Theater of War conference in December, which I attended. I am guessing that he learned about Green Helmet Guy – the man “who conveniently dug up an infant’s corpse from a Lebanese apartment leveled by an Israeli bomb as throngs of photographers giddily snapped away” and who “was the same man who unearthed a baby for the cameras in 1996” – from the bloggers at this conference. As for his suggestion that bloggers can do a “marvelous job of ..counter-insurgency warfare in the media”, many of the bloggers in attendance dealt with this topic. In fact, this was exactly what I dealt with in my presentation, including the importance of using humor, and something I spoke with him about after the conference.
Of course, I cannot be sure that Ra’anan Gissin formed his opinion about bloggers, as well as the use of humor, from what he heard at the conference. But I would like to think it had a not insignificant part to play. In any event, it is very satisfying to realize that blogging can make a difference, in the sense of influencing not only the average person at home, but also policy makers and those whose opinions are valued by policymakers. It is this realization that keeps me blogging every time I flirt with the idea of giving it up.
By the way, I strongly reject Ra’anan’s claim that he doesn’t have any jokes. In fact, he told me the following joke during our chat:
Three hunters are out on safari — an American, a Brit and an Israeli. They are captured by cannibals who start getting the cooking pots ready. The cannibal chief tells the hunters they can have one last wish.”What’s your last request?” he asks the American.
“I’d like a steak,” he replies.
So the cannibals kill a zebra and serve the American his steak.
“What do you want?” the cannibal chief asks the Brit.
“I’d like to have a smoke on my pipe,” which they let him do.
Then the chief asks the Israeli: “What’s your last wish?”
“I want you to kick my rear end.”
“Be serious,” says the top cannibal.
“C’mon, you promised,” says the Israeli.
“Oh, all right,” says the chief, who delivers the requested kick. Whereupon, the Israeli pulls out a gun, shoots the chief and a few other cannibals while the rest run away.
The American and Brit are furious.
“Why didn’t you do that in the first place, so we wouldn’t have had to go through all this?” they demand.
Replies the Israeli: “What? Are you mad? The UN would have condemned me as the aggressor.
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