The Biggest Mistakes Pro-Israel Advocates Make #12: How to Deal With That “Hot Mess” of a Best Friend

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Everyone has that friend.

You know what I’m talking about? The one whose life is a bit of a trainwreck, to put it mildly? The one you have to carry into the cab passed out drunk and stay with until he gets home, just to make sure he doesn’t stop breathing? The one who keeps failing her classes because she spends more time studying her boyfriend’s reproductive system than the one in the textbook? Or maybe the friend who keeps getting busted for selling pot, has a gambling problem, has commitment issues, can be a bit of a jackass, or is a revolving door in and out of rehab? You know, the one who struggles with an addiction, whether to drugs, alcohol, bad relationships, gambling, or other poor life choices?

Most people have that friend, the one they keep at arm’s length but are still friends with them for old times’ sake. And if you don’t have that friend, you probably are that friend.

And then there’s that other friend. The one who looks like as much of a hot mess if not more than the first friend. Thing is, (and this is the reason you’re still their friend) they aren’t as screwed up as they appear when you get to know them. They’re actually really nice people who have good heads on their shoulders (shocker, I know) but they just appear to be a hot mess. Every time they have a moment, it’s always right up in the public eye, in some youtube video that’s going viral on Facebook. They can’t do anything crazy without getting caught. Most college students get drunk every weekend, but when she was in college she would get drunk once a semester but every single time, she would puke all over the couch at your boyfriend’s frat house, making her a household name, an inside joke at ADPi (and just about everywhere else). She always has hope that the next time around, the next time she has 4 drinks, she’ll be able to hold it in. Or maybe have enough time to run outside and hide behind a tree or something. But nope, each and every time it’s all over that darn couch.

Israel is the second type of Hot Mess Best Friend. She’s a really good person. She screws up just as much as everyone else (if not less) but is always so darn public about it, and the more public she is the more people expect it and look for every opportunity to provoke a reaction out of her for their own entertainment or schadenfreude.

And you know what? She doesn’t really care. Some people admire her for it, but others just laugh. How could she be so clueless? They think.

I immediately thought of that analogy when I read this article in the Jerusalem Post.

Why does even JPost have such biased headlines? I thought.

IDF Kills Palestinian Who Throws Stones at Commander’s Vehicle

Does the Jerusalem Post want Israel to be a pariah state? With headlines like this one it sure seems like it.

Mistake #12: Lacking Foresight

Israel is in a unique situation that sometimes I don’t think it understands. Dozens of countries around the world use it as a convenient scapegoat, used to distract citizens from their own human rights abuses. The entire Arab and Muslim world sees its very existence as an affront to Pan-Arabism (a.k.a. colonialism) and Islam, which it holds dear more than anything else. Then you have your tens of millions of leftists who see Israel as a convenient way to feel like they’re making a positive difference in the world. Then there’s that trainwreck of a UN that spends all day everyday demonizing Israel during Item 7, and desperately wants to feel vindicated. Take all that into account and you have a situation that pretty much guarantees that anything Israel says that can possibly incriminate her will be twisted, taken out of context, and exaggerated a thousandfold to the delight of the Palestinian leaders. Who, by the way, want nothing more than to wipe Israel off the map. (See Exhibit A).

It’s for these reasons that, as someone with 7 years of experience in pro-Israel programming on campus, I cringe at headlines like these.

When I saw that headline, I saw the backlash.

I foresaw the article in Electronic Intifada, which then made it over to Mondoweiss. Which then trickles down into the mainstream media. The news and facts so distorted, reduced entirely to “Palestinian Child Throws Rock, Gets Shot to Death.”

I foresee the twitter firestorm. How could Israel do this? Popular political pundits posit. This is a perfect example of what we mean by Israel’s disproportionate action of Israel’s military against innocent unarmed Palestinian children who were JUST THROWING ROCKS. PEBBLES, I TELL YA.

The millions, if not billions of people who love feeling vindicated every time Israel does something “bad” or “evil,” jump all over this, and it becomes viral. “Look, even their right wing pro-Israel publication Jerusalem Post said so! It must be true!” (Ironically they dismiss any JPost news that makes Israel look good as ‘biased’ because of the source).

Eventually, I envision these articles trickling down into mainstream left-leaning publications like Slate, Buzzfeed, Salon, and Huffington Post.

Before I know it, the White House Communications Director Jen Psaki is denouncing the “brutal and unjust murder of an innocent unarmed Palestinian civilian by Israeli forces” as well as “Israel’s disproportionate attacks on the citizens of Gaza,” on behalf of the White House, further putting a dent in an already fragile and crumbling relationship between Israel and the United States.

See, JPost? See what you did there?

I commented on the article on a Zionist Facebook group, stating my concerns about how that headline can be so easily twisted to help the haters. I immediately received an angry backlash, entirely from Israelis, automatically assuming I’m a hater.

Do you have any idea how many children have been killed by these “stone throwers”? These are big chunks of cement, not little stones. Or is it just OK if it is Jewish kids?

That’s not what the article sounded like to me. To me and most Westerners, when we think of throwing rocks we think of PEBBLES. The kind of stuff kids use that get them sent to the principal’s office at recess.

You are a complete moron. Have you ever been to Israel? Have you ever been in this position? Let me answer that, no. I have lived and served in the idf, you are a clueless liberal, idiot! Israel shouldnt have to do a PR campaign to explain the obvious to any intelligent people.

Except it isn’t. Most people who read the publication do not live in Israel and do not understand the reality there and have never been in this position. We are diaspora Jews, many of whom who are increasingly embarrassed and turned off Israel even though we know in our hearts its cause is just. Killing some dude out there throwing stones might seem justified to people who have had stones thrown at their vehicles, who have served in the IDF and understand the protocol. But to complete outsiders who don’t experience that reality in Israel, the IDF looks like nothing more than a bunch of crazy psycho barbarians that are killing an ant with a shotgun.

Do you have any brain cells? How about I throw a rock at your car while you’re driving??!!! Do you know that it kills people?

Not people who haven’t had rocks thrown at their car before. In other words, the majority of people outside of Israel. For us we just think of driving through a hailstorm, which most of us have done especially Americans living in Tornado Alley.

Your stupidity is incredible. No one with more than two brain cells is turning their back on Israel. Just the educated morons on today’s campuses. Smh

Gee, thanks. Maybe you’re the reason people get turned off by the pro-Israel crowd. It’s understandable that we are always knee-jerk defensive. But for crying out loud, use a little self control before belittling someone’s brain cells. Especially those of an Ivy League student who’s been passionately defending Israel for over a quarter of my life.

-This chick Lex is damn retarded, by choice. Stop trying to put the WRONG comment on here. See.. The PR Smear campaign against is going to happen regardless. Meanwhile, YOU have never driven by these Molotov and HUGE stones being thrown at you, and your kids, and your neighbors, etc. With that said, and the campaign to destroy Israel constantly in effect while those educated enough know the unnecessary dangers Israelis are facing daily. THIS IS A PROPER RETALIATION when your car is being AMBUSHED and this commander was clearly at risk. Well done. Your words mean nothing. Go see it for yourself for an hour and you’d say “shoot those mothafawkkas now

My Response?

You have no idea how Jews in the diaspora and policy makers and thinkers see Israel and you guys make no effort to make it easier for them to understand you. This is part of the problem. This is why people are turning their backs on Israel.

I wanted to add: You guys are part of the problem.

But I bit my tongue (and hit backspace).

Whenever we do anything, or say anything, we absolutely must ask ourselves the following questions:

1) How would someone with an anti-Israel agenda react to this?

2) How would a diaspora Jew react to this?

3) How would someone who lives outside Israel, never served in the IDF or any army, and doesn’t understand its unique reality react to this?

4) How could I reword this to place the blame on the side it deserves, in this case the Palestinian hooligans.

We have to get inside their heads. We have to think about how they would react to these kinds of headlines. Just like your “Hot Mess” friend needs to consider going to the bathroom after her fourth drink and tossing her cookies in private just like every other wasted college student. She’s built a reputation as a particularly sloppy, destructive drunk (even if she just gets drunk maybe once or twice a semester, much less often than her friends), so people will scrutinize her more heavily in order to vindicate the “Hot Mess” label they gave her in their minds. So she has to be careful how she behaves herself, and might want to stay a little bit under the radar so that when people do twist their story, they look stupid, not her.

In that response to my comment, there is another phrase I see all the time from Israelis:

“Well who cares about what they think anyway? They’re going to hate us no matter what, so we might as well do what we want and cater to our own people!”

This defeatist attitude is the problem. I know it’s disillusionment from so much backlash, but it is literally giving up. Whether we like it or not, non-Israelis will continue to read JPost, whether they be diaspora Jews who are concerned, non-Jews who are curious, or antisemites who are out for blood libel. We don’t have that luxury to cater to Israelis only. We are in a unique position where people scrutinize our every move, and ignoring that is only going to make matters worse. It’s only going to disconnect people further from our narrative, and dehumanize us into evil robots who kill innocent people for no reason in their eyes.

As a former radical leftist, I have a unique perspective. I know exactly how they think, so I can predict precisely how people will react depending on how we frame our arguments or news headlines. It’s so important to know our enemy so that we can stop jumping right into their trap, especially if we can avoid it. Why is this headline a trap, and how can we avoid it?

The most common response I get to these kinds of articles, when anti-Israel people cite them to argue against Israel, they use them as examples of Palestinians using rocks (not seeing them as weapons, seeing them as pebbles), and the IDF retaliating with a shotgun, basically a perfect metaphor for their perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We are literally feeding our enemies ammunition with this.

Instead of doing that, we should learn how to frame our narrative differently. Headlines are a huge part of this, as most people glean everything they will ever learn about the event from the headlines alone.

What is the problem with the headline IDF Kills Palestinian Who Throws Stones at Commander’s Vehicle? What would a better headline be?

First let’s start with my choice of headline.

Member of Palestinian mob killed after throwing heavy stones at moving army vehicle

liam posterWhy is this better than the last one?

1) The subject of the article, in other words the main focus (and in this case the main perpetrator) and the first part people read, should be the Palestinian terrorist, not the IDF. The focus shouldn’t be on the IDF killing the Palestinian, it should be on the Palestinian trying to kill the IDF by throwing stones.

2) It shows that these aren’t just pebbles. These are massive boulders meant to kill, not the little stones you find in a gravel driveway.

3) It doesn’t, at least at first glance feed into the constant narrative that validates our enemies, the one of Israelis Killing Palestinians. This is a foiled attempted murder and needs to be reported as such.

4) It accurately depicts that the Palestinian was in a bloodthirsty mob, not some sad-looking lone ranger throwing rocks by himself (which, by the way, makes him look like no threat at all and feeds the narrative of Israelis killing Palestinians for no reason other than to assert power).

5) The term “Commander’s Vehicle” exacerbates and emphasizes the perceived power imbalance. This kind of thing screams “INJUSTICE!” and is sure to rile most people, especially lefties, who are obsessed with power imbalances and have a knee-jerk sympathy for anyone they deem the underdog. This does not make the IDF look like it was acting in self-defense, even though it was.

This analysis is only one example of how the way in which we frame our narratives influences how people perceive us, and can either alleviate or exacerbate the existing PR disaster we are finding ourselves in.

I would like to close with a few considerations I am hoping you can keep in mind, especially if you are in any position that involves reporting on what’s happening in Israel.

What would any other army do if a group of Palestinians were hurling rocks at the windshield of a car that is moving at 60mph?

In the U.S., rock-throwing is a felony. Whether at civilian or law enforcement vehicles, rock throwers face criminal charges that include aggravated assault, throwing a missile into an occupied vehicle, criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment of life, and aggravated assault with a lethal weapon. In any other country, the rock thrower would be punished the same way as the Palestinian was in Israel. Contrary to popular belief, Israel isn’t a distinctively evil country – it is a pretty normal country even by Western standards. This whole, “Palestinians throw rocks, Israelis throw bombs,” is a false analogy.

Rocks catapulted at moving vehicles, to anyone with any background in physics (i.e. very few people) follow Newton’s Third Law. If the car is hitting the rock at 60mph, then the rock is hitting the car at 60mph. Essentially the rock is almost like a bullet and can cause serious damage. We need to stop assuming everyone knows that or has witnessed it and frame it in such a way that anyone can relate to it or imagine it happening to them, so that they can truly realize the damage the Palestinian mob wanted to inflict on the soldiers by throwing the rocks.

This disconnect between the diaspora and Israel needs to end. Otherwise we have no hope of winning the PR war. We need to start putting ourselves in other people’s shoes as that is the only way we could ever have any hope of reaching them emotionally.

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Lex is a trained comedy actor who is Montreal’s second-favourite export aside from poutine.

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