A long-standing debate between Israel activists and advocates has surrounded what the strongest approach to Zionist outreach and strategy involves. Some argue that light “cherry tomato advocacy” engagement reaches the majority of individuals who know little about Israel. Some retort that it makes Zionists look cryptic and we need to vigorously and vociferously defend Israel’s actions in the face of BDS. Some deem both strategies ineffective and say that our indigenous narrative is the strongest method to engage. So who’s right?
Well it depends on who your audience is. A strong Israel advocate can do all of them and every public activist, leader of a pro-Israel club, and employee of a pro-Israel organization, should seamlessly be able to advocate in all three ways.
1) Tel Aviv Advocacy
This is “cherry tomato” or “falafel” advocacy, where we talk about Israel’s accomplishments. Israel is a hotspot for medical and technological advancements. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that affords religious minorities and LGBTQ+ persons equal rights. Israel has beautiful beaches, vibrant parties and delicious food and we should all travel there. These are all true and successful to engage non-political, disinterested people with no stake in Israel. This is what you should say to your average classmate and friend to engage them lightly in Israel. A common problem with pro-Israel student clubs is this strategy is the be all and end all of their advocacy. If this is the only strategy that students feel comfortable utilizing that is fine but I do not believe they should be leading their schools pro-Israel movement, because they create a void that SJP ends up filling with the other side, and you can only brag about cherry tomatoes so much until the other side accuses you of genocide and makes you look callous in comparison.
2) Jerusalem Advocacy
This strategy involves telling the story of the indigenous Jewish people and the history of Israel. It involves a deeper level of education as it delves into both religious texts and history books. It is most effective for individuals who want to connect with Israel on a deeper level. Israel is also the holy land for Christians and that aspect should be included when advocating to religious Christian individuals and we should use this to inspire them to be activists. This is best used for interested Jewish students or religious individuals but it can work for some social justice types who care about indigenous rights. Most Jews in the diaspora identify as white and with whatever country they reside in. The purpose of this is to empower Jews to be proud Israelites.
3) Israeli Defence Force Base Advocacy
This is challenging the narrative that anti-Israel activists put out. This involves changing the language, (i.e. Settlements -> Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria) emphasizing the legality of Israel (changing the narrative from occupation), exposing BDS, Israel “apartheid” week. There will be individuals whose opinions are so deeply ingrained they will not dialogue with you. But most people, even if they lead towards being pro-Palestine, will be open to your perspective. This strategy is best for people who are interested and engaged in politics and the world. If done correctly it can create new strong Israel activists by appealing to the truth seekers among us.
It’s important to know your audience and strive for a balance between the three strategies. A mixture of these three strategies will reach the majority of individuals, and influence them to defend and love Israel as we do.