Cross-posted from J-Wire.
Twenty people – mostly members of Sydney’s Jewish community, plus a number of West Australians and Americans – are currently participating in the inaugural NSW Jewish Board of Deputies-HonestReporting Advocacy Mission in Israel.
DAY 8: Report from George Foster.
The final day of the mission thankfully began at 10am to give time for packing and checking out but mostly a well deserved more relaxed start to the day. Gil Hoffman, chief political correspondent and analyst for The Jerusalem Post, began the day’s sessions. Gil is also very well connected to Israeli and Palestinian leaders and makes regular appearances on CNN and Al-Jazeera. He was quite surprised by Bob Carr’s response in summoning the Ambassador but he generally had a positive take on the negative international response to the E1 announcement saying that at least it gave the various Ambassadors world-wide a chance to explain Israel’s position first hand.
Despite the negative reaction he was hopeful that the international community would bring Abbas to the negotiation table. Gil emphasised that Netanyahu has committed himself to peace and has said so in many speeches, however he is equally adamant that Iran be dealt with first.
Apparently the deadline is set for June 2013 and it is no coincidence that Iranian elections are due to be held on 14 June. Netanyahu’s goal is to prevent war but if necessary Israel has the ability and legitimacy to launch an attack on Iranian sites but does not really wish to do so.
In terms of the Israeli elections he was sure that Netanyahu would win although economic issues will be more important in this election than previous ones. Gil believed that the coalition Netanyahu pursues will be more balanced on this occasion. Gil’s main message to us was that Israel was in need of our assistance in terms of educating people, advocacy and solidarity. It was certainly important for us to hear from such a well informed and prominent analyst.
The next speakers were Simon Plosker, Managing Editor, and Joe Hyams, CEO, of HonestReporting, who explained more of the manner in which HonestReporting functions. Joe pointed out a booklet available free from the HonestReporting website: The Israeli-Arab Conflict, and emphasised the importance of quick and even immediate responses when a crisis occurs such the Pillar of Defence operation. He also noted that compelling and emotive responses seem to get far better coverage than a litany of facts and figures. It was pleasing that the IDF now uses the social media to its full extent.
The group was then treated to David Olesker, Director of JCCAT, and an advocacy trainer, who has spoken at University campuses and other forums where he has been heckled and vilified just for standing up for Israel. David spoke about peer advocacy and the importance of “conceptual framing”. The success of any communication is in setting the conceptual framework which then will control the outcome. He spoke about “Elevator Conversations”, that is, the short conversations we all have with our contacts at work or even socially and about “bridging” where one refutes an allegation quickly and then moves on to your own agenda. David skilfully went through a couple of role plays with participants to illustrate how such interactions can be turned into positive advocacy for Israel. His most important point was that personal and human experiences carry a more powerful message than simply reiterating facts.
After a short explanation of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies roles and functions by Yair Miller, President, Col (Ret) Ben-Tzion Gruber gave a detailed and at times emotional presentation of the IDF’s Code of Ethics. He notes that often you have a very short time in a combat situation to make any decision but then illustrated his remarks with videos showing how the IDF will abort rocket strikes, even at the last minute, if there is any doubt that there will be collateral damage to the civilian population. This is particularly difficult in Gaza where the terrorists dress in civilian clothing and use human children as shields which he again illustrated with video clips. He pointed out that the IDF warn the population with leaflet drops, text messages and telephone calls when they intend to target a particular building which no other army in the world would do. He noted that in the recent Pillar of Defence offensive 1800 targets were hit by the Israeli Airforce with the loss of 177 people of whom 121 were terrorists. Yes there were civilians killed but this was extremely regrettable and the military mourn any loss of life. In the same 8 days there were 870 people killed in Syria.
The final stop of the mission was a very pleasant, if slightly sad, lunch at Gabriel’s Restaurant.
All participants expressed their gratitude to the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and HonestReporting for such a stimulating, revealing, exciting and information packed mission.
There is no doubt that this mission is of vital importance and adds immeasurably to the ability of participants to advocate even better for Israel. There is no doubt that there is no mission quite like it available in Australia today.
All agreed that it was most meaningful to have been in Israel itself to witness and be part of the vibrant life Israeli’s live and the many problems they face. We look forward to the next mission and believe it will be even more successful if that is at all possible.
Dr George Foster is a TAI graduate, former Executive Member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Board member of the Sydney Jewish Museum and the Association of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants.
See Day 1 here.
See Day 2 here.
See Day 3 here.
See Day 4 here.
See Day 5 here.
See Day 6 here.
See Day 7 here.
See Day 8 here.