How Palestinians can win support in pro-Israel America
Fighting against Israel’s oppressive apartheid policies is not easy. For example, Israeli soldiers kill an American citizen working for an Arab satellite network and they basically get away with it. They have killed other Americans before. When has Israel been held accountable?
It is not like this pattern just started. Israel attacked an American military ship, the USS Liberty, during the 1967 war, killing 34 American soldiers and wounding 171 more. Instead of Israel being held accountable, the US military instead blamed its own soldiers.
In under seven years, Israel’s supporters have convinced 28 American states to adopt anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions laws that punish US citizens who choose to boycott Israel, a foreign country. Those who refuse to sign affidavits to not boycott Israel or support the BDS movement can lose basic rights guaranteed in the US Constitution. They can lose grants and loans or have contracts canceled. This is unconstitutional, but Israel has convinced legislators that its needs are more important than Americans’ constitutional rights.
Israel wants to be included in the US Visa Waiver Program, which would allow its citizens to more easily enter the country. But there are harsh and discriminatory restrictions on who can enter Israel, with American citizens who criticize Israel or support Palestinian rights banned.
So, why does a country like the US — the most powerful country in the world, which was founded on freedom, democracy, individual rights and the rule of law — cast all that aside where Israel is concerned? Instead of answering this question analytically, many Palestinians and their supporters respond emotionally and angrily.
I have spoken with many Americans. When I present pro-Palestinian views to them, they say they are shocked. But they are quick to respond that they have “concerns” about Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, issues of terrorism and violence, and what appears to be their refusal to “assimilate.”
Many Americans, the majority of whom are Christian, do not even know that most Palestinians and Arabs in America are Christians themselves. They see them as being Muslim, a religion they often do not understand.
Americans have been conditioned by decades of one-sided propaganda to embrace Israel and be skeptical of Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians. It is deeply ingrained, with years of brainwashing coming from every corner of US communications. Seventy-five years of being portrayed as terrorists in hundreds of major Hollywood movies would change perceptions of even the most generous of human beings.
Americans have been conditioned by decades of one-sided propaganda to embrace Israel and be skeptical of Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians.
It is not just movies. The stereotypes and inaccuracies inundate the book publishing industry too. These false stereotypes are conveyed even more profoundly by the mainstream media through newspapers, radio and television. And, more recently, through the internet and social media too.
So, how do we change this and tell Americans that two plus two does not equal five when it comes to Palestine? Well, we certainly cannot do it the way we have been doing it. Believing that telling the truth will somehow erase 75 years of lies sounds right, but it is not.
Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians often refuse to accept the reality that countering Israel’s propaganda and influence in America requires an understanding and manipulation of three basic principles of communication.
The first principle is that, in America, perception is reality, especially when it involves Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians or criticism of Israel. Perception has more impact than truth. The perception of Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians has been defined by inaccurate, racist and hate-driven stereotypes. Simply offering the truth as a response is ineffective.
The second principle is delivery. It is not what you say (even if it is the truth) but how you say it. This involves many factors, including how your audience, the American public, views you. For example, humans are more likely to believe someone who looks and sounds like them and are more skeptical of strangers, foreigners or anybody different. To be more effective, we need to look and sound like the audience we are trying to convince.
The third principle is in the crafting of the message, which is merely a carrier of the truth.
Israel not only has a huge advantage over Palestinians in terms of Hollywood movies, the book publishing industry and the news media, but also in how its message is defined and presented. There are dozens of very strong pro-Israel publications, TV shows, radio shows and US-based online media. In contrast, the Arab American media is practically non-existent. It mostly caters to its own community, an audience of Arabs and Muslims. Programming tends to be in Arabic, not English.
Making this bad situation worse for the Palestinian cause in America is that the Arab, Muslim and Palestinian communities are also very divided. Angry extremists dominate. Oftentimes, Arabs are more critical of other Arabs than they are of Israelis.
If you want to change the ineffective dynamics that undermine the justice of the Palestinian cause, then you need to change what you do. Change the perception. End the divisions. Improve your message. Do that and you might undermine America’s blind support of Israel.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania