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How to be a Pro-Israel Boss

Mar 17, 2017
By: Matthew Chin, York University, Hasbara Fellow

When one advocates for Israel, one often thinks of it as being some new branch of annoying boy scouts trying to get their profit. In circumstances of desperation, this too often becomes the case, but when it is not, how do we transcend the stereotypes? How do we use the imperfections of our product (Israel) to electrify the masses? And most importantly, what does it take to become a boss in advocacy?

Our minds brand everything we observe and see, whether in a positive or negative light. Earlier this year, I went on Hasbara Fellowships, a trip intended for university students to learn new and invigorating ways of advocating for Israel on campus. After it was over, I began to believe that pro-Israel advocacy was moving into a new direction that would produce the essential eye candy millennials crave. This is a good sign, right? And like any organization, or group inspired to fulfil a goal, the audience dictates the advertisement and/or the very design of the product itself – the product being Israel. And like any product, it will have faults, and sometimes it is up to the user to make sense of these imperfections. We often hear the over-used expression made by advocates, “Israel is not a perfect country.” Um, okay? Can you like… explain? These are the thoughts that flood the mind of the buyer. You can go ahead and explain, but what is an explanation without a style, a body language – an emotion.

To advocate for Israel – a precious gem to many of us – we’re obligated to do it with confidence, professionalism and class. And as distributors of the product, buyers will judge the product based on the impression that he/she gets from the distributor (you). The way you look, and articulate your dialogue matters. In educational institutions, it’s very easy for students to realize from the get-go you lack knowledge of a particular topic. This is why it is crucial to be an educated advocate, and to know beforehand the audience you’re targeting. When you share your personality and your emotions with the buyer, you create a bridge for him/her to walk on, i.e., the buyer feels less intimidated and more at ease knowing you aren’t a weirdo with a big ego.

Moreover, we live in a time where many of us tend to view countries through the actions and words of their respective government. That tendency leads many to associate the citizens of a country to the policies of their government. This trend is one of the prime reasons why Israel has become the secular world’s favourite punching bag. Will Israel remain this way? Unfortunately, yes, but to have the ability to question, and weaken stereotypes and other related cognitive biases against Israel, advocates can truly live up to what Western educational institutions are all about.

Furthermore, we should not limit our conversation with fellow students around Israel alone. For a bridge to be built we have to talk about the commonalities we share with the buyer. What are these commonalities? Student life! The struggles I face as a student are probably going to be same as my fellow-stduent’s – seeing both the buyer and seller are undergraduates in the same institution. Now we’re talking!

Okay, now it’s time I be honest here, you’re definitely gonna creep students out if you begin to drench them in Middle Eastern history and Israeli politics. Tabling and hosting events are ways for students to escape the daily stress associated with three-hour-long lectures and those intimate and awkward tutorials .Students, whether they’re free for the day, or just passing by, are deserving to have a taste of the diversity existing on their campuses. Advocates for Israel help produce that diversity, and it’s up to all of us to make sure our fellow students actually feel something! Millennials desire empowerment – Zionism is empowerment. If you can communicate the story of an ancient people that had put self-determination into their own hands, you’ve successfully infiltrated the mind of the millennial.

Being an advocate for Israel isn’t the easiest thing to do. As for me, I have to constantly check the news (both domestic and international), revise Israel’s history, go to meetings, send emails, fight social anxiety, read my campus’ newspaper, and in the end try to find moments of peace in between the day. I’ve come to the conclusion, that advocacy is going to become much harder on campuses, seeing how world events are playing out. We may not be the most liked individuals, but if your team is able to engage with at least 10 students in a day, then kol hakavod! Your team is actually DOING something good!

In the end, it’s not how much you can ‘talk the talk’ and ‘walk the walk’, – it’s the method of doing it that matters. If you feel like a ‘boss’ just because you can recite facts, I’m sorry – you aren’t a boss, not yet…at least. To burst your bubble yet again, there will be those occasions where anti-Israel freakazoids will want to start beef with you and your fam, in those ugly scenarios you should (if you’re ready) release your brain power as you may. But 95% of the time, you’re going to be talking to students who know nothing about Israel. It’s in those moments where opportunity awaits your grasp. If you can create a ‘safe space’ (I hate using that term) for you and your new friend; smile (use colgate in the morning – it’s what I use); and simply have a conversation (laugh plenty), only then can you truly call yourself a BOSS.

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