I took a break from the hood the other night to speak to a large Conservative synagogue in Palos Verdes called Congregation Ner Tamid -- and I used a word that got me in trouble. The occasion was a showing of "Obsession" -- a documentary on the rise of radical Islam and the worldwide terror that has accompanied it -- and it was sponsored by CAMERA, an organization that counteracts anti-Israel bias in the mainstream media.
"Obsession" assaults you with the hatred that fuels the fire of radical Islam.
The film points out that the majority of Muslims are not radical Islamists, but when it hones in on the radicals, the words and images make your skin crawl.
You see an old sheik, speaking to what looks like 100,000 people, pulling out a sword and exhorting his screaming flock to kill every Jew they can find. One radical Muslim after another is shown giving motivational speeches on the fine art of Jew-hatred. And Jew-killing. Lots and lots of Jew-killing.
But here's the crazy part: There's not a word from the Jew-haters about the dreaded Occupation. Not a peep about roadblocks or fences or the oppressive policies of the Zionist occupier, which, as we are so often reminded, lie "at the heart" of our enemies' discontent. The Jew-haters are honest: they want Jews dead. All Jews. Roadblocks or no roadblocks. West Bank or no West Bank.
Talk about an inconvenient truth.
When you see all this Jew-hatred, it's tempting to be dismissive and say "These are only the radicals; there are many more moderates." Or to get all cynical because "The radicals will always want to kill us. So what's new?" These are great coping mechanisms that help us maintain our composure. But here's what's new: The radicals aren't just getting bigger and bolder on the battlefield, they're also, amazingly, winning the PR war.
Who would have figured that two years after our heart-wrenching evacuation of Gaza -- two years of continued relentless attacks from an enemy that brazenly calls for our destruction -- we'd be the target of a boycott from British professors? Again, it's tempting to get all blasé and say "Been there, done that."
But this blasé attitude is a reason why we are losing the PR battle: We assume that getting all worked up about stuff doesn't really make a difference, or that it's not very becoming of Jews. The practical thing to do is to stay composed and look for solutions.
Well, here's a practical idea: Let's all take a time-out from "solutions" and get a little worked up. Let's stop being so composed and start being outraged.
Because if we continue like this, the whole world, except for America and Micronesia, will be boycotting Israel.
Israel needs the Diaspora to get more emotional right now -- because emotional outrage wins PR battles. Our enemy understands that a lot better than we do.
The most effective TV interview I ever saw happened about five years ago on a major network, while Israel was in the midst of numerous suicide bombings. The anchorman asked Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg, a very composed and sophisticated man, why Israel could not arrest these suicide bombers. Well, you should have seen the outrage on Mr. Burg's face.
With clenched fists and an almost growling voice, he said something like: "But how do you expect us to do that when they can blow up in one second?"
It was visceral, it was sincere and it didn't come from talking points. It came from his heart, and I guarantee you it played well in Wisconsin.
After seeing the Jew-hatred in "Obsession," it was hard not to get worked up when I spoke at the Palos Verdes synagogue. I wanted the Jew-haters of the world to know that we have as much passion to defend Jewish lives as they have passion to destroy us.
But I got a little carried away. I said that we need to have our own Jihad -- a Jihad for life -- and to show the enemy that we believe in it as much as they believe in their "Jihad for death."
A fellow Jew rose up in indignation. My clever twist did not amuse him. No matter how much I tried to explain the subtleties of turning our enemy's word on its head to convey our own "noble struggle," the word went too far for him.
I understood his discomfort, but maybe that's precisely why we need to go there.
Our PR timidity has backfired on us. I'm not saying we should emulate "Wrestlemania" announcers (how sincere do they look?), but I am saying that we need to get bolder and more emotional. It makes us more human.
For example, when the bombs fall on Sderot, instead of empty clichés like "no terrorist is immune" and "this is unacceptable" and so forth, we should have the guts to run ads all over the world and get on CNN and the BBC and say things like: "We gave them land, and they gave us war." "This proves that the occupation was never the key problem," and "How would England respond if the same amount of bombs fell on Manchester?"
These are not think-tank words, they're real words. If we can deliver them with the same intensity Mr. Burg used five years ago, the world will better understand the justness of our cause.
The amazing thing about the PR battle is that it's probably the only area right now where we can win. The political, military and diplomatic landscapes are a mess, but the PR landscape is wide open. Especially post-disengagement, there are numerous PR victories that are ours for the taking.
In a brilliant article in Haaretz, Moshe Arens explains why you can't deter terrorists, you can only fight them. It's time for Jews of all stripes to get their mojo back, and join the PR fight.
Even if your only weapon is your PC, and your mouth.
The 'Obsession' trailer
David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Meals4Israel.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Posted on Jun. 7, 2007 at 8:00 pm
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