Know how to deliver your message

You might have the truest message and the most noble cause in the world. But if you don’t present it in an acceptable way to the rest of the world then nobody is going to accept what you are talking about. Worst still, it will most likely negatively affect the cause you are trying to help. You always have to appeal to your audience regardless of the circumstance.

I see this often in Arab-Israeli debates. There is no doubt that we Palestinians have had tremendous injustice bestowed upon us, and we’ve been constantly wronged for the past 60+ years. Yet, Israelis know how to appeal to external/western audiences. There is no magic there, no great conspiracy. Just basic carefully examined messages.

Always know your audience. People in the USA have different mentalities than those in Britain, or France, or Turkey, or Palestine, or Pakistan ..etc. So naturally, what might be a sound argument in one place could be totally useless somewhere else. In Arab-Israeli debates many people immediately jump to issues from the time of the British mandate or 1948. Why ??!! I honestly think this is a bad dialog course. There are far more contemporary immediate problems that we can talk about (and try to resolve). Shouldn’t we try to solve the immediate problems first before tackling the big grand picture problems ?

When talking to people you have to befriend them and think like they do. People are more willing to engage in the viewpoint of somebody who is similar to them rather than somebody who is very different. Never come off too strong. Never be inflexible.

I am often asked questions about the situation in Palestine by Americans. I found it best to start out by telling them the simple most basic things. That is, we don’t like violence. Like them, we too like to live peaceful lives. We like to be able to live, work, visit family, and go about doing our business without hassle. That the vast most Palestinians are not hell-bent on the destruction of Israel but rather want to live normal peaceful lives. Then I tell them how ordinary people who haven’t done anything suffer. How we have more than 500 checkpoints in the West Bank that prevent us from moving around, how Israel imposes city-wide curfews, how people can not move around freely or conduct business freely, how the mobile telephone company struggled with Israel for more than a year just to import a single retransmission tower to meet the increase in demand. I tell them my personal story. People do respond when you tell them about your personal story.

Anyway, this came to mind after seeing what happened in the recent U.N. racism conference. I do not agree with the Iranian president, but he was trying to use Palestine as an excuse for whatever he wants and he was trying to present a case in which, as always, he came off as a nut-job to the west and just managed to hurt the true message of the Palestinian struggle with his idiocy.

  1. a timely and useful post. Prof King who wrote the book ‘a quiet revolution’ recommends ‘telling stories’ , by that it hink she means not bombarding people with dates facts etc but to wrap your response in the form of short stories, which i believe in helping to engage with people, i guess this is similar with what you are saying.

    However, focusing solely on the transgressions and injustices taking place today may give the listener the false impression that this is a temporary thing. And the false impression that this is a civil war or even an internal dispute of sorts. Often simple facts such as the Zionisrs invaded palestine, and that the zionists were mainly european, and not an indigenous population. That what is happening in palestine is the result of a brutal and racist occupation. A brief intro such as ‘about 100 years ago the british decided to establish an outpost in palestine to serve their own purpose, they then oversaw the gradual occupation of the land by the zionists, who went on to massacre villages and ethnically cleanse the land. These injustices carry on till today, for example …..’

    So not too much info that may swamp the listener, but enough to set the scene at least.

  2. Of course, coming off as snobbish when trying to prove a point never works. There are lots of ways to win over the other people, be it pathos or ethos, and it all depends on what you’re saying and who’s listening.

    But there are always no-nos, and blatant attacks and a snobby attitude won’t win any votes. I haven’t looked into the conference but seeing how the recent multi-national conferences went I can bet most people switched off the TV

  3. loolt: I totally agree with you. If the speaker is speaking to an audience that are not familiar with the problem then he/she must remind them about the history of the conflict and its contemporary effects. Also as you said, bombarding people with dates won’t help much either .. i think usually these should be reserved until asked for.

    KJ: Yes, coming off snobbish does not help. Additionally, not making a logical argument and attacking the debater’s person (ad hominem attack) does not help either. I just wish more people engaged in actual debates (specially in the Arab world). I don’t know how the conference was viewed, i just saw the news about the walk-out all over the internet.

  4. i disagree. we need to go back to 1948. perhaps even before. how else do we explain what’s going on now? people need to understand that palestinians don’t throw rockets for fun. they do it b/c they are occupied, and have been occupied since 1948. israeli officials will dismiss this as mindless history ( i have seen them do this) but we must keep it in conversation. the last time we put it on hold was during oslo- when final status negotiations regarding the return of the refugees etc was pushed to the side. and we all know what a disaster oslo turned out to be. the point is, if we are to make the case that we are the native inhabitants of the land (which we are) then 1948 must be ingrained in people’s minds- the way 1492 is. how else will people understand that israel is a settler-colonial state?

  5. good point, i agree, if more people would think like that, we might have gone a bit further with our issues….

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