Activity Three: Organizing a Hasbara Campaign against Antisemitism
by Gila Ansell Brauner with Neil Lazarus
Racism and xenophobia feed off ignorance; rumor and stereotype substitute for knowledge and fact, creating prejudice and fear. Education is consequently an important factor in combatting antisemitism.
We therefore focus in this unit on an outline for running an active, educational campaign - both for the general public and within your own community - and the ideas here can also be applied in a campaign to counter the current wave of Zionism=Racism allegations.
Firstly, it is important to decide who is your target audience.
Students, active community lay membership/leadership, teachers, informal educators and youth, professional community personnel.
- Broader Target:
The wider public, the Media.
Goal and Message
Every activist should decide which educational message should be central to their campaign. For example:
 The present and potential consequences of Antisemitism, including anti-Zionism;
 The Jewish community and its agenda…
III. Starting the Campaign
The Steering Committee
- Find a nucleus of people who are really motivated to work on the issue, preferably from across the board at community level - with the agreement of their respective organizations (as relevant). You may start as an ad-hoc group, later becoming a permanent group, or merging with others. For the present, you may be the only ones out there on this issue.
- Before you start working with them, ensure your mandate by taking the issue to the community decision-making body, with the support of this core group. Once you are on the agenda, prepare for an initial formal meeting by lobbying the organizations themselves and prepare an outline agenda, written and other materials to back your presentation on the day.
- At the first meeting of your own Steering Committee (your core group or nucleus), ensure that everyone understands why they are there and the general concept of a campaign before proceeding to (again) the printed agenda. Plan this as a workshop session and make it a half or full-day commitment. If you can manage it, invite a keynote speaker to launch this special work, offer ideas and add some experiential perspectives.
- This is your "agenda"! The first objective is to set your target populations, which we outline here and describe further under "outreach":
- The General Public - institutions, special interest targets (ethnic & rights groups…), ordinary people in the street;
- The Media - press, Internet, radio, TV;
- The Opinion-Makers - friendship groups, Rotary clubs, interfaith forums, local and national political figures, etc.
- At the same meeting, you need to define the issue and the aims of this group.
Some ideas are:
Educating, mobilizing the different populations, publicising.
These require further definition, since the scope of your campaign, the issues, the delegation of work and the budget are all functions of what you seek to achieve. You should look carefully at how your goals are relevant to your community and establish a basis of consensus between all those participating, if you wish to work effectively.
- Brainstorm your overall approach and then all your ideas, from the bizarre to the obvious. Do this before you get tied down with practicalities like demands and dates for results!
- Ask participants to prepare an assessment of resources for the next meeting, if time is short, or do this hands-on in pairs. Here are some category ideas:
- Educational resources (from this and other series, for example);
- Human resources - voluntary and skilled manpower, according to areas of expertise;
- Support and partners - include Jewish organizations, Israel friendship organizations, ethnic and other interest groups, media circles and contacts;
- Physical resources - facilities, equipment, access to professional services;
- Finance - it may be important to have a recognized status to obtain different kinds of financial assistance: contributions or services in kind can be sought from participant organizations, discount possibilities, community services grants may be available if you are under the aegis of an official organization, media budgets to ethnic interest groups, private donors.
- Return to your ideas!
Initially, re-assess them and create sub-categories, then slot them into a progressive flow chart, which should correspond to the major needs you have delineated and those of the organizations/populations with which and for whom you hope to work (some of which are also represented in your committee!).
Define the areas of responsibility between the organizations represented in your group and any other potential partner organizations.
In general, leave the media work to the professionals, so:
- Define how you tie in there, in terms of response work, organizing mediaworthy events, and
- Pool your knowledge of community-based people who have hands-on media experience and contacts anyone may have with local or national media.
Review the steering committee's timetable for its own meetings and decide whether your campaign (after all the preparatory run-up work) is going to last for a day, a week, a month - or longer (also dependent on budget).
- If your committee is also acting as a representative body, each participating organization will require their own campaign committee, so members or the steering committee will need to approach them in clusters or individually with the proposed campaign outline.
Bear in mind that student campus work may run parallel to your own and you can also help them, but they are a separate field of operations and will most probably not input directly to a community campaign.
- All participant organizations will also require a sub-timetable and consultation meetings, as well as back-up for their internal activities and updates on the whole picture of the campaign. This may slow down the run-up to your events, but it will pay off in the medium and long term, since it increases their stake and say in the overall project.
- At this point, review and structure the media contacts and targets you pooled earlier. They will require in advance a great deal of your output and much of this should be ready before you go public to allow you to work effectively and invite live coverage/interviews, so this may again set back your launch.
Here are some examples of what this implies:
Calendars, background materials, up-dates, regular communiques or bulletins, write-ups to go.
IV. Campaign Outreach
A. The General Public
The wider public is the outer circle of a large media campaign, which is why it is important to define the inner circles you use to reach them.
- Peer Institutions
Many Jewish groups in the community are capable of organizing good programs for their non-Jewish counterparts: schools, clubs, libraries, Scout troops…
Use: Powerpoint or slide presentations, films, music, competitions (painting, drama, essays, poetry), quizzes.
- Special Interest Targets
Divide these into those Opinion-Makers whom you will access separately and those for whom programs can be organized at grass roots level.
Ethnic rights organizations can be approached within existing coordination frameworks to cooperate on joint presentations, encounters (similar to those described above, but at appropriate levels). These should be preceeded by informative activities for their leaders.
- In the Street
Media-wise, the ordinary person is one of your prime target audiences, even if the educational impact is diluted in proportion to the expenditure invested. This can be an exciting proposition for Jewish community groups who will learn a great deal in the run-up and enjoy the experience.
Events like these need to be well down the timetable, but prior to any major rally also targeted at the media.
Some ideas - for which you require time and investment, city permission, etc.:
- Street theater;
- Art and music in streets or shopping malls;
- Multi-cultural street dancing (students, too);
- Billboard PR;
- Stickers and gimmicks;
- PR stalls in malls (not always allowed under local byelaws);
- Travel agency material;
- Sign-up campaigns;
B. The Media
- Internet & the Press
Ideas which can give you legitimate access to local and international press are:
The more unusual (not to say, outrageous) the material - the greater the impact. Since the media do plan ahead and often have quiet periods, let them know you have interesting interviewees scheduled well ahead of time, so that they can be fitted in. Obviously, on a busy news day, a non-sensational item will be postponed or axed.
- Syndicated specialist features/articles;
- Events calendars;
- Press conferences;
- Paying for PR!!;
- Regular communiques/hand-outs on your events;
- Syndicated personal stories (with photos);
- Reporting (don't rely on it…);
- A name for your group and a special signature for all your correspondence.
- Articles and communiques can be ready in advance for syndication: use regular freelance journalists or specialists for online/offline press with wide circulation, because they can take interest in a good piece of writing on a topical or specialist issue.
Example: The story about/interview with the Ethiopian Israeli girl in the accompanying WUJS delegation to the Durban conference, as a standby item.
- Local Israeli correspondents and the Israel Embassy press attache, together with key community figures, can be most helpful in advising how to organize these and more complex events - such as a symposium of local or national journalists - which are open to the wider public and have a media value.
Be prepared for live reporting of any of your events, especially over local radio stations, so ensure that your first activity (and all the others) are worth their interest and well organized before you notify them.
- Many of the above Press/Internet ideas can be adapted for use on radio, such as:
- Interview programs on events;
- Opinion interviews;
- Sports and activity reports.
- Other ideas include feature programs you can prepare locally or nationally, such as:
- Programs about Jewish philosophy, history, culture (music features), relating to overall Jewish topics and Israel;
- A 3-4 week run of 5-15 minute presentations/PR for events. Make this a patterned and consistent spot, so that people will tune in regularly.
- Suggest that a station organize its own series of programs on Jewish/ethnic issues, to include:
- An interview and report feature;
- A round table on the issue of prejudice and hi-jacking the international forum (with speakers you can recommend);
- An arts program;
- A phone-in program (and please do have lots of people ready to phone in to your speaker);
- Coverage of events in shopping malls.
Radio - particularly local radio - works, because it can act as a loudspeaker at some levels and because it is accessible as a chat medium - and the public loves to give an opinion!
Television is the most popular - and the most costly - medium, so it must be used efficiently. Rather than wasting efforts on bringing TV cameras to every event, keep the newsdesks updated with your activities, and label the major events, so that they do turn up.
- If you cannot pay for prime time (and most of us can't), adapt your ideas to pull out at least one or two newsworthy or unusual options for national/local/ cable TV.
- Use programs that already exist, working through a mediator in your contacts pool, and do this as far in advance as you can, because TV schedules are planned months ahead.
- Theatre, music, history, culture features;
- Films (see: Cinema, below);
- Top quality documentary programs, such as "Heritage" "Pillar of Fire" (shortened version), "By the Waters of Babylon" ("Al Naharot Tevel"). The latter is a particularly relevant series about different Jewish communities, produced by Israel TV (IBA), in conjunction with the former WZO Hasbara Dept.; there are also relevant parts to show and discuss from the BBC's "World at War", etc.
Cinema screenings of films on Jewish/Israel topics and the problem of racism are a way of attracting a wider audience. It is up to you if you prefer to do this by advance ticket sales.
- All showings should include a "permanent" exhibition about Israel /Jewish history in the foyer (this can be re-used at other events). The exhibition will be an item you will need to cover with major expenditure…
- Organize a Jewish anti-racist film festival with financial backing. If this is not possible, you can choose from:
- a Cinematheque day;
- A Jewish and anti-racist film week (evenings only).
- At universities, films need to be followed by panel discussions with guest speakers;
- Resource Centers and film websites list films with their distribution agents; distributors will usually advise you on the best version for your hall and the equipment that you may need to hire.
- Community Education & Programming
Here we come full circle to the Peer Institutions mentioned earlier. These programs can be the mainstay for people of all ages, so add women's organizations, PTAs to the list of target audiences!
With a taskforce from counterpart Jewish organizations, your community can coordinate a campaign to touch thousands of young people and adults in each town.
- Young people take a general presentation about racism and Jewish perspectives to their counterpart organization, or a non-Jewish school, for a curricular or extra-curricular programme on understanding and tolerance.
A senior counselor, youth worker, or teacher should accompany the group, to moderate the encounter process and facilitate the discussion.
- Follow this up with the Anti-Defamation League's online program to combat Hatred, with ideas for school, community, college and workplace.
- Adults can organize separate outreach programs, including through labor unions; teachers from Jewish schools can each visit one non-Jewish school to speak to staff prior to youth encounter programs.
- Organizations - and local media - will also be interested in these and other community events. Use the exhibition, too.
- Maccabi can stage a multi-racial sports event;
- Organize literary and other events in public or Jewish libraries.
- Street Events
Some street and mall events reauire a great deal of outlay, and support may be obtained from other local groups.
In most countries, police or city council permission is required for this kind of activity; some US states do not allow them at all. It is important to be fully aware of these restrictions and all the local byelaws.
- Have sponsors cover costs of prizes and timed features, like releasing doves or balloons. A major fun event needs a statement like this.
- Serious events differ from the fun kind of event: rallies and demonstrations require speakers and the presence of dignitaries or local figures.
- Fun events include:
- Street theater;
- Guest artists and artistes, in theaters or outside;
- Multi-cultural street dancing.
- PR can include:
- Billboards on major highways (find a sponsor!);
- Slide ads in cinemas (cheap, where still available);
- Badge sales, stickers; simulated giant stamps.
- Shopping mall events:
- PR stalls;
- Street theater.
- Information and content campaigning:
Mall events, with stands, for an entire week with hand-outs and petition campaigns incorporating ideas above - and coordinated with the local shop-owners and radio.
C. Influential Opinion-Makers
Any Hasbara campaign seeks a longer-lasting effect on those who create and influence public opinion. Let's run down the list:
- Journalists, media figures generally;
- Rabbis, lay leaders, clergy;
- Political activists, including figures in national govt, local govt, MEPs…;
- Academics, scientists;
- Rotary, friendship and interfaith leaders;
- Environmentalists, special interest groups;
- Executive Directors of History & Ethnic Museums;
- International institutions, NGOs.
To reach figures in some of these areas, it will be necessary to develop specialist contacts; for others, initial outlay on background materials, good planning, effective operation and PR will suffice.
- Follow-up on participants to conferences in Israel (professional, special interest) with a special event for them only.
- Hold Open Day activities before mass events to act a campaign springboard for resolutions in local councils and organizations, for example:
- Open Day in the community for young politicians (each party separately), followed by a symposium;
- Open Day for Rotary & Israel Friendship organizations - dinner with a guest speaker or other suitable format;
- Open Days should include a film.
Recommended Hasbara Links with Reviews:
Israel Response Training & Education:
"Antisemitism" Hasbara Digest No. #6 [Special Issue]
© 1992 Youth & Hechalutz Dept/Joint Authority for Jewish Zionist Education, WZO;
© 2001 Department for Jewish Zionist Education, JAFI.