The David Project has undertaken a significant shift in strategy over the last few years. Once a proponent of confronting Israel’s detractors head on in debates and counter-protests, I am happy to say we have developed a philosophy that building relationships with key groups on campus is crucial to moving the campus discussion on Israel in the right direction. This approach involves discussing Israel in all of its complexity, and encourages our student partners to develop their own personal connection to Israel, realizing that no country is perfect, including Israel. Instead of using standard talking points (of why Israel is great or morally justified), we teach these students to adopt nuanced language that speaks to the hearts and minds of their peers. I have had many conversations with students emphasizing that they should not feel they have to be a spokesman or spokeswoman for the government of Israel. Rather, they should be genuine and honest, with an emphasis that you can be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian at the same time.
While at first I believe this strategy was on the fringe of the pro-Israel community, it is satisfying to see that it is gaining more traction. Although released over a month ago, a new Times of Israel article highlights a report by the Israel Action Network (IAN) that details best practices for the pro-Israel community. Describing these approaches, IAN’s managing director, Geri Palast, states, “The most effective way to reach people is to show the human face of the Israeli people and their narrative. And that we cannot reduce the complexity of the conflict to a single soundbite [sic].” The report contains winning strategies, including, “Say Yes to a Jewish State. Yes to a Palestinian State. NO TO BDS.”
These are similar approaches to the ones that we have been teaching students over the last year and a half, and it is exciting to know that more within the pro-Israel community will be following our lead.