In response to The Israel Project’s Global Language Dictionary which includes 25 Rules for Effective Communication for activists who want to win the hearts and minds of Americans over to Israel, I offer my list of 10 Rules for Effective Communication to win the hearts and minds of Western audiences for real peace in the Middle East.
Rule #1 – Listen as much as you speak. You will certainly pick up clues about how others understand the Middle East conflict and will undoubtedly enrich your own understanding.
Rule #2 – Talk about the past. Know the history of the Balfour Declaration, the Nakba and the Six Day War. You can’t hope to find a path towards a just and lasting peace if you don’t know the path that has been traveled.
Rule #3 – Every conversation must include the word “Occupation”. The western mainstream media and politicians avoid this word at all costs, but there is no context for a conversation about the Middle East without discussing the occupation.
Rule #4 – Don’t normalize the occupation, the siege, the conflict. Be wary of falling into the trap that so often appears when discussing the occupation, the siege, and the conflict — that this life is somehow normal. IT IS NOT NORMAL! It may be complex, but it is not normal.
Rule #5 – Don’t be shy about calling a spade, a spade! Or calling the occupier, the occupier. You may be called an anti-Semite, or worse, in an effort to shut you up, but stick to the facts and avoid inflammatory language. Avoid the term “terrorist” — it is overused and always in the eye-of-the-beholder.
Rule #6 – Stay cool. If you feel your blood pressure rising during the conversation, stop, listen and think about why you’re reacting this way. You can’t be an effective advocate for peace if inside you feel like making war!
Rule #7 – Avoid generalities. Remember there is a distinction between the government and the people.
Rule #8 – Don’t demonize the “other”. Some people have been raised to think the “other” side (Israeli or Palestinian) is evil, subhuman, unworthy of respect. When you hear demonization creep into the conversation, call it out and reject it.
Rule #9 – Listen some more. Don’t think about how you want to respond while the other person is speaking. Listen deeply and intently. If you don’t have words to respond, silence is good.
Rule #10 – Remember, the world is changed by your example, not by your opinion. – Paulo Coelho