Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Alan Dershowitz and the Case of the Misplaced Energies

In a feat worthy of an animated film, Alan Dershowitz is set to debate the inanimate object known as the Goldstone Report. I know this because I have received no fewer than five invitations to watch this comic undertaking. It is my sincerest hope that the multiple invitations are simply a result of the Jewish community’s Great Numbers Charade (previously discussed HERE) and not, as I fear, the fruits of an effective marketing push that is truly reaching a larger audience.

As it stands, the Goldstone report is damaging both to Israel’s practical situation in the UN and, worse, to the all important “narrative” which defines the conflict for so many under-informed, armchair political pundits. While there is much work needed to correct Israel’s situation in the UN – a yeoman’s job that would truly require some Hollywood style action-hero to fix - the best efforts to fix the sociological problems created by the study should require mentioning it as little as possible. For those who have accepted its faulty findings as fact, the debate is already lost. For those who have not, it is best to understand their surface consideration of the document not as an invitation to learn more but, instead, as a limit to their own desire to know.

Traditional advocates teach that there are some who just cannot be swayed. It is better to leave them and focus your energies elsewhere. The obvious next target would be those with a minimal understanding of the situation who could benefit from further, factual and unbiased information. Of course, this presupposes that these individuals want to learn more and, more importantly, want to learn it from you. Alan Dershowitz enters this arena as a litigant. He is used to a captive audience that, quite literally, must listen to his case under threat of jail. Jurors of opinion and fact in the real world have no such threat and, as such, no mandate to pay attention or consider the merits of your argument with any semblance of reason.

The average citizen is, as movie makers will tell you and advertisers and print media mavens will bemoan, busy, easily distracted and attention deficited. They respond better to made up words, like deficited, and made up “reality” worlds then to long lists of facts and figures. It is only natural, then, that they will pay attention to only the first few minutes of whatever information is presented to them. By debating the Goldstone Report, Alan Dershowitz is furthering its adoption into mainstream dialogue. He is promoting a report that deserves to be buried in a place and time far, far away.
In the hyper-linked, pay per click reality that is internet surfing, a sure indication of how we process information these days, individuals who see this invitation will immediately go to the Report itself. If a million people see the invitation to the debate and a very ambitious figure of 1 percent choose to go to the event, you may sway the perception of a small minority. However, many, many more will just click over to the Goldstone Report and, potentially, download its contents and narrative anti-Israel sentiments as their source information. The cost of the small minority of informed, educated citizenry on the side of truth is a large majority of lesser knowledgeable individuals who are against you.

Consider the story arc. At first, individuals are learning about the erroneous report. Secondly, they are seeing that it is getting major attention by important figures, furthering its credibility. Thirdly, they see that a well-known Jewish figure they already assume to be biased for Israel is debating it – how typical, they might think, of the litigious, victim-crying Jews. Fourth, they consider the report. Here they learn all about the accusations against Israel. It is not until the very end that, lastly, the audience might choose to come to this debate or read the criticisms against the Goldstone report – criticisms which, if they follow this typical model, put us right back at step one. The potential climax of the story for someone with the time, attention and intellect to make it through the entire thing is meaningful. But, it is not worth it.

Goldstone has, for reasons we can only assume, decided to remove himself from this play before the first act. And, how smart he is to do so. Like the musical score of a period piece movie or the un-shown frightful occurrences of a horror film, he is far more effective at a remove. Without appearing, he is as grand as the imagination may allow, his thoughts so powerful they exist in this world alone, ready to be debated by an important figure. Alan Dershowitz has become Goldstone’s best agent, aggrandizing him and his works of fiction to a level of significance neither deserves.

Alan Dershowitz and the Israeli advocacy community would be far better served creating their own Goldstone Report. They should be reclaiming the narrative, providing short, interesting sound bites and popular opinions that influence understanding of the Middle Eastern conflict but do not require unfair amounts of time to consider. Artists 4 Israel is consistently engaging the non-Jewish community with Israeli tales of wonder and heroism, providing them with an offensive response to the many tales spun against us, rather than playing the defensive and, by so doing, promoting the very negative stereotypes we wish to dismantle. This is, ironically enough, as taught by Craig Dershowitz’ Social Advocacy Method. With Alan’s intellect, resources and concern for Israel, he would be a wonderful ally if he directed his energies in that way.

At the best, Alan Dershowitz’s attempt to undermine the report in a public setting is ill-fated and a waste of his tremendous intellect and talents as both a speaker and an advocate. At the worst, it is a miscalculated strategy that will serve only to promote and enhance the lies and misinformation contained within the scandalous document.

We wish that Alan, and the sponsors of this event, Hasbara, and the Jewish Activism Group will consider our recommendations.

1 comment:

  1. I 1000000% agree!

    It is painful to watch these "debates," which do nothing other than grant a forum to the other side.

    You really articulated a strong point here!