Reader Response 6: Sha Shtil – Correcting a Misconception

One commenter, Blistering, summed up the sentiments of some of our readers in his last comment, here.

Blistering writes, “I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but the Canadian Jewish community tried to go with the PR approach in about 2004 and undertook the same course that you and others are advocating and it failed dismally. Those who advocated the sha shtill, don’t protest approach thought that in doing so, it would cause a decline in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in certain segments of Canadian society. In fact, it had the opposite effect and anti-Semitism grew and the anti-Israel propagandists flourished.”

We did some cursory research and could not find reference to this campaign at all. Blistering, if you could provide us with some links, that would be great. What exactly did these Canadians do, and who were they? In our googling, we found the agendas for the CJC (Canadian Jewish Congress) for 2004. There is no mention of this policy there. When we  searched for mentions of a “Sha Shtil” policy in Canada, 2004, all we could find was a series of pages devoted to how Canadian Jewry opposed anti-Semitism in all its forms.

So, because we don’t know anything about the policy or the body implementing it, we cannot comment on the Canadian example. What we will say is that our prescriptions for good public relations has nothing to do with keeping quiet or cowering. It has to do with placing the Jewish community in the strongest possible position within the broader Australian community, through intelligent interaction with the media, policy-makers, academe, and the public.

For example, the grotesque violence that was  perpetrated against Menachem Vorscheimer would not, in our opinion, merit sitting down and being quiet. It would merit the strongest possible response, interaction with Victoria police, and public statements that put what happened to Mr Vorscheimer into the context of a violation of human rights that is unacceptable in any Australian context. We would do that in order to gain the empathy and cooperation of other minority groups, demonstrate to all Australians that we do not view ourselves  as separate from Australian society, that we abhor all racist violence and do not perceive an attack on a Jew as more deserving of condemnation than an attack on anyone else. We would position ourselves thus,  NOT because we are hair-shirtists or want to diminish the horror of what happened or the importance of our Jewish identity, but because it is the smart thing to do for our standing within the rest of society, and because such a position carries a universal moral weight.

Blistering continues, “Personally, I don’t have much faith in pinstripe suited paid PR men and place greater store on the youth coming out of say, the Zionist youth movements and other pro Israel groups who have real passion for the Jewish people and the Jewish State and are willing to stand up for their principles and for their cause and do so in a peaceful manner.”

Blistering’s conception of the PR practitioner seems somewhat outmoded. We envision a youngish Jew – possibly a female – in the role. Professional knowledge and contacts are crucial in such a delicate role. While one cannot fault the passion of our youth movement members or other pro-Israel activists, so far, they have demonstrated that they simply do not have the requisite knowledge or skills to conduct an effective campaign that positions Australian Jews in the light in which they would want to be seen.

Blistering’s final paragraph: “What really worries me is that what you’re advocating is exactly what those in AFP and IAJV complain about. You are seeking to muzzle Jewish voices who want to express their support of the concept of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and it seems to me that you’re being cowed by the fact that there are people in the media like Andra Jackson who will never write a thing positive about Israel and whose reports in the Age might as well have been written by Michael Shaik himself. It’s because unscrupulous journalists and editors exist within segments of the media that makes it important that we don’t take the supine approach that you’re advocating especially since we know its been tried and found wanting elsewhere.”

We vigorously object to any comparisons with any anti-Zionist groups, and might suggest that those who seek to paint us as anti-Zionists have not read what we have written on the subject. Our interest is in TAKING AWAY the moral high ground that groups like Australians for Palestine have so successfully nabbed, because the facts and clear thinking both support the right to a Jewish homeland, and the fallacy that Israel is the root of all the region’s ills. The thing is, the anti-Zionists are winning this war, not because they are right, but because they occupy a position that is more sympathetic to certain journalists and because they are much better at PR than we have been. That anyone could advocate for this status quo to continue and also wish for more even-handed Middle eastern coverage in our media is absolutely baffling. Complaining incessantly, and writing endless angry letters to editors is just not going to change a thing.

The “supine approach” may be fine for someone else to champion, but that is not – and never has been – what The Sensible Jew is about.

  • Share/Bookmark

Related posts:

  1. Reader Response 8: Canada, Isi Leibler, and Advocacy
  2. Reader Response 7: Responding to our Non/Anti-Zionist Readers
  3. Reader Response 5: Israel, Kangaroo Courts, Unity, Speaking Out, and Subheadings
  4. Reader Response 3: Media and Anti-Semitism
  5. Reader Response 2: Incompetence, Negligence, and Legitimacy

6 Responses to “Reader Response 6: Sha Shtil – Correcting a Misconception”

  1. blistering says:

    Glad to oblige. This is an article which appeared last year in the Jerusalem Post. It was written by an Australian who made aliyah – Isi Leibler who I don’t ncessarily agree with politically but I respect his judgement on this particular issue – enjoy

    As to your response I’m not sure that you’re getting it but I want to make it clear that I am not and never was seeking to paint you as anti zionist.

    What I am saying is that you are seeking to muzzle those who would protest and do so honourably and that would be to achieve exactly what AFP and IAJV want.

    I agree that the anti-Zionists are winning this war because they occupy a position that is more sympathetic to certain journalists and because they are much better at PR than we have been and, by all means, engage your PR people but I think what Michael Fagenblat did for e.g. at the play reading was totally counterproductive and played into the hands of AFP and its “friendly” reporter. I suggest you read the Age review of the play reading and its aftermath again and take note of what she said about Michael’s role in it.

    While I agree Michael took part with honourable intentions, I know from my own sources that the AFP are rubbing their hands with glee at the PR coup that he gave them: that they had a “Zionist” on their panel who agreed that the Gaza War was wrong and thanked them for the opportunity to share the stage with them.

    They loved it and it gives them more credibility when their spokespeople get on stage the next time and condemn Israel and preach its destruction as a Jewish State.

    Perhaps you’re right and perhaps Michael should have consulted a PR expert before jumping on the same stage as these dogs with fleas.

    Support this comment Thumb up 0

  2. gustavm says:

    Mmm! You write that you want to take away the high moral ground which AFP “has nabbed”.

    You need to address “the elephant in the room” which you seem to want to studiously ignore – that is, that by any reasonable yardstick Israel is breaching international law, countless UN resolutions and in many critical ways acting morally and ethically in a reprehensible and indefensible way. One instance alone serves to make the point! Even now, 4 months after the Gaza War [and let's not even to start "talking" about the wanton killing of innocent children in that war - and NO, the Palestinians didn't line the children up as some sort of shield or for PR purposes] still stopping medical equipment and many basic food items getting into Gaza. So maybe, just maybe, the AFP is more than entitled, and justified, in taking a high moral ground when it sees Palestinians in Gaza unable to work, not have food readily available to them and without any materials to rebuild their homes?

    If the raison d’être of The Sensible Jew is to try and present a better image of Israel, challenge what is perceived to be media bias against Israel, go head-to-head with the likes of the AFP and / or take on spokespeople for the Jewish “community” [elected or otherwise] then say so. Yes, the Danny Lamms of this world referring to the Churchill play as returning to Goebbels is plain dumb!

    But if this blog is to gain credibility it cannot IGNORE “that elephant in the room” – or else this blog will just become an quasi ersatz discussion around the Shabbath table.

    Support this comment Thumb up 0

  3. [...] Gustavm, writes “You need to address “the elephant in the room” which you seem to want to studiously [...]

    Support this comment Thumb up 0

  4. [...] by sensiblejew on May 27, 2009 This post is another response to some very interesting issues put forward by the reader, Blistering. He/she argues that the Canadian Jewish experiment in [...]

    Support this comment Thumb up 0

  5. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Blistering, and thanks again for your contributions. Once more, you’ve given us much food for thought and we believe your comment requires a post of its own in response. Coming soon….

    Support this comment Thumb up 0

  6. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Gustav. We’re going to respond to you and Michael Brull of IAJV in a post.

    Support this comment Thumb up 0