Media Torah Portion

Proverbs and Israeli PR

In studying the book of Proverbs (Ch. 26 – today’s chapter of the daily Tanakh/Bible study program called “929” – the number of chapters in the Hebrew Bible), I came across two consecutive, contradictory verses (vs. 4-5) that are most apt for responding – or not responding – to anti-Israel and anti-Zionist media:

אַל־תַּ֣עַן כְּ֭סִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּ֑וֹ פֶּֽן־תִּשְׁוֶה־לּ֥וֹ גַם־אָֽתָּה׃

Vs. 4: Do not answer a dullard in accord with his folly, Else you will become like him (literally: become his equal)

.עֲנֵ֣ה כְ֭סִיל כְּאִוַּלְתּ֑וֹ פֶּן־יִהְיֶ֖ה חָכָ֣ם בְּעֵינָֽיו׃

Vs. 5: Answer a dullard in accord with his folly, Else he will think himself wise.

So which is it? Do we try to respond to misguided, skewed anti-Israel propaganda in kind? Do we “lower ourselves” to the dullard’s level? Or do we ignore it, knowing that many of the anti-Israel bloggers, and the like, are not interested or capable of hearing what we have to say? (To paraphrase a Hebrew expression: if they say your sister is immoral, try to prove that you don’t even have a sister!)

Of course, the Talmudic answer is: “It depends….” We certainly don’t want to counter anti-Israel tirades with more tirades – that would be like the first verse above and would lend credence to their baseless claims. On the other hand, when encountering well thought-out criticism (even if it makes us uncomfortable), perhaps the second verse would indicate that we should try to respond rationally. Such criticism will usually be based on facts – or include kernels of truth – which we ought to recognize. If we fail to do so it will undermine the legitimacy of our position. At the same time, we need to point out where the critic is mistaken. We might not convince the critic of the correctness of our argument, but at least we can demonstrate that the critic is not as wise as s/he may think s/he is (vs. 4 above).

In my humble opinion, the most effective “response” to the dullards out there is to take the rhetorical offensive: send out LOTS of PR explaining what Israel is doing and why BEFORE Israel is forced to be on the journalistic defensive. Flood the social media with information (being cautious not to sound self-righteous – yes, Israel does make mistakes, but…). I realize that the anti-Zionist sentiment will always be there, but at least we will not “become like him” (as per vs. 4). Israel is a world leader in developing hi-tech; however, when using that technology for PR, the State of Israel is still in the dark ages.

Let’s do our part in trying to make up for some of the Israeli government’s PR sluggishness. Keep sharing those posts that resonate with you and that you think contribute to support Israel. Take part in webinars or other forums to be better educated and to spread the word to others. At this writing (Tuesday AM, May 18) it looks like the current fighting could be over by the end of the week; unfortunately, the PR War will be with us for a long time to come.