“The universe hates me” is the battle sigh of those who have given up. Seeing oneself as the victim of malicious and insurmountable external forces may be comforting in times of distress — and indeed is quite popular in political discourse these days. But it is in fact a mindset for failure, and a guarantee that adversity will get worse.
Take, for example, the case of a child who is repeatedly bullied in school for having good grades. Some may be tempted to comfort that child by pitying her. One may want to tell her the other kids deride her just because they are jealous; she is despised by her peers precisely because she is special. But that would blind her to her ability to engineer a better reality for herself. It would condemn her to keep being bullied. The thing to tell her, however unwelcome at first, is to stand up tall, dust herself off, and find ways to make friends and confront her bully.
And yet, how many of us sabotage ourselves with the belief that antisemitism is an unavoidable fact of life? How often do we mindlessly sigh that “people hate Jews,” as if it is a law of nature (or God’s secret sign that we are chosen)? How often do we – destructively, insanely – normalize talk of “another Holocaust” and react to jihadi protests in our cities as if they were inevitable?
With support for jihadis reaching alarming levels, we must do the Zionist thing and stop telling ourselves that the universe hates us. We must believe that we – and not God or luck or conspiracies or the system – control and shape our destiny.
With support for jihadis reaching alarming levels, we must do the Zionist thing and stop telling ourselves that the universe hates us. We must believe that we – and not God or luck or conspiracies or the system – control and shape our destiny. We must focus on those things that we can, through effort and grit, fix. We are not victims.
1 – Define the problem: Get rid of the word antisemitism. It turns a fixable problem into something inscrutable and singles us out (when hatred is certainly not limited to Jews). It is far more useful to call it what it is: jihadism masked as human rights that has slowly won over the left and youth. It is critical to understand the reasons why and mechanisms by which it has succeeded in doing so. To demystify them so we can reverse them.
2 – Adopt a winning mindset: Hatred of Jews is built and so can love of Jews. Two years ago, the current vitriol among Gen Z was unimaginable. In contrast, Jews being seen as favorably in survey after survey as we are today was wishful thinking 50 years ago. Hitler and Goebbels took near a decade to bring Germans to antisemitism. Today, Ukraine has a Jewish president (and recently, a prime minister, too). Hatred – like love — is built, it fluctuates, it must be nurtured. It is not innate or permanent.
3 – Define success: The goal is to generate due sympathy and affection for Israelis through communication, so that people will support us when we face peril. The secondary goal is to inoculate audiences against manipulation and slander against us. Everything we do must promote these goals.
4 – Define the leadership to take us there: I have tremendous respect for our devoted elders. But they have presided over the biggest disaster facing our people in generations: The progressive left first being hijacked by, then zealously embracing, jihadis. For over 40 years, our leaders have at best proven incapable of identifying this threat to our people, at worst diverted attention to trivialities as jihadi/leftist propagandists persistently conquered universities, unions, community organizations and media institutions we once called home, in broad daylight. We now need leaders and donors who deeply understand messaging: how attitudes are formed and why they matter – and who don’t expect immediate results. The stakes are far too high to avoid the pain of change.
5 – Define priorities: We must overhaul Jewish education, right now. We need less gemarah and more graphic design. Less kriyat shema and more krav maga. Less focus on chumash and more on cultivating charisma. People gravitate to confidence and strength. Human survival instincts dictate it. Our survival depends on it.
6 – Define our approach: To be liked, we must become likable. Just as people are attracted to confidence, we all abhor weakness. Yet so many of us have been taught that ostentatious contrition – loudly and theatrically condemning Israel – is a path to safety. “Show them how fair [read: submissive and pliant] we can be and they will not hurt us.” But Israel’s countless screw-ups and boorish politicians have no relevance on campuses and social media – otherwise Hamas would not be enjoying the fawning devotion of LGBTQ and of people who believe in safe spaces from Christmas songs. To loudly adopt your enemy’s talking points during a merciless war to isolate us is not intellectual courage. It is the Stockholm Syndrome. The venerated approach “Guilt them about the Holocaust and they may think twice” is not much better. Nor is the more recent “Look at all the useful small tomatoes and medical gadgets we made!” All of these approaches, championed by our institutions, are but groveling for the mercy of an imaginary gentile court, when in truth our audiences are just people struggling with life’s challenges, who just want genuine connections and to be inspired.
To win support we must be able to command affection, not beg or plead for acceptance. To enchant. To seduce. To inspire.
7 – Define the prism: We need to understand how the mind works. All of our attitudes and behaviors are shaped by basic, evolutionarily-driven mechanisms, not by logic or facts. Reliance on education or debate to win others to our side is a form of laziness. We all would rather be swept off our feet than educated, even if it means we lose our footing. This – understanding and appreciating humans and the quirky ways in which they actually function – must be the prism through which our leaders see all of the challenges we face.
It was 40 years, so the story goes, that we wandered the desert before having to drop our old ways in order to conquer the promised land. It has been 40 years that we face a focused, tireless campaign against us while we also wander aimlessly. And yet, our enemies still do not command majorities in the West. We can still win – but only if we, too, leave behind our old mindset; if we have the courage to change ourselves, first. It is within reach.
Philippe Assouline is an opinion researcher and communication strategist who has led both political and election campaigns around the world. He is the CEO & Founder of PropellorIQ.