The Third Pillar of Effective PR – QUESTIONS

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Accusations by Questions

1/   For much of the international mass media the purpose of interviews with Israeli spokespersons is not to provide a reasonable opportunity for Israel to present its position but to blame Israel and make its spokespersons look guilty.  There are several obstacles to escaping this trap:

  • the almost unanimous assumption that Israel is responsible for the conflict.
  • the media focus on event-facts. These ignore the causal-facts that explain the source of the conflict and which are almost entirely kept from the public (see The First Pillar box).
  • an unfortunate tendency of Israel’s spokespersons is telling states, the UN, politicians, and so on, what they must think or do (although this is milder in Hebrew than translations into English).

2/   There is an old saying in ‘sales’ that telling isn’t selling.  That is, it’s far more successful to lead customers towards a decision to buy yet leaves the decision to them.  This way, the decision belongs to them and is stronger for it.  Similarly, questioning, which is really the presentation of a soft challenge, helps Israeli PR to reverse the biases of the media and to place the blame for the conflict where it belongs – the Palestinian claim to all the territory from the river to the sea, and their refusal to accept a Jewish state.

3/   Therefore, the two main political aims of questioning are:  to demonstrate to audiences the faulty assumptions of the media, the distortions and omissions.  For this reason, our spokespersons should always have supporting material available, such as the Hamas Charter, the PNC, the 4GC, Abbas quotes, to assist in utilizing causal-facts to explain the conflict rather than remain stuck in event-facts (see The First Pillar).

Types of questions

4/   As a result, questions can be a powerful means to challenge media assumptions (with a Socratic rather than the eristic-type approach of the media).  Very often loaded questions are useful.  For example,

  • Given the aim of Palestinians to eliminate the state of Israel and all the damage Hamas has done, will a two-state solution help or hinder their aim?

5/   Or implied-blame questions (it’s best to know the answers to these questions before going on-air):

  • How often have you (the news outlet) referred to or discussed the Hamas Charter or the Palestinian National Charter which clearly present Palestinian intentions to obliterate Israel?
  • Have you ever presented to your readers/viewers the substance of the Hamas Charter or the PNC?

If the answer is no,

  • Why not? Don’t you think it would help your audience to understand the conflict?

Or, to put this in a tougher manner,

  • Is this because of bias or incompetence?

6/   Other questions can query the use by the interviewer or news outlets of distorted opinions of the rules of war, such as proportionality, rules for targeting schools, hospitals, places of worship, which are contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention:

  • Why don’t you inform your audience of exactly what the law says rather than just presenting a legal opinion?

7/   In contrast to media interviews, articles in the press offer a more favorable avenue for the use of causal-facts.  This means that the actual intentions of the Palestinians can be demonstrated.  As always, the solution to the conflict can be reinforced by the inclusion of Israel’s primary message (see the Primary Messages box).

 

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