The Author


In some situations, we aim to do more than convey information; we also hope to motivate others to react as we would. But it’s not so simple.

We forget that often there are often two aspects to communication. One concerns the simple facts, the objective information, which one wishes to transmit. The other concerns the reactions one wishes to generate in those receiving this transmission.

In conveying information, a desire exists that this new knowledge will affect the one receiving this communication. In such situations, we actually do not want to just convey information; we want to also motivate individuals to think, feel and act, in a certain manner, as would be expected in response to this information. What we often do not consider, though, is the depth of distinction that exists between these two objectives.

Simply put, what we often find is that once a person has ensured that certain information has been presented accurately, he or she will feel confident that the desired reaction which he/she expects to occur will flow naturally. There is little or no consideration of the possibility of a different reaction. As such, there is little thought given to whether a further message touching upon the reaction to the information is even necessary.

Our basic assumption and natural inclination are that if we have a specific response to a matter, others, of like mind, will have a similar response. If the information is conveyed correctly, the desired response will be forthcoming. The challenge, however, is that this is not necessarily so.

This, I find, to be a real problem in communication regarding Israel. There are, unfortunately, constant reports reflecting the dire situation facing Israelis as a result of the intentions and actions of terrorist organizations and individual terrorists. Sustained reactions of horror towards these murders and other crimes, as we would expect, do not, however, necessarily follow.

We wonder: Why aren’t there the same reactions that exist in response to terrorist actions in other locales? Yet, we see that the response is different – from people whose reaction we would expect to be otherwise. The reason lies in how this communication is actually being heard.

Response to Terror

The further issue lies in that this incongruence is not being properly addressed in our communication.

Upon hearing about acts of terrorism, we expect thoughtful and good people to respond in a certain manner; in this case, with sorrow for this extreme violence being perpetrated against Israeli civilians. It is how we feel and how we expect all decent human beings to respond.

The problem is that we are encountering responses different from that which we would expect, even from otherwise respectable individuals. Rather, their focus is often on how oppressed these agents of violence must be to undertake such acts. Rather than being critical of the terrorist, we find people voicing sympathy for the terrorist and, furthermore, blaming the victim.

It cannot be that all these individuals have simply lost their moral senses. The challenge is actually upon us. We must also communicate the basis for the proper response.

The answer does not lie in simply declaring these people to be inherently against Israel or the Jewish People. What we must first recognize is that such counter-intuitive responses do not come out of nowhere. The realm of criminal psychology does present arguments for a connection between criminal activity and difficult sociological and psychological surroundings. This was the basis, for example, for the development of rehabilitative programs within various penal systems, flowing from a view that criminals can be victims too, and so we must undertake to assist them as well.

Our argument, as such, cannot be to simply ignore, dismiss and/or challenge the theory itself. Decent people do see merit in this theory. The theory, as theory, actually has some basis. Our goal must be to communicate how misapplied this theory is within the context of Israel – which it is!!!

A World of Sound Bites

A further, underlying problem is that we now live in a world of sound bites and, with the use of such minimal presentations, any reality can be skewed. It is, as such, that inappropriate, simplistic and improper explanations which evoke sympathy for the terrorist could gain traction. They can be easily drawn and fabricated.

That there are forces which also spin everything in a manner to indicate the ‘oppression’, the hypothetical cause of the violence, only adds to the frustration.

What needs to be done lies in the world of education. A knowledge of unbiased history, on many levels, would show how ridiculous an assertion it is that this violence against Jews is a product of Israeli oppression. The difficulty is that the proper teaching of the truth demands more than sound bites. It calls for study, time and thought, and a more thorough and broader consideration of what is occurring and what are its roots.

The challenge is determining what can we do, though, within this constraint of sound bites.

It is becoming problematic just to report on the terrorism being perpetrated against Israelis. Rather than dampening the fire, we may actually be flaming it. Our enemies even want us to continue our reports as they can then spin the information as they wish.

Our goal and focus in our communications, therefore, must also include challenges to these improper responses and, especially, the spins. As part of our goal, we have no choice but to enunciate a call for people to go beyond the sound bite. We, however, must also find some way to relay our message within the world of the sound bite.

We must also communicate the basis for an educated response. One well-placed fact can reroute a train of thought or, at least, create a pause, a re-consideration of response. This must be included in our objective.

Article by Benjamin Hecht

Rabbi Benjamin Hecht is the founding director of Nishma, which fosters the critical investigation of contemporary issues. For further info, see and You can follow Rabbi Hecht on Twitter @NishmaTorah.