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"Invented Occupation" vs. "Invented People"

Yesterday, Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich made a statement regarding the Palestinian people that is factually true, but politically controversial, as follows:

"Remember, there was no Palestine as a state — (it was) part of the Ottoman Empire. I think we have an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and historically part of the Arab community and they had the chance to go many places." - Newt Gingrich to The Jewish Channel, as quoted in The Daily Mail

Gingrich's choice of words - "an invented people" - put him on the hot seat across the board as commentators agreed that he had missed the mark in terms of political strategy. For while "facts are stubborn things," the reality is that the Palestinian people are now bonded by a shared historical and cultural reality, and the world community, including Israel, accepts that they are a legitimate people. As (conservative) pundit Charles Krauthammer put it on Fox News, "that train has left the station." Similar sentiments were expressed by various other analysts on CNN as well.

It occurred to me, watching this, that Gingrich - clearly both knowledgeable and strategic - had made a tactical error on the communication front. Rather than focusing on the legitimacy of the Palestinian people, he could have talked about the legitimacy of the "anti-occupation movement." That would have helped him to articulate a policy position on the Middle East - why peace is so difficult to obtain there, despite so many decades of struggle and good intentions.

Focusing on legitimacy is an exercise in flawed logic because:

* From a political perspective, if a group believes that it is real, and if that group has the recognition of other groups, then it is real whether you agree with it or not.

* From a sociological perspective, we are all inventing our personal and group identities every day.

* Human beings act on our constructed identities both diplomatically and militarily: Countries are formed, deformed and destroyed both through mutual agreement and through war.

In short: "History is written by the winners." And those within the Palestinian community who wish to eliminate Israel know this. In Israel, a 2007 study of the textbooks used in the territories found:

"The teachings repeatedly reject Israel's right to exist, present the conflict as a religious battle for Islam, teach Israel's founding as imperialism, and actively portray a picture of the Middle East, both verbally and visually, in which Israel does not exist at all."

So the goal is not to argue what happened in the past, but to shape a desired reality - the things that we will look back on in the future.

The opportunity that Gingrich had, and still has, is to talk about how the Arab community created the Palestinian identity for the purpose of waging war against Israel. In fact the Arabs have declared war on their own brothers and sisters for the sake of obliterating the Jewish state. The occupation is an invented cause through which Jew-haters cast Jews, historically the victims of persecution, as active persecutors in their own right.

This is why Middle East peace still cannot occur: The Palestinians are human shields and the "occupation" is the excuse for continually carrying out attacks on, and politically de-legitimizing, Israel itself. Which is why the Palestinian logo eliminates Israel from the map.

In other words, from the perspective of those who hate Israel, a peace treaty is absolutely the worst thing that can happen. The only way to make the failure Israel's fault is to blame the "occupation." And therefore the "occupation" must continue, even if Israel tries mightily to withdraw from the conflict and build bridges between itself and the international community.

The book Son of Hamas, by the Palestinian Mousab Hassan Yousef, chronicles the former terrorist's journey out of the destructive world of these people and toward a universe of hope, change and reconciliation.

In the end, the only way out of this conflict is going to be mutual recognition or mutual destruction. Mutual recognition can bring prosperity to the region and the world and help us focus global resources on eliminating poverty, disease, and other social ills. Mutual destruction will only suck up our resources and end with illness, suffering and death. We are counting on our political leaders to call out those who only want "a culture of death," so that our energy is focused on living.

It seems to me that Gingrich was courageous in stating implicitly what is normally hushed up: The Palestinian people were created from the larger Arab community for the purpose of serving as human shields. But it seems to me that we ought to focus our attention on those who are actually holding them hostage, and using their suffering as leverage to rouse world opinion against Israel. And from that position, the so-called "occupation" is a more strategic target. Because there is significant momentum toward peace - but both sides have to embrace it for it to occur.

Have a good day everyone, and here's wishing us all good luck.


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10 Professional Secrets for a Friday

Is it me or is this holiday season even more crazed than usual? I heard recently that someone did a study of consumer vacation habits, and people are taking less time than they are entitled to, probably to keep their jobs but also possibly because when you go away there is just that much more stuff waiting for you when you get back.

In any case, my to-do list isn’t any shorter and there continues to be a need to be as effective or more effective with less time, less money, and frankly less attention from others who might have input on projects, because they are so busy with the overload of items on their plates.

So here are a few tips that have been working for me, most of them recently discovered. I hope they are helpful to you as well:

1. Let your RSS feeds do the social media for you. Don’t be scared of the acronym “RSS,” which sounds horrendous and should have been called “Microphone” or something. It just means that you put good content out on the web (short bursts, easy to read), figure out how to find or burn your feed (this is stupidly easy), and help the public find and subscribe to it. I like Google Feedburner for this – it’s the screen you usually see when you sign up for stuff. The benefit of getting good at feeds is that rather than you sharing the content, the audience shares it, which multiplies your credibility about a thousand times.

2. Use your work as an opportunity to learn instead of running to expensive classes. A good example is this RSS thing I’ve been working on. I went into Feedburner and cut and pasted their “promote your feed” code into a Word document, then played around from there till I had formatted a web page in HTML. I used free tools online to help me – for example by Googling “preview HTML” and putting the code into the screen to see the result. Did you know that having squiggly quote marks screws up your hyperlinks? I did not know that. In the future all communicators will be expected to know their way around the basics of “coding,” which is really nothing more than a kind of language that you can teach yourself with the help of the tools that are out there.

3. Engage other people in the work that you are doing and get their advice on how to sell it. When I am in technical mode I become extremely weird and nearly uncommunicative. It’s because my brain is like a computer working on a problem, and I have to focus intently until I can come up for air on the other side – yes, I used to be a swimmer and it’s the same type of principle as when you do laps. So when I’m done (like with the RSS thing) I am so deep into the technical side that I can’t even communicate with normal people about what I’ve done. So I end up saying, “Look, I’ll show you on the computer screen” just to get them to pay attention. That’s all fine and good, but there is an editor at work who has been extremely helpful to me in reading my briefings and asking me to clarify them for someone who’s just coming to the party, so to speak. You must talk to a lot of people and get their advice on packaging the work, even if you’re already a good communicator.

4. Take significant time to learn from others’ experiences. Sure you are busy but do you really have time to clean up an avoidable mess? Personally, I learn best through stories. Stories come from people who have experienced things. So I like to read blogs with people’s stories in them, or ask them directly about their experiences. Sometimes it’s hard to listen or follow what they’re saying, but there you’re developing another great skill – listening rather than just waiting to talk (you knew this).

5. Get rid of social media tools you aren’t actively using and shape up the ones you want to focus on. I recently closed my Tumblr, Wordpress, and Posterous accounts and finally mapped my domain name to my blog, so now is my blog. I have to do more work on the design of the blog and match it to the Twitter account a little more artfully, but having so many outlets was too much.

6. Stop doing things that you can’t commit to, and commit more to the things that are indispensable to you. I don’t have time to do freelance writing, but teaching is important to me. My job is even more important. And my family is even more important than that. Charity, volunteering, friendships and social networking are important all the time. But it’s impossible to do everything, all the time.

7. Teach yourself new skills all the time despite how stupid it makes you feel. Today I learned a new program and ended up making a dumb mistake that resulted in me sending an email intended for one party to three other people. Oh well. That’s life. I am trying also to learn Gimp so that I can have free photo editing software on my computer that will enable me to cut out a foreground and put it on another background. It is difficult. But I’m going to try anyway. When I finally do learn something new it is exhilarating.

8. If you don’t have time to exercise, walk a little further to do your errands. Listen, I’m not judging; not everyone can get to the gym. But help yourself somehow because your body does need to move. I am going to walk from the train to the office today and go for another walk at lunch.

9. Bring your lunch but buy your Starbucks. I take the food from the fridge that nobody will eat because it’s “leftovers,” nuke it the next day, and to me it looks great compared with nearly $7 for a salad at Chop’t, and that’s without extra “choppings.” But the Starbucks I need, because it’s a chance to take a chill pill, and get good coffee, and use free wifi. Worth it for me.

10. Give back whenever you can, as much as you can. I believe in God – you can call it karma – and the fact that good energy and good acts are returned back to you (the same conversely applies). The “force multiplier” if you will is that when you are being good to others, you actually feel good anyway, so whatever good comes back is like interest on top of the original investment.

How are you saving time nowadays, or money? Send in a comment, I’d really like to hear.

Have a great day everyone, and good luck!


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Idea: Run The Election As Reality TV

Watching Donald Trump talking politics last night (“Why didn’t Obama call me? I would’ve helped him out”) I had an epiphany: We should run the next election like a reality TV show – slash – competition. Imagine how great that would be, on so many levels.
First, a reality TV campaign would truly reflect American popular culture and values. Think about the amazing popularity of these shows: Celebrity Apprentice, The Biggest Loser, Ultimate Fighting Championship, Big Brother, Survivor, Dancing With The Stars, The X Factor, American Idol, and so on. All have the most American of principles in common:
1) Level Playing Field: Have the contestants complete common challenges
2) Humanism: Interview them to let us know who they are
3) Transparency: Follow them around so we can see how they act relatively unscripted
4) Meritocracy: Have an expert panel of judges to critique their performance
5) Democracy: Ultimately, let the people decide!
Second, a reality TV election would replace so much negativity with positive, momentum-building energy:
1) We'd get rid of divisiveness and unify people around solving problems - there is nothing we Americans like to do more - to participate!
2) We'd reduce the concentration of political energy in D.C. and encourage everyone – to participate!
3) We'd decrease the moaning and groaning by people who feel closed off from the political process and encourage crowd-sourcing by everyone – to participate!
Third, rather than wasting money on endless, spiteful TV commercials that only add to the hatred out there, we could generate positive energy promoting a TV show that brings forth solutions to problems. And wouldn't it be amazing if the Hollywood studios donated a substantial portion of the proceeds from the competition directly to citizens who need it.
Fourth, once we have a winner, having picked that person so openly and transparently we would have more invested in their success, rather than tearing them down.
Fifth, and finally, it would save us from having to watch the endless loop of Kardashian Koverage every...single...night on E!

I say we try it. What do we have to lose?
Have a good day everyone, and good luck!
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Blogging Is Dead? Far From It!


Thanks to blogs + Google Reader + iPhone, lines in the store no longer phase me, ever. I can flip through any number of subscriptions quickly, change them up on the fly, and find out what's going on. Amazing.

Over the past few years I've discovered all kinds of useful feeds - ranging from news, to technology, to government and politics, feminism , spirituality and commentary on the Jewish faith. Mostly they're the voices of bloggers. Strong, opinionated voices. Usually not selling anything, but they do promote a point of view and a product when it's useful.

One thing I've noticed is that blogs are a lot more interesting than the mainstream news media. To be blunt, this is because they're honest. You know who's talking, you get that they have a definite point of view, you see the same research they see, because they post it (usually, unless they've promised confidentiality.)

When there was only "regular" news it was intimidating to challenge whatever was out there as the standard line. Now it's practically a given that what the media offers is only a starting point, for the audience to deconstruct, analyze, make fun of, compare with other sources, and generally take issue with.

Are you a fan of It's news headlines, sort of; entertainment, sort of; commentary, sort of; and so funny. I laugh pretty much every time I click on a link.

According to Technorati's State of the Blogosphere 2011 bloggers have significant influence on public discourse. Great summary at Blogworld notes that:

"Blogs outpaced other media for inspiration, product information, and opinion. They won out over traditional media in all categories except news information."

In other words, people don't get their news from blogs, but their values and opinions are influenced by them.

Bloggers themselves are educated, dedicated, and generally unpaid for what they do:

* 79% have college degrees

* Most bloggers run an average of 3 blogs and 50% have been blogging for more than 4 years

* The #1 metric for bloggers overall is personal satisfaction (more than 60%); see here for detail

* 66% of bloggers blog about brands, including reviews and experiences with the brand and its representatives; in 2011, 25% of bloggers "encouraged readers to boycott brands"

* Most bloggers are not paid - only 14% receive a salary and of the 6% who write "sponsored posts" they generally make less than $50

* 86% of bloggers disclose "when a post was sponsored or paid" and 58% disclose "when they receive a product for review" (The FTC requires disclosure.)

As of August 2010, eMarketer forecasted blog readership to continue rising from 45% in 2008 to 60% in 2012.

If blogs are so influential why aren't they more visible in mainstream conversations about what's going on in the news? I rarely see them brought on TV, for examples, as news commentators, and when they are it's always the same select few that seem to have gained "credibility" even if their views are somewhat extreme.

Essentially, the problem with bloggers is the same thing that makes them (us) so appealing and trustworthy to the public: Their influence can't easily be measured and reported upon. Thus the 2012 prediction for social media marketers that in the coming year, metrics are going to become more important. For example, the MarketingSherpa "2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report" (Nov. 2011) had 64% of marketing agencies/consultancies committed to "social marketing," (i.e. marketing through social media), albeit on a "conservative" basis until the return on investment could be more clearly demonstrated.

As a blogger myself and one who follows other bloggers, I don't really need metrics to see how influential they are. All of the stories I've seen blogs focus on intensely over the past year or two - TSA privacy issues, the Fast & Furious issue, the rise and fall of Herman Cain and Anthony Weiner, the Toyota safety issue, the BP oil spill, pedophilia and coverup in various trusted institutions, including the religious community - and on and on - have gone mainstream.

Others have documented how blogs' influence goes far and wide, even as far as the Supreme Court and Congress: "the blogosphere has a much stronger voice being heard by legislators than previously considered." Of course, blogs (and other forms of social media) also influence purchase decisions: 42% of respondents to an April 2011 study said blogs "somewhat" influence their decision to buy.

So I don't believe the kinds of headlines that scream "Blogs Are Dead" because people no longer possess an attention span. The reality is that blogs are very much alive. They've helped me grow both personally and professionally, and through blogging I have found and celebrated my own unique identity and voice.

If you're reading this and haven't started blogging yet, I hope that you will consider it. It's a great hobby that can benefit your life in so many ways. And the world wants to hear from you.

Have a great day everyone, and good luck!


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