Hopeful Israel advocates took part in a media training course with a renowned communications expert — as the Gaza flotilla deaths brought an avalanche of criticism against the Jewish state.
Linda Lovitch, who counts leading Israel spokesman Mark Regev among her former students, led the two-day exercise in London on behalf of the Zionist Federation.
After learning on Sunday the importance of being polite, knowing your audience and having facts at your fingertips, the 14 participants, including students and businessmen, were faced just 24 hours later with a real-time case study.
Ms Lovitch said that while the flotilla incident was “extremely sad”, the timing had been “amazing”.
“We used it to do some on-the-spot practice interviews. Sometimes you do not have a lot of time to get ready. Many of the participants had already had emails from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and they had the information ready.”
The group had earlier watched clips of Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu and Mr Regev being grilled by broadcasters from the BBC, Sky News, Fox News and France 24 on a range of issues, including Operation Cast Lead, settlement building and terror attacks.
Ms Lovitch said: “I never cease to be amazed at how difficult your predicament is here in England." Her advice: "Less is more, be short and to the point. TV is not a medium for complicated messages.
“You need an arsenal of everything. You need the facts and the figures — the number of rockets fired into Sderot, the amount of aid going into Gaza —but you also need the real-life stories — such as the Palestinian children receiving treatment in Israeli hospitals. You have to be armed with everything.”
Ms Lovitch also discussed examples of positive media Israel had experienced, such as the international reaction to the IDF aid effort which followed the Haiti earthquake.
Among those acquiring new skills was Ian Braidman, of Primrose Hill, north London. He said: “There has been a great lack over the last five years of a leading member of the British community to put Israel’s case. We need to shake people up.”
Retired engineer Alan Melkman said: “Learning these skills is very important. Typically the Jewish community in this country has had its head below the parapet. The course fills a vacuum and it’s very encouraging to see so many erudite young people taking part.”