Challenges Facing Israel Speakers
Israeli speakers face unique joys and challenges. Unlike many other countries and conflicts, Israel is constantly in the global media, especially in the US. It sometimes seems almost as if the NY Times and Washington Post would go out of business were it not for their extensive coverage of Israel. The result is that most people have strongly held and preconceived notions of Israeli affairs and tend to view themselves as semi-experts. Whereas, they would usually be cautious in discussing other issues and conflicts, they are often quick to pass judgement when it comes to Israel, even though their actual level of knowledge is often limited and even deeply skewed. Some have an unduly negative image of Israel, others an undeservedly rosy one. Israel is not the ogre some of its detractors describe in order to defame it and it was never the paradise its promoters portrayed.
Being an Israeli speaker means knowing how to speak effectively to very different kinds of audiences. Even professional and especially academic audiences share many of the common preconceptions towards Israel and the picture never truly is black-and-white: One can often find what to criticize in Israel’s positions and political preferences tend to be blinders. In reality, however, there usually is far more substance and logic to Israel’s policies than critics recognize.
My speaking topics cover the entire range of Israeli foreign policy and defense and military affairs, including the Iranian nuclear program, Hezbollah and Hamas, US-Israeli relations, prospects for a two-state solution, Israel’s national security strategy and decision making processes, Israel and the cyber threat and more.
Many speak about Israel. Few have my rare combination of senior governmental and academic expertise.
Speaking to the Jewish Community
Traditionally, speaking to Jewish audiences has always ensured a warm and supportive reception. I have always found it very heart warming speaking to Jewish communities around the country, from the major population centers in NY, LA, Miami and Chicago, to smaller ones, e.g. Omaha, and encountering the same deep thirst for knowledge about Israel and the great sense of identification and support. Little is more gratifying than having the opportunity to speak before an audience made up of members of AIPAC, JNF, AJC, FIDF, Federations, Bonds and more.
In the early decades, the Jewish community intentionally generated an unduly idyllic picture of Israel, as a means of “selling the Israeli product” to an American audience that was not yet that familiar with Israel and Middle Eastern affairs. Today, tragically, some Jewish audiences have become especially critical and the unduly idyllic picture has been supplanted by overly harsh judgment. The heated partisan debate in the US over the Iran nuclear deal, for example, has become a part of the growing disagreement between the American Jewish community and Israel, as have the ongoing controversies over the future of the West Bank. Even domestic Israeli issues have become part of the growing differences between the two largest Jewish communities in the world and US-Israeli relations generally. Trying to bridge the divide should be a primary objective today of any Israel speaker.
Speaking on Campus
Israeli speakers on college campuses, and elsewhere, often encounter extreme hostility, including attempts by BDS activists and others to disrupt and even prevent them from speaking. I have been fortunate and have only encountered one attempt to disrupt a talk, actually a class. Tough and often hostile questions, however, are frequent and knowing how to answer them requires a good degree of self-control; there is always the counterproductive temptation to answer in kind. More importantly, it also requires a high degree of expertise on Israeli defense and foreign policy affairs in order to counter the often erroneous allegations levelled and hopefully end the discussion on an upbeat note, which may encourage at least some detractors to re-examine their presumptions.
Speaking to Professional Audiences
Speaking to professional audiences, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, RAND Corporation or Kennedy School Forum, is of course very different from the general public, Jewish audiences, students on college campuses and young people. These audiences have a much higher level of knowledge and expertise, making the back and forth with them, and with other panelists, far more challenging. To be effective, speakers have to be particularly up to date and in full command of the facts. The personal rewards and sense of gratification are particularly great, however, when one feels that one has made a particularly good presentation, successfully countered other arguments and had the opportunity to learn from other leading experts in the field.
Whatever the audience – Jewish, college, general, professional – the greatest reward an Israel speaker can have is the sense of having presented an informative, engaging and at times new perspective on Israel and Israeli affairs. Connecting with an audience is a source of excitement and satisfaction, probably similar to what an actor feels at the end of a successful performance.
My Approach as an Israeli Speaker
A balanced, objective and dispassionate professional analysis of Israeli affairs is, many have observed, a hallmark of my talks. The talks are, however, also deeply imbued in a deep love for Israel and never ending awe at my good fortune to have been born in the period following Israel’s rebirth and to have had the privilege of serving in the IDF and defense establishment.
I am told that I am an unusually informative, thought-provoking and riveting speaker. A lively and at times humorous approach towards the foibles of Israeli politics and Israeli military affairs further add to the atmosphere. As an American-Israeli, I truly speak the language of American audiences.
My Speaking Topics
- US-Israeli relations today and future directions. See more.
- The Iranian challenge, especially the nuclear program, and regional expansionism. See more.
- The peace process and prospects for a two-state solution. See more.
- Hezbollah and Hamas threats and prospects for future conflict. See more.
- Israel’s military challenges and strategy and Israeli foreign policy. See more.
- How Israel makes defense and foreign policy. See more.
- How the startup nation became a global cyber power. See more.
For further information on my talks please click here.