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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2019 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved. 


March 9, 2018  RSS feed
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President’s Dinner speaker: In war of words for hearts and minds, choose carefully

By BOB FRYER Jewish Press

Eshewing the podium, guest speaker Frank Luntz roamed the audience during his speech at the annual dinner at the Brayn Glazer Family JCC. Eshewing the podium, guest speaker Frank Luntz roamed the audience during his speech at the annual dinner at the Brayn Glazer Family JCC. Words matter, and choosing them carefully can mean the difference between diatribe and discourse, guest speaker Frank Luntz told a packed house at the Tampa JCCs and Federation’s 15th annual President’s Dinner on Feb. 25.

Luntz, a nationally known political pundit and pioneer of the “instant response” focus group technique that can monitor in real time an audience’s reaction to a speech, came to Tampa to talk about “Words that Work: Combatting anti-Semitism and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.”

On college campuses in particular, but also among other groups, Israel is losing support, Luntz said, and if the trend continues, it could mean big problems for Israel, and in time for Jews in America. He said the political divide between Democrats and Republicans is harmful.

Luntz cited a variety of statistics from surveys showing the pro-Palestinian view gaining ground and the pro-Israel contingent shrinking.

He even cited a survey that showed 34 percent not sure Israel had a right to exist as a Jewish state.

Two other shocking statistics he tossed out, 48 percent trust the Palestinian government more than the Israeli government, and 54 percent are not sure if Hamas is a terrorist organization.

The hottest debate to sway minds for or against Israel or Palestine seems to be on college campuses, Luntz said. It is the job of all to stand up for Israel and for the older adults to teach Millennials the right words and phrases. The point is to use to engage opponents in dialogue, he said, to try to find ways to have a reasoned discussion and ultimately change hateful attitudes.

Luntz used a power point presentation and urged all to take notes as he began with “What Millennials Want to Hear:”

• Working together” is the most essential principal.

• A two-state solution can’t be a one-way street.

• International problems call for an international solution.

• “After 3,000 years, we are all still here, and we both must learn to live together.

• A genuine commitment to human rights, social justice, equality and fairness.

When pro-Palestinians speak on campus, there is a lot of shouting and hatred expressed, but Luntz said if you argue with them, you will not change their hearts. If you engage with them with respect and a willingness to listen to their views, they may return the respect and listen to yours, he said.

He acknowledged that life is miserable for many Palestinians, many live in abject poverty and are taught hatred of Jews from an early age. But Luntz noted points of common ground, where pro-Israelis can agree that “No child deserves to live like this.”

He advised to steer clear of religious/biblical arguments.

“Be the smartest voice in the room, not the loudest,” Luntz said, adding that listening is often more important than speaking.

He said folks should not argue over the problems, but look for solutions and ask rhetorical questions that bring people into a conversation. Using phrases like “I hear you” or “I get it” also foster better dialogue.

Luntz also suggested people learn about their audience before they speak and cited examples of words or phrases that resonate more or less with people depending on party affiliation. For example, the word freedom evokes more positive reactions from Republicans than Democrats and the phrase “protect human rights” resonates more with Democrats.

The presentation included “The Four Sentences that Defeat BDS:”

• Teaching hate will never lead to peace.

• Peace is paved with diplomacy and discussion, not isolation and ignorance.

• Mutual respect comes from cooperation and compromise, not continued conflict.

• Solutions come from engagement and effort, not hate and hysteria.

After his presentation Luntz took questions from the audience and when asked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netahyahu, he predicted he will be re-elected, and indicted. He warned about the trend by Netanyahu and President Donald Trump to demonize the media and said the world needs a strong fourth estate.

He also bemoaned the lack of tolerance in our society, saying it is growing worse, not better. “The most important thing I can say to you is if we lose our tolerance, we lose our freedom.”

He said he is scared by the attacks on the press and the FBI. He said political disagreements are inevitable, but people need to return to speaking out with respect and decency.

Given his history of conducting political polls, Luntz was asked about future elections, including the 2020 presidential election, he said in coming elections the two groups he will watch closely to see how they will vote are folks who make their livings by their hands – folks who largely voted for Trump last time – and those in the 60-69 age group that largely shifted from Democrat to Republican in the last presidential election. He said that group loves the tax cuts and how the economy is doing but hates Trump’s demeanor and tweets, so it will be interesting to see what sways them.

As for gun control, Luntz said the students who raised voices after the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shootings are bringing us to a tipping point and he believes “Something will happen this time. It may not be the change you want, though.”

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