Dr. Yehudit Yehezkely co-authored this article.
Communication mavens say that the main advantage the Left has over the Right is that the former understand the power of propaganda and the latter don’t.
The Left understands the power of a symbol, as opposed to the Right, which believes that deeds will market themselves.
Symbols have a major influence on the masses. A flag, which is basically a cloth, can generate emotional energy to the point that people are willing to die for the cause it represents. Raising the US flag on Iwo Jima during the Second World War symbolized the American victory and the photograph of it an American icon.
Visual symbols have been used since the dawn of history to focus and imbed ideas. The Children of Israel marched in the wilderness after the carriers of the flags of the tribes, together creating one nation. In the modern era, Zionism used ancient Jewish symbols as well. Theodor Herzl, visionary of the Jewish state, wrote that people live and die for a flag. Not only did he recognize the need for a Jewish flag, he proposed its design as well. He suggested it should be white with seven gold stars. His aide, David Wolffsohn, suggested a flag in blue and white, the colors of the tallit, the prayer shawl, and that has become a long-lasting symbol.
While nowadays, symbols are used for purposes of unity, the use of the national flag in Israel has waned over time. Even on Independence Day, less and less flags have been hung from porches and windows. Right-wing settlers have renewed the use of the flag, since their religious and Zionist identities are intertwined. The radical Left understood that they were lacking a symbol, so they began waving the Israeli flag during demonstrations. However, to oppose the Right, they added the PLO flag as well. Those who fly both flags are really cutting off the branch they’re sitting on, since they’re promoting a Palestine “from the river to the sea.”
Leftists who currently demonstrate in city squares use these symbols to de-legitimize all of the Right’s endeavors: their ideas, statements, and actions. During the Kafr Qasim trial (1956), Justice Benyamin Halevi created the moral test of a “blatantly illegal order,” describing it as “a manifest illegality…that…must wave like a black flag flying over the given order,” which one must refuse to obey. Flying black flags in city squares is meant to delegitimize the status of the Right, which strangely wants to rule now after winning democratic elections.
The Women in Black have also turned the color of their clothing into a defying symbol. Wearing black is an import from Argentina, where brave women protested against the junta regime, and paid for it with their lives. However, in Jerusalem, the Women in Black can demonstrate and protest vulgarly without any repercussion. Their demonstrations started during the Lebanese War of 1982 and were revived on Balfour Street, reflecting a social, tribal identification. On Balfour Street, people demonstrated because of Netanyahu’s trial, and now under the excuse of the judicial reform.
We have not yet arrived at the low level of accusing the Right of being fascist by placing swastikas in city squares, but it is already being done on websites. There, the Right is described as being Nazis in order to place in the social media surfers’ consciousness the idea that “it’s not me, it’s them” — – the blame for everything, from violence to vandalism, is placed solely on the Right.
The question is who will wear out whom, and in this war of attrition, the Right has no weapons. It believes in deeds, not in symbolism. Paradoxically, the Right (especially the religious Right), devotes its energies to acts such as redeeming land, in the pattern of “another dunam, another goat,” which characterized the socialistic endeavors during the British Mandate but hasn’t internalized the importance of using propaganda as the Left has. The Left's stealing a tank from a battle site in the Golan which served as a consensual symbol; of the Yom Kippur War only proves this point further.
As of now, it doesn’t seem that the new government is investing very much in tools of dissemination, vibrant visual symbols, or to-the-point slogans. The government was ‘saved by the bell’ in the MK Gotlieb affair where the Antifa activists who prevented her from leaving her house for a Knesset vote did not take into account that she has an Autistic child and lost points in the public eye.
What is next on the Leftist minority’s agenda now that they already tried to block Sara Netanyahu from leaving her hairdresser? Burning police cars?
The potential damage to us all is serious, to say the least.
Dr. Ron Schleifer is a senior lecturer at School of Communication at Ariel University
Dr. Yehudit Yehezkely is a senior political analyst.