Yes Please

Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm

By in the Guardian

England is dysfunctional, corrupt and vastly unequal. Who on earth would want to be tied to such a country?
 To vote no is to choose to live under a political system that sustains one of the rich world’s highest levels of inequality and deprivation.
Imagine the question posed the other way round. An independent nation is asked to decide whether to surrender its sovereignty to a larger union. It would be allowed a measure of autonomy, but key aspects of its governance would be handed to another nation. It would be used as a military base by the dominant power and yoked to an economy over which it had no control.

It would have to be bloody desperate. Only a nation in which the institutions of governance had collapsed, which had been ruined economically, which was threatened by invasion or civil war or famine might contemplate this drastic step. Most nations faced even with such catastrophes choose to retain their independence – in fact, will fight to preserve it – rather than surrender to a dominant foreign power.

So what would you say about a country that sacrificed its sovereignty without collapse or compulsion; that had no obvious enemies, a basically sound economy and a broadly functional democracy, yet chose to swap it for remote governance by the hereditary elite of another nation, beholden to a corrupt financial centre?

What would you say about a country that exchanged an economy based on enterprise and distribution for one based on speculation and rent? That chose obeisance to a government that spies on its own citizens, uses the planet as its dustbin, governs on behalf of a transnational elite that owes loyalty to no nation, cedes public services to corporations, forces terminally ill people to work and can’t be trusted with a box of fireworks, let alone a fleet of nuclear submarines? You would conclude that it had lost its senses.

So what’s the difference? How is the argument altered by the fact that Scotland is considering whether to gain independence rather than whether to lose it? It’s not. Those who would vote no – now, a new poll suggests, a rapidly diminishing majority – could be suffering from system justification.

System justification is defined as the “process by which existing social arrangements are legitimised, even at the expense of personal and group interest”. It consists of a desire to defend the status quo, regardless of its impacts. It has been demonstrated in a large body of experimental work, which has produced the following surprising results.

System justification becomes stronger when social and economic inequality is more extreme. This is because people try to rationalise their disadvantage by seeking legitimate reasons for their position. In some cases disadvantaged people are more likely than the privileged to support the status quo. One study found that US citizens on low incomes were more likely than those on high incomes to believe that economic inequality is legitimate and necessary.

It explains why women in experimental studies pay themselves less than men, why people in low-status jobs believe their work is worth less than those in high-status jobs, even when they’re performing the same task, and why people accept domination by another group. It might help to explain why so many people in Scotland are inclined to vote no.

The fears the no campaigners have worked so hard to stoke are – by comparison with what the Scots are being asked to lose – mere shadows. As Adam Ramsay points out in his treatise Forty-Two Reasons to Support Scottish Independence, there are plenty of nations smaller than Scotland that possess their own currencies and thrive. Most of the world’s prosperous nations are small: there are no inherent disadvantages to downsizing.
Remaining in the UK carries as much risk and uncertainty as leaving. England’s housing bubble could blow at any time. We might leave the European Union. Some of the most determined no campaigners would take us out: witness Ukip’s intention to stage a “pro-union rally” in Glasgow on 12 September. The union in question, of course, is the UK, not Europe. This reminds us of a crashing contradiction in the politics of such groups: if our membership of the EU represents an appalling and intolerable loss of sovereignty, why is the far greater loss Scotland is being asked to accept deemed tolerable and necessary.

The Scots are told they will have no control over their own currency if they leave the UK. But they have none today. The monetary policy committee is based in London and bows to the banks. The pound’s strength, which damages the manufacturing Scotland seeks to promote, reflects the interests of the City.

To vote no is to choose to live under a political system that sustains one of the rich world’s highest levels of inequality and deprivation. This is a system in which all major parties are complicit, which offers no obvious exit from a model that privileges neoliberal economics over other aspirations. It treats the natural world, civic life, equality, public health and effective public services as dispensable luxuries, and the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor as non-negotiable.

Its lack of a codified constitution permits numberless abuses of power. It has failed to reform the House of Lords, royal prerogative, campaign finance and first-past-the-post voting (another triumph for the no brigade). It is dominated by media owned by tax exiles, who, instructing their editors from their distant chateaux, play the patriotism card at every opportunity. The concerns of swing voters in marginal constituencies outweigh those of the majority; the concerns of corporations with no lasting stake in the country outweigh everything. Broken, corrupt, dysfunctional, retentive: you want to be part of this?

Independence, as more Scots are beginning to see, offers people an opportunity to rewrite the political rules. To create a written constitution, the very process of which is engaging and transformative. To build an economy of benefit to everyone. To promote cohesion, social justice, the defence of the living planet and an end to wars of choice.

To deny this to yourself, to remain subject to the whims of a distant and uncaring elite, to succumb to the bleak, deferential negativity of the no campaign, to accept other people’s myths in place of your own story: that would be an astonishing act of self-repudiation and self-harm. Consider yourselves independent and work backwards from there; then ask why you would sacrifice that freedom.
Twitter: @georgemonbiot

Israel's 25 rules for effective communication

Gaza City, Shejaiya residential district 2014
"It's our job to wear white hats in public" have located the cynical secret guide written for and used by Israeli spokespeople.  Have a look through and see if you recognise any techniques.

Here are the highlights:

"This manual will provide you with many specific words and phrases to help you communicate effectively in support of Israel. What are some general guidelines that can help you in your future efforts? Here are the 25 points that matter most:...

1. Open your conversation with strong proven messages such as:

Israel is committed to a better future for everyone – Israelis and Palestinians alike. Israel wants the pain and suffering to end, and is committed to working with the Palestinians toward a peaceful, diplomatic solution where both sides can have a better future. Let this be a time of hope and opportunity for both the
Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

Take some time to talk about Israel’s efforts to prevent civilian casualties. The issue of Palestinian civilian casualties is one of the most damaging in the entire debate.

So here is the five-step approach to talking about civilian casualties in Gaza:

"We have all made mistakes"
STEP 1 – Empathy: “All human life is precious. We understand that
the loss of one innocent Palestinian life is every bit as tragic as the loss of
an Israeli life.”
STEP 2 – Admission: “We admit that Israel isn’t always successful
at preventing civilian casualties...
STEP 3 -- Effort: “We remain committed to doing everything in our
power to preventing civilian casualties.
STEP 4 – Examples: “Let me tell you how our armed forces are trained, tasked, and operate to ensure that Palestinian civilians remain safe.
STEP 5 – Turn Tables: “It is a great tragedy that Iran‐backed Hamas
shoots rockets at our civilians while hiding in their own. This causes tragic deaths on BOTH sides. What would you do if you were in this situation?”

Use Empathy: Even the toughest questions can be turned around if you are willing to accept the notion that the other side has at least some validity. If you begin your response with “I understand and I  sympathize with those who…” you are already building the credibility you will need for your audience to empathize and agree with you."

Flechettes from Israeli tank shells
3. Clearly differentiate between the Palestinian people and Hamas. There is an immediate and clear distinction between the empathy Americans feel for the Palestinians and the scorn they direct at Palestinian leadership... If it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public

World view is especially important to the Left as they see a world where basically all people are good and with education and communication we can all get along. This is stark contrast to most conservatives who believe that there are good people (i.e. Israel) and bad people (i.e. Iran) and that good people need to be protected from the bad people.

4. What to say on the deaths of innocent women and children: “We may disagree about politics and we may disagree about economics. But there is one fundamental principle that all peoples from all parts of the globe will agree on: civilized people do not target innocent women and children for death.”

5. Use humility. “I know that in trying to defend its children and citizens from terrorists
that Israel has accidentally hurt innocent people. I know it, and I’m sorry for it. But
what can Israel do to defend itself? If America had given up land for peace – and that
land had been used for launching rockets at America, what would America do? Israel
was attacked with thousands of rockets from Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists in Gaza."

When it comes time to talk about rockets, the best word is “deliberate.” Don’t say
that Hamas is “randomly rocketing Israel.” Do say “Hamas is deliberately firing rockets into Israeli towns, communities, and civilian populations.”

Are Israelis perfect? No. Do we make mistakes? Yes. But we want a better future, and we are working towards it.

6. Be careful of your tone. A patronizing, parental tone will turn Americans and Europeans off. We’re at a time in history when Jews in general (and Israelis in particular) are no longer perceived as the persecuted people. In fact, among American and European audiences—sophisticated, educated, opinionated, non-Jewish audiences—
Israelis are often seen as the occupiers and the aggressors.

8. Remind people – again and again – that Israel wants peace. The speaker that is perceived as being most for PEACE will win the debate. Every time someone makes the plea for peace, the reaction is positive. If you want to regain the public relations advantage, peace should be at the core of whatever message you wish to convey.

10. It’s our job to “wear white hats in public”—to remind Americans that Israel is a team for whom
they can feel good about cheering. 

11. Don't use the word 'Jew'.  Even the mention of the word “Jew” is many Israel contexts is going to elicit a
negative reaction—and the defense of Israel as a “Jewish State” or “Zionist State” will be received quite poorly. This may be hard for the Jewish community to accept but this is how most Americans and Europeans feel.

12. No matter what you are asked, bridge to a productive pro-Israel message. When asked a direct question, you don’t have to answer it directly. Start by acknowledging their question and agreeing that both sides – Israelis and Palestinians – deserve a better future. Remind your audience that Israel wants peace.

13. Talk about the future, not the past.  Remember—communications is not a test for who can remember the most facts. Listeners want simple messages that will answer their simple, silent question: “What is in it for my country and for me to support Israel?”

14) Hope. This is the language people want to hear: “The day will come when Israeli children and Palestinian children will grow up together, play together, and eventually work together side-by-side not just because they have to but because they want to.

19. Avoid putting things in terms of “not.” Tell the people what you are for. Use positive, active terms. Don’t say your goal is not to do this or to avoid that.

20. Start your message, press release, sound bite, or debate segment with your best, positive message.  People
make snap decisions about whether they find you to be credible, authentic, empathetic, or sincere. Start with positive themes like peace, mutual respect, empathy for the plight of Palestinians and their children, and the like.

21 Concede a point. Look for opportunities in every TV debate or interview to concede a point to the interviewer or debate partner. It doesn’t have to be a major point. The point isn’t to undermine some essential plank of Israel’s foreign policy platform. But the simple words “you make a good point” do wonders among an audience.

25.  Mutuality is a key concept. The world sees Israel and the Palestinians on completely different plains - it’s David vs. Goliath – only this time the Palestinians are seen as David. Using the “mutual” context puts both parties on the same level – and that is important in communicating the Israeli position. Here are the phrases to use:
-- “Mutual respect” is even better than “tolerance.”
-- “Living together, side by side, in peace
-- “Israelis and Palestinians both have a RIGHT to…” The more
you stress that both sides have equal rights, the better.
-- “Cooperation, Collaboration, and Compromise.” All three words work to describe the relationship that Europe and America want Israelis and Palestinians to have. We recommend you use all three because the sound repetition drives the point home with three times the effectiveness.


The document is marked on every page "Property of The Israel Project. Not for distribution or publication. 2009"

More classics:

• “Building”: Never talk about “giving” the Palestinians something. It sounds too
paternalistic. Instead, talk about “building” because it suggests a step-by-step, layer-bylayer
improvement in conditions. Giving reminds people that you’re in the stronger
position and that creates more sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians.

• Children: As often as possible, make the stakes of achieving peace about providing a
future for both Palestinian and Israeli children in which they can live, learn, and grow up
without the constant fear of attack.

• “Deliberately firing rockets into civilian communities”: Combine terrorist motive with
civilian visuals and you have the perfect illustration of what Israel faced in Gaza and
Lebanon. Especially with regard to rocket attacks but useful for any kind of terrorist
attack, deliberate is the right word to use to call out the intent behind the attacks. This is
far more powerful than describing the attacks as “random.”

• Examples of Peace Efforts: Constantly cite Israel’s past efforts and sacrifices for peace
with moderate Arab leaders also willing to work for peace. But don’t dwell on the past.

Humanize Rockets: Paint a vivid picture of what life is like in Israeli communities that
are vulnerable to attack. Yes, cite the number of rocket attacks that have occurred. But
immediately follow that up with what it is like to make the nightly trek to the bomb

• “If… If… If…Then.”: Put the burden on Hamas to make the first move for peace by
using If’s (and don’t forget to finish with a hard then to show Israel is a willing peace
partner). “If Hamas reforms… If Hamas recognize our right to exist… If Hamas
renounces terrorism… If Hamas supports international peace agreements… then we are
willing to make peace today.

• “One step at a time, one day at a time”: It is essential to lower expectations and reduce
the pressure on Israel to rush into an agreement that is either not in its interests or
jeopardizes its security. The “one step at a time” language will be accepted as a
common sense approach to the land-for-peace equation.

“Peace before political boundaries”: This is the best phrase for talking about why a
two-state solution isn’t realistic right now. First the rockets and the war need to stop.
Then both peoples can talk about political boundaries.

“The RIGHT to”: This is a stronger phrase than “deserves.” Use the phrase frequently,
including: the rights that both Israelis and Arabs enjoy in Israel, the right to peace that
Israelis and Palestinians are entitled to, and Israel’s right to defend its civilians against
rocket attacks.

• “We have all made mistakes.” People do not expect Israel to be 100 percent successful
in all their efforts to stop terrorism. Admitting that Israel has and continues to make
mistakes does not undermine the overall justice of Israel’s goals: peace and security and a
better quality of life for everyone. It does gain you much needed credibility.

• “Working toward a solution”: Americans don’t expect the dispute between Israel and
the Arabs to end overnight, but they absolutely need to know that “Israel is working to
find a solution that is acceptable to everyone involved.” This suggests positive intent.
This suggests progress. This suggests hope. And all three are important components of a  successful communication effort.

Further reading

Free Palestine Protest
Stop Israel's attacks on Gaza
Friday 1 August 5.30-7.30pm
Outside the Israeli Embassy
High Street Kensington
London W8 4QB