(Miami, February 28, 2016) – The Israel-Arab Studies Program at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) is engaged in a psychological research project whose objective is to develop methodology to help understand the attitudes of young Americans who are ambivalent about Israel and foster attitudes that are more reflective of the country. Through testing and tracking various mechanisms, the project will generate objective data and research that can guide leaders in shaping Israeli public diplomacy.
This broad area of research has been ongoing by JCPA for several years. The research, under the supervision of Irwin J. (Yitzchak) Mansdorf, Ph.D., a psychologist and former Clinical Assistant Professor at Columbia University and the State University of New York, is conducted primarily by undergraduate student alumni of JCPA. As a result, in addition to generating valuable information for public policy, the scholarly research conducted by the program provides important academic experience and training for the students involved.
“This project aims to address the lack of research-based methodology in understanding and analyzing inaccurate information related to Israel on college campuses and the general population,” says Dr. Mansdorf.
In 2015 students completed a pilot study on several U.S. campuses to determine how well-known the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement is and to look at factors that could influence student’s support of or opposition to the BDS.
More than one hundred students were interviewed from four universities: Columbia, New York University, Florida Atlantic University, and San Francisco State University. The findings showed that while few students knew about the BDS, their opinions of support had to do with the idea of human rights. There were three major counter-arguments that students were sensitive to:
- If the BDS would lead to extremism, violence, aggression, or racist reactions
- If the BDS would result in hurting people or making the situation worse
- If the BDS claims were found to be false by “objective and credible” sources
Additionally, students were opposed to the BDS if they felt it led to a lessening of dialogue, created suffering for Palestinians and Israelis, or weakened pro-peace, liberal groups within Israel.
The next stage of research, scheduled for Spring 2016, will focus on creating approaches based on liberal ideology rather than attempting to change minds based on traditional “talking point” arguments and on determining sources for this approach that are perceived as credible.
“Our young people are a critical population segment, and understanding how to foster pro-Israel attitudes in this age group is extremely important,” says Aryeh Rubin, director of Targum Shlishi. “How Israel is perceived by others, and how to counter the de-legitimization of Israel campaign that has been waged now for many years by Israel’s enemies are areas of major concern. Yet to date Israel has been unsuccessful in developing effective strategies to counter anti-Israel claims, and there is shockingly little data or research to guide this effort. The JCPA team is making a major contribution.”
About the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) is a leading independent research institute specializing in public diplomacy and foreign policy. Founded in 1976, the Center has produced hundreds of studies and initiatives by leading experts on a wide range of strategic topics. Dore Gold, Israel’s former ambassador to the UN, has headed the Jerusalem Center since 2000. For more information, visit its website at: http://jcpa.org/
About Targum Shlishi
Targum Shlishi is dedicated to providing a range of creative solutions to problems facing Jewry today. Premised on the conviction that dynamic change and adaptation have historically been crucial to a vibrant and relevant Judaism and to the survival of its people, Targum Shlishi’s initiatives are designed to stimulate the development of new ideas and innovative strategies that will enable Jewish life, its culture, and its traditions to continue to flourish. For more information on the foundation, visit its website at www.targumshlishi.org. Follow Aryeh Rubin, Targum Shlishi’s director, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Aryeh5.