Before jumping into the heart of the elections, students may need a refresher on how the Israeli electoral system works. Refer back to our earlier post for all the background you need.
In addition to the myriad Israel news sites, many organizations have been monitoring the election developments and compiling information about the parties and politicians. They are useful background resources, and we recommend becoming familiar with them and sharing them with your students before moving on to the rest of this lesson. Here are a few top picks:
Campaign ads play a pivotal role in the parties’ PR, and they are fascinating. What do the ads say about the Israeli political scene and public discourse in 2019? Play these videos for your students and use the discussion questions and classroom tips to unpack them.
While the ads are in Hebrew, we summarize them briefly for you below.
This list is in order of number of projected Knesset seats as of March 10th.
- Kachol Lavan (Blue-White): This ad exclusively features quotations from Benjamin Netanyahu in which he praised Benny Gantz in the past. Netanyahu calls Gantz “high-quality, ethical, responsible” and delivers other commendations. In this ad series, Gantz vilifies Netanyahu for encouraging Otzma Yehudit members to band with mainstream right parties, saying that if you choose Netanyahu, you choose Kahane’s men. For more on this topic, see last week’s newsletter. This ad displays Gantz’s strength in targeting a terrorist.
- Likud: This ad highlights Netanyahu’s accomplishments over his past ten years as prime minister. This ad, which highlights Gantz’s policies, ends off with: “Netanyahu: Right. Strong. Gantz: Left. Weak.” This ad shows Trump praising Netanyahu.
- Taal/Hadash (Arab Movement for Renewal/The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality): This ad calls for equal rights for Arab citizens in what they describe as their homeland.
- Avodah (Labor): This ad affirms the party’s commitment to a two-state solution and reminds us that the right (using Netanyahu’s face) is against the two-state solution.
- HaYamin HeHadash (The New Right): This ad features the party’s two leaders, Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, who broke away from Bayit Yehudi, bickering with each other over who has accomplished more in the Israeli government. Eretz Nehederet, Israel’s equivalent of Saturday Night Live, did a bitabout this ad (for those with quick Hebrew, it’s quite funny and something to show your students).
- Shas: This ad states that while many parties attack Netanyahu, he has one true supporter – Shas. This ad portrays the dangers that other politicians pose as well as a reminder that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef founded Shas.
- Meretz: This ad features party leader Tamar Zandberg showing how the left takes a firm side on political issues. This ad explains their take on a two-state solution, while this one denounces Netanyahu and what they describe as the extreme right.
This English-language video shows some additional campaign ads from earlier in the race.
After viewing these ads and going through the platform of each party:
- There seems to be a significant amount of negative campaigning or what people refer to as “attack ads.” If effective, do you think it should be done, or do you think the leaders of the Jewish state should be above this rhetorical approach?
- In January, Facebook announced that it would employ tools to ensure that Israel’s elections are not tampered with and would provide more ad transparency. As of last week, Facebook is partnering with Israeli fact-checkers ahead of the elections, but with just weeks to go and a small staff, people are questioning this initiative’s efficacy. Why does Israel feel it is important to screen Facebook ads? How might social media affect the election’s outcome?
- What feelings do these campaign videos evoke for you – Pride? Hope? Fear? Trust? Contempt? What feelings do you think the videos aim to stir in people, and what do they actually make you feel?
Practical Classroom Tips
- Engage in healthy debate – Although things can get heated in the Knesset, it’s important to learn to listen and to speak respectfully with others, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye. When opening the floor to debate, be sure to guide students in respectful, civil discourse. Help them “win” and “lose” with dignity.
- Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair a political party.
- Each pair should research the party leader’s stances and policies and assume his/her persona.
- Give each pair two minutes to make a case for its party.
- Next, you can either invite each party to make counterarguments to the other parties, or you can ask a question about a specific issue (security, economy, religion, etc.) and allow each party to answer based on its platform.
- Decide a winner based on who represented their party best. Or, ask students to vote for a party based on the presentations (they can’t vote for their own); tally the votes.
- Produce campaign videos
- Divide the class into groups of 3-4. Assign each group a political party.
- Have students research their party to learn its key views, policies and figures. They should watch the videos above (and can watch these US campaign videos) for ideas.
- Each student takes on a role – writer(s), actor(s), videographer – and the team produces a campaign video for their party.
- Play each group’s video for the whole class. After each video, discuss with the class what the party’s platform is and identify the strong points of their video.
- Identify and overcome media bias – use this creative activity to help students get into the minds of politicians, journalists, and the public and experience the effects of media bias. Simply substitute the US parties mentioned with Israeli ones.