Story Strategic Change

Storywise presents:
 for Story-Strategic
Change (HSSC)



But lets clear up some terms first.

How DO you change the story?

First you have to understand what a STORY is

And then, what it is that needs changing in the story

 Even before you understand what needs changing in the world. 

Usually we go the other way around- we feel we know what needs changing  in the world and we charge ahead without realizing that if our change strategy derives from the same world of assumptions that created the urgency in the first place, we are probably doomed to fail. It is like trying to reform capitalism to create more economic equality without understanding that capitalism is founded on economic inequality.

If we want to create a two state solution by negotiating with the same people who devoured our land and our people in the first place, why do we think we can succeed in that? It is like the hunter negotiating with the hungry lion. Shall I be your entre or your desert? Or the bank manager negotiating with the bank robber to give  some of the money back.

We first have to see what is shaping the reality in terms of what it means, and reshape that in such a way that reality has a chance to shift. Otherwise, we end up frustrating ourselves  and driving our opponents into a double down defense because they see us as a threat.  It happens all the time.

For instance- on NSL-The Palestinian Ehab told of the Gaza cease fire which allowed food to come into Gaza. The Israeli asked- even though he knew the anwer- where did the food come from? Israel said Ehab. Then he could not resist. Its like us feeding the lamb before we slaughter it at Eid. The Israeli lost it and screamed,  you are all terrorists. Did that change his mind? Or make him hate Palestinians all the more.

How to change a story means you know the answer to

a-what a story is?

b-what kinds of stories need changing,

c- what is in a story that can be changed.  

Stories are in the business of making meaning. They act as our factory of words and images that act like a production line.  We need to explain death,

( you go to heaven) suffering ( it will win you grace)  the economy, ( Wall street is booming)  disease, ( don’t drink the water)  global warming,( stop mining coal)  religion, ( Jesus rose again)  why vote for me, ( I will make America great again)  crime, ( Guns kill people) opioid crisis, ( Big Pharma making profits) immigration reform, ( watch out for jihadi Muslims and rapacious Mexicans) economic inequality. ( Bosses get 100 million bonuses)

It has to make sense, and stories do that for us, even as a shorthand code.

We can manufacture a story or we can refit an old story to do an extra job. Watergate became Irangate became Travelgate. Became Trumgate become Bill Gates.

When it comes to a war or  violence, or the oppression of one people by another people, that demands a super sized factory to produce a complex story machine, one that  has to support life and death decisions, has to cover loss of life, destruction of cities, annihilation of children, torture, starvation, chemical weapons, weapons of mass destruction, the lot.  The leaders have to explain themselves and they especially have their work cut out for them when things go badly. This war story complex is the toughest narrative challenge for leaders to construct and maintain and the reason why NSL exists to study it and learn how to untangle it.[

1.What is the structure of a story?

First a story is not ever one thing.  We want to give you a description not a definition.
As we said, It is a language system that delivers packaged meaning.
it as a system of moving parts
that are in dynamic relationships with one other.
If the car needs an engine, fuel, and wheels, what does a story needs at a basic functioning level?

For our purposes, which are eminently practical- (remember this is not a seminar on literary criticism)- we teach that there are three core functioning parts to every story system. Take one away and like the three  legged stool, it will not stand up.

We need Characters. …………..(People-persons, or things that act like persons)

We need a Plot……………. ( something happens, people do stuff, suffer stuff)
We need an Audience……….. (to whom this matters enough to pay attention) No audience, No story. Period.

We call this CAP and we will use it as a shorthand to speak about stories and doing a CAP analysis.

Now of course, there are many other elements to a story, themes, settings, tone, genre, message,  just as there are many other elements to a car. But we are being pretty basic here.

Thinking of cars, another way to think of it is as Triple AAA.



If to change the world,
we have to change the story,

And a story is essentially the relationally dynamic system of

They gives us our narrative doorway into change. We can come at it through these three strategic portals. What would that mean?

1.We can change the characters  or how they are characterized

2.We can change how the plots are plotted

3.We can change how the audiences attends and even find other audiences

Because this is a relationally dynamic system, we can change the relationships between the parts.

Audience to Plot to Audience
Plot to Character to Plot
Character to Audience to Character

It is a mutually re-enforcing system.

So that gives us three fronts, or frontiers to use to map our campaign for change.  

-It gives us three areas we can analyze for the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses,

-three areas where we can examine ourselves for our complicity,  

-three places to and assess what we might have  leverage to tilt the system.

Remember that change does not mean we have to change much of anything- just tip the balance so that it moves under its own weight, like that last snowflake that creates the avalanche.


Strategy is not a biological imperative. It begins in our minds, gets expressed in words and then gets translated into action. Over time those actions become who we are and what you do repeatedly will determine the legacy you leave’. (Kouzes and Posner, 2003)

Henry Eccles describes strategy as “… the comprehensive direction of power to control situations and areas in order to attain objectives.” His definition captures much of the essence of strategy. It is comprehensive, it provides direction, its purpose is control, and it is fundamentally concerned with the application of power.

The military have a saying- that you win not when you defeat the enemy’s armies, but when you defeat the enemy’s strategy.  Armies are used to mass strength or defend weaknesses. They alone do not win wars. They are used to achieve a purpose.

So when we think strategy, we are thinking to use whatever we have in the way of time or resources- no matter how small- to the greatest advantage.

We are calling War a story strategy. We are asking how are the participants using their story resources?

  Strategy says we never tackle our opponent at his strength, unless to distract.  Or that we choose when and where to fight. To understand strategy, we need to be able to  first analyze our vulnerabilities, and then the vulnerabilities of the system.


We match our strengths to their vulnerabilities as a plan for action
 never  our vulnerabilities to their strengths. We plan attack and defense, engagement on our terms and avoidance.  Don’t wake the giant when he was angry. And sometimes it is better to run so you can fight another day. Dead heroes are not much help.

They said of George Washington that he was a great general for the battles he did not fight, because the full weight of the British would have crushed his forces. That was his strategy.  He matched his strengths to the British vulnerabilities, and made sure he did not allow his vulnerabilities be exposed to the enemy’s strengths.  Sometimes when you are the underdog, It is much more important to know your weaknesses than to know your opponents strengths.

Being strategic is like counter-intelligence operation. It does not matter so much what we are thinking about our opponent. What we need to know is what our opponent is thinking and what he is thinking about us and what we are thinking. It is a game of outfoxing each other. Victory may come to the side with the greatest armies and most powerful weapons but usually intelligence can offset that advantage. 

So in this work, we always being story-strategic because war is a story-strategic game.  We have to confront it on its terms to make sense of it. And the only thing that can change a story is another story. Not  facts, not proofs, not argument, not statistics, not graphs. The story of war boils down to a war of stories. Which ones will win?

No story is innocent, we say.  They all have power. We are not thinking guns and tanks but what stories the enemy has that he uses as weapons against us.

And remember the match up of successful strategy-
  Our strengths to his vulnerabilities.
Our vulnerabilities protected from his strengths.

Necessary Self examination when it comes to vulnerabilities is- What stories do we use that defeat us before the enemy does anything?  

I met with my Israeli alum last week in NYC and then a young Palestinian activist this week in DC and both came out with the same story that, even though Gaza was close to exploding, that the Israeli Government could do little about it because it was all Hamas’s fault- and that the Palestinians could do little about it, because USA money funneled into Israel was too great to be able to counter. So we had two talented young leaders buying the story of their own impotence- the perfect story that the powers that be want us to internalize for them to feel secure. If no one thinks anything can be changed, then no one even tries. So activists so called are defeated by their own story before they even start.

And what stories that we have does he try to murder or silence?  What stories does our enemy find most threatening? BDS

We are story warriors.

strategy is  about power

Strategy immediately takes us into the domain of  power and influence. And here we mean story- strategic- meaning how do stories position us, or how do our stories empower us or imprison us? We want to teach what the Australian indigenous teach their leaders “How to tell stories that make us stronger.”

 If I want to win the war, it helps if I can sow the seeds of a story among my enemies that their resistance to me is useless. That they can never win or that they are on the wrong side of history. I don’t have to bomb them into submission if I can infect their minds with this story of paralysis- their resistance is useless.

Remember Steve Biko’s quote here.  “The greatest weapon the oppressor has is the mind of the oppressed.”


So now we are ready to use the analysis and apply it. We said change comes when we change the story. We said that a story has three core elements, characters, plots and audiences. There are actors, acts and audiences. That is what the system looks like in its moving parts. So lets play with changing some of these key parts.

  1. Characters that drive a war story.
    If you don’t have goodies and baddies, you will struggle to sustain a war. So you have to manufacture this drama triangle of villains, victors and victims. This is what a character driven war strategy might look like.

    Make my voters/audience think the enemy  are all terrorists (villains)  and make these “terrorists” think they have no hope ( victimize themselves)  and story me into the role of the only moral actor- such as claim we have the most moral army in the world. A moral army is like having a healthy corpse. Armies are not into virtue. You join a seminary to become a saint, and you join an army to become a soldier. Lets not confuse them.

But you put these into play- all the time. A settler kills a farmer on his land. The Palestinians have the villain, the settler, the victim, the farmer, and the victor being moral outrage. Then, the Israelis  will say that the farmer was the villain, he threatened the settler, and so the settler had to defend himself and the Israeli army came in to rescue  him.  Its totally predictable.

 This is a perfect drama triangle- it is a powerful character infection. It works.  Until it is exposed.

  • The day after Israel had slaughtered 17 Gazans peacefully protesting at the border, we met with an intelligent Israeli activist who demonstrated to a tee the story strategy of the oppressor- always blame your enemy- focus on Hamas, blame them for everything- never admit that your side has any guilt. Your side has done its best, its very restricted, it needs partners and Hamas are totally degenerate, they way they treat women, gays, etc. Keep the focus relentlessly on the people who you have killed to ensure that the story renders their death the same as suicide bombers. They chose to walk into Israeli bullets. It is like the joke of the Quaker who was a devout pacifist who still kept a gun just in case and interrupted a burglar with the comment, ”Young man, I see you with my wife’s jewels and my wallet and I would not do thee any harm in the world, but thou standest where I am about to shoot. “ The Israeli activist is a graduate of NYC and smart as all get up. But she has been relentlessly brainwashed into a story strategy that works until it doesn’t. And when Gaza’s 2 million poor and oppressed rise up, and are prepared to lose 500,000 dead against their oppressors, then she said that this might be necessary for any change to come. She was serious. But what she seemed to miss is that if that is the end of Gaza, it must also spell the end of Israel as we know it. 


if you want to change the story, you can try to change the plot..OK, so

lets explore what a Plot informed strategy might look like. If I am the one in power I have to control the plot that my enemy is going to use. Take Gaza right now. If the IDF steals a buffer zone that is Gaza territory and then demands that Gazas stay out of that buffer zone- they redefine Gaza territory as Israeli’s border. Then the story can be told that we are defending our border, when in fact the border is what you have defined.  You rewrite the story.

What if I have to deal with resistance- intifadas 1 and 2, and that this is supported by more and more outrage from the world, I need to insist that if there is resistance, that all resistance must be non violent- because that is the pure way to change.  Mandela and King and Jesus no less. 

As the oppressor,  I am willing strategically to accept some push back- that is the reality- and If a few soldiers get killed a year, that is an absorbable cost. But I  dictate the plot that my opponents will be allowed to use.  We can kill you and you can only resist by holding hands and singing Kum By Yah and praying.  You are not allowed to kill us. We claim the exclusive use of state violence because it is the law. You have no state and therefore, all your violence must be terrorism. Here is a plot driven strategy.  It works until it is exposed.

You can only throw stones or slap soldiers and even then, we will kill the stone thrower and imprison the girl who dared to slap a member of the most moral army in the world, the slap that was heard around the world because it threatened the second most lethal army in the world.

Dictating this non-violent plot means I retain the high moral ground and deliberately story out the reality of the institutional violence I am inflicting on a subject people, or the violence I  originally used against my oppressors to win my nations freedom.  As Nietzche said, “All civilization  is founded on  forgotten barbarism. “

Notice how I have managed through a deliberate narrative strategy- based on Character, Plot and Audience, to build a war story machine that supports how I wage war, and now it destroys or at least disarm the other’s stories. 

As we said, one must outwit the enemy’s strategy, not their guns.  Their war strategy has to be a story strategy. The way to win is to outwit their story strategy, not their guns.

Power as story.

We see stories as powerful because they are the main sources of human meaning making. While we conduct wars with weapons, we also need to create stories that will give us plausible excuses, reasons, alibis, justifications, explanations, budget allocations. In fact, wars begin as stories long before they become bombs. We all remember the Weapons of Mass Destruction.

If a war starts to lose its meaning, and if parents are no longer ready to send their daughters and sons to fight and die, and if the young soldiers or recruits decide that the cause is not worth dying for, then, war fails on the narrative field of battle that a military cannot control, even if it tries. That is what happened in the Vietnam war. The USA may have won the battle but they lost the reason why winning mattered.  Armies have to win the hearts and minds of their own people as much as the enemy, to successfully win a campaign.

So when we look at power through the lens of stories, we start to see that stories are a form of asymetrical warfare.  Religions know this. A small story about a man from a remote deserted place can win a 2 billion believers. Or extremists from all faiths can interpret God’s will to jihad, to kill and destroy. It’s all a story. One man wrote a book on Christianity and he titled it, “The Greatest Story ever Told.” Another wrote it as “The greatest story ever sold.” War may not be the first but it certainly has to be the second.


In major faith traditions, there is a notion that God hears the cry of the poor- that the stories of suffering that come from the innocent –children, animals, elderly, the earth,  and suffering that is unjust- that seems to provoke divine outrage that is often disproportionate to the event.  God’s loves these kinds of stories. He has no addiction to realty shows about billionaires.  In fact, if he sees too much evil, he is prone to fire  the whole species and try again.

A kid on drugs drowns 5 kittens for fun. We want to lock that kid up as if he had murdered his mother. Stories stick. Stories incite and excite and invite. That is what our programs like NSL are trying to teach its graduates. It is arming them with new weapons for the 21st century, weapons that are non violent by nature, but stories that can spread virally using the latest technology, to touch hears, bind consciences, and incite the revolutions we do desperately need.  Why did only the Arabs have a spring? Don’t we need one too, and one that will last?

What do we mean by CHANGE?

One of the things that we will open up to you in this work is a different understanding of change. American culture  is obsessed with it. Older cultures like the Chinese were more obsessed with stability.  In the time of Confucius, they might have been teaching activists how to resist change, how to keep the story the same.  Keep the world the same, by keeping the story the same. Other organizations like the conservatives or fundamentalist churches also try the same strategy- its dogma, or its what god said or the constitution says and can’t be changed. Even Supreme Court judges can pretend they stand for no change. They don’t wear the same shirt and tie to every hearing. They change that at least, but for them, the constitution is like a shirt you wear and it never wears out- that stiff collars of the 1786 always remain in fashion!!!That the right to bear arms that took 5  minutes to load and re load is the same right for an AK15 that can kill 50 people a minute.

While we understand the cultural cliché of change, with our approach, we want to help people understand that stories are all about change. That stories are the way we humans are able to translate and transmit change to our family and friends and whoever will listen. If we did not have stories, how would we ever announce our new child or our daughter graduating with honors, or our grandmother battling with cancer. Stories are the currency of change. So there is something oxymoronic to say that one wants to not change the story. Story is change by definition.

If the queen wakes up happy, and is happy at lunchtime and goes to bed happy, that is not much of a story about a happy queen but about three moments that suggest some plot but there is no change. If there is no change, nothing happens. You have a report, but no story.

Handbook is a WORK Book

We have looked at Story, Strategy, Change and Story-Strategic change. So one last word- Handbook- That says that while there is a lot of theory behind the approach, the intention is for you to use this, to write over it, to wear out the pages with your tears and blood and sweat.  Like the car manual you use to fix the brakes, that gets smeared with the brake oil. That is the sign of a well -used handbook, and that is what we are offering you here. Don’t just read it. Work it.

Lesson One

The Assignment-
First, Analyze the enemy’s story strategy that allows him to get away with killing you with impunity.  What is explicit? How does it work as a strategy?

The method.

What is the story that your opponent uses as his weapon to sustain his oppression and the denial of your rights/

Second analyze your role that is complicit in keeping a story system alive that allows you to be treated this way. How are you complicit in how you are treated? Eleanor Roosevelt said that no one can make you feel small without in some way you belittling yourself.

The first act of being part of the solution is to realize where you have previously been part of the problem. And whatever that was, Stop it. That’s the first step of an activist.  Not what campaign he launches in terms of what he does, but what he decides he will no longer do.


How does he characterize you?

How does he plot you?

Listen to a conversation between an Israeli and a Pro Palestinian activist.

How does he audience you ( audience is a verb)Who do you or they get to pay attention?

1. How do you change the story by changing the characterization of the characters necessary for a successful war story complex?

Our goal is to ultimately disarm that story by rendering it meaningless, not  just wrong.  Moral arguments are those used by the weak, because that’s all they have.  But the powerful don’t care  so much about being moral. They care about being in power. As my Israeli friend said today, in the end, we have the power and we will make the most of it- We will determine what works for the Palestinians because we can and they can’t. Might is right, I asked? No she said, that is the reality. The people in power have this Sinai habit of defining reality for everyone.  So when they come to see how totally neurotic their point of view is, they will be inspired to adopt the appearance of sanity. Because most People can endure being wrong, but few can endure being stupid or seen by the world as narcissistic neurotics. 

The police plant drugs on a suspect, and they fit them up to be convicted of the crime they have decided he has committed. So this is how it works in war. How do the powerful  fit their enemy up for a story that makes sense for everybody but them that they are bombed, and humiliated.  It does not make sense to the victims, obviously, so they have to come up with their own story such as “Why do the Jews hate us?” It makes no sense to us-even sounds anti-semitic- part of Hamas propaganda,  but it makes perfect sense to them. The bombs came from Israel, Israel proclaims it is the Jewish state. So 1 and 1 makes 2.

This is a brilliant way of making enemies- just treat them that way. They may not be your enemies at the start but you soon draw them into playing the role you need. Israel can bomb Gaza to bits without compunction, and then, Gaza can fire back some pathetic little rockets or dig a few tunnels and what the media carry is the story of Gaza aggression.  To do that requires an enormous feat or narrative magic. You have to make the Gazans into worthy of being bombed.

   This characterization of people you want to eliminate has been done before. Its actually been done to the Jews. The Arabs must be made to look like Jews from the Nazi era. Inhuman, trash, vermin vicious, by nature hateful, “they love death, we love life,” and  we must proceed at all costs to discredit their leaders, their religion, steal their culture, change their names, character assassinate their names, and if possible, actually assassinate their leaders.  If all else fails, just make sure every five words, you mention Hamas Hamas, Hamas. At an AIPAC conference in 2010, the language expert, more like propaganda shill, spoke in these terms- argue with a pro Palestinian by first acknowledging their pain, and then gently say, Hamas charter, and don’t call them settlements, call them illegal housing, and don’t call it separation wall, but a security wall.  Words configure the world. If you can configure it to conform to your power, over the oppressed people and get these oppressed to adopt your language, as Orwell says, you have won half the battle. You have defined the terms of the battle. They are fighting it with your weapons which are your words.

 Narratively how does one work to break out of this narratively imposed prison? Use the Shylock technique.  Find your story. Find the one that can explode in your enemy’s face, and burn their credibility like shrapnel. They have bombs and they create a story to cover their genocide.  But the bombs create a story with the victims that can over time destroy the meaning of what the war mongers intended to get away with. You don’t have to get a better story. You have to realize, you have them already. They are your weapons.  Think of the ME Too campaign that started with women having the courage to break their silence.

I was at a recent NSL fund raiser, and four of our alums told their story.  Two Israelis and two Palestinians. The Israelis had their stories of fear and post Holocaust trauma.  It as powerful. But our Gazan, Karam, who was  reluctant to speak, decided in the moment, it was time to really tell his story of being a nurse, trying to save two kids lives in his ambulance during the 2014 war and being fired on by Israeli soldiers who could see the Red Cross on the vehicle. His question silenced the room- what kind of people do that? Fire on medical staff trying to save the lives of the kids that Israeli bombs had indiscriminately targeted? The event of four stories boiled down to the power of his one story. It was the rage of Gaza that finally compels the conscience.  Perhaps Israel knows that too well and that is why it is increasingly refusing gazans to escape their warsaw ghetto. Smart move. Like Auchwitz, you know the people see the smoke of the furnaces, but if they don’t ask any questions, the Nazis wont have to confront the stories.  Somehow, many others stay silent.  Silence as Andre Lord said, will not protect you.

For the Gazan resistance, a narrative strategist would say-Your rockets do you no favors because they perfectly fit the story your enemy needs to tell. If you did not fire them, Israel would fire them at itself. It has to always be the victim. When you don’t act into the story that your enemy is acting out of, then his story starts to fall apart.  It starts to lose sense.  Using weapons of war on a totally defenseless people exposes the war crime far quicker than piece miel and ineffective resistance that only feeds your enemy’s story of you. Every rocket you fire at Israel is a megaton of narrative explosives they use against you.  Stories are weapons of war. Get used to that. In the encounter with the Israeli, she spoke of the horror of attack and the need for bomb sheleters in Ashdod and Strerod, oh the horror- it did not matter if they were ineffective, it mattered

We often here in NSL that people like it because It manages to “humanize the other.” That to our ears sounds so demeaning- so condescending.  Are you granting me my humanity as if you were doing me a favor? Don’t humanize the other- that seems so cliché, and so charity.  You mean you don’t even grant us that much to begin with that you have to humanize us? Can you animate us first? We are not rocks. Then  Can you vegetabelize us? Then can you try to animalize us. Then finally try to humanize us?  Don’t rush now.Perhaps keep going and you can angelize us and then divinize us. We have to stop allowing people who want to help us demean us as part of the deal.

No, the powerless need to understand- THEY have the story.  They must learn to witness, and exploit the story they have as the victim, the oppressed- victims have the narrative weight, the gravity, they HAVE the story. What story does an IDF soldier or a settler have, if he is attacked- can he say he was Not invading your land, can he say you were aggressive, can he say he was defending his land, his rights, his honor- no, all he can is he is conscripted into an  invading imperial army, not seen in Palestina since Rome. But his story is, God is on our side, He gave this land to me, there is a movie called exodus that sings that for us, and all Arabs are terrorists and they never will agree to us living here, they hate us- be definition, not because we are terrorizing them,  and so we must kill or be killed. Its survival for us. We are up against it. Yes, we have nuclear weapons but that does not help. We get 3.5 billion from you Americans every year to perfect yours and our armory of weapons but that does not stop people throwing stones at us. Why can’t the Arabs play nice.

Their story is what kills- not the guns. And the people who support that story, who are its audience, have blood on their hands. But it’s a story that civilzed nations no longer tolerate.

TV shows know that a good way to switch the story is kill off some old favorites and introduce some new characters. In this stuck middle east story, The new characters are  YOU, the new generation.  (NSL) We want to Reveal to the world, or at least to Washington,  the new Palestinian, the young Palestinian, being radicalized, being entitled, being informed, a generation of young leaders will  not tolerate what their elders put up with, that the new generation aren’t into playing nice or begging to be recognized as humans. They are taking up their space and demanding to be heard. And they are joining together with a new generation of Israelis who have determined that for them to have a future , they have to get over their hate and stop creating more terrorists every day.

 Maysam, one of our alums attended a lecture by a visiting professor on Human Rights Law at her Gaza University and she learned how law had evolved through the Bill of Rights, and the UN Declaration and even the Nuremburg War trials that humans have rights to be free and safe and educated and healthy and able to assemble and move. As she listened, she found herself amazed at this- She asked the professor what did she and her Gazans friends have to do to join this exclusive club. If joining humanity would give her all these rights that she does not have as a Gazan because of the Israeli siege, then what would that take? Maysam was one of the founders of We are Not Numbers, in her attempt to join the human race. A story strategic approach would be to analyze how your enemy has storied you out of the human race. The way he treats you, he has to do that. If there  were too many human stories coming out of Gaza, then he would have some problems keeping up the stories of rockets and tunnels and the rest.

“You are all terrorists,” cries our disaffected NSLer, Chen.  “The Gazan kid was too angry,” says Wendy. Her message was-  you are entitled to feel upset but don’t take it out on us, – “stop beating up Israelis” pleads alum Gal- play nice.


Your leaders are corrupt and they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, and  lets unfailingly  blame them for failing to accept peace, characterize the other as moral, as active for peace,- like  Jean’s play…. and always make the enemy be the refuseniks, make offers you know they cannot accept and then you can blame them, so the character is blameworthy, and that identity is internalized, characterize the leadership as corrupt and weak and treat them with contempt,  This is the story of Camp david and Clintons offers- the story is wrong totally but it fits the characterization of the Palestinians that we need to keep killing them with no cost.


Its like a page out of Orwell’s novel- Animal Farm, humans bad, animals good- No matter what evidence to the contrary, Palestinians are bad, and Israelis are good- never allow for any contradiction or exception. Its good versus evil, it’s the clash of empires,  it’s a battle for the survival of civilization. If an IDF bomb kills kids playing footy, its not an accident, but getting rid of young Hamas babies. Never explain and never Apologize. We are right by definition.

One of the first PFCs that NSL was instrumental in founding is called SHADES to challenge this black white extremist thinking.

 It’s an identity formation you keep fueling on Islamic terror,  from the most moral IDF,  to the most despicable Hamas, etc etc . The Kaiser in WWI was raping nuns, the posters said.  SO keep the story stretched out as extremes.   To label all resistance as terrorism is the story tactic of the powerful over the powerless who are even denied the power to define who they are or express the meaning of what their experience means to them.  The Israeli’s call the Palestinians terrorists, and the Palestinians experience the IDF as a terrorist group, and they live their lives day to day as a reign of Israeli terror.

The resistance is terrorism- by dictate of the news bureau, the IDF spokesperson said… every Reuters news summary.  Keep them down by defining down their character- they deserve what they get.  Never let them rise. Golda Meir said about the Arabs, in what sounded like a moment of compassion,  they will never forgive us for making us kill their children. Talk about a brilliant story inversion  of the oppressor blaming his victims.  It was not compassion but criminal denial.

The strategy is a long process of Re-characterization of the Palestinian people- and not just humanizing them but  helping them see stories as weapons of war, realizing that one helps the enemy if one acts into the story they are acting out of, and its less about humanizing and more about hero-izing them   MPP, etc, we are not Numbers.  The strategy has to counter story for story every Israeli news that wants to disqualify the Palestinian people from the human race. And every story that shows the Israelis acting as monsters, arresting kids, beating the elderly, every story that shows the criminality, the more that their story is challenged.  It is story against story. Character against character.


How are you created as a Character in his story of you that allows him to destroy you with no consequences? What role does he make you play?
and what story have you internalized in your head that allows him to get away with that narrative tactic?  How do you add to the story that oppresses you? where are you complicit?

Own our own role as being as significant as our oppressors role.

Because our role is what we can change.

Never act into the story he is acting out of, is the tactic, is the strategy, act outside the oppressors experience – Alinsky, and act inside the experience of the people you want to win.

Where are you complicit in the problem? What is the ignorance that your opponent exploits so he can use your own actions against you and lock you further into his alien story of you?

How do you strategically go about challenging, undermining, that story from the point of view of character- show the iDF solider attacking kids, show the settlers crazy fascism, so re-characterize the enemy as hate-filled and show your innocent victims, kids, women, mothers, 

He needs you to be a villain, so he can vilify you

He needs to valorize himself so he is the hero

What do you need to stop doing to starve the system of your tacit support before you decide on what to do?


2. How do you change the story by changing the plot/- what are the plots that get spread that allows your enemy to kill and overwhelm you-how are you plotted into his story? Unless you expose the strategy that is working against you, you cannot resist in an intelligent way. It’s not just a matter of not liking it- its how to counter it or neutralize it. Anger is not a tactic for change.  It usually provokes repression.

War stories are full of action at one level- bombs, torture death,  but security rules so that most of that is not storied, but good intentions- we want peace, we are only defending ourselves,  these are storied to infinity- like peace, two state solution, etc,  What is missing is action. This is a smoke screen to hide the real intentions of what Robert McNamara, secretary of defense during Vietnam  called the Fog of war..

Programs like NSL script people into a new story through the PFC- act as if you are an agent of change- and their time in DC-to witness to themselves as agents and not victims. While it is possible to talk or story your way into new actions, it is often more effective to act your way into a new story.   Fake it till you make it. Talk is cheap. When you act, the world has to react. It has no choice.

But we have to move away from talking for the sake of talking.  Its mostly a cover for delaying, and denying. Most programs of peace are talking about it hoping that will somehow make it happen- it is magical thinking. Methinks he doth protest too much- Middle East peace happens in inverse proportion to the time spent talking about it.

NSL asks candidates to come up with a specific and actionable idea. That is what we call the Projects For Change. People mistakenly think that we have moved into a program for budding social entrepreneurs, but that is not the point at all.  Succeeding or failing does not matter. What matters is making the attempt. Every shot the basketballer does not throw at the basket, he will miss.

We challenge candidates to move out of their problem defeated story into a story of action.  We want them to move away from a theory of change that says dialog is the answer, lets talk it through, lets argue, lets share narratives,  into a theory of change involving praxis and engagement. If the old story is full of  critical conversations, dual narratives, debate, negotiation training,  and the rest, we want to equip our Fellows with a new set of skills.  We want agents of change, not agents of chatter. It is what Marx said, “Philosophers have all interpreted the world- Our job is to change it.”

The story you are up against

Strategy means you don’t leap in. You step back and map the narrative landscape to see what you are up against. The founding of any new nation- I don’t care what nation- is a process of myth making. Ireland did it. The USA did it.  Australia and South Africa did it.  And Israel did it.  In Australia, and South Africa, the myth was that the land was empty, Terra Nullius, no one was there and so the white settlement was no invasion but a legitimate land claim, to make the desert blossom. The original Australians who had been on the land for 50,000 years had other ideas. And that story is one that every colonial regime has used. Its part of the package-“ Stories to use when you want to dispossess a people.”

Recent changes in Australian memory and law have overthrown the myth and indigenous Australians are recognized as the traditional owners. In Israel Palestine, we see the same story strategy.  Palestine was empty with no people and the Jewish refugees were a people without a land. It was a total fiction but enough to still be part of the false memory.  The Australian indigenous people were able to make a claim to their lands through the notion that if they could prove they told a story about living there continually from generation to generations- and not some ancient memory that 30,000 years ago, they lived in Sydney then the court acknowledged their ownership. 

The people who have lost their land need to revive their story title deeds.  The Israeli’s can point to 3000 years ago, but at the end of the 19th century, the number of Jews living there was less than 5000. The Jewish diaspora was the real, and amazing Jewish story from the fall of the second temple, and there was no earlier forms of political Zionism.   When the Christians got to read the Old Testament, and reclaimed the fact that jesus was not a Christian but a jew, they led the push to have the promised people go back to the promised land. At the start, most Jewish people thought that was a totally stupid idea.

So, who has the story? And who has the story that proves the title? In this case, it is the people like the indigenous who have lived from generation to generation.

 It may be a coincidence but the plot of a story comes from the same word as a plot of land.  Who has the better plot and who plots to steal the land.  There is a need for the counter plot to be told.   And when we say Plot, we mean some sort of conspiracy. That is such a great word because it means to breathe together.

You can argue with your opponent but that means your story is always an argument.  What you need is a story that is heard as a story.  Hence the PFC of one of our alums called the Museum of the Palestine People.  You don’t waste time countering your opponents story. You create the space to tell your own in your own way.  It can speak of pride and resilience and not be an argument. It is not a counter plot- it is refusing to be silenced or censored. The title to the land is not in the titles court, but the stories you tell over time that shows it is part of your plot, narratively and literally.  Even today in Jerusalem, when the Israelis tried to change every Arab name to a Hebrew name, some still stick. Ben Gurion considered the Arab names as those of the foreigner who 1500 years ago, stole the land that the Jewish people abandoned. Funny that this sounds like a familiar story.

Where does the story begin?

Israel’s story does not begin in the Holocaust, though many including my friends will claim that. And Palestinian oppression, and ethnic cleansing does not begin in 1967. It matters in the plot where you begin. If you were telling the story of World War II, it would make no sense to show Hitler taking the surrender of France in an old railway carriage which he just as quickly burns. What could that be about? The history of WWII obviously does not begin in 1939 but in 1914 and WWI and that carriage where the allies took the German surrender in 1918. What you leave out of a story is just as relevant or revelatory as what you put in.  Tonight on PBS Michael who does the View said that TV news always starts in the middle and they get the story wrong. They offer immediacy at the sacrifice of context.

2. Plot

Character usually grows out of plot and then feeds back into plot. I am sure we have all seen that at school.What does the enemy do in his story of you to fuel his violence in terms of how he plots the story of you- what are you doing , what are your intentions, what is the actions,  examine the normal plot, movies, news, about the Palestinians, and compare it to women, gays, blacks, the tactic of Emmet till who whistled at the pretty white girl- maybe, but that was seen as a rape and he had to be executed, the slap of the soldier,  has to be terrorism, and she be goaled,

So in terms of plot, the disproportionality of cause and effect,  so that the enemy can bomb Gaza and get away with it, but the kid can be throwing stones or just shouting and he is killed, and everyone says, bombing Gaza is right, and killing the kid is right, so the plot is out of whack.  The jews keep alive the story of their atrocity to maintain their sense of entitlement to moral superiority, no one knows the suffering I saw, glory halleluia, and also to maintain their vigilance, can the Palestinians do the same

Where do you feed the plot of the story that is oppressing you? What do you have to NOT to before you decide what you Will Do?

What is the Plot of the new Palestinian character to create a new story and counter or disqualify (delegitimize is their word) the counter story.

The key thing is to not act into the plot that the enemy has of you- call it non violence but also call it mad making, show them as crazy, stupid and engaged in actions that are totally counter productive,

Also, one might think, appropriate their story, this is your exodus, your Egypt, and Binbi is the new Phaorah, use their story as the Blacks did, a new Moses, etc,  turn their story back on them,  al la King David and Nathan

3.How do you change the story by changing the audience?

What kind of audience does your enemy’s stories attract or recruit that make war a story that they follow, support, applaud. It’s the question one asks about any story- who is the audience and Hollywood knows so well. When they spend 30 million on producing a movie, they may well spend that and more softening up an audience, building buzz, creating hype, excitement, and planning a path of accelerated anticipation. Its all about audience in the end because if there is no audience, there is no story.  What this boils down to in our training is to ask, what are they listening to and for? What is the shape of the listening, as much as what is the demographics of the audience.  In earlier days we invented the Narrative Room to help tellers see the shape of their listening.

What are the strategic questions here? Not what you think but what your opponent thinks you think. And when you know what that is,  think differently. 

It is important to understand How does your enemy recruit his audience to allow them to not only stand idly by while you are massacred, but actually will come out in support of the actions, and send their kids to join their army as an act of aliyah.

Audiences exist inside already well ploughed stories. aIPAC always wants to position their story inside the USA patriotic story.  I went one year and was amazed to see Iwijima super imposed with IDF soldiers. And the Israeli flag intertiwined with the USA flag. And then listen to scripted speakers say that USA Israel had an eternal bond. This was worship,not politics and if you make a god out of partiorism and race, then this is a brilliant move. Hitler would be proud, linking racial superiority to national destiny. The chosen people indeed. What story do you need to hitch your star to?

Just as the Gay movement positioned themselves inside the feminist movement. Or the Civil Rights movement joined up with the unions and the campaign to end the war and end poverty. One can thrive of already existing audiences who don’t see Israel as separate from their patriotic or their religious duty. A good jew MUST support Israel.  So, be aware of the story force that you are contending with, and be sure you are not exposing your vulnerability to their strength. What people already are in that same story? Alliances?

Our NSL program reaches out to new audiences, and to young people who understand the global generational quest for equlity. Young Israeli and Palestinians can both stand inside that story- equal rights for women, for gays, for GLBT, for disabled, etc. But part of the smarts is to map the listening- what stories are out there already that prepare the audience. We notice that with Hollywood. A movie called Rocky or Godfather becomes a huge box office success and so they create Rocky II and III and 4 and Godfather 2 and 3. The audience is ready for more of the same sort of stories.  What is the audience ready to hear? What audience is ready and ripe to hear the story? Who is ripe for the revelation?

When we have little option to change the character, or to change the plot, such as the people in the concentration camp of gaza, then, here is the opening, to change the listening. Instead of Americans hearing Gaza as Hamas sympthisers to make a concerted campaign to tell the human story. It is hard to break the spell. One of our alums at Gtown U last year enrolled in a language course of Hebrew and the first class, the Israeli professor publicly asked her, “Why do you support hamas?”  gaza is associated with hamas, but what if it were associated with the 4 Bakr kids who were playing soccer on the beach and just slaughtered for sport by the IDF. Gaza should stand for the rape of the innocents.  But we have to be strategic in telling and retelling that story. One of our NSL team Loai was working on getting that story out but he could nto get out himself to drive it. We will keep trying because that is a BIG story. It’s a bombshell that an shatter the bomb shelter of moral superiority that the IDF and the residents of Ashdod who tell a pathetic tale of those pesky rockets that interrupt their lives.

If you can’t change the story, then Change the listening. Recruit a new audience which can give new life to an old story.When an old story gets heard in a new way,  it becomes a new story. We teach this in our training, and we use the story change window, which shows you how an old story becomes a new story.

3. Audience

What does your enemy do with story to audience his actions as noble and defensible and your actions as terror- whose attention is recruited to keep up this story system? And what new audiences might dislodge that dominance? What audiences are ripe for the revelation? And what do you do to feed the audience to keep supporting the story that oppresses you? What must you decide to stop doing before you decide on what to start doing? What do we need to keep believing to allow ourselves to be oppressed?

Once we can expose the tactics that a war story system needs, we wake up to the fact that a powerful oppressor exploits stories as weapons of war. He needs stories to show his war to be right, moral, true, and the casualties of the home army worth the loss. He needs to show how the casualties of the oppressed are more than deserved, that they were asking for it.

The war story complex takes a peculiar set of stories, a pretty specific cast of characters, and special kind of plot that repeats and repeats, and an audience that is ready to consume this story because it fits their own identity in the world- The AA pitches to drunks, the Gospel revival is pitched to sinners,  the audience is ripe for the revelation, because what it tells them about themselves.


This all about the control of what people pay attention to. That is what the powers that wage war have to be wary of.  Its not merely propaganda but its censorship too. Eliminate any competition to your storyline. If facts emerge to counter your assertions, then throw doubt on the messenger. Israel has built a Hit list that even Nixon could be proud of.  Its called the Canary List. Other ways to suppress the story is to block entry to any critics, such as  BDS supporters. Shut down the debate by shaming the nay sayers as unpatriotic or anti-semitic. Make  anti Israel to equal anti Semitism, and always embed the Israeli struggle  within the larger global and historic struggle for jewish rights, because you can guilt anyone into silence.  Just mention the Holocaust.

 Its about recruiting your supportive audience, keep feeding them meat,  and restricting audiences. When someone has a camera at the checkpoint showing the soldiers beating up a 7 year old, they want to shut down the camera. The democratization of the audience through the phone camera means that the new frontier of change is not what people do, but who gets to see it. We see that with policing, with the footage of citizen film makers who take us there, unedited, and that means the authorities can’t spin it. That is what will eventually break the Israeli- USA empire – the camera linked to the internet. Its already happening but it must happen more deliberately.

Find a good scandal- to expose the hypocrisy- abuse to show the Church as a system of abuse, Abu Grab to show torture is thrill kill, sexual perversion and that My Lai showed body counts counted for every body, they did not have to be the enemy,, just look like him.

  1. 2.Audience

This is what an audience informed strategy might look like. If I can recruit outside and uninformed audiences to condemn resistance as terrorism, and for this audience to refuse to see the situation of injustice that provokes the violence, then I have a strong strategy that works for me against my enemy.  Nothing gets to your victim more than them experiencing that no matter how much we do to them, no one cares.  Make sure no one cares, and make sure no one hears. This one is Audience driven.  It works until it is exposed.

So this is about a manual- shift the CAP, Character/ Plot/ Audience

Handbook of story strategic change.

We don’t all out of old love, usually we fall into a new love that makes the old love seem tired,

So a new story needs

New characters-the under 30 generation

New plots, we get on together, we act

New audiences, people ripe for revelation

Instead of fighting it out in the old arena  one must create a new colesseum for the battle-because the old audiences will never really change, they will accommodate, the story of Begin, Gareth Evans “ but I am preaching to the converted, aren’t I? no, I am not the converted, but the persuaded,”

Noa was not ripe for any revelation

She was insistent that it was someone elses fault

She outsourced the freedom- the powerful were constrained, and the imprisoned were the ones free

A reversal of role- the moral stance of the oppressor is insisted upon

Its not our fault that we kill 16 and wound 1700

They run into our bullets

Its Hamas and Fateh fault

Our suffering, as la bomb shelters and rockets means so much more than any suffering that we inflict on the Palestinian people

There is a cold relentless ruthlessness to it that would make Al Capone proud

She was ready to argue, not listen

We was not ready to give any concession- the mistake Israel made was trusting the Pals to leave Gaza and see what they did to us

The story always starts recent- never factor in the longer causes

It is not 2005 in Gaza and the siege, it is not 1967 and the war

Its 1948- that is the catastrophe

Blame excuse, she demonstrates the story complex at work

She has Israeli Professors are NYU

She is studying when to talk to terrorists, but seems to not see that Hamas will one day have to be invited to the table

She says conditions change to make IRA invited- and its all about the right conditions, there is no story of John Hume or Trible who changed the conditions, or Clinton and Adams,

It’s a pessimistic view of history

Fate greek tragedy, that there is nothing we can do, the Titanic is heading towards the iceburg as in the explosion in gaza and there is nothing we can do

And because there is nothing we can do, there is nothing we will do

At the same time, its working for us, so her story is full of contradictions

Its either working or not working for you

It seems that her choice, representing her nation is, this is what we chose

And once we chose it, it’s a determinant, there is nothing we can do,

Of course we can choose different, but No, we want this to be this way

And we just have to be Jesuits in giving you a smoke screen of excuses and alibis to cover our tracks- we will not out and out say that we want to exterminate the Palestinians, the final solution, that might be too shocking, so we engage in a slow holocaust, at least ours was fast, but we can be patient, Noa is so proud of her nation there is no shame, no hint of any compassion as to how many innocent lives her Israel has fucked up, but then, denial and defense are the markers of young Israelis who want to perpetrate the lies of their parents and grandparents, so that they can continue to enjoy their privilege, and who would not want to do that- which only means that Israel through her is saying that they need to be budged, otherwise they will not move, and that they only understand  strength.