The news, proclaimed by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
and others, is that Israel is to be "branded" or more correctly, "re-branded" - like Richard Nixon or Classic Coke. Great fanfare announces that a number of high-powered public relations firms have been hired to convince people around the world that Israel is a wonderful tourist destination and business investment. It seems, these are the priority challenges that Israel faces according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Or, as a Reuters headline put it, "Don't mention the war"
. Symbolically, the kick off of this campaign was delayed by the little war we just had here.
The reason for announcing this PR campaign in public is shrouded in mystery. I don't know about you. I must say that I am extremely reluctant to buy anything after reading that it was about to be touted by PR hype, and that is certainly true for politicians and countries. PR people are not statesmen or philosophers or academics. They are like used-car salesmen. One is tempted to ask, "Would you buy a used country from this man?"
However, the campaign itself is problematic in more ways than one. Suppose that we convince everyone that everything is fine here. It is safe, there are no threats. Israelis are all rich and happy. Israel is just like Switzerland. But then there is a war, and we have to defend ourselves. Against whom? We told everyone there are no threats and we are safe! And then we ask for donations from American Jews. Why should we need donations if we are all rich here? Why should the American taxpayer subsidize Israel to the tune of $3 billion a year?
This message of sleek, successful Israel will be pitched to the liberal elites of Europe. Presumably, nobody in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs ever heard of the "David and Goliath" image of the Palestinians versus Israel, or the anti-globalization campaign. They think liberals and "leftists" will sympathize with Israel more if Israel is portrayed as rich and comfortable. Likewise, the role of Israel in the War against Terror is to be emphasized. Apparently, nobody in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs ever read in any of the hundreds of European leftist and Arab newspapers that the War Against Terror is a Jewish Neocon plot. According to Amir Gissin, public relations director at the Foreign Ministry:
the image makeover was also about keeping Israel on the right side of the U.S.-led "war on terror".
In the wake of 9/11, the objective now is to place Israel among the coalition of the moderates, facing off against Islamic radicalism".
It is frightening to contemplate, but apparently this man never read all those articles that say the Jews instigated the war in Iraq, never saw or heard any commentary about neo-con Zionists who incite Islamophobia.
The real problem with the branding bumph campaign is much deeper however.
Every country and every people have an image that is projected on others, based on exaggeration, facts, misunderstanding, awe or contempt. If negative, the image can be the basis of racism, or is reflected in those lovely non-PC jokes everyone likes to tell. In the jokes, British are humorless, French are great lovers, Irish are drunks, Scottish people are stingy and Jews are good with money and not quite honest.
Ad men are the sort of people who make a living giving new names to old concepts. In modern advertising jargon, the image or reputation is called a "brand." Developing a positive image for a product, and now for a country, is called "branding." Sometimes the brand image reflects reality, sometimes it does not. Coca-Cola and Sony are examples of good brands, Edsel and Enron are examples of bad brands. The brand goes with a vapid jingle or slogan, such as "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should."
Israel's "branding" problem is deeper than tourism or wars or investment opportunities. What must be "branded" is not just Israel, but the Jew, and the concept of Jewish national rights - Zionism. That has been the historic task of Zionism for more than a century. It is the struggle we are still facing in Europe and the Middle East. The national liberation and patriotic movements of Italy, Greece, Poland, Czecholslovakia, India and others all have the respect of the world. Alone among national liberation movements, Zionism is singled out as "racist" and "reactionary," because it is the national liberation movement of the Jews. That "brand" image neutralizes our greatest asset: Israel as a country of idealists. That the Ministry of Foreign affairs does not recognize this fundamental fact signals a huge failure, and a great misunderstanding of what Israel is all about and why we are here.
The "Jew" brand was perhaps the worst in history, due to a directed campaign by the competition. This was changed to a large extent by Zionism. Following are "before" and "after" images of the "Jew" brand.
The Jew Brand - Before the Zionism Remake
This image was not very attractive, and the Jew product fell into disfavor. "Jew" was associated with cowardice, greed, and slick dealings in business. Zionism re-branded the Jew, at least in the West, to be associated with heroism, military prowess, idealism, constructive endeavor, justice and progress. Following was the Jew brand after the Zionism remake:
The Jew Brand - After the Zionism Remake
This "rebranding" was not cosmetic. It was not done simply by dressing up the gentlemen in the "before" pictures in new clothing and adding some pretty faces and better camera makeup. Israel, and the Jewish people were not reborn in an air-conditioned office of a PR firm. They were forged in blood and fire, idealism and self-sacrifice. California has better beaches, Italy has better churches, Swedes have better manners and India has cheaper labor. Only Israel has Zionism and Jews, and only Israel has a dynamic society, a people that is reinventing itself and creating a memorable movement in history: the rebirth of an ancient people. That is the real "re-branding."
The "Israel" brand story is not about tourism and good investments for Warren Buffett. Nobody wants to wipe Lichtenstein off the map because they don't have good tourist beaches and nobody carries signs saying "Luxembourganism is Racism" because Luxembourg doesn't have enough industry. Our problem is that an increasing number of people are becoming convinced that "Zionists" are evil, powerful and sinister, and that Israel is not a legitimate state.
The "Israel" brand story is about a country built on idealism, a society that is the living testimony of the will of a people to live under justice and to revitalize an ancient and glorious civilization. That is what made good investments where there were only sand dunes and barchash flies and malaria. That story, the idealism that created and animates Israel, is totally missing from the branding campaign.
But the competition is still at work, and their campaigns are busy rebranding Jews. It is not just the "Israel" brand, but the Jew brand that is attacked.
The Jew Brand - Under anti-Zionist Attack
Note that the Bolshevik Jew of former years is now replaced by the Nazi Jew. It is not an accident. Zionism and Israel, formerly considered progressive, are now labeled as reactionary. They are even labeled reactionary by reactionaries who are apparently pro Israel. In the Sunday Telegraph for example, Tom Leonard is quite frank in pleading for more reactionary programing, and he writes about an episode of an adventure series:
I lost interest in Spooks, but tuned in again...for the start of the fifth series. It was about homegrown al-Qa'eda terrorists... Except that they weren't British Muslims at all, but undercover Israeli agents. Once again, the villains are a million miles away from the ones you might expect, and top-heavy with the forces of reaction.
(Emphasis added).Does anyone remember when Zionist agents were fighting Nazis in Europe, as well as the forces of colonialist imperialist British reaction in the Palestine mandate?
The branding campaign reads as though it was formulated by people from Mars, who think that Israel is like Denmark or Switzerland, never heard of anti-Semitism, and haven't read any newspapers in Europe.
Here is a message to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the PR people preparing this branding exercise. Get all the people together for a brain storming session. Use a big whiteboard of the kind PR people use to show messages, and some Powerpoint slides. Show the following to everyone.
- Articles from French, British, Dutch and other mainstream press that compare Israel to Apartheid South Africa and even to Nazi Germany.
- Resolutions of the 2001 Durban conference about "Zionism is Racism"
- Independent cartoon of Sharon eating babies
- Posters carried by BRITISH demonstrators (not Muslims) saying things like "We are all Hezbollah"
- NATFHE Union resolution about boycotting Israel and supporting Hamas.
Send a representative to the next teachers' union meeting in Britain where they consider a bocott resolution. Send people to ISM meetings. Then devise a strategy that will combat these problems instead of making a ridiculous pitch that will in the best case make people laugh.
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Replies: 2 Comments
Excellent analysis of PR. People throughout the world are far too cynical to be captivated by PR efforts / stunts. The other day CNN broadcast (as a "news" item) an example of a PR commercial being shown in the Arab world. The commercial opposes suicide bombers -- with all the high-tech graphic explosions and so on (ending with a small child's bewildered expression). The announcers were absolutely un-moved (they made some wry comments which sounded like "two-thumbs down" for the effort -- or "nice try" but it won't go over in the Arab world, particularly not since everyone knows who paid for the commercial -- ie., Hollywood Jews.)
I believe bad PR is worse than no PR.
Another problem -- the Ministry might want to try to convince Leftist Jews that Israel is a "great" country first. I just read how a law prof in Ontario (his group of similar-minded leftists voted for a pro-boycott of Israel, among other things) now demands to join the CJC. Might want to address these kinds of problems first.
J.S., Monday, October 30th
This piece should get to the appropriate PR people in israel; it is exactly on point and states most effectively what has been obvious for so long to so many of us who are struggling to project the true special positive picture of what israel has created for itself and the world.
andrew upton, Monday, October 30th
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