Friday, September 08, 2006

Psssst: Israel Has A Quiet Victory--Pass It On...

I am on an email list with the New York Israeli Consulate, and received today a copy of an article appearing in Haaretz by Amir Reshef-Gissin, the head of the Foreign Ministry's Public Affairs Department.

Take a look.
Israel's quiet victory

Radical Islam increasingly perceived as strategic threat to West

The second Lebanon war is an up-to-date and clear example of the doctrine that modern war is decided not only on the battlefield. As gaps in the military power of the warring sides grow, the decision moves to the arena of media and consciousness.
The point is that apparently Israel fully appreciated the importance of hasbarah and the media, made every effort to win in this vital area--and yet still fell short.
An example of this is the Israeli spokespeople during the war. One of the myths associated with Israeli public relations efforts for generations is the centrality of the speakers: If only we find someone like Abba Eben or Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel would be able to win the battle over media coverage and public opinion.

Contending with images of Beirut


During the month of war, this myth fully collapsed: The State of Israel deployed coherent men and women featuring clear messages and boosted by the Israeli consensus who submitted to hundreds of interviews on dozens of TV channels.

In CNN alone, Israeli government spokespeople submitted to 400 minutes of interviews in the first two weeks of the war, constituting about 10 percent of the total airtime dedicated to the war.

On the other hand, Arab spokespeople were only interviewed for 30 minutes. Did the fact that Israeli spokespeople received so much more airtime than their opponents decide the outcome of the media war? The answer is negative. After all, the Israelis were not required to contend with their Arab colleagues, but rather, with the images of destruction and victims from Beirut.

And where were images of the suffering, hurting Israeli home front taken by dozens of foreign media crews operating from media centers set up by the Foreign Ministry in Haifa and the upper Galilee? They were cut due to editing considerations because they failed to match the narrative presented.
Yet despite this loss on the media battlefield, Reshef-Gissin claims there is still a fundamental victory that Israel has achieved:

All of the above is in plain view of the Israeli news consumer, but the most important things are hidden from view. The dust left behind by the military campaign along with the heavy price of those killed and kidnapped, the media fog and the waves of criticism, all combine to hide a fundamental Israeli achievement:

The decline of the narrative that argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and particularly the equation of Goliath (us) against David (them), are the exclusive reason for Middle Eastern instability.

To support this claim, he cites:

Public opinion surveys commissioned by the Foreign Ministry in recent weeks in the United States and leading European countries showed the maturity of the public's understanding of our new regional reality.

Indeed, the surveys showed wide identification of the two coalitions – the moderate one, which includes Egypt, Jordan, Palestinian leader Abbas and Lebanese PM Siniora, vis-à-vis the radical coalition of Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda too.

In the wake of the war, radical Islam is increasingly perceived as a strategic threat on the West that is not merely a reaction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is a new reality that is comfortable for Israel.

First of all, if in fact the narrative is changing and there is a perception that the issue is not just the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but rather the threat of radical Islamism--is this new perception really the result of a "fundamental Israeli achievement," or merely the result of the fact that radical Islamists keep trying to blow up people?

Second, if the Israeli government really believes that Egypt and Abbas fall into the moderate camp, perhaps it is time for those clever Israeli PR people to perhaps define for us just what is a Moslem moderate.

Thirdly, if in fact "radical Islam is increasingly perceived as a strategic threat on the West that is not merely a reaction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," why are incidents of Anti-semitism also on the rise?

How quiet can a victory be--and still be a victory?

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