Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Time For Israeli PR To Go On The Offensive

Israel has long had a PR problem, due not only to events in the area but also because of the emphasis that Israeli Hasbara has had over the years. It's time for that emphasis to change:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's communications chief, Ron Dermer, has admitted that Israel faces a serious public relations problem.

In his first interview since the Netanyahu Government took office in March, the Prime Minister's director of policy planning and communications has told The Age that it's time Israel switched its PR strategy from defence to offence.

...In pursuing a strategy that will centralise the Israeli Government's responses to issues raised by the foreign media into a kind of war room, and make better use of public opinion research, Mr Dermer says Israel has to start shaming those countries and organisations that hold Israel to a different standard.
Great idea--if those countries and organizations actually had any shame. Not that there isn't an obvious double standard going on:
"(People) who get together to call for a boycott against Israel, are they also calling for a boycott against North Korea, the world's largest concentration camp? Against Iran, where they hang homosexuals?" Mr Dermer asks. "When you hold Israel to a standard that you won't hold another country to, what are you doing? You are being anti-Semitic."
Dermer had me the entire way, until the article ends with this:
"But once the Palestinians accept that we, the Jews, are here by right, that we are not foreign colonialists and we're not invaders — even if they say it (the land) is 1 per cent yours and 99 per cent ours — then we're in real negotiations."
Read the whole thing.

You can argue that with the right kind of PR campaign you can influence world opinion in general--there was a study back in April that back up that assumption:
As part of the study, participants were asked a series of questions and were instructed to grade their level of sympathy of Israel on a 1-10 scale. Later, participants were presented with several branding videos on Israel, before being asked more questions in order to see whether their opinions changed after watching the clips.

The videos showed many aspects of life in Israel, including the beaches, landscape, culture, food, technology, and religious sites.

After watching the videos, a total of 51% of all respondents said their views on Israel changed for the better. The percentage of respondents who perceived Israel as an aggressive state subsequently dropped from 35% to 21%. Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who perceived Israel as a creative country rose from 24% to 40% after watching the clips.
But when it comes to convincing Palestinian Arabs to accept that the Jews have a right to the land, you are leaving the area of opinion--which can be influenced--and entering the area of Islamic faith, which cannot. Combine with that the indoctrination done by Hamas in camps and on children's TV shows and there is just not much that PR can do.

The fact is that the real target for Israeli PR must be world opinion, as Arab PR has made all too clear.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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