Photo: IDF's Spokesperson Unit
Arussi. 'Israel should affect Arab public opinion'
Photo: IDF's Spokesperson Unit
'Israel must concentrate on Arab media'
Israel must improve its presence in Arab media and train more Arabic speaking spokespersons, IDF's former head of Arab Media desk says Thursday. 'This is a battle over public consciousness, and Israel is currently losing,' he says
A part of the campaign Israel is carrying out against the Palestinians revolves around public opinion, and it is important we engage in this campaign, Major Eitan Arussi, who served until recently as head of the Arab Media desk at the IDF's Spokesperson Unit, said in an interview to Ynet Thursday.


"Losing this battle would be better than not participating at all, or than to lose a war we didn't even know was going on," Arussi added.


Arussi, 32, who joined the spokesperson unit after serving in the IDF's Coordination and Liaison office, left his post in the army this week.


He said he wished to convey to Israelis how crucial the aspect of public relations in the Arab media is. This is a business for professionals, Arussi said, and we cannot afford to be left out.


"What goes on today is that terror organizations like Hamas and the Hizbullah make intensive use of the media – the Hizbullah through its al-Manar television channel, and the Hamas through its sophisticated web sites," Arussi said.


"The problem is that the 'official' Israel is absent from these media channels. There is not one example of an Israeli public relations' site which updates as quickly, and is as elaborate as that of Hamas," he added.


"This is a battle over public relations and public consciousness. Our goal should be to affect Arab public opinion in a way which will facilitate peace in the region. This should be done wisely," Arussi concluded.


'Israel must train Arabic-speaking spokespersons'


Arussi believes that Israel has plenty of opportunities to operate in the Arab media arena, and that Israel and the Arab media share a common interest: "Israel wants to convey its version of events to the Arab public, while at least some of the Arab media seek to establish an impression they are professional and balanced."


Arussi claimed that although Arab channels, including the Qatar-based al-Jazeera, which regularly maintains it gives voice to all vies, tend to allow less room for opposite opinions, the fault for its lack of representation in the Arab world lies with Israel as well.


"Israel is to blame for not putting sufficient efforts into training enough qualified spokespersons and analysts. Even the Americans have realized by now how important this is, and they appointed a person from the State's Department as their spokesperson, to issue responses to Arab channels," Arussi said.


Arussi said he objects to Israel's use of leaflets scattered by the IAF over Palestinian territories.


"There is an air of colonialism to such action, and it has no publicity value, but it even causes damage."


"One minute of broadcast on al-Jazeera is worth more than 700,000 leaflets that cost a fortune," Arussi claimed.


'Disengagement boosted Israel's image'


According to Arussi, Israeli public relations have won great influence in the Palestinian street during the disengagement. "This move has definitely boosted Israel's image in the Arab public," he said.  


"Israel and Sharon were usually perceived as untrue to their word, but this time we showed we keep to our commitments. I have no doubt that Israel and Sharon will harvest gains from this move," he said.


In order to improve its presence in the Arab media, Arussi recommended that Arabic be taught in school in the same level as English is, "not in order to sow the seeds for peace, but because we live in the Middle East."


Secondly, he said, Israel must work to upgrade its official public relations system.


Israel must also establish its own Arabic-language radio and T.V. channels, which will broadcast high-quality news shows, "and even Baywatch."


"We have to enable Arab audiences to be exposed to Israeli contents," Arussi concluded.


First published: 10.14.05, 00:22
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