Photo: Israeli Embassy, Sweden
Zvi Mazel
Bikinis are not enough
Israel needs sophisticated, effective PR effort to fight hostile world opinion
We were recently informed that the Foreign Ministry has found the solution to Israel's problems in the international arena: The advertising of a few public service broadcasts on democracy, scientific achievements, agriculture and golden Mediterranean beaches.


The campaign may even depict an Israeli blond in a bikini. To this end, Israel would become a brand just like Coca Cola and ad agencies would present it wrapped and ready to market.


And so, says the foreign minister, the world would ultimately understand that Israel is a western, cultural country with high intellectual standards. Moreover, it has nice citizens, it is a fun place to live, but most importantly - it's a place worth visiting and investing in.


This is how the Arab-Israeli conflict would disappear from the global public debate and instead it would once again recognize our true value, leaving us to wallow in euphoria.


Schmaltzy campaign

Undoubtedly those who would benefit from all this would be the advertising agencies, who have won a bid to manage this schmaltzy campaign.


But does anyone really believe that a country can be marketed like a dress or a car? Did Switzerland acquire its reputation as the land of watches and banks after airing radio broadcasts? Did Japan become a source of high tech electronic products after placing a few ads in the media?


Years of tradition, proper management and hard work elapsed until these countries, and many others, acquired their reputations and became symbols of quality in their respective fields.


There is no need for ads to discover that Israel is a parliamentary democracy with high scientific capabilities, and that it is located on the Mediterranean shores where the weather is salubrious for tourists. This information is public knowledge, but it has never diverted attention away from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Arabs.


Israel's high academic standards are also known worldwide, but this does not prevent universities from being boycotted.


Israel is definitely in need of public relations, as its isolation is worsening disproportionately vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict and its development.


What Israel needs

World media is closing in on Israel. It is almost impossible to find pro- Israel opinion editorials in the international press. What Israel needs is direct dialogue with the Arab world.


It also requires public relations that would contend with the Arab public relations effort that is consistently portraying Israel in a distorted light. Israel is in need of public relations vis-à-vis the media and Europe's left wing that casts the blame for the continuation of the conflict on Israel.


It needs a fitting system that would contend with anti-Semitic institutions and churches that are incessantly condemning Israel disproportionately.


Israeli public relations officials should direct their attention to university campuses in a bid to confront the initiatives and the anti-Israeli mood taking root there. They should remind the world of Israel's historic link to its homeland. Israel should repeatedly recall the history of the conflict, long forgotten by the international media.


Photographs of the Weizmann Institute or the Tel Aviv coast will not resolve the problem. The difficult issues we are powerlessly facing can only be handled with counter, businesslike, political public relations aimed at forcing world public opinion to think anew about developments in our region.


Knowing the enemy

Israeli public relations must be conducted through in-depth knowledge of Arab culture, society, economics and media as well as through knowledge of Europe's media and political culture, which currently draws on the extreme Left's politics. In other words, the other side's weak points should be studied and taken advantage of.


Talks between heads of state and foreign ministers will not alter the situation. Only a transition to public diplomacy, based on systematic use of all media tools with the power to penetrate all levels of public life would perhaps lead to the beginning of change and push our attackers into a defensive position.


What is called for is the building of offensive and defensive tactics that are no less important than preparing the army for war. Hopefully, this would shift the international atmosphere towards Israel vis-à-vis the Arab world, and in turn make it more difficult for those aspiring for another war.


Israel would do well to halt its foolish branding campaign and instead formulate a media-public relations strategy while earmarking the necessary resources and exploiting the experience of foreign ministry personnel.


As may be recalled, a position is yet to be found for dozens of Israeli diplomats who returned from overseas postings in the past two years. It is worthwhile noting that the hostile atmosphere towards Israel, which is going on uninterruptedly, could also adversely affect military moves and may be detrimental to the IDF's freedom of action to protect Israel.


The author served as Israel's ambassador to Egypt and Sweden


פרסום ראשון: 10.29.06, 20:42
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