Photo: Dan Balilti
Foreign Ministry spokesman Mekel
Photo: Dan Balilti

Al-Jazeera in Israel’s PR crosshairs

Israel’s Foreign Ministry instructing embassies, consulates around world to step up PR campaign in support of ‘Operation Warm Winter’, show world incessant Qassam salvos leveled at Israel

Battle being fought on media front as well: Alongside IDF military operations, a worldwide PR effort is now being launched in support of "Operation Warm Winter." The diplomatic campaign aims to counter worldwide calls to end Israel’s Gaza offensive, as well as to bolster the IDF’s less than stellar international image.


In that vane, Foreign Minister Livni and the executive director of the foreign minister’s office have sent an official manual of PR messages, as compiled at the National PR Forum meeting, to all 97 Israeli consulates and embassies abroad. Furthermore, the Foreign Ministry hopes to hold an official press conference whereupon Israel can officially state its position regarding the military campaign.


In accordance with the newly published PR manual, Israel’s official representatives and spokespersons must now stress to the foreign press that “since Wednesday of last week more than 150 rockets and missiles were fired at Israel, leaving more than 250,000 of its citizens at the mercy of incessant rocket salvos. In its efforts to protect its citizens and prevent these attacks, Israel has launched a military offensive, during the course of which Palestinian civilians are also injured. This, in spite of the great efforts and care with which IDF soldiers conduct their operations.”


The National PR Forum, which compiled this manual, is a newly founded body that includes representatives from several government agencies, and which was first launched following the Winograd Commission's report. Aside from distributing the aforementioned PR manual, the PR forum also targeted the al-Jazeera Network as its chief adversary in the war for hearts and minds.


“Its broadcasts give a very myopic, one sided message to millions of Muslims across the globe,” noted the forum.


Foreign Ministry Spokesman Aryeh Mekel spoke to Ynet regarding this new PR campaign, and highlighted its chief talking points. “The Palestinians fire Qassam rockets at civilian population centers in order to injure, kill, and maim Israeli civilians. They fire Qassams at shopping centers, hospitals, schools and other civilian targets. The IDF, conversely, operates in Gaza with the strict aim of targeting terror groups and their infrastructure. IDF soldiers do not target Palestinian civilians, but they are sometimes inadvertently injured or killed during IDF operations, which is unfortunate.”


Nothing unique about Sderot victims

Not everyone, however, is dazzled by this new PR campaign. Dr. Udi Label, a political psychology professor at Sapir College and the Ariel University Center of Samaria, believes that Israel’s PR efforts fail to recognize the basic psychology of American and European societies.


” We still think in terms of narrow-ended Israeli codes. We believe that we need to show the world the Jewish victims, the civilians injured in Sderot and the rocket attacks on Ashkelon,” said Label, “and this is our chief mistake.”


“There are a million victims out there today: in Kosovo, Darfur, Chechnya. There is nothing unique about yet another victim from Sderot,” the professor said. “In lieu of this approach we need to tap into the fear and the shared values of the Western world through our PR efforts.”


However, the Foreign ministry rejected Label’s approach as being far too simplistic.


“Foreign Ministry officials, who have served in key roles in the US, Europe and the UN are all too familiar with these locales and their unique mentality,” noted Mekel. “ We have to be very careful when addressing a ‘Muslim threat’ because many Western countries have a large, productive Muslim population that is in no way affiliated with terror and which we do not want to offend or alienate.” 


Roni sofer contributed to this article


פרסום ראשון: 03.02.08, 18:32
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