(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/04/BDS4.jpg)Nary does a day pass without op-eds or emails amongst the Pro-Israel community complaining about biased media coverage. Whether it’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress about Iran, the media’s narrative surrounding the ongoing Israel-Palestinian conflict or something else, Israel is always in the media – and controversy is usually close behind.
In 2002, an Israel State Comptroller report noted, “[S]ince its establishment in 1948, Israel’s intelligence organs have not succeeded to respond to the broad-based propaganda and incitement by the Arab world.” This report stated that there is a “lack of an overall strategic public relations conception and objective,” and also “[n]o comprehensive budgetary analysis to serve government public relations requirements.” Those words still ring perfectly accurate today.
This week, former Israeli ambassador and diplomat Gideon Meir noted the country “is failing to win the public relations battle to convince international organizations, such as the United Nations, that Israel is morally right to defend their nation against the terrorists.” Meir added, “To make any headway in convincing the media and the international community that Israel is right in defending the nation against terrorists, I have advised our government to spend much more money than they currently do in public relations.” Same old, same old.
A few years ago, from the Knesset floor, Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin said, “Israel’s hasbara (PR) budget is a total of NIS 9.5 million, compared to NIS 200 million for the Palestinians. How are we expected to deal with that? It’s like a small vehicle fighting a platoon of tanks.” (Israel’s conflict is with much of the Arab world – not just the Palestinian Arabs.)
On this, and so many other fronts, Israel is sorely alone. Shamefully, nary a major American Jewish organization spends real money on a PR Firm, or a public relations campaign. It is unfortunate – and until that changes, one can expect to see terrible media coverage surrounding Israel. The narrative can be changed – but it will not be changed without public relations.
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founding father of the Revisionist Zionist movement, from which the ruling Likud Party emanates, is someone who understood the importance of public relations. As Jabotinsky said before his death in 1940,
The work of the publicist is a legacy from the Prophets of Israel…Our passion is to speak, to proclaim—”shouting” is what the same audience calls it, “we have no need for words, give us actions.” One thing that audience forgets is that speech is also an action – Perhaps the most authentic of all other actions. Cities have been destroyed, and more will fall, but what was shouted in the wilderness thousands of years ago is alive and still relevant. The world was created by the Word. The world will be mended by the Article.
Israel simply will not improve her perception in the world without a public relations strategy and campaign. The time is long overdue.
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