Column One: Truth in Advertising, by Caroline Glick (Jerusalem Post)
“One of the primary target audiences that the Foreign Ministry is trying to attract is the homosexual community. Ministry officials view gay culture as the entryway to the liberal culture because, as he put it, gay culture is the culture that creates ‘a buzz.'”
“The so-called liberal Left are the ones who call Israel “that shi**y little country” at fancy dinner parties.”
Israel is trying to reinvent itself. Last week Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni hosted a conference where she launched a new multimillion dollar project to “rebrand” Israel. As Livni put it, since coming into office, she has been struck by the disparity between the vibrant, liberal, free Israel she knows and Israel’s image abroad.
According to research conducted by a number of public relations firms, Israel’s international image is one of a war-torn society riddled with religious fanatics and intolerance. At the same time, most people view Israel as either a democracy or as a country moving towards democracy. As Livni sees it, “It’s time to bridge the gap between the real Israel and its international image.” The foreign minister has decided to dedicate the Foreign Ministry to the task of bridging the gap. She has hired a whole host of public relations firms who have conducted focus groups and used other mass marketing tools to figure out how to reinvent Israel in a manner that will make people like us.
Livni’s adviser Ido Aharoni explained to reporters last week, “Israel is not perceived as fun or normal. Our job is to say, ‘Yes, we are not normal, but we are far more normal than you think.'” To get this point across, the Foreign Ministry is encouraging Israelis to set up Weblogs and to post their home movies on the You Tube video Web site. It is working in conjunction with the Israel Association of Gay Men, Lesbians and Transgenders to encourage homosexual tourism and it is planning to run targeted ads in women’s magazines – for instance in Oprah Winfrey’s magazine – to show liberals that Israel is just as liberal as they are.
The purpose of public diplomacy is to increase international sympathy and support for Israel. The level of international sympathy that Israel enjoys has little do with whether or not foreigners are aware of how beautiful our beaches are. The level of international support for Israel is little impacted by whether Israel’s image is one of a vacationer’s paradise or a war zone.
What does influence levels of sympathy for Israel is whether or not people understand that Israel has an unconditional right to exist and an inherent right to defend itself against those who wish to destroy the state and murder its citizens. People are induced to sympathize with Israel when they are exposed to the fact that its enemies are unappeasable, and when they understand what happens to women who wear bikinis or simply demand to meet their husbands before marriage in Gaza and Ramallah.
So if the marketing executives weren’t paying attention to Israel’s core market potential when they shape their rebranding concepts, who are they paying attention to? David Saranga from the New York Consulate-General told the Post last week that one of the primary target audiences that the Foreign Ministry is trying to attract is the homosexual community. Ministry officials view gay culture as the entryway to the liberal culture because, as he put it, gay culture is the culture that creates “a buzz.” That is, the main target of the Foreign Ministry’s multimillion dollar PR campaign is the liberal Left in the West. This makes sense not because these people are Israel’s most likely supporters. To the contrary, Israel’s natural supporters are the ones that the liberal Left pokes fun at. Indeed, the so-called liberal Left are the ones who call Israel “that shi**y little country” at fancy dinner parties.
The desire to win support from the Left is reasonable enough. The problem is that these Israeli officials fail to understand the nature of their problem with their liberal friends. Leftist support of the Palestinians does not stem from ignorance regarding Israel’s liberal views of feminists or homosexuals. Gay activists and feminists from New York to Paris to London to Stockholm do not participate in pro-Palestinian protests because they are under the misimpression that Israel is illiberal or homophobic or misogynistic.
They participate in anti-Israel protests because they think that Israel is wrong. And they oppose Israel because they don’t realize that their own freedom is closely linked to Israel’s ability to win the jihad being waged against it. The fact that they believe as they do is at least partially the fault of the same Israeli officials who now wish to stop discussing why Israel fights, and instead discuss how Israel parties.
Israel’s public diplomacy challenge is to explain to the world how jihadist violence against Israel breeds jihadist violence in Paris, Brussels, London, Melbourne, Madrid and New York, and how Israeli victories over jihadists in Ramallah, Gaza, Beirut and Teheran enhance the security of the rest of the free world. That is, Israel will be successful diplomatically not because it tells people that it is a fun place, but because it explains to people why Israel’s success is related to their own success.
Israel doesn’t need to reinvent itself. All it needs to do is tell the truth.