Bikini Branding and the Holy Land, by Yishai Fleisher (Israel National News)
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In a bid to “re-brand” Israel’s unpopular world image, Tzippy Livni and the gang at the Foreign Ministry are about to embark on a massive PR campaign. Livni plans to paint Israel as a sexy, modern country with beautiful beaches and a successful high-tech industry to boot. Livni believes that by embarking on this “nation branding” campaign, she can move the perception of Israel away from war-torn and fanatical, to an image of the great Israeli dream – normalcy.
No doubt Israel does have something to offer those looking for beaches, night life and technology. But as the focus of a public relations campaign, this direction is doomed for failure.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe told a story to illustrate this point:
After the Six Day War, France, unhappy with Israel’s grand victory over the Arabs, stopped their sales of the Mirage fighter jets to Israel. Israel, in need of fighter jets, turned to the United States with a request to buy American jets.
The US sent a delegation to Israel and the Israelis wanted to impress the American group and promptly took them to what the Israelis thought the Americans would be most interested in. They took them to Tel Aviv, to the playhouses, to the bars, to all the modernity that Israel could muster up at the time.
However, the delegation was nonplussed. They returned to America, gave a lukewarm report to Congress, and the sale did not go through. A few months went by and again the Israelis requested the sale of fighter jets. Again a delegation was formed and was flown to Israel. This time, however, the Israelis took the delegation to the Kotel (the Western Wall) and to the yeshivas of Meah Shearim, where the Americans saw the old study benches that were brought over from Europe.
When the Americans returned home and testified in front of Congress, they said: “We saw the Holy Land.” The sale, of course, went through.
The point is so obvious, yet Israel’s image makers cannot grasp it. Israel’s image strength is not in its limping normalcy. Nor can Israel ever compare to the US’s flesh-pots, Amsterdam’s night life or the beaches of South America.