Israel

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Israel, according to the BBC country profile, was created as "the culmination of the Zionist movement, whose aim was a homeland for Jews scattered all over the world following the Diaspora. After the Nazi Holocaust, pressure grew for the international recognition of a Jewish state, and in 1948 Israel came into being." [1]

Rebranding Israel

"When the word 'Israel' is said outside its borders, we want it to invoke not fighting or soldiers, but a place that is desirable to visit and invest in, a place that preserves democratic ideals while struggling to exist," said Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, during a September 2006 meeting with "public relations executives, branding specialists and diplomats" in Tel Aviv. Livni "recently put the image initiative on the government's agenda and will soon develop a budget for the program," according to the Israeli Consulate in New York's media and public affairs consul. [1]

"A staffer with the London-based global ad firm Saatchi and Saatchi is already working with the Israelis free of charge on the re-branding effort." British researcher and branding expert Simon Anholt "said his surveys show that Israel's image abroad is so bad that any re-branding campaign would be 'pointless,'" unless Israel is "'prepared to change its behavior' in the areas of international peace and security." He added, "The most useful thing Israel can do ... is stop wasting taxpayer money in a re-branding campaign." [2]

In early 2007 Elias Buchwald, a founder of Burson-Marsteller, ran a four-day training session for 17 high-level Israeli spokespersons from government agencies. The session was organized by 5W Public Relations, the American Jewish Congress and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "We want Americans to relate to Israel emotionally, not just impersonally," Buchwald said. "The point should be ‘Israel has what you like’ by using warm, evocative and colorful language." Reporter Gary Rosenblatt summarized Buchwald's advice as "keep it short, make it direct, and no matter what the question, know beforehand what message you want to get across and stick with it." The media consul at the Israeli consulate in New York, David Saranga, described Israel's PR problem as being that "Americans miss the human face of Israel, they perceive of us as militaristic and very religious but they miss the lens of culture [and] education”. [3]

Promoting Israel online

"Israel's official MySpace page was launched in January under the direction of officials from the Foreign Ministry," reported Gregory Levey on Salon.com in March 2007. "The MySpace page automatically greets visitors with a sleekly produced hip-hop song called 'Peace in the Middle,'" and "shows pictures of Israel's beaches, glitzy hotels and the Tel Aviv skyline." [4]

The MySpace page is part of the Israeli government's efforts "to reach out to young Americans" and "disarm the conflict-centric image so prevalent in the Western media." The Israeli government also has its own blog, at www.isrealli.org, which (like the MySpace page) links to YouTube videos on "Israel's achievements in technology, medicine, business and entertainment," as well as Gay Pride Parades and "a lot of people wearing bikinis. There is nobody wearing a military uniform in the videos, even though military service is compulsory for all Israelis after they turn 18," observed Levey. Israel's future online plans include a second blog run by Israel's Foreign Ministry, "devoted exclusively to politics," and "an Internet television station aimed at American evangelicals and other Christians." [5]

Wooing U.S. bloggers

In April 2008, left-wing U.S. bloggers, including Daily Kos editor David Waldman and former Moveon.org lobbyist Tom Matzzie, who now heads the Campaign to Defend America, spent six days in Israel as the guests of the Israeli government. The trip is sponsored and organized by the Solomon Project, which "was founded in 1996 to 'educate the American Jewish community about its rich history of civic involvement.'" [2]

The U.S. bloggers will "meet with Israeli bloggers, journalists and Knesset officials," reported Yitzhak Benhorin. "The Foreign Affairs Ministry has long since been exerting considerable efforts to bring the prominent writers for an extensive tour of the country, in recognizing the influence many of the writers wield and the fact some of them represent websites that are less-than-friendly towards the Israel." The bloggers will receive briefings on Israel's perception of the security situation and will tour the area between Gaza and the West Bank, known as Israel's "narrow waistline," to illustrate the "true meaning of a return to the borders of June 4th 1967." These armistice lines are spelled out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, and were the basis of the Oslo process. The bloggers were "scheduled to visit with the top negotiator for the Palestinian Authority, Saeb Erekat and may also meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert or Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni." [2]

Promoting Sderot

In April 2008, following Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip and the firing of crude Qassam rockets from Gaza into the southern Israeli city of Sderot, Israel's Foreign Ministry opened a bureau in Sderot. The ministry said the new bureau was "designed to accommodate the needs of the growing number of foreign media representatives present in the city, covering the situation in the area." [3]

Setbacks

Israel is viewed by many around the world as a threat to world peace. "The Eurobarometer poll of 7,500 EU residents found that 59 per cent deemed Israel 'a threat to peace in the world', with the figures rising to 60 per cent in Britain, 65 in Germany, 69 in Austria and 74 in Holland," reported The Telegraph reported in March 2003. "The Israeli embassy in Brussels blamed the anti-Israel mood on reckless reporting by the European media, saying: 'We are not only sad but outraged. Not at European citizens but at those who are responsible for forming public opinion.'" [4]

Tobacco issues

On July 18, 1995, Israel's workplace smoking law was made permanent. The law, which prohibits or restricts smoking in all Israeli workplaces, was first instituted in October 1994 on a one-year trial basis. The government's decision to make the law permanent was prompted by Israeli Health Minister Ephraim Sneh, who cited surveys that reportedly indicated that 80 percent of workplaces were obeying the law, and that the country's smoking incidence had dropped from 30 to 26 percent since the "year-long experiment" began. [5][6]

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References

  1. Country profile: Israel and Palestinian territories BBC, accessed November 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Yitzhak Benhorin, "US left-wing bloggers to visit Sderot," YNetNews.com, April 4, 2008.
  3. Neta Sela, "Foreign Ministry opens Sderot bureau: New office introduced in rocket-battered southern city in order to see to needs of foreign media reps, officials visiting area," YNetNews.com, April 6, 2008.
  4. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, "Israel is No 1 threat to peace, says EU poll," The Telegraph (UK), March 11, 2003.
  5. Shook, Hardy and Bacon Report on Recent ETS and IAQ Developments 950700 - 951200 Report. 41 pp. July 28, 1995. At section on Israeil on page 13. Bates No.2073310419/0458
  6. The Jerusalem Post, July 3 and July 19, 1995

Country profiles

  • Country profile: Israel and Palestinian territories, BBC, last updated April 12, 2005: "The division of the former British mandate of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel in the years after the end of World War II have been at the heart of Middle Eastern conflicts for the past half century."
  • Israel, CIA World Factbook, last updated May 17, 2005.

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