Privatize Israel’s PR . . . Or Else

November 5, 2004

The 6 column headline in The Jerusalem Post read “Israel getting its message across effectively, says new NY consul-general”. Reporter Uriel Heilman was quoting Arye Mekel, “an old hand in the Foreign Ministry”. Mekel continued:

“I think Israel is doing a splendid job on hasbara,” Mekel said, “It’s just that America hasn’t quite gotten the message yet. . . . They have not digested it.”

Blame Yourself Not The Audience

Sorry, Mr. Mekel, nothing is gained by blaming your audience for not getting your message. If your message was so hard to digest, this merely confirms it must have been hard to digest. Covering up ineffective PR is counterproductive.

A PR Solution To Every PR Problem

With the exception of religiously ingrained hatred for Jews, I believe that there is an effective PR solution for most every PR problem. (But money does, of course, enter the equation.)

“Let My People Go” A PR Triumph

Perhaps nothing better illustrates the enormous power of effective PR than the triumph of the Let My People Go campaign which started in the late 1970’s. Do you recall how the tyrannical Soviet super-power finally gave in to that year after year drive to ‘Let My People Go’ – to Israel?

Who would have believed that a diffuse, largely unorganized movement, would finally overwhelm and cause the Kremlin hierarchy to crumble? As a result of this PR victory, more than a million Russian Jews made aliyah . . . to Israel’s lasting benefit. This surely shows the power of PR to move mountains.

Israel Must Privatize PR

I have previously argued that Israel’s 10 million dollar annual information budget is laughable in relation to the enormity of Israel’s problem. I continue to believe this. But I have also reached the conclusion that the Foreign Office, under which this budget falls, cannot produce truly effective hasbara. Nor can any other government office.

This is because political correctness severely limits the ability to conduct creative and speedily implemented PR of the type which harassed representatives of the Soviet whenever they appeared at public events abroad. (They were subject to endless needling.)

Diplomatic Niceties Stymie Effective PR

Diplomatic niceties which Foreign Office executives are taught from the day they take a job in the Foreign Office don’t turn out PR types who can successfully confront the arguments of the Arab side on anchored TV news, commentary, analyses and punditry. Yet this is Israel’s greatest need now and in years ahead.

TV news services want top Israeli officials to appear live on their news programs. To respond to representatives of the other side or to clarify particular concerns. Ambassadors and Consuls are obviously the first choice. Yet how many in this group has the natural capability to make effective TV appearances? Or has taken the trouble to learn the techniques of effective appearances?

Indeed, ask such an official if he agrees that TV appearances should represent his most important job and you should not be surprised if he is shocked out of his wits. Because his lifetime ambition is quite different – usually to climb the hierarchy ladder in the Foreign Office.

Overt And Covert PR

Effective PR for Israel needs to be carried out by top ranking private companies abroad. Not to write politically and academically correct documents of which the Foreign Office already has a plethora. And which are published on their website or filed in their archives.

Private PR companies are needed to operate on the ground. Sometime overtly, sometimes covertly. Sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly.

Political correctness must not limit their effectiveness. PR agencies need objectives and be given to understand that their effectiveness will be measured. Results will be derived from periodic public opinion research polls outsourced directly by the Foreign Office. Progress up or down will be polled and compared for every period and task.

To Do List Of PR Objectives

Here are some objectives crying out to be privatized:

  1. Campaign against Islamic fundamentalists who incite dangerous anti-Israel incitement and support anti-Jewish terrorism.
  2. Fight and respond to every attempt to delegitimize The Jewish State.
  3. Eliminate the calumny that Israel is a racist, apartheid state.
  4. Win understanding for Israel’s refusal to accept the so called right of Arab refugees to return.
  5. Overwhelm the Arab argument that suicide terrorism is justified.
  6. Overcome the false Palestinian claim of “occupation”.
  7. Gain approval for Israel’s anti-terrorist barrier.
  8. Effectively stand up to Jewish and other academics on campus who slander Israel’s position and denigrate pro-Israel students.
  9. Actively support pro-Jewish and Israeli media activist groups.
  10. Initiate and support Letters-to-the Editor writing groups.

That would be a good start.

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