Following the conference that I went to on Israel’s PR (see previous posting), I would like to give my own opinions. What does Israel need to do to improve its PR in the world? It first has to recognize that there are three distinct streams of anti-Israel activity that must be countered in a targeted way.
First, there is the blatant, vicious, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda put out by those who hate Israel and the Jews and deny the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty in the Land. Really there is not much you can do to counteract them, think of trying to persuade the Nazis not to hate Jews, or the Palestinians that Israel has the right to exist. It’s a waste of time, but nevertheless we need to counter the worst lies they make, such as that the IDF are deliberate “baby-killers” and that Israel is responsible for any kind of apartheid or holocaust of Palestinians, these are just absurd propaganda lies. We also have to expose the pattern of persistent staging of events for the cameras that the Palestinians perform, such as the Moahmmed Dura affair, the four boys on the beach and numerous others. The (honest) journalists should be forewarned about these frauds.
Then there is the larger group of people who believe ill of Israel, and these are people who are not hardcore haters, but who have been influenced by many years of western liberal-leftist media bias against Israel and in favor of the poor Palestinian people (who incidentally are far better off than most other Arabs, e.g. Syria, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, etc.) and with almost no pro-Israel media attempting to present the reality of the situation. This is by far the largest group of what used to be called “fellow-travelers” or are now known as “politically correct,” who see it as necessary to bow to the perceived wisdom of the entrenched left that Israel is always the villain. As the West comes under increasing attacks from Muslim extremists it becomes harder to separate Muslims from Islamists and anti-Western terrorists from anti-Israel terrorists, when in fact they are the same.
The final stream of PR needs to project a positive image of Israel, as it is. An open, pluralistic society, with a democratically elected government, and a constant struggle against Arab terrorism. This needs to emphasize the strides Israel has made in agriculture (drip irrigation), building, economics, and technology, including the major contributions of Israeli innovations to smart phones and medical technology (such as the pill cam and MRI-detected focused ultrasound ablation of tumors). Would any sane person who dislikes Israel refuse treatment that could save his/her life based on Israeli-developed technology. Those who support academic boycotts of Israel and BDS don’t realize how self-destructive that is.
Another aspect is that you can’t use the same campaigns in different countries. For example, while three quarters of the UK population hold anti-Israel views, in the US it is the reverse, three quarters of the population hold pro-Israel views. Therefore, targeting each country requires a different slant and message. Only when there is a professional, well-funded, committed (non-governmental) organization proactive and not just defensive in the PR area will Israel’s PR situation improve.