This letter was published in The Jerusalem Post on Jan 13, 2016, in response to the article “Advocacy toward a better future” by Barry Shaw (http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Original-thinking-Advocacy-toward-a-better-future-440941) that was presented at the conference on “Israeli PR” that I described in a previous blog (Dec 31, 2015)
I am writing to support Barry’s Shaw’s contention (“Advocacy towards a better future,” Jan 10) that a privately funded coordinating organization is necessary to promote Israel’s PR around the world, particularly against the organized BDS network.
Let me describe my experiences back in the 1980’s when I was Chairman of the Israel and Middle East Committee of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington DC. At that time I saw the need for pro-Israel pamphlets on campuses and I proposed that the JCC should support this outreach. But they refused, since they did not want to be doing Israel’s job for it. So I approached the Israeli Embassy in Washington, but they demurred, because they did not want to be seen to be influencing opinion on American campuses. Eventually I was helped to find suitable sponsors and in fact ca. 50,000 copies of two pamphlets “Israel: The Facts” and “The USA and Israel: a comparison of two allies” were distributed (see www.jackcohenart.com/pamphlets.html).
At that time, I suggested to the Israel Embassy that they establish an Israeli PR Center in Washington. They once again demurred, but they said such an Israeli PR Center had been established by the Israeli Embassy in London. They provided me with access to that when I next visited London.
There I discovered that the Center was on the top floor, actually in the attic, of the Embassy in Kensington Palace Green. This of course was a Public Relations Center with NO public access. When I pointed out the futility of this they were not amused. I asked where they got their materials from and was told Jerusalem.
I then visited the company producing the materials in Jerusalem. When I asked the professional graphics artists and PR people how they produced their pamphlets, they laughed at me. They explained that nothing could be done without the prior approval of not only the Foreign Ministry, but also the PM’s Office, since everything that was published had to conform to current Israeli Government policies.
In other words, it was an impossible task. There was no ability to respond quickly to any current media lies about Israel. My conclusion was that this was never going to work and at that point I gave up.
Maybe now is a better time, given the success of the mounting campaign of delegitimization against Israel, that the Israeli Government is clearly incapable of responding to.
Jack Cohen, Netanya