Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Advocating for Israel - Part 2

One of Israel's Best Branding Representatives

Picking up where I left off in Advocating for Israel - Part 1, here's the sequel. Think of it as The Dark Knight to Batman Begins...
I'll be covering:
  • Israel and the Media
  • Branding Israel
  • The US-Israel Relationship Today and Tomorrow
Israel and the Media: After discussing the media's role in society, how the media set an agenda, and how the media frame their stories, we dove right into a discussion of a subject that was painfully obvious to the seminar participants; the media cannot ever be 100% objective. However, news out of Israel is not only subjective; it is sometimes very biased against the Jewish State. We discussed several reasons for why this bias exists, how it manifests, and viewed a few examples of the bias in action:
Some reasons why the bias exists:
  • Anti-Semitism
  • Ignorance or misrepresentation of the situation in Israel and the Middle East
  • Pallywood (i.e. "media manipulation, distortion and outright fraud by the Palestinians and other Arabs designed to win the public relations war against Israel").
How the bias manifests in coverage of Israel:
  • Here's some Anti-Semitism you might recognize from a previous post
  • Here's a gross misrepresentation of a photo run in the New York Times with the caption; "An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount." The only problem is that the photo is depicting a Jew being defended by an Israeli policeman from Arabs in a neighborhood outside of the Old City altogether.
  • Here's a photo, carried by Reuters, of a comical example of Pallywood at work. Notice the daylight seeping through the curtains on the left side of the picture. Why would the suffering Palestinian lawmakers waste candles during an oppressive Israeli 'electricity blockade?' I'll answer that question with another; why waste an opportunity to make Israel look bad when Reuters is snapping photos?
For a much more in-depth examination of media bias in the Arab-Israeli conflict, check out HonestReporting, CAMERA, MEMRI, and PMW


Branding Israel: David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs of Israel in the United States, presented this segment of the seminar. Consul Saranga is the man behind Israel's efforts to rebrand itself through public diplomacy. Using focus groups, Web 2.0 technologies and public events, Israel is attempting to change the public's perceptions of the Jewish State. Due to Consul Saranga's Israel branding intiative, Israel is the first country to host an official blog, has its own YouTube and Facebook pages, held a photoshoot with Maxim Magazine showcasing the women of the IDF, and even conducted a press conference on Twitter during Operation Cast Lead. Clearly, Consul Saranga is a busy guy and we were very lucky to have him at our Israel Advocacy seminar.

After learning about the Israel branding initiative, we broke out into groups with the task to design an exhibit showcasing Israel at Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, which is expected to attract 70 million visitors. After 30 minutes of brainstorming and using Crayola markers to illustrate our exhibits, the groups got together to present our ideas which, while distinct, shared some common themes:
  • Portraying Israel as a country with thousands of years of history and tradition, while at the same time illustrating its place as a modern, liberal democracy
  • Showcasing Israel's booming high-tech industry with hands-on opportunities for the Expo's attendees to use some of Israel's technologies
  • Displaying Israel's contributions to the green energy movement, focusing on Israel's innovations in solar power, water desalination, and energy independence
  • Showing that Israel is not just a Jewish State, but is a place welcome to members of all faiths, creeds and races.
It will be interesting to see how Israel actually presents itself in the Expo and, knowing Israelis, those responsible will probably decide at the last minute. Consul Saranga's words, not mine.


The US-Israel Relationship Today and Tomorrow: The last segment of a whirlwind two and a half day seminar, presented by Naomi Nuta of AIPAC's Boston offices.

Contrary to Walt and Mearsheimer's book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, AIPAC is not a devious organization attempting to elevate Israel at the expense of America. Rather, AIPAC represents a bipartisan voice of American Jews, does not give money to politicians, and takes into consideration both American and Israeli interests. A list of their accomplishments from the past half century can be found here. Some of the most pressing issues on AIPAC's radar are listed below:
  • Passing tough sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program
  • Ensuring Israel's qualitative military edge in the Middle East
  • Creating cooperation between Israel and the USA in energy and national security
AIPAC's actions are mutually beneficial to both Israel and the United States. Preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon benefits both countries, as it keeps the Middle East (relatively) stable and prevents a nuke from potentially targeting Tel Aviv or New York. Israel's qualitative military edge ensures the survival of the USA's greatest ally, and the only liberal democracy, in the region. Energy and national security cooperation reduce both the United States and Israel's dependence on foreign energy and keep both countries safe from terrorism.
AIPAC's work ultimately benefits both the United States and Israel; two allies with similar ideals, goals, challenges and enemies.


Conclusion: I'll keep this short since I imagine you're hunched over your screen trying to get to this marathon post's finish line. It was a great seminar with great guests, I learned a lot and consider myself to be a better advocate for Israel than I was before. Sometime soon, my DC cohorts and I will plan an Israel event based on what we learned in Boston. Stay tuned for that and I'll keep you posted.

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