In the last few months a very significant change has taken place in the nature and success of the public relations of the State of Israel. In the past, indifference ("But we're right!") or shrill anger alternated in ineffective and often counter-productive ways. Public relations, sometimes called public diplomacy, was relegated to the back halls of the foreign ministry and its understaffed embassies and consulates abroad.
In contrast, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezbollah, and even such groups as al-Qaida and ISIS spent millions hiring public relations specialists in New York, London and elsewhere. The results were entirely predictable. In a remarkably large segment of the European, American and other publics Israel is seen as illegitimate, oppressive and racist.
Ridiculous claims such as that Israel is an "apartheid" state, and organized movements such as BDS reinforced each other and made significant inroads in both public and academic opinion abroad. It is now uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous to be seen as a supporter of Israel in many American, Canadian and British universities.
But two developments have recently begun to push back at the anti-Israel forces. First, the Abraham Accords. It is much more difficult to maintain the lies being propagated about Israel and its treatment of Arabs and Muslims in general when cordial relations are forged with Arab countries such as Bahrain, the UAE and Morocco, not to mention greatly improved relations with Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Second, in recent months a quiet, under-the-radar social media series of broadcasts has begun to appear regularly, in which ordinary young men and women discuss for a few minutes the various accusations thrown at Israel by the anti-Israel publicity campaigns. These appearances are quiet, respectful, and fact-laden. They avoid both shrillness and self-righteousness. And they have been very successful. The most recent of these broadcasts addressed the death of the al-Jazeera journalist Shireen abu Makleh, reviewing what is known and what is unknown, with the young woman addressing the issue ending with "rest in peace, Shireen". Absolutely brilliant!
Then, of course, Makleh's death was followed by the police riot at her funeral. This and other similar incidents in recent months make one wonder why the Israeli police are so miserably badly-trained for their essential role in maintaining order while avoiding unnecessary violence. From Meron to Jerusalem their recent record has been awful.
And yet, despite numerous condemnations of the police behavior at the funeral, we have so far seen no public acknowledgement of the problem, much less investigations or suggestions for improving the situation.
Public relations are important. Reality is even more important.
Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 25, 2022.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.