Israel: The Need to Rebrand

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Last night, I had dinner with Ronald Lauder and some other folks who tackled a lot of different political, philosophical, and theological questions — most of which can be summed up pretty simply: Why does everyone hate Israel?

And then this morning, I woke up to Rupert Murdoch saying the same thing:

rupert murdochWeirdly, his editorial in the Jerusalem Post takes a bit of a stand-uppy beginning — “Let me set the record straight: I live in New York. I have a wife who craves Chinese food. And people I trust tell me I practically invented the word ‘chutzpah'” — and then segues directly, and intelligently, into an impassioned and fairly creative analysis of Israel’s (failed) PR battle. He reiterates several points — “If you are committed to Israel’s destruction, and if you believe that dead Palestinians help you score a propaganda victory, you do things like launch rockets from a Palestinian schoolyard. This ensures that when the Israelis do respond, it will likely lead to the death of an innocent Palestinian – no matter how many precautions Israeli soldiers take” — but this editorial succeeds so profoundly because of two things:

1. These are facts that, in the past, have primarily been said by Israeli strategists to other Israeli strategists, like shipwreck victims screaming into the wind.
2. It’s Rupert Murdoch saying it. Dammit, he’s Australian. People listen to him.

The International Herald-Tribune also featured a prominent article on Israeli rebranding — or it was touted that way, anyway. The text actually ended up spending most of the article talking about Avigdor Lieberman, the allegedly racist head of the Israel Beitenu party (and prospective appointee to be foreign minister) before turning to these sage words — which have some pretty hot “duh” action, and which most of us could probably recite in our sleep:

“When we show Sderot, others also see Gaza,” said Ido Aharoni, head of a rebranding team at the Foreign Ministry. “Everything is twinned when seen through the conflict. The country needs to position itself as an attractive personality, to make outsiders see it in all its reality. Instead, we are focusing on crisis management. And that is never going to get us where we need to go over the long term.”

What will work for the long term? G*d knows, probably not Rupert Murdoch. But he’s headed in the right direction, at least.

Posted on March 19, 2009

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