Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Israeli Public Relations: Road to Nowhere and Friendly Fire in the P.R. War

It took me forty years to figure it out, but I think I finally have figured out that Israel is not going to win any PR wars. The best we can hope for is that Fox News remains the way it is, along with the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Until Israel gives up Judea, Samaria, and half of Jerusalem, she will not win any PR wars. Only after she does so will she enjoy the great-and-enduring PR gains she previously has enjoyed when she showed courage and magnanimity by giving up Yamit . . . and the Sinai . . . and her toe-hold in Southern Lebanon . . . and Gaza . . . and by signing the Oslo Accords . . . and by allowing Arafat to establish a Palestinian Authority with its own independent newspapers, television and radio, and school text books.

Each of those P.R.-winning concessions turned the tide and won Israel demonstrable and enduring worldwide enthusiasm. . . . at least for a week or two.

That kind of PR boost in world attention all-too-often seems associated with pictures from Auschwitz and Dachau and Buchenwald when the respective Allies Forces liberated the camps. That is quite a price to pay for world sympthy. One picture may be worth a thousand words, but is it worth a thousand souls?

Still, it seems useful to try to explain the truth, to try the clarify the facts, if only to give some encouragement and chizuk to those comparatively few who incline to hear the truth. There is a measure of chizuk in knowing that we are right and that the whole world is wrong. (Sure, it is better if we are right, and the whole world is equally right, and we all are in synch. But if Israel is going to stand alone among the nations of the world, it still is a nice chatzi-nechamah to know, at least, that she is right.

An effort at public relations just seems the right exercise. Much as we do kiruv r'chokim, knowing that -- even when we chart successes in bringing r'chokim to Torah -- there is so much traffic going the other direction, too. Still, one does what one must do.

Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that the PR war is not winnable on the large scale. The nations are not motivated as much by "Right and Wrong" as they are motivated by what is best for them. Outside America, we see it everywhere. And, frankly, America has been the source that has pressured Israel to retreat from Sinai in 1956, to retreat from Yamit/Sinai/South Lebanon/Gaza, to sign Oslo, to move "kadimah" towards a "roadmap" to abandon Yehudah, Shomron, and East Yerushalayim. That is America -- Israel's best friend.

It is important that we not kid ourselves. Israel's "great friend" George W. did tremendous damage to Israel's security posture during his second term by pressuring her into insane concessions to appease oil interests, "our friends the Saudis," etc. The regular bombing of Sderot and the Hamas seizure of Gaza is the result.

But we fight the fight for truth because, oh, we may as well. Not because we will accomplish anything macrocosmic, but our friends do benefit from the truth. It helps Fox News, George Will, Cal Thomas, Mark Steyn (not Jewish), a few others among them, Martin Peretz, and Krauthammer and Jeff Jacoby to have access to truth data from which to write.

And it is a good exercise to fight for the truth. Truth muscles are rarely exercised enough.

To be sure, if we don't do it, no one else will -- least of all, the Israelis. The Israelis send us, in 99% of the cases, the most useless political hacks for their public relations. People who barely speak English (and thank G-d that they are so hard to understand!), who make the most inane arguments, people whose twenty years' dutiful service in Israel in one or another political party's inner circle, pushing papers from right to left, receive the game-show-like reward -- first prize : an appointment as an ambassador or a consul-general in America. These are people who come to an audience of the best American legislators who support Jewish rights to Yesha . . . and argue with them for an hour to modify their position to support a "Two-State Solution."

The mindless equations of israeli public relations. Never sending Ethiopian Jews to present Israel's story to African Americans.

Rarely, if ever, sending successful American olim back, with their American-accented English, to explain the case for Israel in America's mama-loshon. Instead, we are sent one after another common hack, with a thick foreign accent, with barely any concept in public relations.

Only rarely did Israel give her supporters a chance to work in America with people who spoke American English -- Golda and Bibi. Both were so successful that they became Prime Ministers. A third guy, Abba Eban, spoke English so beautifully that people who heard him supported Israel even though they (like he) barely knew what he was talking about.

The lesson: send people to America who lack clever political acumen, who barely can speak English, and with thick accents at that.

The most common causes of "friendly fire" casulaties in the PR war.

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