One of the more foolish projects the Israeli foreign ministry champions is the idea of “re-branding” Israel in the hearts and minds of the outside world. If we can only, so the argument goes, get people to think high-tech and beautiful beaches instead of F-16s and helicopter gunships, then Israel will somehow miraculously take its rightful place as a respected member of the world community. Recently this dog and pony show came to the University of Washington Hillel where the foreign ministry “brand management team” chief tried to sell this pig in a poke to an American Jewish audience:
“Israel is a wonderful, attractive brand and we are doing it a terrible disservice by communicating it only through the channel of the conflict,” [Ido] Aharoni told JTNews. “This is not to say we should not deal with the conflict. But at the same time, we need to add more layers to the public discussion about Israel.”
…Aharoni…worries about market research, which shows that many Americans feel that they already know a lot about Israel, to the point that they are tired of hearing about the country.
“This is what happens in our case,” he said. “People feel they know enough about Israel, but it’s the wrong kind of knowledge. It’s the knowledge that comes from the news media, and it’s all about the conflict.”
Imagine that…the outside world has the chutzpah to judge Israel by what it does rather than what it says. And man, do people get the wrong idea about this beautiful, peace-loving country:
Aharoni said that in focus groups conducted across the United States, Americans from all different backgrounds overwhelmingly describe Israel in terms of militarism and religious fundamentalism. Aharoni believes the way to get out from under this image is to bring attention to other elements of the country that may spark curiosity: Israel’s burgeoning wine industry, for example.
Yup, that oughta do it. Instead of guns and black hats ply ’em with Golan wine till they can’t tell the difference between Haman and Mordecai (speaking of the upcoming holiday of Purim).
“We’re not looking to change Israel’s image overnight,” he said. “It’s not going to happen. What we’re looking to do is to begin a social process toward a different mindset.”
I’m so relieved Aharoni isn’t look for change overnight. Because that would be a tad unrealistic. But never, now never might be a tad more realistic given Israel’s penchant for killing Gazans and getting such bad press for doing so.
But seriously, and as I’ve written here in other posts attacking the notion that marketing can solve Israel’s problems, there’s no substitute for peace. No substitute for good relations with one’s neighbors. If you want Israel to have a sterling reputation you can start by resolving its intractable problems. If you want increased investment in Israeli industries and products, then give overseas investors the impression that Israel will be a place at peace; and with an economy not wracked by the disruptions and vicissitudes caused by warfare and ethnic strife.