Israeli Re-Branding: Guns and Black Hats Out, Golan Wine In
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.
12 thoughts on “Israeli Re-Branding: Guns and Black Hats Out, Golan Wine In – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Interesting outlook. Israel is the “black hats” the bad guys. Which I suppose makes those happy go lucky lads from Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the “good guys”. Or let put it another way on another topic. I’m not particularly worked up by water boarding the guy who cut off Daniel Pearls head.
But I’m thinking that you see that this is one and the same.
Believe it or not, Pearlman, not every situation is analyzable as “good guys” and “bad guys.”
No argument, but that’s how Silverstein frames it.
Hey, I’m not even Jewish, but it’s pretty clear to me that Richard is drawing the parallels: militarism—guns, (Jewish) religious fundamentalist—black hats. Isn’t that a reasonable image?
It seems to me you really have to be stretching to find something to bitch about not to get that. Is it because he was being critical of some Israeli actions?
Ok, let me ask you this then. Is not Hamas and Hezbollah religious fundamentalists that are militaristic, heavily armed, and whose main purpose is the destruction of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants. Why aren’t they the guys in the black hats?
Well, you see, Hasidic i.e. ultra-orthodox Jews actually wear black hats. That’s the point. That’s why it’s an apt image to use when referring to specifically Jewish ‘fundamentalists’.
Muslims on the other hand, whatever their sect or persuasion, do not wear black hats.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with cowboy movies.
I hope that helps.
Hasidic Jews are peaceful people. And when they get killed by Arab terrorists they take it has a punishment from God. You know the context that Silverstein is using here. The black hats in the movies are the bad guys. Which makes Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah the guys in the white hats. Why is that?
There are so many more dimensions to Israel than just the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel offers a multitude of business and trade opportunities and touring Israel is just amazing. THere is also a wealth of opportunities for professional, academic and social groups to exchange information and learn from each other.
If we wait for peace we define ourselves in terms of this conflict. So too with the Palestinians – if they define themselves solely in terms of their emnity with Israel then ultimately there is nothing there. Neither side should fall into this trap.
Bill: I think you missed the joke. But Hasan Bateson, who as he says isn’t even Jewish, gets it.
Aharoni urges his audience not to see Israel only in terms of religious extremism. You may or may not know this but haredi (ultra Orthodox Jews) are commonly known as “black hats” because they wear–well, black hats. The “black hat” had nothing to do with Israel being a bad guy. It referred to the ultra-Orthodox. I prob. shouldn’t have assumed people would get the joke.
The best way to “re-brand” Israel is to stop stealing Palestinian land and water. It’s the Occupation and the Settlements, Stupid!!!!
I understood what you meant by “black hats” though I have never heard that term used before for haredim. It’s hard to believe it’s a commonly used term. In any case, its a derogatory insulting way to refer to people. I’m sure haredim don’t refer to themselves as “black jats”. In any case it’s a derogatory, insulting term. Not quite as low as “rag heads” but down there in any case.
It’s a very commonly used term. And it’s not derogatory, merely descriptive since many Orthodox wear black fedoras (or black shtreimel). Amir, you’re being beyond silly.