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Will the World Buy Israel's New 'Brand'?

- Abstract

When Israel’s consulate in New York City sponsored a party to celebrate a photo spread depicting female members of the Israel Defense Forces in the R-rated men’s magazine Maxim in June 2007, more than a few friends of the country wondered what on earth the officials responsible for this event could have been thinking. At the reception, middle-aged consular officials gleefully posed for pictures next to Gal Gadot, the “Miss Israel” of 2004 whose résumé included a stint in the Israel Defense Forces as a fitness instructor.

While the photographers clicked away, Ms. Gadot responded to potential critics of the event—a group that would include liberal feminist editor Susan Weidman Schneider of Lilith magazine, as well as numerous Orthodox rabbis—as if anyone who questioned its propriety was a hopeless square. David Saranga, Israel’s consul for media and public affairs in the media capital of the world, told reporters that Maxim was a “serious magazine” and that the pictures he had peddled to it were just part of doing his job “to promote Israel as a normal country, particularly among the magazine’s young male readership.”

About the Author

Jonathan Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY.