New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Ethan Bronner writes today about the effort by Israel’s Information and Diaspora Affairs Ministry to get Israelis to promote a positive image of their country. The idea is to coach those traveling abroad on how to improve their nation’s faltering international image.
The effort gets mixed reviews. Some, like leftist political scientist Shlomo Avineri, think it is representative of a “Bolshevik mentality” that seeks to mobilize the people to serve their government. More to the point, he doesn’t like the information the campaign is peddling because it defends the Jewish state against false charges that Israeli policies are obstacles to peace with the Palestinians.
More trenchant criticism came from Eytan Gilboa of Bar-Ilan University. He had no problem with the information intended to help people defend Israel. But he did think the effort was far too focused on disabusing the world of the idea that Israel was a primitive or violent country rather than the high-tech, fun, and attractive place that it really is. “This country’s main challenges are the false comparison people make with an apartheid state and the questioning of its right to exist,” Mr. Gilboa said. “And the pamphlets don’t deal with those.”
Gilboa is right. As I wrote about the “Israel Branding” project promoted by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the October issue of COMMENTARY, the country’s “immediate need is to not let the libels spread against it go unanswered. Unless Israel is viewed as being in the right in its struggle to defend its existence the brand-evaluator ratings it gets will be pointless.”