Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Israel: The Brand

Amen brings a lil AIPAC experience to the St. Lou Jew:

There’s little disagreement among experts that Israel could wage a much better PR campaign. Ask and ye shall find that, while most Americans support Israel, they know little about the country itself. The Foreign Ministry has long sought to win over other countries, but an initiative being launched in Toronto ushers in a new strategy.

The pilot program, funded mostly by Canadian philanthropists, will place advertisements around the city repping Israel’s position as a leading technology innovator that brings real benefits to people worldwide. One advertisement shows an Indian mother and daughter smiling under the words “Coronary Stent: Lifesaver” and above a new logo called “Innovation Israel” and the tag line “Touching Lives.” The Ministry hopes to connect with the growing Indian population of the city, among others.

Absent these adverts is any mention of Israel’s foreign policy. Says Amir Gissin, the counsel-general in Toronto, “Explaining why we are right is not enough. Our goal is to make Israel relevant and attractive to Canadians and to refocus attention away from the conflict." There is ample coverage of the Israel-Arab conflict, he says, that the real challenge is to connect the growing Diaspora population who is tuning Israel out, not to mention countering the Israel – apartheid falsehood that is showing up in the media.

I’ve had an idea for some time now about how to improve Israel’s image, but I don’t know why the Ministry has never taken me up on my oft-emailed proposal to write a kick ass “Rocky”-type movie. “Yesh lo Chutzpah,” staring a bad ass Mossad agent who, in the process of saving the world by stopping an Iranian nuclear bomb from being launched, kicks some serious tuchus in freeing Islamic reformers and wins the heart of Ahmadinejad’s girlfriend who he turns anti-fundamentalist. In the last scene she brings Ahmadinejad up to a Tehran roof top for a romantic view of the city. Waiting for him is our Mossad hero, who knocks him out and cuffs him. The credits roll over an Israeli helicopter carrying Ahmy back to Israel where he can be used as significant leverage against Hamas, Hizbollah, Syria, and Al Qaeda. That’s how you improve your mother effing image.

But in all seriousness (though seriously, I’ve sent that to the Foreign Ministry several times – come on, there are enough Jews in Hollywood to make the movie happen), it is about time that the Israeli government has gotten in the ball game. It takes informed people to know that Israel represents the right side of the conflict. But to legitimize Israel as a country and to present it as one worth fighting for, especially amongst people who are not well informed, we need to establish connections between Israel and the rest of the world that don’t simply echo foreign policy and war, but promote its contributions to the world in areas such as technology, industry, arts, music, and sport. It takes these kinds of efforts, along some serious grassroots action, to make it happen.

I applaud the government for taking this step, and we can all pitch in – here’s the grassroots action. Seriously, invite your cute neighbor to Shaare Emeth's Israeli art show. Spin some Israeli beats at your next house party. Point out that ICQ, developed by Israel’s Mirabilis, was the first Internet chat program, and that the IBM’s first Super Computer ran the Intel 8088, developed by Intel’s Israel division, as were the Pentium M Series, when you’re talking to your office’s technology support people. Bring some hummus to your next potluck, and explain how it is an integral part of the Israeli diet. Ask your doctor if they knew that the coronary stent was an Israeli invention, and point out that Israel is a world leader in the pharmaceutical development of drugs for diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s and revolutionary in bone repair. These small things can really add up over time, you’d be surprised.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

don't forget the language - modern hebrew is ideal for integration into your daily speech. Even most sabra's use a blend of english and hebrew words. Start saying "slicha" instead of excuse me or "ma cara" for what's up.