Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A matter of branding

A few years ago, our Foreign Minister officials asked the advice of public relations experts and reached an unequivocal conclusion: Israel has a problem of branding. The international public is exposed to Israel solely in contexts of terrorism and war. It is almost never exposed to Israel's social success [sic], its advanced technology and its historical uniqueness. This damages Israel's ability to win its appropriate share of tourism, trade and investment" it was stated in a special website opened for the purpose by the Foreign Ministry.

Ever since then, the ministry's hasbara specialists have devoted considerable resources to the effort of re-branding Israel, to conclusively show the entire world that Israel is indeed a nice and friendly place, a prosperous oasis of culture and scientific development in the heart of Middle East. All new items about bombings here and there in Lebanon and Gaza, of settler grabbing lands and houses in East Jerusalem or torching of olive groves and mosques at various points on the West Bank are nothing but minor, unimportant details (when they are not just bare-faced lies and distortions spread by nasty anti-Semites).

However, Amir Gissin – then in charge of the ministry's hasbara department – made clear that the key to success was the internalizing of the re-branding process by Israel's own citizens. All Israelis, and most particularly those coming in direct or indirect contact with the outside world - had to know the essentials of the re-branding concept and be able to represent them.

After the passage of several years, it can be said that the effort was indeed crowned with complete success. Israelis had indeed internalized the need for everyone to do their bit and contribute to the effort of re-branding their country and improving its international image. For example, the representative of the Government of Israel at the Allenby Bridge border crossing last week. He received with great courtesy the reknowned American linguist and peace, Professor Noam Chomsky. After asking him a few friendly questions over a nice cup of tea, the official graciously stamped the professor's passport with an artistic, graphically-pleasing "Entry Denied" stamp.

But the top record in the re-branding campaign undoubtedly belongs to the anonymous bureaucrat, highly dedicated to the service of the State of Israel, who came up with the idea of placing a traffic light on the only road connecting the Palestinian village of Sheikh Saad with the outer world, to add a large sign clearly reading "traffic allowed only when light is green''- and then leave only and invariably the red traffic light on, for months and years without end.


This is indeed a stroke of genius, illustrating perfectly what the re-branding campaign is all about. It demonstrates to a skeptical world how technologically capable and innovative Israel truly is, and at one and the same time is also shows that among humble Israeli public servants a worthy successor to the late George Orwell is already emerging.

The Foreign Ministry is open to more creative suggestions on how to further promote the worldwide re-branding of the State of Israel. You too, dear reader, can certainly send them your suggestions and comments at: