Strenger than Fiction / In order to change its image, Israel must change its policy

Saying Israel is progressive and creative doesn’t work when its politicians focus on victimhood and aggression.

One of the Foreign Ministry’s most important projects over the last years has been to research how Israel can rebrand and reposition itself in the world. The project has involved first class researchers in Israel and abroad, and I have been very impressed by the quality of the data and the analysis.

The first conclusion of the ‘Branding Israel’ project has been that Israel needs to focus on the young global elites, because these are today’s opinion shapers, and tomorrow’s political leaders. These elites, as research by economist Richard Florida has shown, and my own research confirms, possess liberal and progressive world views. They are repelled by bigotry, violence and intolerance, and they utterly reject political and military repression.

So far, the Israeli narrative has been governed by themes like victimhood and the struggle for survival. Accordingly, Israel’s image has been built primarily around the army and has always centered on the conflict with the Arab world – as a result, Israel is perceived as aggressive, withdrawn, without joie de vivre, and therefore negative.

The most important positive result of the ‘Branding Israel’ project has been that during the last decades, a powerful new sub-brand of Israel has evolved: it is called Tel Aviv, it is associated with Israel’s culture, technology and joie de vivre: it is perceived as liberal in outlook, full of vitality, creativity and oriented toward the future. Hence, the study concludes, Israel must rebrand itself as creative, vital and progressive; an image that has positive resonance with the young global elites.

However, there is one major obstacle in the path to rebranding Israel. Our politicians don’t seem to understand how the mechanism of rebranding works. They confuse the old concept of ‘hasbara’, which literally means ‘explanation’ with branding. Explaining and arguing has no impact whatsoever on how people experience a person or a brand. Our relationship to brands is like our relationship to human beings: it is primarily emotional.

If somebody explains to you that she is a nice person, but does so sternly and harshly, it is the tone of voice rather than the content of the message that determines the listener’s emotional reaction. Moreover: if you explain that you are nice, and are then seen behaving violently, it is the behavior rather than the words that will determine the emotional reaction. We all know this: if an airline explains to you that it is friendly, but you are treated dismally by its employees, you will tell your friends that the airline is horrible, not that it is friendly. Ultimately perception of a brand hinges on actual behavior and organizational culture, not propaganda.

Our politicians keep maintaining the image of Israel as obsessed with power and survival and reinforce Israel’s image as a negative world-presence. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman use every opportunity to compare the Iranian threat to the Holocaust and Netanyahu keeps expressing his concern for the Jewish people. Interior Minister Eli Yishai keeps repeating that Israel will continue to build in Jerusalem forever. In addition BBC broadcasts pictures of settlers hitting Palestinians and uprooting their olive trees. Lieberman may think that rebranding Israel will divert attention from the conflict, but this will not work.

Israel’s politicians and many of its well-meaning defenders say things like ‘but BBC and CNN are tendentious: why don’t they broadcast pictures of Israel’s medical breakthroughs and of its rescue team in Haiti?’ The answer is that in a free world you cannot dictate to the media what to broadcast. Because Israel’s actions in the territories are seen as its true nature, Israel’s sending its rescue team to Haiti is interpreted by many in the world, unfortunately and unjustly, as nothing but a propaganda effort.

Here we come to the deeper problem: in the same way an airline is, in the end, judged by its service, not by its advertising slogans, Israel is judged by its actions and not by hasbara. If Netanyahu wants Israel to be seen as progressive, liberal and creative, he cannot continue to build in Jerusalem, or say in his speeches that he will continue to do so forever. This is seen by the world as reactionary, repressive and brutal, not because the world is biased, but because Israel’s policy of dispossession in Jerusalem and in the settlements is indeed reactionary and repressive and cannot be justified by any security interest.

Israel will have to decide: it cannot rebrand itself as a liberal, creative and progressive country without being one. Our business sector, our artists and academics are mostly progressive, liberal and creative. But their impact on how Israel is perceived will remain negligible as long as Israel’s politicians and emissaries keep harping on victimhood and survival and as long as its policies are repressive.

This being said, for me the most important point is not how the world perceives us, but how Israel really is. We should care about being liberal, progressive and creative because these are values in themselves. Once the young global elites of the world will see that this is what we are, because we will have changed Israel’s policies, Branding Israel will take care of itself.

REf: Haaretz

Foreign Ministry, PR firm rebrand Israel as land of achievements (No one knows fascism better than Israelis.)

Israel to re-brand itself in the world

Special Place in Hell / Rebranding Israel as a State Headed for Fascism

Israel is world’s fourth most dangerous country, study says

Bild 5

A study of the world’s most peaceful countries released Wednesday ranks Israel as fourth to last among the 144 countries ranked.

According to the Global Peace Index, an annual ranking of the world’s nations on the basis of how peaceful they are, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq are the only countries more dangerous than Israel.

Directly more peaceful than Israel on the list are Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and Pakistan. Lebanon ranks 132nd, Iran ranks 99th and Syria ranks 92nd.

The index’s most peaceful country is New Zealand, followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Austria. Iceland was rated most peaceful on last year’s index, but was displaced to fourth in 2009.

Steve Killelea, founder of the Global Peace Index, said “now in its third year the causes of peace are becoming apparent and the net economic benefit to humanity is substantial. Peace does have an economic value apart from the very real humanitarian values associated with it. Research has calculated the impact of lost peace to the world economy over a period of ten years is $48 trillion.”

Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, chairman of Anglo American and chairman of the Global UN Compact and one of the GPI’s high profile supporters, said “this year’s index clearly shows that there are links between economic prosperity and peace. The business community can and does benefit significantly from non violent environments but perhaps business must now consider how sound, transparent and ethical business practices can play a larger role in bringing out about stability and peace.

Small, stable and democratic countries are consistently ranked highest; 14 of the top 20 countries are western or central European democracies. All five Scandinavian countries are in the top ten of this year’s GPI.

The U.S. has risen six places from last year to 83rd place with a fall in the indicator registering the potential for terrorist acts. A significant negative for U.S. peace scores is the fact that the country still jails a higher proportion of its population than any other country in the index.

For the third year running, the country ranked least at peace is Iraq. Madagascar is the country that has fallen the most (30 places) amid mounting political instability and violent demonstrations. Bosnia Herzegovina is the biggest riser, up 23 places from 73rd position last year.

This year the Index has been expanded to rank 144 countries and now encompasses almost 99% of the world’s population. The Index is constructed from 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators of external and internal measures of peace including levels of democracy and transparency, education and material wellbeing.

Ref: Haaetz

Amnesty: Israel repeatedly violated rules of war in Gaza

A new Amnesty International report has accused Israel of repeatedly violating the laws of armed conflict during the three-week Israel Defense Forces offensive in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.

The report claims that 1400 Palestinians died in the offensive – including 300 children – and that 5000 people were wounded.

The Amnesty report accuses IDF soldiers of violating the laws of armed conflict over and over again by directly attacking civilians and civilian structures and by causing an immeasurable number of civilian casualties when attacking Palestinian fighters.

It also mentions Israel’s justification for the offensive: that it attacked Gaza to prevent war and to stop armed Palestinians from shelling cities and towns in southern Israel with rockets. The report goes on to detail that three Israeli civilians were killed during the Gaza operation, adding to seven Israeli civilians killed by home-made rockets and other Palestinian attacks launched from Gaza in 2008.

According to the Amnesty International report, the sudden conflict came following a period of a year-and-a-half in which the IDF imposed an uncompromising blockade on the residents of Gaza, which almost completely prevented the movement of people and goods into the Gaza Strip and led to a humanitarian crisis.

The blockade almost completely strangled economic life, the report goes on to accuse, claiming that even those on their death bed were not permitted to leave the Strip for medical attention.

The report also accuses Israeli security forces of destroying many Palestinian homes in the West Bank on the pretext that they were built illegally.

erusalem-based watchdog NGO Monitor responded to the report by accusing Amnesty International of focusing disproportionately on Israeli policy in Gaza and of not paying enough attention to the firing of rockets at Israel civilians.

The watchdog, headed by Bar Ilan University Professor Gerald Steinberg, added that Amnesty’s biased and disproportionate obsession with Israel reached its peak during the latest conflict in Gaza.

According to NGO Monitor, Amnesty International published more than 20 declarations during the Gaza offensive, most of them critical of Israel, even while violations of human rights included a massacre of more than 600 villagers by Ugandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo to which Amnesty devoted minimal attention.

Ref. Haaretz

Amnesty.org

Also read: “Israeli war crimes were daily and too numerous to count”

Journalist calls Livni ‘terrorist’ during press conference on Gaza operation

Let´s call a terrorist a terrorist as Israeli terrorism is now the best example of stat terrorism!

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had a testy press conference Friday in Washington, D.C., moments after she signed an agreement with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meant to combat arms smuggling to Gaza.

From the starting moments of the press conference, Livni was beset by a less-than friendly barrage of questions, with a number of journalists asserting that Israel’s military operations in Gaza will only make Middle East peace more distant.

Some journalists went so far as to compare the Israeli government to that of dictator Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, due to Israel’s decision to bar journalists from Gaza.

One of the more tense moments came when one journalist began to quote at length a Human Rights report on the situation in Gaza, before asking Livni to comment on “the murder of innocent civilians in the Strip.”

Ref: Haaretz

“I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing.” (Israeli banality & killer mindset)

Said Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel’s latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

Ref: EI

Analysis: Israel’s Gaza assault

“If you remember what Tzipi Livni said in Egypt after her meeting with President Hosni Mubarak and the foreign minister, she made a clear warning, not just about a tit-for-tat attitude, but about a change in Gaza.

“That’s why I suspect that the operation is not only intended to be limited, but aimed at toppling the regime in Gaza altogether, otherwise why would Israel target the police force?

“They are not the ones firing missiles in Israel – the police force keeps the order in Gaza. This is an operation that will create disorder and I suspect that Egypt and Ramallah are colluding in this.

“Israel would never have carried out such a massive attack had it not been for a green light from people that matter – for instance the United States, some of the European powers and also from Egypt and Ramallah.

“Hamas did not say it wanted the truce to be renewed, it wanted to renegotiate new terms for the truce. Hamas wanted a truce with the Israelis that would bring about the end to the siege.

“Unfortunately, because the Egyptian broker was a dishonest broker, siding by Israel and siding by Ramallah, the truce did not bring the most important dividend which was ending the siege.

“So Hamas said ‘if you want to renew the truce, let’s end the siege and open the crossings.’ The Egyptians would not agree to this. The Israelis would not agree to this.

“The Israelis were not interested in renewing a truce. Cairo was determined to give Hamas a fatal blow and they gave the green light to Israel I suspect.”

Osama Hamdan, the Palestinian Islamist Hamas representative in Lebanon

I

Osama Hamdan, Hamas representative in Lebanon

“I believe what happened today is a continuity of the Israeli collective crime against the Palestinians.

What happened in the last three years, the Palestinians were suffering under the siege.

“The Israelis expected that the people will react against the resistance and against Hamas which didn’t happen in the past three years. That means they have to start very tough actions against Hamas.

“They attack 32 positions in Gaza, we expect the casualties will … reach 200 killings.

“There is a clear reaction of the Palestinians in Gaza. They are calling for revenge. They are asking for the Palestinian resistance to react against the occupation.

“I believe Israel is not learning the lesson. They don’t know that this kind of aggressive attack against the Palestinians creates a new cycle of violence inside Palestine. It will not defeat the Palestinian resistance.

“We are talking about six decades of occupation and, until now, the Palestinian people are resisting. What has happened today in Gaza will not stop the resistance, will not defeat the Palestinian people. They will find themselves under a reaction from the resistance.

“The peace process has completely failed, so we have to talk about a new process in the region which is supposed to start from the restoring of Palestinian rights and the commitment towards those rights.

“No one will accept now any talk about a peace process, because everyone knows that the Palestinian people are fed up with 17 years of negotiation without any result.

“The second thing which I believe is happening every morning is that Palestinians believe that there is no solution unless there is a resistance.”

Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought

Ref: Al Jazeera

At least 150 killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza

Embedded video from CNN Video

CNN