As I noted in yesterday’s Sundown, Israel’s innovative new P.R. campaign is designed to be not top-down but bottom-up: it consists of a new Website, advertising, pamphlets, and the rest, all designed to educate Israelis how to talk about their country in an honest but flattering light. People are more likely to be swayed by word of mouth than institutional propaganda, and in the Internet Age, the idea must be, it is feasible for a government to orchestrate positive buzz. “To counter the big money invested by Arab states in propaganda against Israel, we have to mobilize our human capital, meaning the residents of Israel,” explained the information minister. This is is smart, up-to-date thinking.
There is some controversy behind it: prominent commentator Shlomo Avineri, argued, “It is puerile. Some of the information is ridiculous, and behind it I find a Bolshevik mentality—to make every citizen an unpaid civil servant for the policy of the government. There is never any intimation that some of our problems have to do with actual policies.” The Times notes that Israeli policies and realities are frequently given a conservative gloss on the Website.
A separate question, though. The pamphlets, the advertising, and even the Website are all Hebrew-language, and Hebrew-language alone. Meanwhile, have you ever met more enthusiastic supporters of Israel than (English-speaking) American Jews? (Granted, the enthusiasm might derive in part from a less complicated and knowledgeable relationship with the Jewish state, but wouldn’t that be an asset to the Israeli government?) Why doesn’t Israel wish to enlist its English-speaking supporters around the world in its new promotional blitz? Or is the campaign, ostensibly meant to change the world’s mind, in fact intended to shore up domestic support for Israel’s current direction? I don’t know, but I would like to.