Saturday, February 20, 2010

Israel's Branding War: A Challenge from Jan Gaines

Jan Gaines issues this challenge from Netanya, directing our attention to the current war of deligitimization that is seen by many as a major strategic threat to Israel. Shlomo Maital, a senior research fellow at the Technion, wrote about Israel's chronic branding problem in this week's "Jerusalem Report." He suggests that leading marketing experts need to help re-brand Israel in the face of the orchestrated campaign being waged against it. Many have pointed out the hostile treatment given Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at U C Irvine recently, a videotaped incident that has gone "viral" on the Jewish internet.

Also see "Reut Launches Comprehensive Report on Israel’s International Delegitimization, Eroding Israel's Legitimacy in the Public Arena - a Report and "Branding Israel on Campus" all from the Reut Insititute. In the words of Gidi Grinstein of Reut, "Israel's survival and prosperity depend on its relations with the world in trade, science, arts and culture - all of which rely on its legitimacy. Rather than seeking to conquer Israel, its enemies aim to bring about its implosion, as with South Africa or the Soviet Union."

My feeling is that Israel has many more supporters out there than many Israelis realize. Israel's image is reaping the benefits of Haitian relief, Oscar nominations and SI swimsuit models. Israel also can market it's greatest strength - a vibrant democracy, supported actively by the New Israel Fund, ideally promoting a responsible government aligning its deeds with core Jewish values.

But we still need to be vigilant. We need to take Jan's challenge seriously. We are Israel's last line of defense.

Psalm 121 is my favorite. "I lift mine eyes unto the mountains. From whence commeth my help. My help commeth from the Lord, who neither slumbers nor sleeps."

But these days I stop at the second sentence because I am not sure that the Lord really isn't slumbering. So from whence cometh my help? These days, I'm not sure anymore.

As Danny Gordis says in his new book and constantly in his columns and speeches, Israel is at war. The Arabs have failed to defeat us militarily, economically or with terrorism. So they have found a very effective new method: the war of deligitimization and revilement. And that war is succeeding where the others all failed.

Coming up soon, look for Apartheid Week on all the American college campuses. Watch for repeats of the U Cal Irvine and the Oxford Univ. incidents, which are going on all the time but don't make the news that you get. And of course there is Goldstone, the ultimate weapon of those who say that even if Israel defends itself it is guilty of war crimes and must be condemned. Add the boycotts of Israeli goods in England, Norwary, Sweden, led by the trade unions. And rise of Holocaust deniers now that Iran has made that an acceptable means of attack.

To quote Danny Gordis: Our enemies are winning this trial in the court of international opinion. Walt and Mearsheimer, Jimmy Carter and Goldstone and British courts issuing arrest warrants for Tzipi Livni are only the best known examples. The real list is much more extensive. One does not need a vivid imagination to envision a scenario in which the world simply imposes a bi-national solution (not a 2 state solution) on this region. If one is not absolutely committed to Jewish sovereignty that solution actually makes some sense.

Thus, this war over Israel's legitimacy is one we cannot afford to lose."

The problem is, who is on our side. Who is fighting back. Can Israel do this by itself with its small population and limited resources when the Arab world is funding anti-Israel NGO's in the area of l billion dollars worldwide. The World Council of Churches has been at this for many years. Now we have endowed chairs of "middle eastern studies" held by anti-Israel academics all over the States and England. When did you ever see a Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International report that supported Israel. How much money is the Ford Foundation giving to the New Israel Fund to support Adala, one of their grantees which rejects the claim of Israel as a Jewish state. Or B'etselem which cried out for the casualties in Gaza but never mentioned the 8 years of attacks on Sderot.

So we come to the role of the American Jewish community. Frankly, without the U.S. and American Jews, we aren't going to make it. You think that statement is too over the top-paranoid?

And if I compare this deligitimization campaign to the tactics of Nazi Germany to do the exact same thing to the Jews in the 30's, do you shrug and say "she's crazy. It'll never happen."

My friends, it's happening. Look beyond your doorstep . Open your eyes, not just to the Iranian threat, but this quiet war going on all over Europe and the Arab world': the goal is to Demonize not just the Israelis, but the Jews as well. You can't separate them anymore.

So if I lift my eyes unto the mountains, where is my help coming from? This is a clarion call my fellow Jews. Are you helpers or bystanders.

The time to make a choice is now.

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