Connect with us

Israel

If Israel has such bad PR, why does it remain so popular?

 

Andrew Silow-Carroll

By ANDREW SILOW-CARROLL
(JTA) — The first mention in JTA of the Hebrew word “hasbarah” was in 1988, at the height of the first intifada.

The article focused on Israelis and American Jews and their deep concern that the media were distorting the unrest and showing the Israeli military in a bad light.
The answer, interviewees agreed, was better “hasbarah” — a Hebrew word, explained the author (OK, it was me), “whose meaning falls somewhere between information and propaganda.”
“Israel has never actually looked at hasbarah as an integral part of policymaking,” said Dan Pattir, a former press secretary to prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin.
Fast forward 30 years. Writing last week in the Los Angeles Times, Noga Tarnapolsky makes a convincing case that Israel’s public diplomacy efforts are flawed, unprofessional, scattershot and out of touch. Critics tell her that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relies too much on social-media videos to defend Israel. They say its military spokespeople are ill prepared to answer questions about controversial events, like May’s deadly riots on the border with Gaza.
““There is … no single authority that coordinates and supervises these various activities,” complains Michael Oren, who is (wait for it) Israel’s deputy minister in charge of public diplomacy.
The critics, however, don’t make a convincing case why any of this matters.
Complaints about Israel’s hasbarah efforts are as regular and ritualistic as the Jewish holidays. Without answers from a strong PR campaign, the theory goes, the litany of anti-Israel charges gains traction.
But among whom? Israel remains hugely popular among the American public. According to Gallup, 64 percent  of the U.S. population sympathizes with the Israelis over the Palestinians, and only 19 percent say they sympathize more with the Palestinians. Congress remains firmly pro-Israel. Yes, a Pew survey in January showed a wide partisan divide over Israel, with 79 percent of Republicans and only 27 percent of Democratic sympathizing more with Israel than with the Palestinians. But the poll questions forced respondents to choose between Israelis and Palestinians (why not both?), and the results may have reflected only the deeply partisan nature of American politics — not anything you can hasbarah away.
Despite wide publicity and Jewish consternation, the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement hasn’t taken root outside the far left. As of June, 25 states have enacted anti-BDS laws. In fact, the whole point of BDS is that Israel has a positive image that needs to be undermined. You wouldn’t know about BDS if celebrities didn’t regularly include Israel on their world tours.
The charge of “pinkwashing” —  that Israel touts its relatively progressive record on LGBT rights to distract the world from the occupation — targets what the BDS folk think is a positive and effective means of hasbarah — otherwise, why would they bother? And paradoxically, every charge of pinkwashing only reminds the casual reader of Israel’s strong LGBT record.
Two kinds of critics, often overlapping, criticize Israel’s hasbarah.
The first is convinced that the media have in it for Israel. Such critics also hold the mistaken notion that the media’s role is to tell a story as they would have it told. Coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hardly perfect, and examples abound of stories becoming stories only when Palestinians are the victims, or headlines that ignore cause (a terror attack) for effect (the Israelis’ response). In general, however, Palestinians have a point when they complain that the media often shape the narrative according to an Israeli point of view, depicting Palestinian life with an Israeli gaze. If you want to see what coverage of the conflict would look like otherwise, read a pro-Palestinian website like Electronic Intifada or a far-left Israeli site like +972. It’s nothing like the Israel coverage you see in the mainstream media.
The other kind of critic blames unpopular policy on bad hasbarah. Good hasbarah, they insist, could presumably have forestalled the brouhaha over the Israeli nation-state law (a brouhaha, I’d wager, that most Americans never even heard about). That story got legs not because of a bad marketing rollout, but because the law was a policy decision that fed directly into a perception that Israel’s right-wing government was growing less democratic and more nationalistic.
Passage of the law capped a week in which the Knesset allowed the education minister to bar groups critical of government policies from speaking in public schools, made it harder for Palestinians to win land disputes and blocked single men and gay couples from having children through surrogacy. More broadly, Netanyahu’s close ties with President Donald Trump may be understandable and justifiable, as his outreach to European nationalists, but there is a political and PR price to be paid for such embraces.
Netanyahu has good instincts for English-speaking audiences, and sometimes he realizes that a positive pitch can only get you so far. In the past few weeks, left-wing activists have complained that Israeli airport security have detained them and asked specifically about their activism and their political beliefs. On Monday, after the liberal Zionist writer Peter Beinart said he was stopped and interrogated, Netanyahu issued a statement saying it was an “administrative mistake,” adding that “Israel is the only country in the Middle East where people voice their opinions freely and robustly.”
The latter statement is a staple of pro-Israel hasbarah. It’s a terrific policy, as long as it has the added benefit of being true. But when actions prove unpopular, PR won’t save you. The root meaning of hasbarah is “explanation,” not “alchemy.”
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN (May 21, 2024) A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

(Updated May 28)

We contacted Ms. Harel to ask whether she’s aware whether there has been an increase in the number of Israelis deciding to emigrate from Israel since October 7. (We want to make clear that we’re not advocating for Israelis to emigrate; we’re simply wanting to learn more about emigration figures – and whether there has been a change in the number of Israelis wanting to leave the country.)
Ms. Harel referred us to a website titled “Globes”: https://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?did=1001471862
The website is in Hebrew, but we were able to translate it into English. There is a graph on the website showing both numbers of immigrants to Israel and emigrants.
The graph shows a fairly steady rate of emigration from 2015-2022, hovering in the 40,000 range, then in 2023 there’s a sudden increase in the number of emigrants to 60,000.
According to the website, the increase in emigrants is due more to a change in the methodology that Israel has been using to count immigrants and emigrants than it is to any sudden upsurge in emigration. (Apparently individuals who had formerly been living in Israel but who may have returned to Israel just once a year were being counted as having immigrated back to Israel. Now that they are no longer being counted as immigrants and instead are being treated as emigrants, the numbers have shifted radically.)
Yet, the website adds this warning: “The figures do not take into account the effects of the war, since it is still not possible to identify those who chose to emigrate following it. It is also difficult to estimate what Yalad Yom will produce – on the one hand, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israelis around the world reminds everyone where the Jewish home is. On the other hand, the bitter truth we discovered in October is that it was precisely in Israel, the safe fortress of the Jewish people, that a massacre took place reminding us of the horrors of the Holocaust. And if that’s not enough, the explosive social atmosphere and the difference in the state budget deficit, which will inevitably lead to a heavy burden of taxes and a reduction in public services, may convince Zionist Israelis that they don’t belong here.”
Thus, as much as many of us would be disappointed to learn that there is now an upsurge in Israelis wanting to move out of the country, once reliable figures begin to be produced for 2024, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that is the case – which helps to explain the tremendous popularity of Ms. Harel’s website.

Continue Reading

Features

Message from a Palestinian in Gaza to protesters: “You’re hurting the Palestinian cause”

Protesters at McGill University

A very brave Palestinian who was willing to put his name to paper and write an article for Newsweek Magazine has exposed the utter hypocrisy of all those students – and others, who have been setting up encampments across the U.S. – and now Canada, too.

You can read the article at https://www.newsweek.com/message-gazan-campus-protesters-youre-hurting-palestinian-cause-opinion-1894313

Continue Reading

Features

The Most Expensive Israeli Soccer Transfers

Eran Zahavi

Even if Israel isn’t known as a world soccer power, it has produced plenty of talented players who have made a living in top European leagues. On more than one occasion, an Israeli international has commanded a rather large transfer fee. But who are the most expensive players in Israel’s history? The answer could be a little surprising. We took a look back to find the most expensive Israeli soccer transfers of all time.

Tai Baribo

In 2023, Baribo made the move to MLS, signing with the Philadelphia Union. The reported fee was around $1.5 million, which is one of the highest transfer fees the Union has ever paid for a player.

Omer Atzili

Throughout his career, Atzili has played for a variety of clubs, including stops in Spain and Greece. In 2023, he joined Al Ain in the UAE for a transfer fee of $2.1 million.

Maor Buzaglo

Now retired, Buzaglo was briefly the holder of the richest transfer deal for an Israeli player. After a couple of successful seasons on loan, Maccabi Tel Aviv paid $2.7 million to rival Maccabi Haifa for Buzaglo in 2008.

Dia Saba

Saba made history in 2020 when he joined Al-Nasr, making him the first Israeli player to play for a club in the UAE. At the time, it was a big deal for relations between the two countries. Al-Nasr also paid an impressive $2.9 million transfer fee for the midfielder.

Tal Ben Haim

On multiple occasions, Ben Haim has been sold for more than $1 million. First, there was his move from Hapoel Tel Aviv to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2023 for close to $1.2 million. A few years later, Sparta Prague came calling for him, spending $3.1 million as a transfer fee for the winger.

Itay Shechter

During the prime of his career, Shechter was the type of player who warranted a seven-figure transfer fee. German club Kaiserslautern paid a little over $2.6 million in 2011 to bring Shechter to the Bundesliga from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Daniel Peretz

When Peretz was sold to Bayern Munich, it wasn’t the most expensive deal involving an Israeli player, although it was arguably the most important. He became the first Israeli Jew to play at Bayern, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world. The transfer fee for Peretz paid by Bayern Munich to Maccabi Tel Aviv was around $5.4 million.

Oscar Gloukh

Gloukh is one of the best young Israeli players right now. He already has three international goals in a dozen appearances to his name. Somehow, Gloukh is already one of the most expensive players in Israel’s history. After coming up with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he moved to Austrian giant Red Bull Salzburg in 2023 for a transfer fee of close to $7.5 million. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him top that number one day.

Liel Abada

Abada has been a part of two huge transfer deals in his young career. In 2021, Scottish club Celtic paid $4.8 million to acquire him from Maccabi Petah Tikva. However, that number was topped in 2024 when Charlotte FC of MLS paid a fee of $8 million for Abada.

With Charlotte FC, Abada competes in North America’s top league, facing teams from both Mexico and Canada. Throughout North America, sports betting has taken off in recent years. That includes betting in Canada, where there is a large collection of trusted sports betting platforms.

Eran Zahavi

To date, Zahavi holds the record for the most expensive transfer fee paid for an Israeli player. It’s fitting for Israel’s former captain and all-time leading scorer. In 2016, Chinese club Guangzhou City paid $12.5 million to get Zahavi from Maccabi Tel Aviv. That record was nearly broken later that year when another Chinese club offered $20 million for Zahavi, who turned it down and stayed with Guangzhou City.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News