Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yes, Little Things Do Count

Compatriot Michael Freund has written this week:

...There is still plenty of work to be done in terms of rebranding Israel's image so that it is not constantly associated with war, conflict and turmoil. But it does underline an important point: most of us live in a hasbara bubble, where we are so consumed by the minutiae of each and every event and how it is reported or distorted that we often lose sight of the forest for the trees.

And so, when an unflattering article appears in the Boston Globe, or a derogatory piece is published in The Los Angeles Times, many pro-Israel activists plunge into crisis mode, investing countless hours in trying to rebut something that most people probably never even bothered to read. Since they live and breathe Israel, and follow everything that happens here with meticulous care, they often forget that the details actually matter far less to most people.

Now don't get me wrong - combating specific instances of media bias is important, and eliciting corrections when newspapers err is an essential part of the struggle for truth. But at the end of the day, what really counts is the "big picture," the themes and narratives that take hold in the public's mind when (and even if) they think about the Jewish state. It is there that Israel and its supporters need to devote more of their time and energy.

What is so desperately needed is a comprehensive strategic vision for hasbara, one that clearly articulates a set of objectives for what kind of image Israel can and should project, while spelling out an array of tactics for achieving them. So let's start focusing just a little less on yesterday's Washington Post, and more on how to position Israel and improve her brand name in the future.

While one really can't disagree with the above, one also knows quite well that "the whole is the sum of its parts" and, sometimes, those minutiea are important.

How can one construct media converse on the issue of Jews residing across the Green Line if:

a) the word to describe them is "settlers", and not "residents" or, as I prefer, "revenants"?

b) the term for their home locations is "settlements", and not "communities" or even "residential areas".

c) the Green Line is thought of as an natual legal, international border - when it isn't.

d) most people don't know that Arab terror preceded any building of any Jewish community in some supposed "occupied territory".

e) public opinion hasn't heard of "Judea and Samaria" from an Israeli Prime Minister since the days of Begin and Shamir, 17 years ago.

I could go on, but my point, I trust, is understood.

As someone told me this week, "words are important".

Words are little things but they have a very big influence on public opinion.

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