Israel is Losing the PR War. And It Has to Change Right Now
Interview with PR expert: For over 40 years Israel has been losing PR war to the Arabs. Why aren’t we showing rockets falling on civilians?
Annie Lubin, October 31, 2012
For over forty years Israel has been losing a public relations war to the Arabs and now to the Palestinain Arabs. And no one in Israel seems to care.
Dr. Ron Schleifer, a professor at Ariel University, and an expert research academician on Psychological Warfare and military-media relations, has been studying the phenomena for years and has tried to sound the alarm on the importance of changing the way Israel uses the media. He has just returned from a trip to the United States in which he gave the Israeli perspective at a pro-Zionist conference that included thinker Bernard Lewis and Pamela Geller of subway ad fame.
"Subconsciously, we still have this attitude that the goyim hate us anyway so why bother with public relations" said Schleifer. "The answer should be that this question is totally irrelevant."
In his book Perspectives of Psychological Operations in Contemporary Conflicts, reviewed on Arutz Sheva, Schleifer documents how since Yassar Arafat’s rise to prominence the Palestinians have been not only been winning the media war, but have seen to it that Israel should not even be considered a contender for its unwillingness to compete.
The idea the Arafat had was simple – use psychological warfare to portray Israel as the agressor and make the country weak from the inside by dividing the Israeli people. Arafat presented the Palestinian Arabs as victims, underdogs, the Davids pinned in the corner by the behemoth Goliath.
Nowhere was this seen more than during the first intifada. Palestinian Arabs manipulated the way the news was being reported by opening up numerous media branches and staging photo ops for the international media. For every reporter looking for a quote or a picture or details of an incident there was a Palestinian Arab within arms reach ready to paint Israel as the aggressor. By the time Israel decided to respond, the story had already been published.
Arafat’s intent was to use the media to force a split in Israel. "Psychological warfare wishes to make enemy soldier pacifists and your own soldiers patriots," said Schleifer. The rationale was that once Israel crumbled socially, a military defeat would be much easier.
"A difference of opinion is okay, but a social split is very risky for a state…and that’s what you see in Israel today," said Schleifer.
So, if Israel wants to stop having to fight for global recognition or for the right to exist and defend its borders then Israel has to change its public relations strategy. "If the Jews have decided they want an independent state, a state of their own, that state immediately falls into the international system of international relations. And we have to play according to those rules, especially in a case where we’re not economically independent or secure. And even if we were, we still need to function within the international system," said Schleifer.
Yet Schleifer doesn’t see this happening in the near future, if ever.
Part of the Israeli problem, as Schleifer sees it, is that if the state shows the world that Israel is not the aggressor it has been painted – that people in this country are worried – that some live in constant fear of rockets and attacks and instability – Israel believes it will be perceived as a weak country. "Israel has not managed to figure out how to be powerful but still perceived as the vulnerable one," said Schleifer. "That’s the art of contemporary propaganda. Showing that you’re strong without being perceived as a bully. The Palestinian’s strength comes from showing their weakness."
"No independent state in the whole world would tolerate a barrage of rockets and mortars every day. Yet israel was conditioned to absorb all that for about a decade now and that is a psychological ploy by the Palestinians Arabs. Condition your enemy. Let them know, this is the situation and theres nothing you can do about it, because we control media sympathy."
Israel knows how it is perceived in the media and knows that the Palestinain Arabs have been winning the media war. So why does Schelifer believe change is not in the cards for Israel?
"Israel does not believe in propaganda. They don’t want to manipulate anybody. Israel believes in deeds and not in words. This is the Zionist maxim. What matters is what you do and not what people say. It doesn’t matter what the goyim think, what matters is what the Jews do…We’re forever apologetic and always on the defense. Israeli leadership is still thinking that peace is dependent only on us. We don’t want to start anything because we know how the world will interpet it.
"Finally after 60 plus years we have a Ministry of Hasbara (international outreach). But it has a very minimal budget and it’s not ranked very high on the government’s list of priorities. It’s struggling to survive…Our media relations may be a bit more sophisticated than the Palestinian Authority’s, but we’re way behind the them in terms of understanding how the manipulation works.
"Israel, instead of conquering world public opinion by sending a barrage of visuals – images of the rockets and mortars falling on Israeli citizens every day, waits for the next attack and is forever seen as the oppressor."