Taking the risk of ruffling a few feathers, Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, attributed Israel’s poor image to the possibility that too much is being done to create positive attitudes toward the country.
Palmor was among the participants in a panel discussion on Israel’s image problem moderated by The Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Steve Linde at the Jewish Media Summit in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
Palmor said people feel very passionate about Israel and want others to think as they do. There is no reason for an Italian, a Spaniard, or a Frenchman to have a particular opinion about Israel, he observed, but they do have opinions, “because we endlessly reach out to them.” Then they start to think for themselves about Israel, and the effect may be quite different to what was intended.
“We don’t do nuance; we don’t do finesse” he said. He described Israel advocates as “reaching out again and again, nagging people, being endless nudniks, not allowing them to do something else and making them feel guilty like Jewish mothers do.”
Eyal Arad, who served as a strategic adviser to former prime minister Ariel Sharon, said that he is less concerned with Israel and Jews having a bad image than no image.
“The most dangerous thing for us is not that they will think badly of us, but that they won’t think of us at all,” he said.
Views about Jews and Israel are shrouded in myths stemming from the origins of Christianity and bad PR by the Romans, Arad continued.
On the positive side he noted there is a vast difference between the number of international media organizations that cover elections in Israel and those that cover elections in Nigeria. He wondered how many people know the names of the prime ministers of Sweden or Denmark, “but everyone knows the name of the prime minister of Israel.”
Several of the journalists from abroad complained of discrimination by Israel’s Foreign Ministry and other government representatives for feeding good stories to the general press in their respective cities and pap to the Jewish press – if they feed them anything at all.
“We feel like poor cousins, but when Israel needs defending, they remember we exist,” said Sue Fishkoff, editor of San Francisco’s J Weekly.