Unlike Israel’s ability to develop high-tech weaponry to defend its citizens, the country’s efforts to win over hearts and minds has seen it badly beaten up.
The clever use of propaganda by its enemies and anti-Semites the world over has caused the reputation, standing and image of Jews and Israel to plummet. The Jewish “brand” has been severely trashed, to the point that the Jewish people and the State of Israel are the most hated religious group and nation on earth.
And the distressing fact is that very little is being done to counter it.
After centuries of anti-Semitism, and now anti-Israelism, it is high time that Israel and the Jews in the Diaspora took positive and decisive action to fight these twin evils. As a national and ethnic imperative, they must confront anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism, and with ingenuity halt their spread and eventually eliminate them. Inaction will only see hatred and violence against Jews and Israel continue and surge.
The latest in a long line of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel perpetrators are Islam, the far Left and extreme far Right neo-Nazi groups. This loosely knit framework, which has tentacles in most parts of the world, is a deadly and formidable foe. It is well financed through private sources as well as state-run enterprises.
It uses sophisticated propaganda techniques that persuade and influence attitudes, opinions and views against Jews and Israel.
Their propaganda is of the vilest and most cunning kind. It is disseminated through news reports, books, leaflets, documentaries, movies, videos, radio and television.
On the Internet the propagandists craftily use online social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as blogs, forums, Internet radio and email.
Nowadays, the propaganda manifests itself in discrimination on university campuses; BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movements; television images of injured, dying and dead children; the murder of innocent Jews, and even outright war against Israel, to mention but a few.
Thanks to a recent landmark global survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League, we have a “scorecard” of how successful the propaganda against Jews and Israel has been. The survey, which extended across 102 countries, found that a staggering one in four respondents held anti-Semitic views. This is equivalent to 1.09 billion people – more than the entire population of North, South and Central America. We also now know that the highest concentration of anti-Semites is in Middle East and North African countries, where nearly 75 percent were defined to be anti-Semitic, while Eastern Europe came in at 34%, Western Europe 24% through to Asia with 22% and the Americas at 19%. The survey also ranked countries, with Laos at 0.2%, the lowest, while the West Bank and Gaza at 93% had the highest levels of anti-Semitism.
Opposing anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism is a disparate and un-coordinated alliance of well-intentioned government bodies and sympathetic Diaspora Jewish and Zionist organizations. In Israel, the Foreign Ministry’s Department for Combating Anti-Semitism is charged with the responsibility to address the worldwide phenomenon.
It is a small, “sleepy” department whose activities extend to monitoring acts of anti-Semitism, running conferences, forums and the like. Its minor status in the government’s ministry structure indicates the low level of importance that Israel presently attaches to anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.
Then there is “hasbara,” the Israeli government’s public relations initiative mandated to explain government policy and promote Israel in the face of negative press. It is the Israeli government’s lame attempt at counter-propaganda. In the US, there is the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, that advocates US policy to develop and implement policies and projects to combat anti-Semitism. While in the Diaspora, a diverse coterie of private Jewish and Zionist organizations energetically raise money for Israel, distribute pro-Israel literature and material, establish and run Jewish schools, institutions, religious learning centers, places of worship as well as museums dedicated to Judaism and the Holocaust. In addition, there are organizations that focus on advancing Israel and Jewry in their domestic political and business circles and organizations that monitor, record and report anti-Semitic acts and incidents.
These efforts to counter anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda have been ineffective. The principle reason is that the underlying nature of the problem is misunderstood, so that the response is misdirected.
By definition, propaganda is a form of communication aimed at influencing a population toward a cause or position. Anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda, at its simplest, influences non-Jews to hate Jews and Israel. Whereas the Jewish response is reactive, limited to inane explanations, clarifications, descriptions and protestations, most of which get little air time and, paradoxically, are directed at Jewish audiences. There is very little done to influence, persuade and to change minds and attitudes.
To be successful in a battle against anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda, Jews and Israel will need to develop a winning strategy based on the marketing and “selling” of Jews and Israel to the non-Jewish world, resources to finance the battle, the infrastructure to oversee it and an unwavering resolve to prosecute it.
The strategy should be founded on marketing disciplines, and should apply modern, sophisticated, up-to-the-minute mass marketing techniques. Used smartly, marketing can powerfully influence and persuade. It is a methodology that can change people’s minds and attitudes. It is the methodology that companies use to reverse the fortunes of poorly performing businesses and products. It is the methodology that Apple, for instance, used to change the way people thought of smartphones and iPads. And unlike propaganda, marketing is rooted in fact, rectitude and integrity.
A long-term, concerted, aggressive and relentless marketing campaign that promotes and “sells” Jews and Israel, through select mediums, should be the cornerstone of the strategy. Its key message should enlighten and extol the virtues and qualities of Jews and Israel and build respect and goodwill toward them. Gentiles should be its target audience and anti-Semitic hotspots should be its primary target market.
To help develop and enhance the strategy every competitive advantage should be used. That means enlisting the cleverest and most successful Jewish marketing and business people in the world. The names that spring to mind are Bloomberg, Spielberg, Zuckerberg, Brin, Abramovich and Klein. And there are many others. They should be invited to participate in a congress assembled to fight anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism. These folks should also be asked to sit on an advisory board so that they can provide ongoing advice and counsel.
An infrastructure that has a central body to oversee, coordinate and globally implement the strategy will be required. The responsibility for this should rest with the Israeli government, which should set up a new, independent ministry whose raison d’etre will be to wage the war against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism.
Its minister should be a member of the Cabinet to reflect the importance that Israel attaches to this issue. The ministry should outsource management of the strategy to a leading global marketing enterprise that has mass marketing experience and a successful track record. And, the ministry should take under its umbrella those select few Diaspora organizations that focus on marketing and promoting Jews and Israel in their home market.
The fight against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism will need substantial financing. An annual budget of several hundreds of millions of dollars is envisaged to sustain a global marketing campaign. At present this would be beyond the capacity of the Israeli economy, however, once revenues from the newly discovered Israeli natural gas fields begin flowing, the government should be in a position to pay for the marketing campaign.
The government should raise these funds by imposing a resource tax or royalty, in much the same way as other commodity-rich countries, including the Arab states, finance projects. Further, the new ministry should seek donations from the Diaspora to supplement its government funding. Jews would donate large sums of money to a ministry, and a cause, they believed was going to make a real difference.
Finally, unwavering resolve to fight a war that may last for generations and which will, undoubtedly, face set-backs, obstacles and challenges along the way, will be a vital ingredient.
The end-game in the war against anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism is to eliminate it. As impossible as it may seem today, through the clever and persistent use of sophisticated marketing techniques the battle can be won. Gentiles and anti-Semites will slowly change their attitude and opinion of Jews and Israel in the face of such a campaign. With change, the number of anti-Semites will recede. The less anti-Semites, the less anti-Semitism.
The less anti-Semitism, the less hatred and violence directed against Jews and Israel.The author is a prominent Australian investment banker whose parents were Holocaust survivors.