marmara knives 311.
(photo credit: IDF Spokesperson)
There’s a sharp contrast between Israel’s successful, private hi-tech sector and
its often not-so-successful public, government operations. The former is nimble
and clever and has inspired the world with its ideas and inventions; the latter
inspires jokes, if it inspires anything. This newspaper has done a fairly good
job of covering both extremes.
In this, Israel is not unique. Any
American (even the ones who voted for Barack Obama) will tell you that the
private sector is more efficient than the public sector. But Israel’s government
inefficiency hasn’t just been a drag on economy; over the past several weeks,
the government’s difficulties in explaining its case on the Gaza flotilla has
cost us big time.
Note that I said “difficulty,” not “failure,” as many
others have claimed. There are those who just hate Israel (and Jews;
Thomas proves they go together), and nothing we can say will make them
But there are many people who are willing to give us a fair hearing.
Unfortunately, these are the people we failed in the first days after
incident. It took at least 24 hours for word to get out about the
on Israeli soldiers by the “terror activists,” and only three days later
Israel’s story get mainstream publicity.
Of course, hasbara has to take a
back seat to real security, and sometimes you have few options: such as
Gaza flotilla’s Mavi Marmara
where IDF soldiers had no choice but to use real
bullets to save the lives of their comrades, who were savagely attacked
knife- and club-wielding “peace activists” (you’re damned if you do or
But if we know our story is right, and we’re convinced of it, why do we
have such trouble selling it properly – and convincingly? Maybe what we
a little private-sector ingenuity for our hasbara efforts. Look at the
the “We Con the World” video. As you’ve probably heard by now, the
produced by Latma (www.latma.co.il), which is edited by our own Caroline
was pulled from Youtube, most likely because of complaints by
viewers who were appalled that their story – of how big, bad Israel
innocent “activists” – was hijacked, with the world seeing the truth of
intentions of the passengers on the Mavi
, because of a parody, of all
things! Of course, YouTube claimed that the reason for the video’s ban
it was in violation of “a copyright claim by Warner/ Chappell Music,
owners of the rights to the original USA for Africa “We Are the World”
video, produced in the 1980s to raise money for hunger in Africa.
that can’t be right, because US copyright law provides for “fair use,”
that existing works of art can be freely used for parody or education
Just ask Lenny Solomon and “Weird Al” Yankovic, who for decades have
rewriting top pop songs for education (Solomon) and parody (Al)
point of the story, though, is why Youtube was moved to remove the
because it was making an impact, thanks to the 3 million-plus hits it
in barely a week. Now the genie is out of the bottle: “We Con the World”
spread too far and too wide and is now available on all sorts of Web
fact, doing a search for “We Con the World” at Youtube.com yields dozens
copies, now dubbed in all sorts of languages! As many have said, “We Con
World” was one of the best pro-Israel hasbara pieces to emerge in a long
and the government had nothing to do with it! The truth is, though, the
marketing people at many Israeli companies – start-ups and veterans –
as talented as the people at Latma. Why not come out with a parody a
some other effective video, audio or Web campaign, that can tell
of the story in a surprising, interesting – and successful – manner?
exactly the question that came up when I recently interviewed an Israeli
“captain of industry” (he remains anonymous for this story, to not mix
We met just a day after the flotilla story took over the
media. By that time, the headlines worldwide castigated the IDF for
and five other ships, with the resulting nine
nearly no one was paying attention to Israel’s side of the
Commenting on the seeming lack of ability of Israel to get its
point across, I told this executive that it appeared the tepid effort by
officials to explain Israel’s position was possibly the result of the
“musical chairs” played by politicians in this country.
You have the same
people running different ministries and departments in various
while the actual day-to-day work is done by the bureaucrats who remain
job, no matter who the boss is.
“The minister spends years just learning
the issues, while the bureaucrats have no incentive to change their
that system may be acceptable for deciding on where to build a
plant, it just doesn’t work in day-to-day hasbara,” we both agreed.
we brainstormed an idea: Why not “outsource” hasbara? I don’t mean
no bureaucrats will be hurt in the execution of this plan. But if every
successful hi-tech company, if every successful PR firm, nonprofit
department, university information bureau, were to donate, say, an hour a
to a specific hasbara project, imagine how well Israel’s story would be
The executive agreed: Working on such projects and utilizing the amazing
we have in this country could be the solution we have long sought to the
of getting the world’s attention. If “We Con the World” proves anything,
that good people around the world are indeed willing to give us a fair
We just need to come up with something good for them to hear! The
board. How about you?