British press marvels at Israel’s PR

“Israeli PR machine won Gaza flotilla media battle,” ran a headline in the 'Guardian.'

June 7, 2010 06:19
2 minute read.
The IDF Spokesperson's YouTube channel.

IDF youtube channel 311. (photo credit: YouTube)


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While conventional wisdom in Israel holds that the government’s public diplomacy (hasbara) efforts  following the Mavi Marmara incident last Monday were an unmitigated disaster, the picture painted in some circles abroad is that of a vast, smooth, efficient propaganda machine that has effectively dominated and controlled the flotilla narrative.

“Israeli PR machine won Gaza flotilla media battle,” ran a headline Friday in the Guardian, a British newspaper extremely critical of Israel.

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The article was one of a number of stories the National Information Directorate had gathered and sent to reporters to combat the widespread narrative here that last week was an utter hasbara failure.

“In an operation reminiscent of the first week or so of the Israeli offensive against Gaza in winter 2008-2009, the Israeli PR machine succeeded in getting the major news outlets to focus on its version of events and to use the Israeli authorities’ discourse for a crucial 48 hours,” wrote Antony Lerman in the Guardian.

“This Israeli version of events was very often given an uncritical airing,” Lerman wrote. “The news imbalance may have been partly redressed, but the Israeli version of the events and the presentation of legal arguments to justify Israel’s actions by friendly commentators continues to occupy significant media space.”

The Independent, another British newspaper hypercritical of Israel, published an article the day after the incident headlined “Israel ruled the airwaves as it did the seas.”

The paper’s correspondent, Donald Macintyre, wrote about how the IDF kept journalists away from the passengers on the ship, and how Israeli officials “fanned out among the reporters, relaying with courtesy and fluency their version of events. This in turn was reinforced by a stream of analysis and explanation by politicians and sympathetic analysts in the live television coverage throughout the day and, by late afternoon, there was the aerial black-and-white film, supplied by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), of commandos landing aboard the Mavi Marmara.”

Macintyre wrote that it remained to be seen whether Israel’s account of events would be vindicated by an independent investigation, but for one day “Israel moved with impressive efficiency according to the American political maxim about media rebuttal and counterattack: speed kills.”

And the British Sunday paper The Observer dedicated a brief item Sunday to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman Mark Regev, who Ruth Sunderland termed the “spin doctor in chief for the Israeli government.”

“If the men from Mars ever wanted to manufacture a PR man, they would model their robot on Regev,” she wrote. “No matter how formidable the interviewer, or how aggressive the questioning, he never buckles under pressure. His disarming Aussie accent and unfailing politeness – he calls interviewers ‘Sir’ and uses phrases like ‘I beg to disagree’ – almost lulls listeners into overlooking his aggression.”

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