Perception is not reality

(By Abe Novick)
This month a global survey conducted by the BBC found Israel to be one of the most negatively viewed countries in the world. In fact, Israel was the fourth most negatively viewed country, just ahead of Pakistan, North Korea and Iran.
The survey encompassed 27 countries with over 28,000 people interviewed of which 49% (essentially one-half) viewed Israel negatively.
Question: With all of the many pro-Israel organizations promoting it, a virtual alphabet of initials from the ADL – ZOA, how is it that such a perception can exist?
From a marketing angle, I believe there is a duality at play. One is an on the ground physical space that exists – a reality. The other is an idea – a metaphysical notion of what Israel stands for in the mind.
On the ground, the Middle East is a geographical conundrum. To cede land to the Palestinians, as Israel did in Gaza, is to have Hamas’s rockets rain down on homes. Conversely, to fight back and to try and eradicate the threat is to be perceived as the aggressor.   
The same exercise took place in the North against Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon War. In fact, over the past 30-years, from 1982 in the first Lebanon War, to the first Intifada in ‘87 and the second in 2000 to Operation Cast Lead 2008-‘09, each time Israel tries to wrestle its way out of the net laid by its enemies, it gets further entangled in the trap set by them. 
Translated on the airwaves, in the more metaphysical media space, the news gets reported through a distorted and often slanted lens as David vs. Goliath. Only in this version, Israel is Goliath.
Perceptually, it looks like this: Palestinians throw rocks, Israel shoots guns. Hamas sends crude rockets, so Israel flies powerful F-16s.
Unfortunately, perception isn’t reality. Ergo, we have a communications problem.
Yet again, with the many organizations that strive to enlighten, defend and communicate Israel’s story, it’s difficult to match words and facts against propagandistic imagery. But with too many facts vying for attention, with so many organizations and various though well-intentioned agendas, a Tower of Babel ensues.
What Israel needs is a unified, coherent communications strategy.
In ancient Chinese wisdom, with a crisis, often comes an opportunity.
Currently, with an Arab world in turmoil illustrating the instability of the neighborhood where Israel lives, the world once again sees how vast and populace, not to mention how volatile those countries are. The world can perceive how Israel is completely and utterly surrounded by tyrannical regimes, many of which seek its destruction.
For Israel to be defined by the Palestinian’s cause is to miss the wider picture of a region of adversaries.
In marketing, when a brand is lost (and in this case I’m talking about the metaphysical Israel) go back to its heritage.   Israel needs to be perceived on the airwaves, as what it is on the ground – a David. 
One story. Not hundreds. 
David was not without fault, but he was also a warrior, a musician and a poet. Similarly, Israel is not perfect, but strives to be righteous, is culturally rich and diverse. David’s reign signified the formation of a coherent Jewish kingdom centered in Jerusalem. And with God''s help, David was victorious over his people''s enemies.
One note of caution – branding is forever and needs to be differentiated from the day-to-day micro-conflicts and dramas in the news cycle. Fortunately, drawing from the past and aiming toward the future, this very idea is part of the rich history, heritage and long legacy of Israel as told through the Bible. It is authentic.
It’s also a story that is not only told in the Jewish bible, but is all encompassing and iconic, recounted by Jews, Christians and yes, even Muslims.
Abe Novick is a writer who works in communications and can be reached at [email protected].