March 2: A hasbara strategy...

Israel can win the public diplomacy fight, but only if it makes this a top priority. Israel dare not leave the battlefield to its opponents.

A hasbara strategy...
Sir, – Jeff Barak is only the latest in a steady stream of writers criticizing the efforts of the Ministry of Public Diplomacy (“The joke is on Yuli Edelstein,” March 1). Unfortunately, Israel cannot hope to win the public diplomacy war through one or two new programs. Hasbara is not a one-size-fits-all process. Rather, methods and messages must be tailored to different groups. For example, the information contained in the ministry’s Masbirim Web site is unconvincing for the 5 percent of the world for whom the Goldstone Report is important. But it may not be worth the effort to direct a detailed explanation of Goldstone to the  95% of the world that has  never heard of it.
Israel’s public diplomacy shortcomings are systemic. There are a number of steps that must be taken if Israel is to successfully “win the world’s hearts and minds”:
1. Decide exactly what the country’s positions are on the critical issues it faces. Where does the country want to be five  years from now?
2. Establish a single governmental body that will be responsible for establishing and coordinating Israel’s official message to the outside. You can’t convince anyone if the listener gets conflicting messages from different ministries, the Prime Minister’s office and the IDF.
3. Identify exactly who the target audience is (students, diplomats, “the Arab street,” Evangelical Christians, international organizations), and make sure that the message and mode of communication is appropriate  for that particular group.
4. Express the message with clarity and confidence. Why should others support a muddled position for which Israel seems  to be apologizing?
Above all, speed is of the essence. Israel must be prepared and willing to provide meaningful information within days if not hours – especially when the issue relates to military actions and injured civilians. A delayed response is little better than no response at all. The world will not wait around until Israel gets its story straight. At best, the world will have forgotten the story; at worst, it will assume that Israel took its time to manufacture evidence.
Israel can win the public diplomacy fight, but only if it makes this a top priority. Israel dare not leave the battlefield to its opponents. In the age of worldwide electronic communication, 24-hour news and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, rapid, accurate, consistent statements are critical to Israel’s ultimate survival.
...and a new PR head?
Sir, – I would like to say thank you to David Horovitz for stating what for many of us is oh-so-obvious, but apparently for those in our government who represent us abroad, is not so obvious at all (“Wrong troops, wrong ammunition,” February 26). For a while I thought I was the only one who thought those commercials about camels and ordering in restaurants were inane and missing the real problem with our hasbara.
While we’re at it, can someone please, please get us a new foreign minister? One who will actually defend Israel properly and forcefully instead of saying things like “You see too many James Bond movies”? One who doesn’t embarrass us and force others in the government to clean up after him? One who can point out in good clear English the moral ineptitude of European countries that don’t question why a known terrorist was allowed to travel to Dubai?
Hey, I have an idea: How about having David Horovitz lead and coordinate our hasbara campaign? Now, wouldn’t that be grand?
Zichron Ya’acov
A united outcry
Sir, – Why are we so busy tiptoeing around our enemies? If they can’t find one provocation against us, they will find another.
Just read the Book of Esther. Mordechai wore sackcloth and ashes at the time of that decree, but he also gave a great outcry at the terribleness of it all. It’s about time that we, too, stood up straight, strong and tall, said, “These places are our heritage!” and rebuffed the Arab contention that we’re taking over their holy places (“PA to convene cabinet in Hebron,” March 1).But we’ll never get it all together, until we’re really an am ehad, a united people. (Even the last sentence in the megilla states that Mordechai was only recognized/revered/honored by some of his countrymen.)
Sir, – Thank you, Yoram Ettinger, for your enlightening article (“The Obama-American public Israeli disconnect,” February 28). It gave me a comfortable feeling to know that the vast majority of the US public, as well as a large percentage of American Congressmen, favor Israel and are not buying their “un-evenhanded” president’s sales pitch – and certainly his ridiculous assertion that “the Islamic faith has done so much to shape the world.”
Zichron Ya’acov
Of course it’s worth it!
Sir, – In response to the article “Is the IBA worth saving?” (February 26) the answer from this faithful news-watcher is a resounding “Yes!” Why do I feel so strongly? The 20 minutes or so of so-called news at 5 p.m. during the work week and 6 p.m. on weekends is the only audio-visual connection with what is happening – or not happening – in Israel that is available to the non-Hebrew-speaking Anglo. Without the IBA, I would be thrown to the wolves in sheep’s clothing: CNN, the BBC or some other North American or English station, from which I would only learn about how badly Israel treats its Palestinian neighbors and Arab residents, how reluctant our government is to talk about peace, 700 theories on how Israeli agents did the nasty deed in Dubai and why we won’t own up, etc.
Yes, the IBA News presentation is amateurish, but after a time, all the people involved become like one’s family, and all gaffes and uncoordinated presentations are forgiven because they really are doing their best and trying hard.
I cannot comment on IBA’s other programs, since after its news offering I slide away to Mezzo and trying to get my homework done for ulpan. Perhaps one day I’ll be fluent enough for the Hebrew-language channels – but please, not yet!
The Purim edition
Sir, – At first, Monday’s paper poisoned my morning coffee: Spanish children send us hateful postcards (“Israel protests hate-filled postcards from Spanish school children,” March 1); Netanyahu and Danon duel (“PM critics say he wants Arabs in Likud”); a demonstration is needed to safeguard public broadcasting (“Journalists’ union to protest in support of IBA”); an op-ed equates a government Web site and officials with dark regimes (“The joke is on Yuli Edelstein”).
But the privilege of gazing out my window at the rain-washed Old City, Dead Sea and Judean Hills empowered me to gulp down a Haman’s Ear to sweeten coffee and hum “We Shall Overcome,” since that paper was the Purim edition.
Sir, – Liat Collins almost hit the nail on the head in her analysis of the Mabhouh liquidation (“A perplexing Purim,” February 28). Had she been privy to the Dubai Police Commissioner reading list, she would have realized that he had just finished Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.
This would explain why he thought that every foreign tourist in Dubai on the day of the murder had a hand in it.
Mercaz Shapira
Sir, – I just felt it was high time to write in appreciation of LiatCollins’s columns. She discusses serious topics with wit and humor, andher latest offering was so good that it brought to mind the late, greatAlex Berlyne.
Please keep on.
Kiryat Motzkin