A Guest Post by AKUS
A new article by Harriet “ChickenLady” Sherwood, the Guardian’s woman in Jerusalem, who almost never has a good word to say about Israel, revealed a shocking new initiative by Israel: Israel recruits citizen advocates in Europe.
Yes – Israel has decided to ask eight or so of its European embassies to each identify 1,000 of the 300 million EU citizens who could help offset the drip-drip of anti-Israeli venom that daily oozes out of Europe’s mass media, blogs, and organizations – from media like, in fact, the Guardian. According to Sherwood, “These individuals – likely to be drawn from Jewish or Christian activists, academics, journalists and students – will be briefed regularly by Israeli officials and encouraged to speak up for Israel at public meetings or write letters or articles for the press.” Five of the embassies have been authorized to hire PR firms to help.
In fact, I am shocked – in a good way. This represents a remarkable change of direction for Israel. Until now, the Foreign Office and the laughable Information Ministry have never even indicated that they are aware of the problem and that something needs to be done about it. So – bravo, Israel – a shekel late and a shekel short, but if not now, when? And if not us, who? as Rabbi Hillel would have said if he were running the Foreign Ministry.
Of course, since we are talking about Israel, Sherwood has to make it clear in tone and words that the Guardian views this as yet another underhand effort by Israel to refute the attacks on its legitimacy.
Rather than comparing Israel’s PR efforts with those of every developed country on the planet (for example, the UK in the USA here and here and here) she chose to compare them with Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Madagascar, citing a Guardian article that took aim at the efforts by the first two to overcome their image problems. Rwanda and Sri Lanka, of course, are well-known for actual acts genocide and mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians – so Sherwood is implicitly stating that Israel is in the same category.
Sherwood provides a strong hint that in her opinion Israel is doing something underhand by using PR firms to assist with its initiative. She provides a link to a critical Guardian article about various countries’ PR efforts, noting in a non-sequitor that “Bell Pottinger, headed by Lord Bell, a former adviser to Lady Thatcher represents Sri Lanka and Madagascar.” She provides no proof that Israel is using this firm, just the insinuation that there is something underhand about the firm and a country that would hire it. What could be more despicable, after all, than to use a PR firm whose head once advised Lady Thatcher and now advises Sri Lanka?
In fact, there is nothing specially evil about Bell Pottinger. Its website says “We serve more than 600 clients – including UK and global brands, service firms and charities. We also work with governments, government departments and public sector bodies. We operate in a wide range of sectors, disciplines and geographies.” It lists such miscreants as Cadbury’s,Airbus, HP, Emirates Airlines, and Kellogg’s among its 600 clients. It turns out that Alan Rusbridger had a little run-inwith Bell Pottinger when they represented Trafigura, so perhaps good soldier Sherwood or a sycophantic editor decided that a little sucking up to the boss was in order.
But that was still insufficient for Sherwood. After the “revelation” of Israel’s new PR initiative with allusions to commentary that the Guardian has reserved for the world’s most unsavory regimes, her article veered off course to two additional topics that are distantly related or unrelated to the PR effort.
Israelis are grappling with the problem of accommodating thousands of Sudanese refugees fleeing the Sudan and Egypt by building a detention center for them, something which is creating considerable angst among those who understand the need but wish it did not exist. It is not clear what this has to do with the topic of Israel’s PR initiative unless one assumes that in Sherwood’s mind Israel will now have to create a PR initiative to explain it. This detention center will be similar to those found all over Europe and the USA for illegal immigrants, none of which ever seem to require “explanations” from EU governments or the US administration, since the need and purpose is obvious. Would anyone expect an article about Britain’s PR efforts to include a reference to detained illegal immigrants? I think not.
In case that is insufficient to show Israel’s need for more effective PR, she throws in a little tidbit about a sex scandal involving a senior Israeli police officer, Uri Bar-Lev. Does Sherwood really think that Israel’s PR efforts will spend any time at all on this sex scandal? Is it relevant? Is it something of enormous importance to foreign observers of the Israel scene that Israel will need to “explain” in a world with the Koreas on the brink of war, the Wikileaks documents threatening to disrupt diplomatic relations across the globe, and half of Europe spiraling down into a financial collapse?
It appears that for Sherwood every article is an opportunity to throw everything negative at Israel that she can find in English at the local newsstand, including the kitchen sink. Even by the Guardian’s low standards, the woman is a disgrace, and if they had any spinal fortitude at all, would be recalled.
For a fuller and focused account of the new PR effort, you can find it at Ha’aretz. You will have to forego Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Bell Pottinger, the sex scandal and the detention center. For that you need to read the Guardian.