Sept. at UN: PR is Used by the Arabs, Israel is Silent

2nd of series on PA's unilateral request for UN recognition:
Arabs use PR agencies while Israel's PR is silent and disorganized, says this writer. And, he adds, pro Israel PR agencies would even volunteer to help.

Ronn Torossian,

OpEds Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

In the United States, this week, the first week back at work after Labor Day marks the end of summer – and the re-start of hard work – for school and the business world. 

For Israel, it will also mark the re-start of fierce Anti-Israel media sentiment worldwide with the September UN sessions approaching.  The U.N. General Assembly is poised to accept Palestinian nationhood, at least to a nonvoter observer state from its current status of nonvoting “entity”. T

his new position would allow Palestine to join several U.N. bodies and allow it to bring cases against Israel to the International Criminal Court, a sure recipe for even more disaster for Israel.

Owning 1 of the 25 largest US PR firms I speak regularly to my colleagues in the industry about Israel – and their reactions are often terrifying.  I read of colleagues in Europe from US PR giant Burson –Marsteller stating in reaction to Israel’s request for a meeting “We will not deliver tender to such a project… We are running a commercial venture. If we accept this project, this will create a great amount of negative reactions…Israel is a particularly controversial project.”

Another US agency, French-West-Vaughn responded to recent media reports about Qaddafi issuing a request for a PR firm by stating “We received that same Qaddafi inquiry, as well as one’s from Israel and Afghanistan, and it wasn’t a difficult decision to pass on any of them. We won’t work for any government whose interests are contrary to those of the United States, because all of my people live and work in this country and believe in its principles.”

(Translation: Israel is the same as enemy states, and against American interests.). If that’s the reaction amongst those of us influencing the media, and with one of the most Anti-Israel administrations ever in the White House, one would think Israel PR machines are rocking and rolling.

Despite all this, the CEO of one of the largest PR agencies in the world visited Israel this summer, and called me upon his return aghast.  Traveling with his family on a summer vacation to Israel, he’s a Jew who wanted to assist Israel --  he had appointments (at their request) with a few politicians – universally each of whom showed up late, repeatedly interrupted him and informed him how mis-informed he was.  

Of course I was sure he was reporting to me accurately – and as he stated in the Far East, Latin America and elsewhere, where he charges, no one would ever even think of treating him in that manner. Needless to say his desire to help is no longer quite as strong.

From Israeli government ministers, to major American Jewish organizations, to wealthy well known Jewish Pro-Israel philanthropists, they all pay lip service to publicity problems, yet do little more than talk about the problem. They hold meetings, where people (nary a PR pro) talk (putting forward very little money and following with limited action), surely, and quickly, the vast “PR committee” goes away.

In the US, there are crisis PR firms and CEO’s of PR agencies that are pro-Israel who would welcome volunteer work for the government – yet not a single major American Jewish Organization nor the Israeli government has a US PR Agency. Shameful.

And with all the talk about the Jewish control of the media, the reality is that most of the media is far from supportive of Israel – and it will only get worse as the Arabs are smart, organized and spending with communications professionals.

  • As the Algemeiner recently reported, The PLO Mission in the U.S. in advance of the upcoming September vote has hired Bell Pottinger, a leading International PR agency to provide “advice on strategic communications, public relations, media relations and congressional affairs.”
  • Fenton Communications, a US public relations firm works for “Al Fakhoora”, a Qatar based pro-Palestinian initiative that has “launched an advocacy campaign to file legal charges against Israel and change the public perception in the West about its actions.”  They have been paid at least $240,000 for communications services.

Rest assured when the world’s media comes calling they will be commenting – in less than perfect English and with no context for the US, local expertise, nor relationships.
Meanwhile, Israel plays internal politics and continues to be ineffectual in the world’s media with the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Barak government scoring few points. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is perceived as uninterested in making peace, FM  Avigdor Lieberman is seen as an extremist and Barak is a non factor in the US – and not doing enough.

And if one wants to review “insider politics”, there’s a slew of agencies within the government supposedly dealing with public relations. To name a few, there is a directorate for PR in the National Security Council, and PR divisions in the Prime Minister's Office, the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces.

They don’t coordinate with one another – none of them have contacts in the US – but rest assured when the world’s media comes calling they will be commenting – in less than perfect English and with no context for the US, local expertise, nor relationships.

It pains me greatly to speak so bluntly and have to paint such a disastrous picture of Israel Public Relations – but the fact remains that today’s wars involves media as much as it involves tanks and military - and until Israel recognizes it and stands up they will keep getting slammed in the media non-stop.

Here’s to better Israel Public Relations.