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Op-Ed: Media Matters: Arab PR Hurts Israel's Economy

5WPR shows how terrorism and Arab Public Relations work in tandem to hurt the Israeli economy.
Published: Monday, November 26, 2012 8:07 AM





As Egypt takes the side of Hamas in the Mid-East conflict and Mohamed Morsi, the President of Egypt assumes near-absolute power in his country, Egypt simultaneously looks to Madison Avenue to heal its public relations challenges. As CEO of 5WPR, I know very well that Arab countries work very hard to manage their image in the West.

According to multiple industry trade magazines this week, The Egyptian Tourist Authority is looking for global marketing and public relations support as they seek to rebuild tourism in the aftermath of the “Arab Spring.”

Reports indicate that a major seven figure account can be won in Cairo – and all of the major International marketing companies received the brief. "Tourism accounted for more than a tenth of Egypt's gross domestic product before the 18-day revolt…” said Reuters last month, and other reports said at the time Egypt's tourism industry was losing $1 billion a month.

Naturally, communications companies will help them to manage the situation and communicate about how safe Egypt is and how much tourists are wanted.

The Arab country of Bahrain, which tortures its own citizens, has an awful human rights record and doesn’t recognize the existence of Israel, has spent untold millions to hire at least ten Western public relations companies in the last year.

In the past few weeks, The Guardian has reported that Tony Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell was hired by Bahrain to train government officials in “using conflict resolution techniques.” The Bahrain lawmaker who, a few days ago, set fire to an Israeli flag during a parliament session in a show of support for the Palestinians in Gaza must have missed those techniques.

Undoubtedly, however, these many experts assist greatly in manipulating media coverage.

While tens of thousands have been slaughtered in Syria in an ongoing war, it barely registers in Western media – and Hillary Clinton hasn’t visited for emergency negotiations.

Of course, a few months ago, hundreds of emails were released from Assad’s office preparing him for his December 2011 interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters and the United States based PR firm, Brown Lloyd James, worked for Syria. In the future, I believe we will learn about a communications company now working for Syria.

In light of all of this, one wonders how many international tourists might stay away from Israel as a result of Operation Pillar of Defense. Initial reports from the Israeli Tourism Ministry said cancellations of around 20 percent for months to come. I know personally families and groups who cancelled trips – so that the price of Hamas’ attacks on Israel are many fold.

I urge the powers-that-be for Israeli PR to explain the current situation on the ground to tourists – as those who stay away mean less jobs and money for the vital tourism industry in Israel.

Warren Buffett, one of the greatest business minds ever, has said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” The Tourism Minister of Israel this week stated “it can take you years of work to try to increase the numbers of incoming charter flights, but only six days to lose them.”

One of the aims of terrorism is causing economic damage to your target – and I am sure Arab nations will rejoice if they succeed in harming Israeli tourism and the Israeli economy.

In the Middle East, while Arab regimes commit mass murder, they spend millions on public relations to further bias the media away from the truth.

There are so many unfortunate consequences to the ongoing terrorist attacks against Israel and Israel must act to minimize them.

Ronn Torossian is an entrepreneur, author and philanthropist.