Monday, February 22, 2010

"Explain Israel": Yuli Edelstein on Al Jazeera

The discussions and arguments over Israel's recently launched citizen diplomacy campaign have been raging for more than a week now. Essence: total public diplomacy, Israeli version. Smart. Interesting. Controversial.

What is more interesting, though, is that the issue of the alleged assassination of a Hamas leader in Dubai by the Mossad, and the latter's use of forged passport duplicates of several Jewish-Europeans hit the news right at this time, when Israel set out to convince the world that 99.9% of its ordinary citizens live normal lives and to foster stronger bonds with its Diaspora (see the video below). Of course, this cannot undermine one's identity; however, I am sure that Jewish Diasporans will give it a second thought next time they travel to Israel. They won't be the only ones, for sure.

What is most worrisome is that in this appearance, Yuli Edelstein, Israel's Minister of Information and Diaspora, says that he "sincerely believes that it's not such an [unheard-of] issue [...] especially taking into consideration the fact that the names and identities [of the Europeans involved] are known." Basically, it's normal, he says.

He also takes an issue with the excessive media coverage of the conflict, which, inevitably affects the public perceptions of Israel. And when asked about whether changing the policies and the facts on the ground would be the best way of addressing the problem, the response is that it's none of his business. Unfortunately, given the way media and perceptions work, as far as Israel's international "appeal" is concerned, the conflict will keep overshadowing all attempts at perception management, particularly when it comes to political perceptions.

It is noteworthy, however, that he made a special appearance on Al Jazeera English. Testing the ground, perhaps...?

Here is a clip from the Israeli Government's official website for the "Explain Israel" initiative:

With all due respect for the noble intentions behind this anti-camel-and-hummus talk, it will most certainly be very limited in its success, and most probably backfire, especially in the long run. Not only is it stepping up the government's efforts at image control abroad, but it has also set out to involve its own citizens and non-governmental organizations in promoting the current government's official line, while turning up nationalism and stifling any semblance of opposition or questioning.

Dangerous. So long, and thanks for all the... .


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