Friday, February 26, 2010

Minister Edelstien on defensive to save Israel's PR

(JC,Ynet).Israel is suffering its biggest public relations crisis for 20 years, according to its information and diaspora minister.

Yuli Edelstein told 400 guests at the Zionist Federation dinner in London this week: "We are facing the 3Ds- deligitimisation, demonisation, and double standards, pretending to be legitimate criticism of Israeli policies."

While it had become "absolutely disgusting not to talk nicely about Jews," such a taboo no longer applied to Israel or its soldiers.

He said that while legitimate criticism was welcome, the international atmosphere and the Goldstone Report, had accelerated this. Putting much of the blame on Iran, he added: "When someone persistently says that he wants to kill me, I tend to believe him."

He was in London leading a campaign to improve the country's image. And, as a former prisoner in the Soviet Union - he reached Israel in 1987 after three years in labour camps - he recalled the ultimate success of the worldwide Soviet Jewry campaign.

"Thirty or 40 years ago Soviet Jews didn't stand a chance. But then we had each other, the Jewish community worldwide, and we counted on the right people - many of you are here tonight."

He added: "Millions of Israelis travel abroad every year. Eighty five per cent of those we asked expressed their backing for the national effort of trying to change the perception of Israel."

A website,, has been launched with films in English, Spanish and French, giving an ironic view of how Europeans see Israel.

The English version has a fake BBC reporter walking through the desert with camels, which, he tells the viewer in all seriousness, are the primary forms of transport for Israelis, and even used to carry weapons. "The camels are used by the Israeli cavalry," he says.

Mr Edelstein said: "You can't preach all the time unless you want to sound like a Bolshevik."
After taking harsh blows to his new pro-Israel PR initiative, which has largely been criticized as grossly mismanaged and misguided, Minister of Information and Diaspora Yuli Edelstein cannot understand what exactly is the problem.

"Even al-Jazeera understands Israel's right to defend itself better that the Left in Israel, led by Peace Now," Edelstein told Ynet.

The PR website central to the campaign seems to mix political positions together with pro-Israel advocacy. For instance, it claims that peace with the Palestinians is not related to the existence of West Bank settlements.

"The source of the Arab-Israeli conflict does not stem from the size of the country, but rather its very existence," the site asserts. "Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are both likely to be perceived in the eyes of Arabs as settlements."

In another instance, the site explains that the 13 Arabs simply "disappeared" during the October 2000 Riots when in fact they were killed.

Talking to Ynet, Edelstein admits that the Israeli PR website has yet to be completed and that corrections will be made to it in the near future.

"There will be many more changes in the next couple of months, in accordance with the public's criticism and faults discovered by us. Nonetheless, everything said in the website reflects the Israeli law on the Golan Heights issue and reflects the government's stands on Judea and Samaria. It focuses on are mid points, Israeli consensus points," Edelstein said.

Referring to the Left's criticism of the Israeli website, the minister said: "The fact that the Left's leaders and Peace Now members are unhappy with our PR campaign on the website is really unfortunate. I consulted dozens of people – including public figures, academics and artists whose opinions are very far from mine – and many of them praised the campaign and the website we set up. They all understand that this is a national effort serving all the people of Israel."

Edelstein went on to slam Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer, who sent a letter of protest to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the Israeli PR website's content.

"I was asked to give an interview to al-Jazeera about this issue and I did it in their studio in London. I just got back from there. I was interviewed by a clear pro-Palestinian journalist, but even he did not refer to it as a fascist right-wing campaign, as Peace Now claims. This says it all."

Edelstein added, "Many media outlets in the world, including pro-Palestinian ones, have talked to me about the new website's meaning for Israeli 'hasbara'. None of them said what the Israeli Left is saying. No one sees it as a nationalistic campaign. The Left and Oppenheimer should examine themselves. The Israeli PR website contains Israel's essence and the opinions of the Israeli government, and this is how it should be."