Tuesday, November 8, 2011

#JFNAGA Day 2 #4 - Ido Aharoni on Changing the narrative and improving Israel's image

(Haaretz). Ido Aharoni, the Israeli Consul General in New-York, argued at the GA that Israel made a mistake defining itself in terms of the conflict for the rest of the world. To support his argument, he presented a new research conducted by "Young & Rubicam" that showed that there is an improvement in Israel's image in the US in several spheres, related to it's scientific research, its diverse culture - and it actually makes Israel more attractive to the people who are quite tired of hearing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The message is very simple", he told Natasha Mozgovaya from "Haaretz" after his presentation at the GA. "The goal was to explain the Jewish world professionals, how important it is to change the narrative. The current narrative does not serve Israel's interests. It focuses only on Israel's troubles, it barely speaks about its advantages and achievements. We defined ourselves to the world in terms of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict - and shoot ourselves in the leg. This research shows that when you are communicating with the world through your advantages - the world is interested in it. There is a different way for Israel to communicate with the world".

- People will say, how is it possible to ignore the conflict.

"You can't ignore it, it's part of our lives. But the new narrative calls to talk about what we are good at. It's no more an attempt to "sell" Israel from an emotional perspective. It's very practical - we talk culture, we talk science, we talk diversity. We checked what the world is interested in related to Israel and discovered that the conflict is not that interesting for people, except for some small groups".

Aharoni says the research discovered that in the last 3 years there was an improvement in Israel's image in the US in three spheres: 20% improvement in perceiving Israel as a modern, western, progressive country. 16% improvement in seeing Israel as a country that cares about the rest of the world (mainly due to the exposure of its humanitarian assistance to other countries), and 14% improvement in seeing Israel as a country with high performance abilities.

"the Internet changes the narrative. When you have thousands of young people going to Israel and posting hundreds of pictures each at the social media - it brings the real Israel. There are things that help to stress that point, like the "Start-up nation" book".

-The image of Israel in the US is mainly positive anyway. What are the chances this approach might work in other places?"It might encounter more resistance in Europe, but in Asia, for example, this conflict is not something that is of great interest for people. But they are interested in science, in culture. Trying to promote pro-Israeli messages related to the conflict will only create resistance - why do you impose your problems? Come to me with something I am interested in".