'A particularly revealing article by a senior Haaretz journalist.
It is noteworthy especially because it exposes the common racist mentality as well as the quintessential Israeli obsession with image -- and nothing more -- that have always dominated Israeli society but have become even more entrenched and accentuated with Israel's latest criminal war on Gaza.
The Brand Israel project which was first tested in a Canadian city is now being spread by the almost unmatched pro-Israel propaganda machine in more western cities, in a professional, glitzy and very expensive PR effort to make western publics perceive Israel in more positive, liberal terms. The objective is specifically to cover up Israel's reality as a settler-colonial, racist, apartheid, pariah state that is highly influenced by fanatic Jewish fundamentalists in critical cultural, legal and social domains, and to rebrand it as a "liberal democracy" that is secular, enlightened, "sexy" and, most importantly, WHITE.
Although I've argued elsewhere that Israel and Zionism in general have lost their magic touch and are too drunk with power to consider the importance of winning hearts and minds through persuasion or to be effective about it, I still strongly believe that this Brand Israel project is not entirely an obvious waste of money. Israel's PR machine cannot cover up the blood-drenched Israeli crimes in Gaza, for sure. And I think they realize that. So what they focus on, instead, is to present their victims as relative humans that are not really worthwhile for proper western whites to sympathize with. After all, the German, French, British, Belgian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Japanese (for all intents and purposes they've been absorbed into the "white" category for decades) and, of course, American, acts of genocide, of various proportions, against their respective weaker, "lesser" human victims over the last few centuries make Israel's crimes against humanity since its violent establishment on the ruins of Palestinian society in 1948 pale in comparison.
Israeli commentators and academic apologists are well aware of that. Many often viciously attack the US as hypocritical in its almost ritual, sanitized criticism of Israel in the annual US State Department human rights reports. And they are right, to an extent. A country whose occupation of Iraq (not to mention Hiroshima, Dresden or Afghanistan) is directly or indirectly responsible for the death of approximately one million Iraqis, leaving behind FOUR million Iraqi orphans today, and for a cultural genocide the likes of which have not been experienced for decades hardly has the moral right to condemn a racist colonial state simply for its illegal occupation, Wall, construction of colonies, racial discrimination system against its "non-Jewish" citizens, demolishing houses, uprooting trees, wilfully killing tens or hundreds of innocent civilians, including children, and destroying the -- western-funded -- foundations upon which a Palestinian state was supposed to rise.
And ever since 9/11, and for complex socio-economic, cultural and ideological reasons that are too lengthy to get into now, many nice, liberal whites in the west have turned into xenophobic anti-Arab and anti-Muslim fanatics who are ready to support unspeakable atrocities against those brown sand-niggers, thereby creating a fertile atmosphere for Israel's gradually intensifying, but still very slow, acts of genocide. Thus Gaza.
In launching its unprecedented bombing of 1.5 million civilians crowded in an open-air prison with no place to escape to, Israel took a risk, indeed; but it knew well that it could count on not only servile, criminally complicit western governments, but also on significant segments of western publics that could not care less if more of those faceless, not-fully-human "Muslim brownies" are massacred, but that know everything about one nice, Jewish, white soldier, captured in a perfectly legitimate act of Palestinian resistance to occupation -- even perhaps the shape of his eyeglasses!
In this context, the Brand Israel project may well be a profitable investment, after all, in helping Israel paint a mythical image that is divorced from reality. This is what Israel has always been about, anyway: a Zionist myth perpetuated through academia, Hollywood, mainstream western media and an enternally nourished and reinforced sense of western guilt over the Holocaust. In resorting, again, to massive image reinvention, Israel relies on the fact that a still-not-so-depleted reservoir of colonial, racist western attitude towards the global south, the indigenous populations in various places, non-whites in their own societies, and Muslims/Arabs in particular, continues to exist and animate racial discrimination in the west today.
What Israeli PR planners seem to ignore or fail to understand, though, is that a groundswell of principled and/or pragmatic commitment to human rights and international law have really taken root among key western civil society actors, enough to deem all Israel's PR efforts futile or worthless in the long run, despite short-lived successes here and there. The millions who assembled on the streets of western capitals in 2003 to oppose the war on Iraq was the most important indicator of that "other west." The fast growing and deepening BDS movement also attests to the failure of Israeli planners in predicting the level of western public hostility towards Israel's racist and criminal policies. And, it is crucial to note that many westerners, including an increasing number of Jews who oppose Zionism, subscribe to the view expressed by NYU academic Tony Judt who said that a state like Israel with its blatant discrimination is "anachronistic" in today's world and has no hope to survive as such in the long run. Finally, the world is no longer about the west and the irrelevant "rest." With the rise of China, India, Brazil, among others, on the world stage, "non-whites" will soon have much more say in world politics, challenging and eventually balancing the centuries-old hegemony of Europe and, later, the US. Israel's totally white-centric PR efforts are hardly effective in all those non-European contexts.
Ultimately, no Israeli PR genius can "compete" for international public sympathy with the image of one Palestinian mother lying on a hospital bed in Gaza, suffering from deep burns, tormented with the haunting thought that she watched in total paralysis Israel's white phosphorous fire engulf her children one after the other. The "game" of winning hearts and minds is over. Israel lost. Still, Palestinians and all conscientious citizens of the world have a moral duty to counter Israel's rebranding deception and expose its reality without cosmetics or bikinis.
To those who are interested, here's a link to an article I wrote in 2004 about different Israeli crimes but almost the same obsession with PR -- never with human rights, international law or basic morality: http://www.counterpunch.org/barghouti11292004.html
Bar Refaeli in Gaza
By Aluf Benn
Tzipi Livni is the most famous Israeli woman in the world, according to the number of hits on Google, and Bar Refaeli is second. During a week in which Livni was nearly elected prime minister, Refaeli appeared on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, an Oscar for supermodels. Her photo in a bikini was put on an airliner and the Israeli media were thrilled that another of ours had made it big abroad. Refaeli presents herself everywhere as an Israeli, and even expressed her support for Livni on the eve of the elections. The enormous international exposure she enjoys raises the question of whether she helps Israel's public-relations campaign abroad, and whether her photos on the beach soften the hard images of the war in the Gaza Strip. At the Foreign Ministry they believe that she helps. The Brand Israel project, which was created during Livni's tenure, seeks to counter the country's aggressive and religious image abroad, using common marketing tools. If Israel is perceived as a hard, unpleasant place, resembling an armed evangelical village in Texas, then it is worthwhile to reveal softer sides to the West. A year and a half ago, the Foreign Ministry sponsored a photo essay in the men's magazine Maxim, which presented bikini-clad Israeli models as former soldiers. A survey carried out after the publication showed that the readers caught on to the message and perceived Israel as a more liberal country, more similar to the United States than they had originally thought. The branding project is not meant to influence Congressmen's votes on aid to Israel, or Barack Obama's stance on the settlements; it aims to alter an image in the long run. It confronts Israel's most difficult problem in the world: the difference in the way Israelis perceive themselves and the way they are perceived abroad. Israelis tend to see their country as part of the West, and compare it to the United States and Britain. The problem is that the West is not too thrilled by the comparison and regards Israel as an oddity, a country using excessive force in permanent conflict with its neighbors. In Europe, and to a growing extent in the U.S., the use of military power is seen as primitive, something that belongs to the previous century, something that decent people don't do. When the Europeans apply force in Afghanistan or Kosovo, they are not proud of it like Israeli leaders who get excited about the bombing of Gaza.'