From ‘Masbirim’ website
Foreign Ministry: Israel must throw off mantle of ‘apartheid state’
Conference at Rishon Lezion College of Management reinforces calls for Israel to reposition its image internationally. ‘Branding has to be congruent with Israel’s reality and culture,’ official says
A senior Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday reinforced the need for Israel to shake off the mantle of “the new apartheid state” and redefine itself to the international community, at a conference held at The College of Management – Academic Studies (COMAS) in Rishon Lezion.
The conference, entitled “Repositioning Israel” examined the impact of recent events on the perception of Israel, and how they overshadow the country’s achievements. A group of luminaries, led by Professor Michael Perry of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at COMAS, and including Aharoni, Ronen Plot, Director General of the Diaspora Ministry, Joanna Landau, founder and CEO of Kinetis, Professor Carlo Strenger from the department of Psychology at Tel Aviv University, Benny Bronsky from the Institute of Creative Thinking and Don Herman, author of The Making or Faking of Emotionally Significant Brands examined ways to deal with this negative image, in particular the idea of moving the emphasis in Israel away from the Palestinian conflict and on to its achievements in many other areas.
Aharoni, who is responsible for the Foreign Ministry’s branding of Israel and spearheaded the launch of the much-debated “Masbirim” website, said: “Crisis management is the only context in which the world is capable of seeing Israel. This is very well but certainly not enough. Israel’s positioning has to be a holistic process, not focused on a single narrow aspect. It should address a range of life areas such as tourism, increasing exports and foreign investments, providing exposure to Israeli culture, and more.
“What are our rivals doing? Years ago, the ‘apartheid’ category became vacant, so Israel was declared ‘the new apartheid state’, from the (West Bank) security fence to comparing Marwan Bargouti to Nelson Mandela. We, however, play into their hands by insisting to keep talking about the conflict instead of on our assets as a state,” he said, while stressing the need for the country’s branding to be customized to individual audiences and contexts.
“The media is undergoing a technological boom. Fast changes are taking place in each medium and the task of getting got the target audience is harder than ever before. For this reason, one should focus on quality –namely on small, high quality audience – than on quantity. Relevancy and consistency is more important than the framework in which it is provided. The distribution of information on the web affects us all and we have to adjust and mobilize many more people to help the governmental effort,” the Foreign Ministry official added.
‘Emotions far more important than rationale’
Aharoni continued to say that the State must brand itself more strongly and successfully, urging the mobilization of political and social commitment to achieve this.
“A brand is a promise and a strong brand is a promise consistently fulfilled. Most countries communicate themselves with methods used by classical brands. . . The brand has to be credible. The branding process is no an advertising campaign or spin: it has to be congruent with Israel’s reality and culture,” he said.
“Branding requires commitment on behalf of the political community, but also delegation and empowerment of the citizens. For this reason, a concept has to be created to serve as the source for all information. It’s also important to be patient and let the process succeed in the long run,” according to Aharoni.
Professor Perry spoke of the challenge of branding Israel more positively. “The worse mistake about the branding of Israel is thinking that people are rational and that it is enough to present factual and effective arguments to correct the image issue. It is important that we wake up and realize that emotions and psychology are far more important than rationale in branding processes. The emotions determine the relationship between human beings. This is exactly what Prof. Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for,” he said.