Richard Edelman is the CEO of Edelman, the largest PR firm in the world. The company is a market leader which does amazing work for a wide variety of clients. Professionally he has had amazing success and his company continues to do inspiring work. Edelman has nearly 5,000 employees all over the world and is professionally admired by many of us who work in the PR industry.
Having spent time with him, I know that Richard and his family are passionate about Judaism and Israel. His legendary father, who recently passed away, Dan Edelman, served on the Board of the Committee for Economic Growth of Israel and was honored by The Jewish United Fund. Richard is a proud Jew who told the Jewish Chronicle how he would market the Jewish State: “Israel has done a very good job with technology and bio-science. It would be good to have a few more hero faces, like technology entrepreneur Shai Agassi. Make the Israel story less about politics and more much more about all the people who are making real breakthroughs in technology – a business-focused image as opposed to consumer.”
Richard is Jewish and therefore considered an infidel within Islamist societies. Interestingly, this Infidel’s company has been hired by Saudi Arabia’s permanent mission to the United Nations to provide creative services and strategic counsel. According to a federal lobbying filing the company is working on a variety of assignments, including event development, strategic counsel and other communications matters.
Is it possible that Saudi Arabia does not know that they hired an infidel? What kind of accommodations will they have to make for him if he visits the country? It is no secret that Saudi Arabia makes it very difficult for Jews to visit the country, and most who do must travel on a passport without an entrance stamp to Israel on its pages.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, there has been no Jewish activity in the country. Saudi Arabia bars anyone from bringing into Saudi Arabia religious ritual objects, including religious texts, from any faith other than Islam, effectively banning religiously observant Jews from entering the country. If Muslims convert to another religion, the penalty is execution.
Of course, it is not only Jews who are not treated well there. Saudi Arabia is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t recognize the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Saudi courts allow beheading and stoning, and the US State Department says “discrimination against women is a significant problem” in Saudi Arabia.
As Public Relations is a highly female dominated profession, what will the Saudi PR team look like? Saudi Arabian women are required to have a male guardian and need their guardian’s permission for marriage and divorce, travel, if under 45, education; employment and opening a bank account, and they are not permitted to drive or vote.
Rahima Abdul Rahman Abdullah, special advisor to the Saudi ambassador is named as Edelman’s Saudi contact – let’s hope his fate is better than that of the seven men in Saudi Arabia who were executed by the government this month – after being tortured and without lawyers or the right to appeal at their trial.
This country denies Israel’s right to exist, rejects Jews and Jewish accomplishments and is a breeding ground for Islamist terrorism – often against Jewish, Israeli or Western targets. Yet, when needed, it takes full advantage of one of the premier public relations firms owned and run by a devoted Jew. Is it irony or pragmatism? Maybe both!
Of course, a very good first step for organic PR has already occurred recently – Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council is reconsidering the driving ban on women. Modernization may yet come to the Middle East.
Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a Top 25 U.S. PR firm. He is also a devoted Jew who lives in Manhattan with his family.