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June 27, 2011 1:16 pm

Israel: Public Relations & The Flotilla

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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Snapshot of footage from the MV Mavi Marmara showing an Israeli soldier being thrown to a lower deck during the Gaza flotilla clash. Photo: IDF.

So the “flotilla” Part 2 is coming, and the latest has an AP story reporting that “any foreign journalist caught on board a Gaza-bound flotilla could face deportation and a 10-year ban from the country, in a move that threatened to worsen the nation’s already strained relationship with the international media.” The truth is, while this alternative will harm Israel’s media image, a golden rule of crisis PR is being met here – to mitigate and lessen possible risk – and this alternative is better than other alternatives.

Predictably, the media quickly condemned Israel – The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists working for international news organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, condemned the Israeli decision and urged the government to cancel the order. “The government’s threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press,” the association said.

In Israel, unlike in the rest of the Middle East, the media does have freedom – but so too, does the Israeli government have freedom to take action as freedom isn’t absolute. By being complicit in an illegal breach of Israel’s naval blockade of a hostile territory ruled by a terrorist group, journalists who participate have been pre-warned that it “is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for 10 years, to the impoundment of their equipment, and to additional sanctions,” said the Government Press Office.

Anyone, including journalists, must follow the law, and while I haven’t seen too many Western journalists living with Al Qaeda, or Gaddafi naturally they all feel the need to ensure an illegal flotilla receive ample media coverage (which will surely receive tons more media coverage than the thousands who have already been slaughtered in Syria by their own government).

This owner of a Top 25 PR Agency says, “Hats off to Israel – Limit access and do what needs to be done.” While Israel’s PR is putrid – part of PR success is pre-planning, and unlike the previous flotilla there seems to be a clear plan here, which means Israel is eager to avoid a repeat of last year’s raid, which drew heavy international condemnation. Israel needs to continue speaking loudly and clearly about the danger of the flotilla.

Israel is absolutely right, and by realizing that they won’t win this part of the media war, is attempting to limit access and limit damage. Working extensively in these matters at my crisis PR firm, I say to Israel: “Stand strong.”

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