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December 4, 2011 10:52 am

Israel’s Worst PR Move

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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In this ad, the narrator says in Hebrew: "They will always be Israelis but their partners won't understand. Help them return to Israel." Photo: Youtube.

Israel has repeatedly made stupid and ineffectual public relations moves over the years, but this week’s series of advertisements really takes the cake. The ads – aired in Hebrew on American satellite TV stations – targeted Israelis living in the USA. Israel’s Immigration Ministry launched the campaign to urge Israelis to return to live in Israel and avoid further assimilation in the Diaspora. Although the message is understandable, the world does not necessarily have to view our private ‘family’ discussions. Being right isn’t always enough.

Following tremendously negative media coverage worldwide, Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the ads yanked “immediately.” But the damage had already been done; it’s a shame that now this message is being transmitted across worldwide media outlets.

One of the ads shows an American boyfriend “getting” why his Israeli girlfriend,”Dafna,” wants to stay home as he sees her nestled comfortably in front of the computer. So he sets the mood with soft music and candle-light. She ignores his romantic comments, and the camera zooms in on her watching a ceremony commemorating Israel’s Memorial Day for fallen soldiers (Yom HaZikaron). The narrator comments in Hebrew, “they will always be Israelis, but their partners won’t understand. Help them return to Israel.” Another one of the ads: “Before Abba Turns into Daddy, it’s time to come back to Israel.” A full selection of the ads can be seen here.

Let’s accept the fact that American and Israeli Jews live worlds apart and are very different from each other. I know many Israelis that live in the U.S.; few live without some level of guilt over living in the Diaspora, and almost all worry that their kids will assimilate. These transplanted Israelis read Israeli papers, generally speak Hebrew at home and are quite connected to their country. However, if the government does want these expats to hear this message, why not send it in another manner?

Owning one of the largest U.S. Public Relations firms, I (and many others) would have assisted the Israeli government to find an American Jewish group, Israeli newspaper, or lobby to run the advertisements without the need for the “Israeli government” to officially sanction them.  Just as there a need for covert operations in war, so, too, the Israeli government must learn and implement the importance of discretion at all times. Other than awful publicity, what did the Israeli government gain by endorsing this campaign? Frankly it was pure stupidity.

American Jews provide financial and political “air coverage” to Israel – and the American people, in general, are friendly to Israel, but they don’t need to hear every single “family” discussion – nor should they. In the world of crisis PR, Israel has failed miserably yet again.

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