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September 24, 2014 11:22 am

In the Public Relations World, Israel is Controversial, the Muslim Brotherhood is Not

avatar by Ronn Torossian

Tunisia's Chamber of Advisors to Bardo. Photo: wiki commons.

The world of public relations is filled with constant pressures and moving parts. As CEO of one of the largest American PR firms, I know and understand the intricacies of spin.

Last week, the Emirate of Qatar hired one of the world’s largest PR agencies, Portland Communications, “for a communications/political push targeted at Congress and Federal agencies to improve ties with the United States.” Qatar follows Sharia law and has numerous human rights issues.

On the heels of that partnership comes the revelation from recently released government filings that Burson-Marsteller, another one of the world’s leading PR firms, has been hired to improve the foreign image of Tunisia’s Ennahda Party, a Muslim Brotherhood-inspired organization. The Ennahda Party has good reason to want close American ties given the upheaval Islamist-backed governments have caused in the Middle East.

While paying homage to Middle Eastern money isn’t a problem that is unique to the PR industry, the shock is that the same firm taking money from the Muslim Brotherhood inspired group refused to work for Israel, calling Israel “highly controversial.” Sigurd Grytten, Managing Director of Burson-Marsteller, refused Israel’s request for a meeting, explaining “We will not deliver tender to such a project… we are running a commercial venture. If we accept this project, this will create a great amount of negative reactions… Israel is a particularly controversial project.”

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As a Jerusalem Post editorial on the Ennahda Party described, “the movement’s members have been implicated in both incitement and violent actions against Tunisian and foreign targets. The party supported the 1979 embassy takeover in Iran, and evidence suggests it was responsible for bombing four tourist hotels in the 1980s.” A party leader “called for attacks on U.S. interests in the Middle East in response to America’s invasion of Iraq in the Gulf War,” and more recently, the organization spoke of “victory” of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, and opposes relations with Israel. While there are those who claim that the Tunisian party has evolved and is now “moderate,” that’s why organizations hire PR firms – to build their brand.

In the eyes of my peers in the PR industry, a party inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood is mainstream – and Israel is “a particularly controversial project.” Fascinating times we live in.

Ronn Torossian is a public relations executive and best-selling author of “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations.”

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