Branding Gaza: how to take a long, sustained “revenge” on Israel

19/1/2009

In a blind show of power and as cynical political tactic, the leaders of Israel (and behind them most of the Israeli public, I am afraid) went ahead a committed an unbelievable crime in Gaza. By now everyone knows the statistics: Over 1300 Palestinians killed, amongst them hundreds of children. Over 5000 wounded. Billions of dollars of destroyed civilian infrastructure. Untold amounts of suffering.

But in its blindness, Israel seems to have also made a big mistake. If you want to put it simply: they totally “overdid it” this time!

And it is this mistake, that Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and every concerned and decent person around the globe should exploit, to expose the crime and to help Gaza and Palestine.

The urge to take revenge for what Israel did will take violent forms that will plague this region for years. This is unfortunate and I will not concern myself with that here.

But Israel’s utterly criminal behavior presents us with a rare chance to drag it through the mud, globally and, hopefully, effectively.

Israel needs to be dragged through the mud, for sure. A global public opinion should be formed that, at least, guarantees that Israel gets more heat next time it decides to mindlessly kill children, bomb schools, hospitals and UN buildings. If we want to be more hopeful, we can dream of beginning a global movement that finally pushes for a free Palestine.

Israel should be globally branded as the new apartheid-era South Africa.

But for that to happen, we cannot go on with our current media and communication policies. These have totally failed so far.

In this post, I want to start thinking about what it will take to turn Israel’s crime in Gaza into a potent movement to limit Israel’s power and to break its monopoly of attracting sympathy where it counts.

It is time to create THE GLOBAL GAZA BRAND.

A brand for an un-ideal world: In an ideal world, the leaders of Israel should be now being arrested for war crimes and taken to the Hague to be tried.

In an ideal world, the Arab world should have been able to make a credible military threat against Israel to deter it from bombing Gaza.

But we don’t live in an ideal world.

One thing that Arabs need to understand, is that the asymmetry of military power between the Arab world is almost absolute, and that this has been the case since probably 1967. No amount of flag burning, shoe throwing and Starbucks boycotting will change that.

Palestine is NOT Vietnam and NOT Algeria. That was another time and another place.

Another thing we need to get into our heads (both over-enthusiastic young, and over-depressed old) is that we the Arab world should have no interest in entering a large-scale war with Israel, because our military, economic and, yes, CULTURAL weakness vis-a-vis the West is so great that even contemplating such a military confrontation is simply crazy.

The ultimate response to Israel’s continued aggression and Arab’s continued weakness has been the idea of the “human bomb” or the so-called “martyrdom operations”. But I think it is becoming clear that this response is neither sustainable, moral or even effective.

In short, we live in an un-ideal world and we’d better start playing a new game that WORKS.

Meet Carl, the pro-Israel guy: When we want to tell Gaza’s story to the world and win hearts and minds, we shouldn’t think of the leftists and hippies and the few intellectuals who know what’s going on in Palestine and are our friends anyway. These people are super important and we should not loose them, and they should be given every tool possible to tell the story of what happened in Gaza and what happened in Palestine.

But when we shape the story and the essence of the Gaza Brand, we should think of a really challenging audience.

Let’s imagine an ardent anti-Palestinian, pro-Israeli person. Let’s even imagine that this person, probably someone from the Western world, is also somewhat racist against Arabs. But let’s also imagine that this person still has some amount of human decency or maybe a superficial sense of a “fair fight”. Let’s call him Carl.

Let’s imagine that this person blames Hamas 100% for the war and that he is totally convinced that they have been using Gaza’s population as a human shield. Let’s also imagine that Carl is also somewhat afraid of Islamic terrorist blowing up the train he takes to work.

In other words, he is someone totally sold on Israel’s side of the story.

That’s our audience if we want to make Gaza a household name.

How should Carl perceive what Israel did over the past 3 weeks in Gaza?

What would the chances be of convincing this pro-Israeli person that Israel has committed a murderous crime of unbelievable proportions.

What is a communication strategy that can convert Carl into a friend of Gaza and Palestine! (or at least someone who can see both sides of the story).

Why “branding”: Branding is the a sustained, strategic management of a perceived identity, or reputation.

“Strategic” and “management” are the two words that have been missing from Arab vocabulary when it comes to almost every aspect of life.

And because branding cares about audiences and their perceptions, it focuses our minds on what works and what doesn’t.

Brand Gaza has to be so powerful, coherent and appealing, that even Carl has to stop and listen/look/understand/act.

It has to become so popular, all over the world, but especially in the US and Western Europe, that politicians and leaders have to take notice, or else risk looking totally stupid and out of touch in front of voters, newspaper columnists and leaders of public opinion.

Someone might ask: haven’t Palestinians suffered enough over the past 50 years? Where is the decency of the world?

Let’s just face it: the “decency of the world” is relative. Perceptions and attention are all that matters when you want to tell/sell your story. If Israel, a mighty country which has brutalized the Palestinians for so long still manages to sell its story to the world, why is it that the Palestinians are incapable of selling theirs, although they are more deserving of sympathy and help?

What the Gaza Brand CANNOT be: The creation of a sustainable core idea for telling Gaza’s story to the world, needs a thorough clean-up of the language we use to describe our tragedies. The clean-up needs to get rid of the language of exaggeration, of comparisons to past “epic” events and of generalizations, racism against jews and heroic Islamic/Arabic self-aggrandization.

In other words, it is not business as usual.

The brand cannot be the “Gaza Holocaust”: the “Holocaust” brand has already been taken by the world’s Jews. No one takes us seriously when we talk about Gaza’s Holocaust. Let’s acknowledge that suffering of the Palestinians today, although tragic and totally unacceptable, still is not directly comparable with the systematic annihilation of the Jews by the Nazi in World War II.

The brand cannot be “Gaza’s Epic, Heroic Battle of Victory”: If we keep talking about epic battles, the world might actually believe it and thus will fall into Israel’s trap of portraying its war on Palestinians as war of equals. It is NOT a war of equals and we should not claim we’re winning it.

The brand cannot be “Wipe Israel off the Map”: This sounds aggressive and, frankly, is not credible. Given that Israel actually has nuclear weapons, they can more credibly talk about wiping an Arab country off the map.

The brand cannot be “Hamas”: Political movements come and go. Gaza is not about Hamas. Gaza’s problem and Palestine’s problem was there before Hamas.

The brand cannot be about “glorifying death”: If all we’re saying is “we don’t care if we die” others will just shrug their shoulders when the bombs fall on our little concrete huts.

What the Gaza Brand SHOULD be: The brand should be about defying mindless power: it should shame Israel for inflicting violence upon a population, resulting in the shameful ratio of 100:1 (killing 100 Palestinians for every 1 Israeli killed). The brand should be about Palestine and the dream of a people of life in a free homeland. The brand should be all about Human Rights as a universal concept that Palestinians seek to attain

The brand should have Global Appeal: it cannot have global appeal while being chauvinist or aggressive. It should also be connected to the suffering of people everywhere, not just people in Palestine.

It should be about Hope: without emphasizing hope and belief in a better tomorrow, you can hardly inspire people to support you. Remember, in a few days we’ll be living in the Post-Bush, Obama era. Hope is a word that has gained new currency.

Focusing the message to tell the world what happened in Gaza might only a piece of the puzzle. But in a media saturated world, we’d better start thinking clearly about what we want to tell the world.

In the coming days and weeks, the full extent of the crime in Gaza will become more apparent. The needs of the people their are urgent. Here again, a coherent Gaza Brand, can play a role in attracting aid and support from across the world.

73 Comments

  1. Nadjib says:

    You have put into perspective a concrete idea that is not impossible to implement. I support your view that many of the phrases and concepts around the atrocities in Gaza should not be cliché like the “holocaust” or “war”. People will immediately see the attempt to piggy-back on a used “brand” as a way of comparing it to other incidents in history. A brilliantly written article, thank you.

  2. loolt says:

    brilliant post! and definatley something we should think about.

    Here are my off the top of my head suggestions:

    The attempted destruction of Gaza

    Israels barbarism in Gaza

    The Gazan Horror

    Nightmare in Gaza

  3. Abu Yaseen says:

    subhanAllah!!

  4. Zeina says:

    Thank you for a well though and vital idea! It was refreshing to read your “branding Gaza” entry! So true!

  5. Terry Scott says:

    Just came by this post and it is a serious proposition that can go far. Nice work.
    Terry.

  6. Qwaider says:

    This is brilliant effort, and sounds like the phoenix rising through the ashes
    If there is something I would add it would be the exaggerated views of violence don’t always help the cause. In fact, the little sad dramatic views of young people and widows silently crying during funerals is way more effective and allows the brain to receive the message while the view of blood drained-brain out-lifeless body of a baby forces people to shut off and completely refuse whatever comes next.

    We need to wipe out from our vocabulary that we are completely determined to DIE to achieve our goals. We’re willing to sacrifice, pay the ultimate price. But having people continuously shouting that they want to die have been used by the pro-Israeli propaganda to explain how these mad-men are bent on their destruction

    We must also remove the counter-propaganda that keeps saying things like “they don’t allow us to have our right to exist” it’s very harmful

    Additionally, we need to focus on positive events in the Palestinian past when Palestinian Arabs used to shelter the Jews and help them specifically during the Second World War and before.

    As you said, and I’ve been always proponent of this message, our message should be that of hope, looking forward to a brighter future, coexistence and working WITH everyone to lift whatever injustice that has been dealt to the people of Palestine

    At the same time, the focus on freedom fighting and resistance of occupation needs to be clear, one such area that helps people understand this is the association of occupation with being illegal and how a morally superior government would never allow it to happen. (Capitalizing on the negativity surrounding GW Bush’s reign of terror)

    I think this is a fantastic opportunity that everyone, every person with decency to stand with the just cause and the victims of this “Gazacaust”

  7. Cybermtl says:

    A fine, sensible plan, with one major flaw: it still requires that “ideal world” we’re not living in. you see; in that ideal world, people would listen to common sense and facts more than they do to gossip, influenced mass media and peer pressure. Carl wouldn’t be so blind and closed minded that he’d refuse to hear the scream of children who are dieing under heavy bombing, and just hold on to his wrong, silly steriotyping views.

    Imagining that we somehow convinced the “people”, showed them the truth, we’d still need that “ideal world”, where people have actual influence on their governments. Where “democratic” governments are truly democratic, and would take actions based on the true thoughts and feeling of it’s people, rather than on political agendas that benefits them the most.

    I hate to be pessimistic, but i believe we’re way past making any change by trying to get a message to the other side, a harsh truth i learned after years debating with other members of other cultures personally and through the web. “Forcing” others to listen seems like the only way left.

    Still, “Branding Gaza” is the best we can do for now, so I’ll stick to it in hope that I’m wrong, and that our world is more ideal that i thought :)

  8. Osama Humeid says:

    Brilliant, one of your posts ever

  9. Hameed says:

    Great post and great idea but it’s missing one thing…

    I am sure everyone would agree with you, more or less, now all we need is what every other Arab plan needs….An actual plan!

    Let’s get into details, how are we going to do this? and when?

  10. T says:

    My goodness, I so agree with you. It is cringemaking when the word ‘holocaust’ is brought up and the stupid rhetoric. There is so much in that small piece of land that can be used to show how inhumane the Israelis are. I hope that some serious people will take them to court for their indiscriminate use of weapons and their total lack of humanity to the Palestinians. Let us hope that the new US president will help though I am not holding my breath. The Arab world should get themselves together and present a united front and I wish that some of them would be brave enough to roundly condemn the Israelis without making excuses for them.

  11. Mahmoud Al-Sharif says:

    Ahmad, thank you. You’ve said it all.

    It’s about speaking the language of the rest of the world when trying to demonstrate our fair cause. This will gain us sympathy, not our (business-as-usual) launguage.

    I’d strongly recommend taking a look at how Cyprus branded their struggle against the Turkey. Not that I’m taking any side, but from a “branding” perspective, they have done it “right”.

  12. Nas says:

    a very, very, very, very interesting post ahmad.

  13. Great idea Ahmad … so what brand do you suggest?

    How about PALESTINE NOW …

  14. Ali says:

    I think branding the atrocities in Gaza is a good idea. I still don’t know who will adpot such an intiative. World Politicians are corrupted, Arab leadership is untrusty and unworthy. My only concern now is the Arab youth and generations who were awakened by this war, are we going to forget easily? go back to our lives?

  15. [...] Don’t Miss This 360east Post “Rebranding Gaza” By kinziblogs Like I almost did. Ahmad Humeid has some brilliant words there. I have refrained posting about Gaza as I am way too much a learner in this realm, and I learned from other bloggers that you can support a cause 98%, but if you don’t tow the line 100%, you are labeled a traitor. Being an American in a Jordanian blogosphere is just  tight enough a rope to walk normally without risking the traitor label. [...]

  16. ALA TAHA says:

    What a good concept, and i was thinking this thing since years. while living in europe i saw the branding of che guivara. and the branding of revolution. and i always thought why cant gaza, or intefada kids be branded in the same way. i totally agree with you, even massacres need marketing. i lived in the western world. and i saw how if a story on tv was focused on, how even if there was worse, people felt more sorry for the branded story. so for instance people die in rowanda, but no brand no media focus, people dont care….a kid gets stabbed in london..every one cries!!!! candle!!!!! vigils..the LOT!!!!

    The brand of GAZA will have difficulty in america, america is a country deep rooted in support for israel, it doesnt help that the media is always biased there…if anyone talks bad of the jewish state he is marked as an anti semite….but europe is the start….people in europe are living in an ideal world compared to usa…..so it should start there…

    the idea Needs media attention. and needs celebrities to endorse it. we will not forget what happened in gaza….

  17. nermeen murad says:

    I am happy to contribute to the effort either through writing content or whatever way the team you are working think I could do. I am absolutely convinced that there is a need to brand Gaza and I believe also that it needs to be branded as something other than over populated, underdeveloped, fanatical strip near the border of egypt which is accessbile only through tunnels.

    nermeen

  18. Ameen says:

    Very sensible.

    I would like to add that the “brand” should encompass the rest of the Palestinian people rather than just Gaza.

    I’ve seen quite a few attempts at playing the media war (video clips, photo slideshows etc.) but they tended to be counter productive and ill-received by the intended audience. Why don’t you start working on that? If you will, and in need of any kind of help, I would love to give whatever I can.

  19. Deena says:

    plan of action – i really like the sound of that! Great effort… thanks!

    in the comment section, qwaider described ur plan as a phoenix rising from the ashes … i know he didn’t offer it as a branding strategy but it seems like something to think about and play around with, as it can be a metaphor for israel’s destruction and our hope… maybe smth about ‘a phoenix can not rise alone’? ie. in relation to aid … ?

    thanks again!

  20. loolt says:

    Ameen we already have a brand for palestine as a whole ‘ The Nakba’

  21. Rima says:

    Excellent!

    Additionally, what the Gaza brand should be:

    1. Representative of Palestine and not Gaza alone (thanks Ameen)
    2. Comfortable to admit absence of unified representative leadership of the Palestinian people
    3. Speak to the mind, always.
    4. Use facts and universal language of rights and IHL targeting potential advocates (i.e. as an occupying force Israel has the obligation to protect occupied civilians).
    5. Investigate numbers before using them (how many of the 1200+ non-children non-women were actual fighters).
    6. Un-brand Gazans as terrorists (because terrorists have no right to dream).
    7. Admit to failure and weakness and seek support, all towards a peaceful solution.

    Give your audience quick facts they can remember and can easily defend. We need to make more friends not more enemies.

  22. What a fantastic, civilized and well thought of proposal.

    I tend to agree with some of the comments here, that what we need is a Palestinian brand, rather than just Gaza. I’m against deviding the cause, and it would be a shame if we do.

    The brand needs to show that we are victims, we are peacful, we are human and above all, we want our own democratic country. It’s not easy, but I’m sure our collective intillegence can come up with something.

  23. Deena says:

    actually, rethinking that, maybe the focus should be about ‘justice for gaza’ rather than branding gaza… with justice being a journey from the ashes to the international court…

  24. Omar says:

    Yes this is indeed an un-ideal world where people fish around for opportunities before the dust has even settled, a tribute to the Arab brand that is already self-hating, blatantly apologetic, always targeted at the white guy, when in fact Europeans are the first to exaggerate the “martyrdom” of their citizens and dedicate entire chunks of their National Brands to them, proudly and loudly and mostly verging on the puritanical. This is what gets results folks.

    Sadly I see a proposal for what is already the Arab brand in the eyes of most white people and “Carls” :
    Weak, opportunistic, reluctant to fortify its military capability – favoring business over dignity, and yes folks, we are LAZY when it comes to military power, we just step aside and say ” oh but we’ll never be able to match them “, and let me tell you that Israelis’ contempt for us comes from the fact the they know we’re too lazy to arm ourselves, and for them either you have military power or not. If we were all Christians they would still act the same way. Let’s not all kid ourselves here and start postulating and patronising what has already been elected by the people of Gaza: the Hamas Brand. It might not be polished or foo foo the way branding folk like it, but it worked against the West Bank Brand, which is trying to sell itself as the peaceful ” Carl Friendly ” business-as-usual crap. When everyone one knows they dumped Islam ( no disrespect to other faiths but democracies go by majority ) and Pan-Arab values – the Brand Americans and Israelis systematically worked for years on disintegrating to produce a nation of people who are “oh simply too bored of words like Holocaust and stupid rhetoric “.

    Essentially everyone wants to de-politicize Arab brands, and everyone can rest assured we’ve already lost THAT fight.

    It’s a noble idea, but I”m afraid it will be a temporary passing and passive brand, that tries to twist and sugar coat the truth. And all powerful brands are based on the truth.

  25. MommaBean says:

    Ahmad,

    Outstanding post. In fact, you took the idea I was trying to get to in my post about dropping the rhetoric and said it so much better than I.

    One key to this idea, that many seem to miss, is that branding typically has a significant advertising component. In order to rebrand Gaza (and I agree it should encompass all of Palestine), you don’t really need the press on your side, you just need them to want money (foregone conclusion that).

    One final thought, those who are thinking that the Palestinian brand has anything to do with the Israeli brand have lost the battle already. You can’t try to appear counter to or better than Israel. You need to ensure that your brand is about YOU and ignores THEM altogether.

    So, are you coordianting the Branding campaign?

  26. Dave says:

    This is the post that I have been waiting to read. Thanks, Ahmad, for your insight. I agree wholeheartedly.

  27. Rima says:

    Omar, what about those of us who don’t, and never did, find answers in militarization, political-Islam, Pan-Arabism and Hamas?

  28. Sheila says:

    This is one of the most interesting post I have come across on the Jordanian Blogosphere. I have always associated the “Intifada” with Palestine because it was how I learned about Palestine and the Palestinians when the first one arose in December of 1987. Before that event, I have never heard of the Intifada. Perhaps it does not sound positive however it is because of it that drew the attention of the world to the plight of the Palestinians who have been living in apartheid for over 49 years (that time). Who could ever forget the initial images of Intifada; the one with the little boy using a sling to throw a rock at a tank’s main gun which was pointed right at him? I haven’t and I don’t think the world has either.

  29. [...] Branding Gaza: how to take a long, sustained “revenge” on Israel In a blind show of power and as cynical political tactic, the leaders of Israel (and behind them most of the Israeli public, I am afraid) went ahead a committed an unbelievable crime in Gaza. By now everyone Read More… [...]

  30. The Observer says:

    Loved the initiative! How can we all work togather to make this work? We can promote this on our blogs and forward it to people we know. Let us get it going. Move it forward.

    This is exactly what we need!

  31. Noura says:

    Great read! Such an invigorating post. Count me in, will help if needed!
    I agree with MommaBean: You need the press to want the brand, (to crave it, then exploit it, in order (for them) to profit from it) you dont need them to agree with you or the brand.

  32. Ahmad Al-Sholi says:

    I understand the realities you build your opinion on, but I think our message shall be more aggressive contemplating the entire story of the West and Arabia.

    Israel is a major product of the conflict but is only a phase

  33. Omar says:

    Rima, fair question.

    First I’ll clarify that the only points i agree with is that Wiping any country off the map or linking it to a part is counter productive certainly.

    Second, the discussion sounds more like a tourism or packaging project, so maybe I”m in the wrong blog. :-/

    The reality is that we live in a region that is still colonized, and where artists and intellectuals seem to think they have the right to represent the masses as shareholders in the dissent from the conservative system.
    Nor do I endorse the ultra-Islamic tone of SOME Hamas speakers we see on the news that sounds like the days of the prophet. God knows those people should be the first in line for re-branding: which is simple, a designer suit and a shave should do the trick if we’re going to take this whole branding thing seriously. A la “24″.

    But like it or not, the people on this blog do not represent the average man in Gaza who chose a party that provides his basic needs over a party that was proudly defending building a Casino in Jericho as their smart solution to “taking their [ the Israelis ] money. How’s THAT for a brand!!
    So let’s not all lose the details and get excited about our own belief systems.

    That said,
    if we do not have the courage to brand this as a Holocaust, then maybe we should get bombed ourselves to even to begin to understand what it feels like to have chemical weapons dropped on us while we’re holding our new born babies. As several of my personal friends in Gaza have felt in the past few weeks.
    Shocking to even suggest it’s not comparable with the “systematic” Nazi Holocaust. What’s not systematic about years of occupation, murder, political assassination, building walls, etc. And on top of it a worldwide campaign to rid people of their religion and replace it with vulgar and depraved Music videos.

    But to answer your question, that things you mentioned are not there to give meaning to the lives of exposed West Ammanis, in the same way they don’t wash with any country’s 5% educated elite. It’s there to give HOPE and STRENGTH and never forgetting (a core element of the Jewish brand), and we come along and want to hijack it by putting our neutral calculated touch on it. I think it’s patronising, dismissive, and insensitive.
    One of the speakers on Al Jazeera mentioned that these are the taxi drivers, the people who clean our buildings, the bakers, the plumbers, etc.
    They deserve to have their little Epic victories and deserve to keep their God as their saviour. And they deserve a brand the lifts up their beliefs without eliminating the “inconvenient rhetoric” or taking off the edge.
    The whole cheesy fluffly UN style is so 1980.
    The fact that everyone want a brand that pleases the world is totally apologetic.

    My own saviour is a glass of Champagne in the morning, but I don’t try to judge victims of war and change their identity for them.
    I find it distasteful.

  34. Idealist too! says:

    I appreciate how you are using the internet to reach out to make this initiative successful. You could be utilizing a similar format that Obama is doing to accomplish his missions. Below is an excerpt from the Washington Post today.

    Today Obama told reporters that the Internet was “an amazing tool” in helping to organize the thousands of service projects underway across the nation today.

    “We don’t want to just use it to win elections,” he said. “We want to use it to rebuild America.”

  35. Yusuf Mansur says:

    Brilliant idea, count me in. The experience should not go to waste. Israel, like it reminded us all of the horror inflicted upon its people, should be reminded and the world that we, too, bleed and hurt and can speak out. No longer are we speechless, countless or without means. I, like Nermeen offered, can contribute: can do research and pull up numbers and help with the strategy and design of the brand; can also do the financial layout; feasibility; and some writing on the economics of it all. I will also enlist some economists from the region who have done research on Gaza and Palestine.

    Let’s get the enlightened to write, contribute, make all things that were impossible possible. The digital world will enable those who could not unite before, become one voice, one brand, and one glorious day for Gaza will come from it all.

    I have some ideas already but it may be too soon. I like the CANNOT be, and yes it is not at the model and scale of Holocaust but we can benefit from the model and adapt it with modifications. What worked for one people need not be grafted but can be adopted and adapted. There is no value, great or small, that can be placed upon the loss of a human life! Death is always senseless; murder abhors all humans; and the planned slaughter of a sieged people should not be rewarded by the silent forgetfulness we once practiced.

  36. Humeid says:

    First of all, I am overwhelmed by the reaction this blog post has created. I just came back home an hour ago (around 11 pm) after a long and stressful day and just had the chance to read all the comments.

    It is heartening to see so many people (also from different cultures) agreeing to the core ideas of my post.

    I also understand some of the more negative comments.

    I want to focus for a moment on the “militarization” argument. Although personally I might be described as a pacifist, I do not deny the legitimacy of armed struggle, on the condition that it is based on sound strategic and moral basis.

    The other point about a military solution is that the Arab world actually tried it (especially Egypt). This has failed in the 1960′s and 1970′s. The imbalance of military power is now greater than ever. Arms purchased from elsewhere come with a political price. In short, making military threats against Israel doesn’t seem feasible at the moment.

    I also would not deny the power of economic measures, diplomacy, behind the scenes deal making, you name it. I think that the Arab world should try to use every trick in the book.

    But my area is design, communication and branding. And that why I have written the post. “Taxi drivers”, and “common people” can watch Aljazeera all they want. But I don’t think it is Israeli “taxi drivers” who are setting Israel’s communication strategy.

    Branding Gaza is not a quick, painless replacement for other struggles. But is ONE aspect that maybe the Arab world and palestinians can finally get right (or at least improve).

    So from the comfort of West Amman, Dubai, hell.. even from the comfort of Damascus, what is it that we, the connected, exposed Arabs can do. That is the question I attempted to answer.

    The angry rhetoric has been heard before. As a child, I’ve seen Sabra and Shatilla on TV in 1982. As an adult I’ve seen the 1990 Gulf Crisis, the 2002 second Intifada, the 2003 Iraq war, the 2006 Lebanon war and this crime in Gaza. It’s the same every time. A flaring up of shouting, then silence.

    I am not proposing that a suggestion from me to “brand Gaza” will change the world. But, along with others on the net, I want to contribute. Our office will try to come up with something. Others can try as well. The hope is that a new, more effective discourse can make its way to more people around the world.

    My thoughts on this are not entirely coherent. Like others I have been in a state of depression over the past few weeks. No one living outside Gaza can truly appreciate what happened there or how people felt and still feel. The tragedies unleashed there will be with them (and us) for decades. But there must be more that we, who live outside the Gaza hell, should do.

    Let me end by one observation. In 2002, a bunch of enthusiastic people started the Electronic Intifada at electronicintifada.net. It was a hub for everything related to what was happening in Palestine at the time.

    I was shocked to see its Alexa internet traffic ranking. Before this war broke out, its traffic had dwindled to less than what this blog gets. Over the course of the war, the traffic shot up again over the past 3 weeks, but seems to have died again after the ceasefire.

    A Gaza Brand/Palestine Brand, should be handled by a global NGO along the lines of Greenpeace, that creatively and systematically sustains it, sells it, makes money from it (for reinvestment in activism and aid) and makes sure its media assets grow and grow (not only spike when there is a war).

  37. Acacia says:

    Wonderful blog post, Ahmad!

    Count me among the people who think the campaign should be about the plight of all Palestinians, not just the Gazans. I also think the campaign should be broadened to include more than just branding, as I believe by using only branding there are too many tools left off the table that could be of great value in aiding the cause. And I don’t think the language used should include anything about honor, for that is not something that resonates widely outside of the Arab world. Basic human rights are what every person deserves and what most thinking people can relate to.

    Also, as much as it might grate, I think a lot of time should be spent–in advance of designing an overall marketing campaign–studying and analyzing what the Israelis have done so successfully. It needs to be well understood, not only to avoid any mis-steps they may have taken, but also to benefit from the steps they’ve taken that have worked well. There are best practices, and you might as well benefit from them and take a leaf. Also, whether anyone likes it or not, the Palestinians are competing against the Israelis for the hearts and minds of the world. So any campaign for them needs to take that into account and counter-position vis-a-vis the Israelis, even if they aren’t directly mentioned or referenced.

    My two fils’ worth.

  38. NIKA MARIE says:

    It is not about Arab World or Western World or Israel World; it is ONE WORLD that we humans have to live in. In order to reach the people that are sleeping thru the static and wake’em up you have to have EMPATHY in you and wake up that empathy or install empathy inside of them.

    DEFINITION OF EMPATHY: THE ABILITY TO EMPATHIZE
    DEFINITION OF EMPATHIZE: UNDERSTAND AND SHARE THE FEELINGS OF ANOTHER.

    You have to show the world that the babies, children, mothers, fathers could be their babies, children, mom or dad; you have to touch hearts (not with violence). For example when Oprah went to South Africa and gave out presents to the children that have big bellies due to starvation and flies flying in their eyes (the world had become immune to seeing these images) but when Oprah showed that these kids laugh, love, learn, feel joy just like their children do people around the Globe was able to empathize with them their hearts were touched and they realized WE ARE ONE these children are REAL! WE ARE ALL HUMAN and as much as we try to separate ourselves by race, religion, nationality, so on and so on we have more in common than we realize.

    Its time for THE PEOPLE around the GLOBE to come together and stop all the wars that is going meaning the war in IRAQ, Afghanistan, Gaza, Darfur…! The Politicians around the world HAVE WENT BEYOND OF WHERE THEY SHOULD HAVE GONE!

  39. jessyz says:

    This is genius, I have been asking people to stop calling it a Holocaust for so many reasons and to describe it in a way that does the Gaza/Palestine cause good. The only real thing that can be done now is to make sure such an organization as you just mentioned can be started now while emotions are still running high and Gaza is in our hearts and minds and does not go forgotten.

  40. bashar humeid says:

    this article here:

    http://www.icahd.org/eng/news.asp?menu=5&submenu=1&item=655

    could be a very helpful tool for branding gaza/palestine. It deals with almost every elemnt of israeli PR during the war on gaza.

    thanks for you post

  41. Ali says:

    Ahmad, I rpudly annouce that the monster has awakened! That is nationilisim in every Arab and Generation.

    As you can see your idea is brilliant and many people here are ready to adpot it. So let’s take this to the next level and think of a campaign that we can launch. We have the ideas, we just need sponsorship.

    Let’s meet to organize this

  42. Ali says:

    Typo: I proudly announce…..

  43. Elmashkalgy says:

    Excellent work, but it has to be sustained ,there lots of people working on that I encourage all of to visit electronic intifada Ali is one of kind

  44. Fadi Ghandour says:

    Great idea Ahmad …
    Branding Israel’s attrocities from the Human perspective is a must… but we should also understand that countries react where it hurts them most. This branding initiative should be coupled with an economic one and it should start in ground zero in the west bank and Gaza where Israel still enjoys a massive captive market for its products! Why do palestinians still buy Israeli products??
    We should learn from the South African and Indian experiences and read more Gandhi and less Che Guevara !

  45. Fadi Ghandour says:

    and by pure coincidence I just read this piece by my good friend Chris Dickey the Middle East Bureau cheif of Newsweek!

    “If they want help from Obama, Arabs in the Middle East should learn the lessons of Martin Luther King.”

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/180635

  46. Adam B. says:

    Having read the complete article, I can’t say I agree on your basic standpoints, but I pretty much agree on all your suggestions for a solution. I’m quite sure it would make Israel take on a different attitude as well – in fact it would rid Israel of having to take on an attitude it probably doesn’t care all that much for…!

    The main problem with your logic is that your aim is to inform the West.

    Sorry, but the West IS already informed – we just don’t all agree with you guys.

    The one’s who need to be informed are the people of palestine, the people in the region, and particularly their leaders, although I have a sneaking suspicion those leaders are perfectly aware of what’s going on…

    Let’s see how much luck you fellows have in convincing the average palestinian, let alone Hamas.

  47. Craig says:

    Interesting post. I think you got a lot of things right.

    ALA TAHA,

    people in europe are living in an ideal world compared to usa…..so it should start there…

    Americans don’t see an ideal world when they look at Western Europe. Americans see a bunch of socialist Utopians who would collapse under the weight of their own hypocrisy, if it wasn’t for the support they’ve gotten from the US for the last 60 years. What makes you think that is an “ideal” situation? The fact that they don’t support Israel, and that alone.

    Honesty would be helpful, for this campaign, as well. People don’t appreciate being propagandized, and not everyone is fool enough to fall for it.

    but europe is the start…

    That’s un-necessary, because Europe has already been on the side of Palestinians, and against Israel, for at least 15 years. You acknowledged that yourself, when you proclaimed how much more “enlightened” Europe was than the USA :)

    It is US public opinion you need, and you won’t get that when you constantly put Americans down. The rest of the world, doesn’t really care, one way or another. They make statements of support or condemnation based on their own political interests at the time. No more and no less. And that is all they will ever do.

  48. Jamal says:

    Gaza slaughter might not be a holocaust but it’s part of an ongoing genocide in the legal and moral sense. so yes it’s not a holocaust, but it’s a genocide. i advice you to consult the UN definition of genocide and to read the legal commentary by Francis Boyle. and if you are ashamed to speak the truth about this, then all what you are doing falls in the category of worthless pontification. Palestine does not need another half-ass advocate who is far more concerned with Western sensitivities and stamp of approval then with legal certainties. if the West wants to reserve human rights for whites and jews, we should not be party to this racism.

    http://www.mediamonitors.net/francis1.html

  49. Carissa says:

    Brilliant idea!! I think that a good branding agency should take up the cause and help out the Palestinians. A small centralised information office needs to issue statements on a regular basis with the key messages supporting the Gaza re-branding. Could turn into a Case Study for branding in the Arab World.

  50. Humeid says:

    Again, thanks for the contributions.

    Fadi,

    I think that the economic measures in the West Bank and Gaza are super important. Is there anything being done on the level of the Arab business community (or the palestinian business community in the gulf and diaspora) that addresses the need of disengaging the Palestinian economy from Israel?

    I also support the concept of learning more from Ghandi than Che Guevara. But with all the anger, this kind of approach is very unpopular in the Arab world. On the US communication front, the idea of understanding the heritage of the civil rights movement, especially with Obama in power is crucial.

    Ok.. so what\’s next? And how can you help?

    I hope to be able to consolidate the comments here with my original post. The limit of what I can do, is to outline the core ideas of the brand and maybe verbalize and visualize it. It can be published on the web. But beyond that, a small communication oriented organization needs to be founded to manage this.

    Such an endeavor is very different from what the electronicintifada attempted to do, although their role was important. Yes there is the political, legal, military and strategic background to the conflict. But the appeal of the Gaza brand should be wider. I want people to adopt the brand because it says something about their humanity and about their subscription to the basic values of hope, defiance, life and independence that I outlined. Adopting the Gaza brand should be as easy as buying a poster, mug, sticker, t-shirt, or downloading a web button, positing an image or a comment. But the brand is just the tip of the iceberg and a key to introducing more and more people to the story of a free palestine (including links to all the heavy political, social and legal stuff).

    To keep cost down, this effort should mainly work with web communication. So one way every blogger can help, is to blog about it once an online presence is created.

    It is super important that the brand can be adopted by people who might not agree with 100% of what Arabs want. Let\’s also acknowledge that not all Arab or Muslims or even palestinians agree on everything.

    But I think a lot of people can agree that killing 1300 versus 13 is unfair and inhuman and that you cannot deprive people from every human right they are entitled to.

    So comments here attempted to show this idea of being \”west friendly\” or \”sugar coated\”. I see it more as an attempt at :the truth, well told\” and and attempt to garner support from the widest range of people. THe west is not one monolithic rock. Societies do change. I don\’t see \”west friendly\” as a negative. Generalized anti-western talk has gotten no where.

    Waiting for the world to become more just, while either doing nothing, or just contending ourselves with aggressive talk or exaggerated emotional talk is a dead end road, I think.

    So, \”hope, defiance, life and independence\” seem to me the core values. I would like to hear what you think.

  51. Alia says:

    The Arabs must also understand one is not automatically in the right because one has more causalities. Ask the Germans. Dead Palestinian civilians mean little to the world when it was their side that started the conflict (as the world sees it)

    Secondly, the West is quite perceptive in noticing the selectivity of Arab rage. So much rage over the Palestinians while the atrocities done by Saddam and by the Syrian government in Hama barely register. It would seem that when Arabs kill other Arabs it is acceptable, but when non-Arabs kill Arabs it is not. This hypocritical attitude also must change. Lives lost are lives lost, whoever does the killing.

  52. For the west, and especially the U.S., freedom and liberty are extremely important and sentimental. Everyone can identify with them. So I think that the brand should have something to do with taking away the Palestinian people’s freedom –something to do with imprisonment.

    Perhaps, “Imprisonment of a Nation” would be appropriate.

  53. Ayman says:

    Thanks Ahmad for these great efforts, I hope we can come to the world with practical steps towards your vision, I totally support you about not using Holocaust expression as it’s a totally different issue here.

  54. Dalia says:

    Ahmad – possibly one of your best posts to-date!

    I plan to dedicate as much of my time as possible to ‘cyber-activism’ as soon as I complete my move. I’ll be in Amman on the 15th of February for around a month – let’s get together for a brainstorming session..

  55. Ramzi E. Khoury says:

    Issues that need to be highlighted are:

    1- Whereas Israel’s massacre tolled 1300 dead, over 5ooo injured, the vast majority of these were civilians and Hamas did not sustain majure casualties to its forces because it was not the focus of attack of the Israeli war machine. Other groups lost more fighters than Hamas. As a matter of fact dividing Palestine into two states is an Israeli project and the attacks on civilians was meant to achieve sympathy and support for Hamas, the hopefull rulers of an Islamist Imara in Gaza. Shame on those who under the banner of supporting “the resistence” are ardent on making this Israeli project a reality.
    2- Israel’s intentional act against the Palestinian civilians is a crime of war. However, and despite lies aired on Al Jazeera by supposed experts of law, the PLO and Palestinian leadership cannot take this to the ICC based on the Rome Treaty because the PLO is not a state and Palestine is under occupation. The Rome Treaty requires signatories to be free states. Moreover, even if Palestine was a free state, the accused country must be a signatory state and Israel is not. An Adhoc Declaration taking the issue to the Security Council just like Darfour, would be faced with an immediate Veto from the United States of America.
    3- However, people should know that local laws in Europe, such as those in the UK and Belgium, can be used against individuals charged with war crimes. This is the only effective way against Israel on this issue at this time. Moreover, war crimes do not “expire” and when Palestine is a state, and if Israel becomes a signatory to the Rome Treaty, then it can be charged with crimes of war; even if it is many years from now.
    4- To make Israel accountable for the damage to property, Jordan, through an ASK by the PLO, can take this to the International Court of Justice which cannot deal with war crimes but can demand compensation against damages created by the attacks. Jordan and Israel are both members of the ICJ and Jordan and the PLO have cooperated successfuly before against Israel’s Wall of Separation. This should be organized again for Gaza.

  56. Ali says:

    Thanks ya Mashkaljee;)

  57. Ichneumon says:

    I see one considerable weakness in this brand. True, Gaza is not about Hamas, but Hamas is in control of Gaza nonetheless, and they do glorify death and want to wipe Israel from the map. I suggest you read their basic charter – Israelis certainly have – and think of how that sounds like to world (let alone Jews). The document can be found here (scroll down for full text):

    http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm

    I’m European sympathetic to the plight of Palestinians, and I still see Islamist fanaticism, determination to reseize every inch of Jew-infested territory, utter contempt towards peaceful solutions and paranoid ranting about global Zionist conspiracy that’s responsible for every war in the world. Perhaps the Israel doesn’t want peace – some of them certainly don’t, and they have quite a lot of power – but as long as that kind of organization is in power, they have quite credible-sounding excuse for just bombing away. As long as they don’t deliberately target civilians (which they didn’t, since otherwise there’d have been tens of thousands casualties at least), they can just fire upon every suspected Hamas target with disregard for civilian deaths, and then go to cameras wringing their hands and say “We know it’s terrible, but what can we do when our sworn enemies hide in middle of civilians?”

  58. Dalia55 says:

    Sub7anAllah, I had just emailed Nas a few days ago about my frustration. I am a Palestinian-American, and I see firsthand how the Western mind is working, and I have forever said that our problem as Arabs is that we cannot seem to market our cause. This post was literally pulling the words out of my tongue, although I disagree with a few minor points you mentioned, which is beside the point right now.
    Thank you for a great article, where at this day and age, people all across the world can access it.
    For one, I have started my own initiative here in America. I am setting up an ‘educational’ program to educate the Average Joes in America of what is really going on. Any information given from my end will be from a strictly humane point of view of the injustice that is going on, the scale of devastation, and bringing to light the major issues that are never discussed in American media. This is my personal jihad, and inshAllah it counts. My point is to get people, in my state at least, to write to their Congressmen. If a Congressman sees a large chunk of his state’s population boycotting him from the coming elections because of a certain issue, mainly the US financial support and aid to Israel, that will change the Congressman’s seat’s vote to pass any bills for American funding to Israel.
    My plan is to take it one step at a time, with one issue at a time, all labeled under this brand that you talked about. I especially like the comments on here that mentioned ‘imprisonment of a nation’.
    Either way, I assume my email will appear to you privately, so please feel free to email me with any suggestions, critiques, ideas or anything that I can do on my part here in the US.
    God bless you.
    Dalia

  59. Naftali says:

    I’m an Israeli who just came across your blog. My name is not Carl but it might be based on your description. One suggestion, how about instead of your very innovative idea being just branding, that it was the real deal? That its not about Hamas, martyrdom (or as I call it homicide bombing, since the intent is not suicide but homicide, but I digress)Its not about wiping Israel off the map (might have to change the Hamas Charter and tell the lunatics in Iran to shut up.

    Think about it, what has changed for the Palestinians since Oslo, which by the way raised huge hopes in Israel for peace. The Palestinians came under direct management of their “leadership” and their situation worsened in every aspect under Arafat and even more so under Hamas. It even led to a Civil war of sorts between Palestinians. In every way since the move to Palestinian led leadership, the situation has deteriorated drastically in every faces of the lives of Palestinians. I cam assure you as a former Seargent in the IDF paratroops that if the Palestinians were to ditch Hamas and their ideology and their hate, and their death cult, they would find a very very receptive audience among most Israelis for peace.

    Ask yourself what do Hamas and the like words provide for the Palestinians? Even more so, what do their actions provide? Does firing rockets at Sderot and Ashdod make the lives of those in Rafah any better? The only people that cheer are the Iranians and their proxies in Hizbullah.

    Now you state that the way to go about getting what you want is to demonize Israel. Do you think that Israel will commit National Suicide by withdrawing from all the West Bank and open all borders to Gaza without a real assurance of security? At the end of the day, the peace is only going to come in an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis themselves seeing mutual benefit to such an agreement. I think Israel has recognized this, the Palestinians, not yet.

  60. Sam says:

    Several facts

    Rulers are impotent and obsolete.

    US and West have grandiose plans for our region and we can not stop them.

    Most people do not know what to do.

    Only a few of us are active.

    So what to do?

    Educate the people of the US and the West so they can change the direction of their governments!

    Almost one third of Americans who are against their government’s foreign policy do not know the Palestinian narrative of the Palestinian problem! How do we expect them to change their FP if they do not know any thing about Palestine!

    So many idle people tell me this will take so much time and the ripple effects are slow! Fine, give me a better faster idea to implement and I will be more than happy to do it.

    I have many ideas, but do I have any serious followers?

  61. Elmashkalgy says:

    ” also support the concept of learning more from Gandhi than Che Guevara.”

    I have to disagree with on this one.
    You see ,even Gandhi has advocated self defence in times of extreme oppression like what have been befallen on us. And Che should be the symbol of all Resistance ,when Palestinians use violence ,it must be labeled self defence and it is self defense under International laws .after all we are not occupying them ,they are.

  62. Cj says:

    Branding gaza – nice post but unworkable in todays world. The arab world must first show to the outside world that it is worthy of its attention. Otherwise to someone outside this region its common news, bomb blast, suicide bomber etc and they will think…. must be another muslim letting off steam in his illiterate way.

  63. Mazen says:

    Great post Ahmad. I agree fully.

  64. Sam says:

    Here is one simple idea that Arabs with “foreign” passports can do to help. Visit Palestine. Spend your money at hotels owned by Palestinians, eat at Palestinians café and restaurants and buy any thing from Palestinian stores. We must sustain their economy. We can help them stay put, get married, get higher education, supply their schools with computers and most importantly, show them, with action, that they are not alone. A woman in Jerusalem asked me this past summer why I came to visit? If I had any family or friends? When I told her I just came to see Palestine, she cried! She told me that this is what gives her hope!

    Do you know now why Palestinians buy and depend on Israeli goods? Because no one sustains them!

    Imagine how much money a million Arab (and non Arab Muslims who can get visas to Palestine) would inject in the economy of Palestinians.

    Any takers?

  65. Sam says:

    Dalia, could you contcat me at samarjar@sunline.net as I am in the States and can help you!

  66. It’s not only time to educate but to bring the Zionist leaders to the International Criminal Court for their war crimes against humanity.

  67. Mo Nassar says:

    Brilliant post and very rational, clear thinking. If I could agree with you more, I’d be you. Well done.

  68. Yusuf Mansur says:

    Dear Ahmad and Fadi;

    Why Palestinians buy Israeli products is because those are the only products they can get. Israel has all of Gaza’s trade and that of the West bank under its control; 97% of all trade is with israeli permission and, yes, Israeli businessmen are amking money of this closure. We have tried from jordan to break the Israeli bonanza and send our products but the Israeli authorities imposed technical barriers that made our exports tehre impossible. They invented all kinds of measures to block trade from other arab countries under the guise of Israeli security. Examples include, back-to-back trucking where Jordanian trucks unload at teh border and after search the goods are loaded on Israeli trucks; security patrols that Jordanian shippers have to pay for; and downright outright blockages.

    Palestinians do not have a choice; our modus operandus does not apply to them; snactions only work for a short while and only if backed by large economies, not small debt ridden ones such as those of the Arab MENA countries. Sanctions against Cuba, Iraq, Iran and others have failed by the US own admissions.

    Ahmad, you ahve a brilliant idea, but I believe it can be started with a grassroots movement, slow and careful but eventually it will get there. So may be takers of the idea can start it with some careful planning and a strategy that mobilizes the moderate vocies of arabs that have been angered by the attrocity. Again, we arabs find it hard to organize but and believe that a democratic process of involvement ahs to be done riot style. No, all that we see from the Israeli propaganda machine has taken decades of hard work–read Norman Finkilstein for exmaple and see how a critical mass was brought about by diligent and careful planning.

    Again, thank you for the proposal and thank you for not blaming the victim.

  69. [...] I think the palestinians are in the best position of doing something about it, they need to clean up their own mess before worrying about the mess its creating for them with the israeli’s and the international community; they shouldn’t wait for new leaders to emerge to take over that duty, it should be public outcry that creates that change, a revolt … the problem is that its my version of what i would like to happen and the reality i see is drastically different.  Then you have someone preaching a good idea for a perfect world oblivious to the fact that the people over the border  have cut the umbilical cord that connects them to us a long time ago. These are the same people that have been doing the same thing for the past 60 years hoping that it might finally work now, mind you against a flood of advice to do otherwise ! So i’m not really sure what it would take to change their mind. [...]

  70. Adrian O'Sullivan says:

    A cynical suggestion to exploit the suffering of the Palestinian people for political ends. Between Israel, Hamas and politicized Muslims like you, the Palestian people have been manipulated into the position of one of the worlds most comprehensively ruined cultures. And you want to ‘exploit’ that.

    Muslims care more the Palestinians than other oppressed people. Why? In part because they see them as fellow Muslims and feel an affinity with them, no matter how far removed they are from them in reality. But mostly the Palestinian cause provides an excellent opportunity to use the Palestinians for political ends, of which a ‘free Palestine’ is in fact pretty low down on the wish list. You think you’ve had a brilliant original idea. Actually, the Iranians have been doing this for years.

    Here’s how your argument goes, if only you would be more explicit:

    “We all know, for reasons I need not restate here, that the Zionist Entity is an abomination to Islam. But those bristling nuclear warheads and the pesky Western democracies keep propping it up, which is such a bore. At the moment, wiping them off the map is not very likely.

    Imagine Carl. He’s an insipid Western liberal so stultified by the media saturated world, he will believe anything he’s told. We need to get people like him on our side.

    “So here’s what to do. We exploit the Gaza people by pretending we actually care about “human rights” and the Israelis don’t. Those decadent, corrupt Western liberals love that sort of talk, so they might be stupid enough to fall for it. Then hopefully they will end up despising Israel as much as we do, the money will run out for the defense programme, and we step in.

    I suppose Palestine will end up doing ok under Iranian and Syrian suzerainty. But who cares about that, they Jews will be comprehensively wiped out. Then I won’t have to feel immasculated anymore.”

  71. Saleh Hussein says:

    Very well written,

    This is a great idea which I believe many people are willing to take part in.

  72. Hi Ahmed,

    Pretty interesting and smart. In a time when Arab Capitals are just realizing the value of branding, this comes as a very novel idea.

    You say “…Israel’s utterly criminal behavior presents us with a rare chance to..”. I don’t think this is very rare because Israel has always given us these chances. However, as Arabs, we have always been consumed with “complaining and condemning” rather than smart and effective civil action such as the idea you are proposing.

    I hope this doesn’t go as just a shout in an open desert. The way I see this happening is through crowd-sourcing, and I really hope some people will move on this idea. I for one will support it in any way I can.

    Regards.

Leave a Comment