Add to that: killing the innocent, maiming the children.
Or maybe Israel’s brand tagline should be: “Experts in Collective Punishment”.
This post is a message across the border, to Israelis: Congratulations. You have just succeeded at making yet another generation of Arabs hate you.
Horrible images are circulating among Arab web users these days, as the effect of Israel’s bombing of Lebanon emerge. The pictures are often shown in combination with the now famous image of the Israeli girls scribbling messages on artillery munitions.
The pictures are so horrible, that I actually asked a former colleague of mine not to include me on his mailing list. I’ve seen enough. Out of respect to those dead children, I am not willing to participate in this orgy of display of suffering.
But the death and suffering are real. Regardless of what I think of spreading these images on the web, they document what happening on the ground.
In my previous online encounters with Israelis and their media, I was often confronted by this notion that the ‘Arab propaganda machine’ has always been very efficient at making Arab people hate Israel. Israel’s internal perception of itself is that of a nation ‘under siege’ by a hostile Arab world. Its own self image is that of highly moral, humanistic state, born out of the horror of the Holocaust to be a refuge for the world’s Jews.
That self perception explains proclamations by the Israeli army, for example, that it is “the most moral army in the world”. And most Israelis, it seems, REALLY, TRULY believe this statement.
Let’s, for argument’s sake, assume that there really is this efficient Arab propaganda machine. Well.. Israel has, for the past half century or so been very ‘generous’ at supplying this machine with a steady flow of images that perpetuate it.
In 1982, as a twelve year old kid, I saw the images of Sabra and Shatilla on TV (ok, Lebanese extremist committed that atrocity, but with complicity of the Israeli army that was occupying Lebanon at the time.)
In 2002, we saw the effects of Israel’s re-occupation of West Bank cities. Another reminder of ‘Brand Israel.’
And now, in 2006, Lebanon again.
And with the magnifying effect of satellite TV and the internet, the horrible images are more prevalent, more vivid and more capable causing limitless anger.
I always expect Israelis to point to Hamas’s suicide bombing tactics and Hezbollah’s indiscriminate rocket attacks as being essentially ‘the same’ as Israel’s bombing raids (and some will point to the fact that the Israeli army actually apologizes for civilian deaths). But Israel’s overwhelming firepower makes sure that the suffering it inflicts on Arab civilians is always greater than anything the other side can inflict upon Israel. I am not attempting a political or military analysis here. I am just wondering about Israel’s ‘branding strategy’ when it comes its neighboring audiences. We keep hearing from Israelis that all they want is to live in peace in this region. How does that fit with Israel’s actions that produce an image of a country that can only be seen as ‘barbaric’.
I am using the term ‘brand’ and not ‘PR’ here because a brand is an image and an evocation of feelings, formed over a long period of time and that is strategic, and not tactical, in nature.
Either Israel is totally blind to the fact that it is making generation after generation of Arabs truly hate it. Or it is totally aware of that fact and is actually happy about it. Maybe Israel wants to occupy the ‘Brand Fear’ positioning. Maybe it expects that by destroying a country and killing many civilians, it will instill fear in the hearts of a new Arab generation. Maybe it is OK for it to be Feared and Hated (i.e: the schoolyard bully image).
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