Brand Israel: I Hear the Congo Has Some Lovely Views

Israel”s (fishy) acceptance into the OECD isn”t really a surprise, when you look into this Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development:

It defines itself as a forum of countries committed to democracy and the market economy… [Wikipedia]

“Democracy” and “market economy” (aka “capitalism”) have long been Israel”s reiterated mantras, in an attempt to cosy up to other “developed” countries of the world, that use the same phrasing in order to back up their military or economic exploitation of “less developed” people within and without. In fact, this seems to be a very natural coupling.

Tourism as Stain Removal Detergent

Israel, however, has much more to gain from it”s entrance into the OECD than the “creative” economic collaboration with other “forward thinking” states. Since Israel murdered around 1400 people in Gaza, over a year ago, it”s image in the world has dropped dramatically. Joining the OECD (even with reservations) and having it host its annual Tourism Conference in Jerusalem (instead of the usual Paris) are major normalization boosters for Israel. Not only is the state of Israel whitewashed by this sudden surge of global acceptance, but it”s also green-washed (not the only tie-dye color of choice), as this year”s conference focuses on:

numerous ways to promote green tourism around the world, including plans to establish an international green tourism product, identifying green business opportunities and discussing the ecological effects on tourism.

Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said [same article]:

The committee”s decision to hold its annual meeting in Jerusalem and give it a festive and prestigious touch, together with the invitation to tourism ministers from the member countries, is an important vote of confidence with additional significance for promoting tourism and improving Israel”s image around the world.

This little shameful episode is just one sub-tactic out of a ful-blown strategy to wash the blood off of Israel”s hands. Israel”s launching of Brand Israel in around 2004 branches out in many directions; From technology, to medicine, to culture, and, of course, tourism. The thinking behind it is that trite and shallow capitalist approach to life that if the product don”t sell, just change the package. Israel- a colonizing military aggressor- is not the problem, it”s the words we use to describe this colonizing military aggressor. Does this sound familiar? We used to call it “Hasbara”.

Brand Israel: Hasbara 2.0

I hear the Congo has some lovely views. So does the seaside Gaza. Israel”s tourism tactic has apearently changed from explaining the ugly to ignoring the ugly. If you travel the carefully planned routs of Jerusalem, courtesy of the Israeli Tourism Ministry (with “…philosophy of ancient religions, a sense of history, magical markets, a spice of nightlife, passionate people, mystery of nature…”), you may just be able to miss the bloodshed a neighborhood away.

This simplistic overall strategy has a very aggressive task force that, for years, has been working on all media outlets. But Zionism is a bit of an archaic term, and Israel is keen on getting the young crowd exited. In keeping with the new blatantly capitalist approach to self-image, Israel”s newest field of action is the so-called “Web 2.0″. The Israeli Army took it upon themselves, a few months ago, and has created an online identity for itself on Facebook and on Youtube and wherever else your children dwell in their free time.

Really, I don”t know why Israel had to go into all that trouble, rebranding “Hasbara” into “Brand Israel”. The government really doesn”t have to work too hard on propaganda. In fact, it looks a bit discreditable when your army has its own youtube channel. The public is so entranced with the brand of Israel, it”s willing to do its propaganda for it. And not only the Israeli public, which isn”t so “developed” about it, but independent (as far as you can be when following the foreign ministry line), sophisticated, pro-Israeli (not a word about Zionism) organizations, like Israel 21c and the relentless StandwithUs. Their latest invention is Once In A Lifetime. A real Web 2.0 project:

Once In A Lifetime is an ingenious peace of work. Not only will you get a good few dozen YouTube videos of fresh faces (who don”t mind being asked about their religious affiliation) telling the world “I love Israel and that”s why I qualify”, you also get a group of the new brand of celebrity known as “internationally known bloggers” writing about this all-expenses-paid trip to the holy la-la-land. Oh, and yes, they have a Facebook group.

Doomed to Fail

Interestingly enough, Martin Kace, an expert in the “nation branding industry” (say what?!) believes that Israel”s branding path is doomed to fail:

I proposed the inculcation of the conflict and the military into the Israeli brand, maintaining that Israel could not deliver a credible brand message without acknowledging them. After all, Israel”s technological prowess originates in the army. The same is true of biotech. Most of the country”s progressive ideas and innovations originate in adversity, so the brand message, in my view, must acknowledge it squarely. Only such an integration can lead to a robust and original brand for the nation.

Grit. Strength. Focus. Life in adversity. The world knows that these are part of the Israeli national DNA. To bring forth a brand that avoids these is just spin in the eyes of the global public; and the line between spin and outright lie grows thinner by the hour.

With all due respect to Mr. Kace”s sales pitch of grits, I tend to disagree. I believe Israel”s policies- wether military or PR- have always been doomed to fail. Once you do something that is undeniably bad, the only possibility left for you to survive socially is to deny you ever did it in the first place, thus leaving the burden of proof on your victims. Israel has always been phenomenal in that category. It”s when it starts acknowledging its deeds that it fails miserably:

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