The government of Israel is partnering with Jewish community organizations in Toronto to improve Israel’s image and to get Canadians thinking of the country outside “the narrow prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict.”Ido Aharoni, founder of the ministry’s Brand Israel concept said the ministry has conducted market research over the past few years that showed “Israel is viewed solely through the narrow prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict… Israel’s personality is 90 per cent dominated by conflict-related images and some religious connotations,” he said. “Those of us who know the brand intimately are disturbed by the divergence of brand and the perception.”
Federation spokesperson Howard English said his organization and other federated communities across the country are committed to supporting the branding initiative and mobilizing the Jewish community behind the effort. [source]
From my temporary station in the US, I heard the same spin coming from an AIPAC sponsored-speaker this weekend. Yes, there’s war, the speaker acknowledged, but why aren’t we praising Israel’s contribution to technology, alternative power sources, and films? (“Such a small fraction of a percentage of the world speaks our language, but yet our films win awards at all of the film festivals! Everyone should be seeing our films!”) Why is this the wrong approach? Why does this idea of rebranding, marketing Israel as “more than violence!” irk me? Because Israel’s military policies and human rights abuses should not be ignored just because some Israelis are also really good at developing computer chips. If anything, as the Jewish nation, Israel should be held to higher standards than secular nations, or nations of other religions.
And what about the other issue: not all Jews share the same views (ideologically, politically, religiously) of Israel. And yet Federations are supposed to (at least in theory), represent and support all Jews. If Canada’s Federations follow suit, as English suggests, won’t we just continue to further alienate those among us who already feel out of place in our communities? Any time a national organisation, or network of organisations, makes a statement saying “All of Us will do X, Y, and Z,” it makes me nervous – and makes me realise just how far removed those organisations are from the communities and people they’re supposed to be serving.