An article in yesterday's Haaretz unveils a hideous plan hatched by our Foreign Ministry to spend our tax shekels to hire a British PR firm to “rebrand” us, as if we’re some product. As if that weren’t obscene enough, the article goes onto “boast” that among the firm’s “clients” are Northern Ireland and…Lebanon??? WTF??? So we’ve now joined the ranks of the mosquito-infested, the AIDS-ridden, the nuclear fallout-contaminated, the drug lord-controlled, and the war-torn? ‘Cause let’s face it, those are the five situations (that I can think of anyway) that would render a country in need of rebranding. Except weather (Iceland?), which is no one’s fault.
By the way, I visited Northern Ireland, and it is this visitor’s opinion that it’s long since not in need of rebranding. In any case, it was no thanks to any such “rebranding” efforts that I visited. Credit for that goes to my longtime fascination with Ireland coupled with my curiosity at how another nation solved its centuries-old conflict that has so many parallels with ours it’s spooky. Not only is NI lovely, I came back an unpaid, enthused ambassador, urging everyone I know to visit and see up close and personal a live example of conflict resolution and the prosperity it can bring.
Yes, I do want folks to visit Israel; not only is it far from mosquito-infested, AIDS-ridden, nuclear fallout-contaminated, drug lord-controlled, nor war-torn, but it’s a lovely, prosperous country. However – and this is a big however – the Foreign Ministry’s plans are pathetic for two reasons. First, because “rebranding” fools no one. On the contrary, it’s “The Lady Doth Protest Too Much” in flashing neon lights atop Dubai Tower. If there’s nothing to fix -- if everything here in our country is hunky-dory -- then why do we need rebranding?
Case in point: Substitute the word “occupation” for “conflict” in every instance, and the whole rebranding premise falls like a house of cards. Either we have a problem that’s keeping people from visiting, or we don’t. And putting ourselves on the needs-rebranding list is tacit admission that we indeed have a problem, which means the problem is what needs fixing, not our “image”.
Second, even supposing that we fix this little problem of being occupiers, let’s face it: People are not going to come to Israel because of the beaches, the scenery, or the cuisine; people visit because it’s the Holy Land. And that’s just fine. In fact, that is our brand, and the best way to sell it is to end the occupation so that all those who reside herein – Arabs and Jews alike – can have a piece of the pilgrimage / tourism pie. Any 10-year-old can understand that this will do more for us than any foreign PR firm ever could.