Thursday, March 10, 2016

Better Messaging can help Israel's Public Diplomacy?

In an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post Dov Lipman a former Member of the Israeli Knesset is suggest that better diplomacy for Israel would result from better messaging.

In my opinion there are more fundamental problems and my letter to him below has still not even resulted in an acknowledgement.

With reference to your op-ed in the Jerusalem Post Friday 4th   “How Israel Will Win the Public Diplomacy War”, there is little in your article with which to take exception.

However, permit me to remind you that soon after you first entered the Knesset as an MK, you organized a meeting with a number of grass roots organisations, in order to “familiarize yourself with the activities of such groups”. Nothing evolved from that meeting.

Whilst messaging such as you a suggesting is important, this avoids the fundamental faults in the structure of Public Diplomacy at all levels.
The Foreign Office has failed to recognize that many, if not the majority, of major battles today are at grass roots level. Our enemies are investing in getting their message across in schools, universities, trade unions, churches and the like and consequently efforts by the Foreign Office are doomed to failure.

There has to be an understanding of the need for a joint coordinated effort whereby the MFA deals with those issues for which it is well equipped and the grass roots organisations  are coordinated and funded in the activities at grass roots level.

The messaging should be a coordinated effort. How many times have the members of grass roots organisations tried to get the powers that be in the MFA to issue strict guidelines regarding terminology, to no avail. How many times has there been an “initiative” to coordinate actions in the field of social media, all of which have failed to get off the ground.

There is a long list of success stories achieved by the many groups operating independently of government; Palestinian Media Watch, NGO Monitor, UK Lawyers for Israel,  Elder of Zion and during the last two conflicts in Gaza, the War Rooms established in a number of Universities.

Haifa University recently held a conference “Rethinking the Challenges of Israel’s PR” (I am a member of the advisory committee of the Comper Institute which was responsible for this conference). Four pillars of Israel’s PR  were discussed; Academia, Law, Diplomacy and Media. An action plan was developed and this is being used as a basis for future work.

In addition, this University is currently in its 5th cycle of a course “Ambassadors Online” with students of varying academic and ethnic backgrounds. The concept of this course has also been transposed in schools for 15-16 year olds as “Young Ambassadors” and the latest school, Raanana, will be completing this year’s course later this month.

The University and schools programs are preparing students to be effective grass roots advocates in the future. Their effectiveness will be limited if we fail to solve the fundamental problem.

Until the fundamental faults are rectified, the chances of success for coordinated messaging is unlikely to succeed.

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