ISRAEL21c – Five years into a mission

Israelis are a group of people who in addition to getting up everyday to defend themselves against those who would terrorize and kill them, happen to make the world a better place at the same time.Sometimes we do things because …

Israelis are a group of people who in addition to getting up everyday to defend themselves against those who would terrorize and kill them, happen to make the world a better place at the same time.Sometimes we do things because that’s the way we do things. And sometimes the best thing we can do is re-examine what we do and why we’re doing. After all, some things work and some things don’t, and things are changing all of the time. Simply put, once in a while we need to take a look at our underlying assumptions and our long-held beliefs and give ourselves a reality check.

That’s just what ISRAEL21c has taken as its organizational purpose in life: to look at what people who care about Israel communicate about Israel and to see if what is being done makes sense on the eve of 2007. Is it effective? Is it working? Are we using every potentially successful tool available to us? The work of educating and advocating about Israel is too dearly important in these dangerous times to go without evaluation and re-imagination, so that’s what we’re trying to do.

The issues we are focused on really need to be taken out, reexamined, reconsidered and stripped down to a simplified form, one that questions the underlying concepts and assumptions that drive and justify our view of the issue and the arguments behind them. Sometimes, it seems we make the same arguments in the same way just because we’ve always made them that way – whether they work or not. We do this often because we’re either emotionally invested in doing things the way we’ve done them or, more dangerously, because we haven’t considered alternatives.

So, as part of such a reexamination, consider this very simple set of common sense statements…

Everyday, the life of every American is made a little safer, easier, more efficient and healthier by the people of Israel and the products, innovation, research, treatments and advances they create.

Every American knows about the conflict; at the same time, shouldn’t they also know that Israel adds value to their lives everyday?

The answer is a very common sense, ‘Yes!!’ And yet Americans don’t know this Israel and the single biggest reason they don’t is because we – the people who care most about Israel and who should know most about Israel – don’t tell them. We have remained so committed to and focused on proving that Israel is right in the conflict, that we’ve never developed any messages that say that there is anything to Israel other than the conflict.

This common sense approach is gaining acceptance and entering practice. Why should we be locked into the same old arguments about why Israel is always right – which have not gained Israel acceptance and respect in the world – when they clearly haven’t worked? That has created a situation in which Israel is defined by the conflict and virtually nothing else, save for the commonly held notions that there are a lot of very religious people over there as well.

And so ISRAEL21c is on a mission: We are working with the government of Israel and a variety of other pro-Israel interests to create another series of messages and to deliver them to those who care about Israel and those who we want to value and respect Israel. We don’t suggest that Israel’s positions in the conflict not be defended. Nor do we suggest that the vicious wave of terror and callous disregard of life as displayed by Israel’s enemies not be condemned and shown for what it is. We simply suggest that if Israel’s image in the world is going to improve, we must change the way we present Israel to the world by adding messages about the Israel that exists – despite the conflict with its neighbors.

Here at ISRAEL21c we’ve done that by operating our www.israel21c.org news service. It now has nearly 1,500 proprietary stories and is respected by the Associated Press, the New York Times and dozens of other news services as a legitimate, credible source of news about Israel and has generated, by some estimates, as many as 1,000,000 derivative web pages. We’ve done that by taking story ideas about Israelis and their achievements and ‘pitching’ them to editors, reporters, and producers of mainstream American media – this has resulted in more than 4,000 stories with positive images of Israel and Israelis being placed in mainstream US media in the past four years.

We’ve also done that by using our staff, our inventory of stories and our model to help operate parallel programs in Canada, the United Kingdom and France and will soon be working with our colleagues at Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) to penetrate more deeply into Europe.

And, most importantly, we’re now joining together with the MFA, JCRCs, the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, the ADL and other grass roots organizations who care about Israel, to create a new kind of pro-Israel communications. A series of ‘train-the-trainers’ conferences called Israel Branding Summits will be held across America beginning in Boston on January 11th. We hope to show every American who cares about Israel and wants to help improve its image in the world how important it is to broaden the pro-Israel communications spectrum and add a solid dose of positive messaging to the already existing messages about Israel and the conflict.

Defending and enhancing Israel’s brand in America and the world is another way to describe this effort. It is one that the government of Israel is committed to and has gotten underway with the help of a small group of communications professionals that include ISRAEL21c. This is nothing less than a revolutionary program that will try to look at Israel from an overall perspective and create a more realistic definition of Israel. We will attempt to define and communicate the very essence of what Israel is… warts and all; conflict and beyond the conflict; challenges as well as achievements and potential.

Work has started and before long, Israelis themselves will be asked how they see themselves and how they can and should be seen by the world. It’s not a makeover, it’s not slogan nor a catchphrase. It’s an effort to try to see that essence that makes Israel, well… Israel, and that simply is not limited to a people in conflict with their neighbors. It is a group of people who in addition to getting up everyday to defend themselves against those who would terrorize and kill them, happen to make the world a better place at the same time. Shouldn’t the world see this about the people of Israel?

We think so and that’s why we do what we do. We hope you’ll join with us.