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Sunday, April 29, 2007

The pro-terrorism lobby PR campaign

http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/04/pro-terrorism-lobby-pr-campaign.html

An Anti-Israel ad campaign for Washington DC subways is being dismissed as ineffective by pro-Israel groups, but any propaganda is effective to some extent. It reaches someone. It helps to popularize a slogan and an attitude. It builds sentiment and a support group incrementally. It would be wrong to try to quash the campaign, but it would surely be right to spend some resources in presenting the case for Israel in the same way. Unfortunately, in the 1950s and 1960s nobody launched a campaign to end the illegal Jordanian occupation of Jerusalem, and in 1914, nobody thought of launching a campaign to end the longest occupation in history, the foreign occupation of the land of Israel. And today, nobody is thinking of effective advertising campaigns to present the truth about Israeli Palestinian conflict.
The ACLU insisted that this unfair advertising campaign had to be allowed in order to provide "freedom of speech." The ACLU is incorrect. The Washington DC subways are a public utility, and the municipality and the directors of the subways have an obligation to keep unseemly racist and political propaganda out of the subways. Advertisements in support of the racial inferiority of black people would not be allowed in the subways under the rubric of "freedom of speech." Moreover, ACLU does not champion "freedom of speech" for causes it does not like. The film Obsession, which documents anti-American and anti-Israel incitement by radical Muslims and Palestinian Arabs, was banned from mainstream American movie theaters and blocked on campuses. The ACLU did not not take up their cause. "Freedom of expression" is guaranteed only for messages that certain people like, and not for others, but nobody seems to mind.
As Snoopy the Goon points out, boycott campaigns and ad campaigns have a cumulative effect, even if they are really representative of a tiny minority at first. Giving them publicity by protesting or blocking them will back-fire, but pro-active publicity and initiatives to counter them are essential.
Here is the full story of the Anti-Israel ad campaign :
WASHINGTON, D.C. - area commuters will be inundated with a controversial poster-ad campaign when they take the city's subway system next month.

Starting May 13 for four weeks, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has ordered 20 of its subway stations to place posters advertising a June 10 rally to end "Israel's illegal military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem."

Initiated by a charity called the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the 46-by-60-inch posters depict an imposing tank pointing its main firing turret at a child with a schoolbag walking along a dirt road.

"Imagine if this were your child's path to school. Palestinians don't have to imagine," the poster states, before continuing to call for an end to U.S. aid for "Israel's brutal military occupation. paid for by U.S. taxpayers like you."

CBS Outdoor, the New York-based firm that places in-station advertising for WMATA, at first refused to consider the poster, but eventually relented to pressure from WMATA and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

According to an April 4 report in the Washington Jewish Week online, the U.S. Campaign contacted the ACLU, which then advised WMATA to order CBS Outdoor to place the posters, citing freedom of speech rights.

Joanne Ferreira, a WMATA spokesperson, said, "We didn't have any problem with the ad. It was a First Amendment issue."

In the same report, Oren Segal, a spokesperson for the Anti-Defamation League said, "If past events by this organization are any indication, it will make no attempt to present a balanced view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this ad is a pure reflection of that."

Jodi Senese, CBS Outdoor's executive vice-president in charge of marketing, explained to The CJN last week why she first turned away the poster.

"I initially rejected it on grounds that I thought it was too inflammatory to children," she said over the phone from her Manhattan office.

Senese recalled that she told U.S. Campaign staff that if they wanted to raise awareness for their campaign, she was fine with it based on First Amendment rights, "but not like this," she said.

The U.S. Campaign claims 250 member organizations in the United States. Its website features a prominent logo with the slogan, "Apartheid: Wrong for South Africans. Wrong for Palestinians."

Senese, who is Jewish, indicated that though she was uneasy with the ad, her personal feelings were not a part of her initial decision to dismiss the ad.

"I'm very proud [of being a Jew]," Senese said. "I thought the image was inflammatory, but I also believe in our First Amendment rights. As Jews [in America], we thrive on that right as well."

Senese indicated at the time of the interview, that to her knowledge no other group had yet come forward with a counter-campaign for CBS Outdoor to run.

Arthur Spitzer, who is Jewish and the legal director for the ACLU in the National Capital Area, told the Washington Jewish Week it wasn't "a case about Judaism or Israel. but about establishing someone's right to freedom of speech, which I agree with regardless of whether I agree with their particular political position."

Jewish organizations in the D.C. area downplayed the seriousness of the upcoming campaign.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of Washington-based pro-Israel think-tank, the Israel Project, said her organization didn't consider the ad campaign worth wasting resources to counter in the media and expected the ads to have a "minimum impact."

She said when the Israel Project and other prominent Jewish organizations in the area first learned about the ad, they worried about its "ominous" potential.

They discussed the matter at length and then conducted several focus group studies on the ad with dozens of "highly educated people" before concluding the ad wasn't worth combating actively.

In fact, Laszlo Mizrahi claimed that of the dozens who analyzed the ad in the focus groups, upon first glance most thought the tank was an American one surrounded by Iraqi children. And even when they read the poster's words, participants had little sympathy for the cause, she said.

"It's a poorly run... poorly executed campaign and the American people are onto [the U.S. Campaign's] game," Laszlo Mizrahi said. "There are real, legitimate threats to the U.S.-Israel relationship - this is just not one of
them.

"If these guys want to build support for their cause, they need to have something to sell that doesn't encourage children to blow themselves up."
Unfortunately, Laszlo Mizrahi is wrong. Our biggest enemy is complacency, based on the premise that "nobody will believe that crazy rubbish." People believe the darndest things, for reasons that have little to do with logic. The Hamas movement and Al-Qaeda have built their political empires based on the premise that one can encourage children and adults to blow themselves up. It seems crazy to the rest of us, but it works for them. And their "philosophy" is supported by political scientists who excuse terrorism and suicide bombing in different ways. Messages manage to make their way into people's minds in ways that defy logical analysis. If, for example, people at first mistake the tank for an American tank, they will link the Israeli occupation with the US war in Iraq, which most Americans now oppose. Rest assured, that if this campaign makes mistakes, the next ad campaign will learn from those mistakes. Where are our posters, showing the results of suicide bombings and the Muslim demonstrators carrying signs, "Europe is the Cancer, Islam is the answer?"
Ami Isseroff

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Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at http://zionism-israel.com/israel_news/2007/04/pro-terrorism-lobby-pr-campaign.html. Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.

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