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Monday, June 25, 2007

Half-naked soldiers: Israel's latest propaganda campaign

The parts I liked best:
" One of the models who took part in the photo shoot said that "this particular bit of bikini modelling draws from the same spirit as the original Israeli settlers." She even said that it is "an act of Zionism."
Nothing like doing it for old glory.

"I wonder if the best way to encourage tourism is by advertising sex," said Labour party MP Colette Avital."

It is probably better than advertising war. On the other hand, encouraging tourism is not necessarily the major goal and rationale for existence of the Israeli government.

Al Jazeera is just jealous, but don't worry, the Saudi government is promising a Burqa fashion show. The Hamas will demonstrate the sexiness of female suicide bombers as well. That ought to draw big crowds.

Half-naked soldiers: Israel's latest propaganda campaign
23/06/2007 09:22:00 AM GMT Comments (27) Add a comment
All the models are said to have served in the Israeli Defence Force
"I wonder if the best way to encourage tourism is by advertising sex," said Labour party MP Colette Avital.
By Karima Saifullah
The Israeli government is desperate to improve its image and manipulate people who only link the Jewish state with wars, occupation and brutal aggression against the Palestinians. Recent polls show that Israel isn't well-regarded in the country's closest ally, the United States, where the majority of young men believe that the Jewish state is "too religious and too militaristic."
In an attempt to improve its tainted image, the Israeli consulate in New York came up with what could be described as a cheap idea: resorting to pornography by publishing images of half-naked female soldiers in the U.S. men's magazine Maxim; a move that was strongly condemned by Israel's religious right, who said that the government was degrading the Jewish state and promoting sex tourism.
"We found that Israel's image among men aged 18-38 is lacking, so we thought we'd approach them with an image they'd find appealing," said David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs at the Israeli consulate.
Maxim magazine, which promises its readers "girls, sex, sports" and usually avoids politics, initially refused the Israeli consulate's request to publish the photographs, but it changed its mind after it saw the pictures of 12 of Israel's top models.
"The Israeli models", Saranga said, were a "Trojan horse" to present Israel as a modern country with pretty women.
The photo feature, entitled "Women of the Israeli Defense Forces", will be published in Maxim's July issue. One of four former female soldiers photographed in their underwear in the magazine, Yarden, describes how she enjoyed firing her M16 rifle before she entered the military intelligence corp. Israeli model Nivit Bash - who served in Israeli military intelligence – also says sthat her job in intelligence was so secret that she cannot talk about it.
According to The Guardian, most Israeli women do compulsory military service for two years from the age of 18. While they do not fight in combat units, they undergo basic training and can be seen at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. However, there is nothing military about the indecent photographs, which were taken in different locations in Tel Aviv.
Not everyone in Israel is excited about this cheap tourism campaign. Zahava Gal On, the leader of the Meretz party, said it's inappropriate for Israel to market itself using half-naked women. "It is unfortunate that the New York Consulate thinks that Israel's relevance will be expressed by the use of naked women who are treated as an object, and not as women of substance who exude achievement and success," she said.
Colette Avital, a member of the Labour party and the first woman to seek Israel's presidency, described the move as a "pornographic campaign sponsored by the Foreign and Tourism Ministries to encourage tourism".
"Israel's image has been tainted by sex-scandals involving high-ranking officials as it is. I wonder if the best way to encourage tourism is by advertising sex," she said.
Avital has already approached Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and demanded an urgent meeting be called to discuss the campaign which Israel's Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich said the ministry has nothing to do with.
It's not the first time that Israel has used sex to advertise itself. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism has an advertising contract with Arsenal FC to promote Israel which features women in swimsuits. Israel wants to sell itself as a western country with beaches and nightclubs rather than a country full of religious sites which has been in a permanent state of emergency since its creation.
Despite the criticism over the naked photo shoot, Ambassador Arye Mekel, consul-general of Israel in New York, defended the consulate's decision and said: "Israel is always mentioned in the context of wars and violence. We want to show there is a normal life. Among the beautiful things we have are our women."
"This is the first time we used the word 'shoot' in connection to Israel and we're not talking about killing people," he added.
Former Miss Israel Gal Gadot also defended the campaign, arguing that she just used her "assets" to improve Israel's war-torn image.
One interesting fact is that all the outrage in Israel is focused on the idea of using women as sex objects to promote tourism. But what's more shocking is that sex here is not just being used to "improve" Israel's image, but also to promote Zionism and gloss over the bitter realities of Israel's occupation and apartheid.
One of the models who took part in the photo shoot said that "this particular bit of bikini modelling draws from the same spirit as the original Israeli settlers." She even said that it is "an act of Zionism."
"The fact that I can represent this country makes me proud," said Tali Handel, a 25-year-old former air force sergeant.
Although she said she'd never heard of Maxim before, Handel expected the article would be "serious" and encourage young Jewish males living in the United States to consider moving to Israel. "I don't see anything negative about it. Nothing else brings [people] here, not Jerusalem, not the beautiful nature. People are not interested. So, I think it's okay to use something else to bring them."

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