Why Palestine must match Israel in the branding war

Arwa Mahdawi writes: Ever since it officially came into existence in 1948, Israel has gone methodically about the creation of a “Brand Israel”. This originally began with an emphasis of the religious significance of a state for the Jewish people. Then, in 2005, when it was time for a rebrand, the Israeli government consulted with American marketing executives to develop a positioning that would appeal to a new generation: an Israel that was “relevant and modern” rather than a place of “fighting and religion”. So Israel did some pinkwashing, and suddenly became a vocal champion of gay rights. It fought to retain cultural ownership of falafel, hummus, and Kafka. It poured millions of dollars into tourism campaigns that sought to replace imagery of wartorn landscapes with sun-kissed seascapes.

When it comes to winning modern wars, a robust marketing campaign is as important as a military campaign. But while Israel has long been aware of this, the Palestinians have never been quite so PR-savvy. Back in 2005, the Economist quoted a Palestinian official who said that Israelis “spend a lot of time in marketing, and they succeed, whereas the Palestinians have a really good product, but invest nothing in selling it”. Several years on, nothing has changed. The Palestinian messaging currently being most amplified by the media consists of Hamas’s crazed proclamations about “gates of hell“. This curries no international favour for the broader, more moderate Palestinian community – which, being half-Palestinian, I number myself among.

While Palestine should certainly not be looking at emulating the IDF’s feverous Twitter-tactics, it should be following Israel’s lead in a more sophisticated approach towards nation-branding. Because, in today’s world, if there is ever to be a Palestine there needs to first be a “Brand Palestine”.

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