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Why unified and consistent messaging is key for Palestine

In the end, it took barely two weeks for Barack Obama to prove to the world that its obsession with him is misplaced. His support for Israel’s assault on Gaza was/is unflinching. Unquestioning. Israel’s right to defend itself is non-negotiable, beyond discussion, so deeply carved in stone that it is irrefutable. Or so the old line goes. Never mind Palestinian dispossession, suffering and poverty. Never mind also the destruction of their homes and the ghettoisation of their existence. They are, after all, an ‘invented  people’. A people who have never had their own state.

Amira Hass recently wrote in Haaretz that one of Israel’s greatest propaganda victories is that it has been accepted as a victim of the Palestinians. Israel’s victimhood is largely believed by the West, unquestionably by the US, and, of course, by Obama. Embarrassingly, it is also accepted by the British government.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with the communications industry. Well, everything. As a PR case study, Israel is almost peerless. As an embracer of social media, it is in a class of its own. This is a country, after all, that became the first to announce a military campaign via Twitter. It has also launched a Facebook-based initiative called ‘Israel speaks Arabic’, complete with 191,000 likes and a rhetoric of Arab appreciation.

As much as it pains me to say this, the industry can learn a lot from Israel’s PR. For example, it is consistent across all platforms, with three or four key messages, one of which is the right to self defence. All spokespeople stick rigidly to this messaging.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always about right or wrong, but about how the message is put forward. The best pieces of communication, whether marketing oriented, political or cause related, are all singular in nature i.e. there is one overarching message or vision. This is what Israel does well.

The Palestinians, on the other hand, are all over the place in terms of messaging, although it is easy to understand why. More often than not emotion overwhelms rational thought, with threats too often a substitute for concise argument. They are also hugely fragmented, with no uniformity and a scattergun approach to spokespeople. As such, they are always on the back foot, reacting to an agenda that is set by the Israelis.

If the Palestinians are to prevail, they will have to beat Israel at its own PR game. This is easier said than done, of course, yet they have eloquence and passion within their ranks. Writers such as Raja Shehadeh and Mourid Barghouti do more for their communities’ cause than any number of rockets fired from Gaza. Palestinians now have to distil that eloquence into a unified message.


  • Absolutely spot on. Effective communications has always been important to conflict … and the Israelis are very good at it these days, while the Palestinians are far worse now than they once were. It’s a sensitive topic though — talking about “messaging” as people die might come off as tactless in the extreme, but look at the damage, say, a pic of dead Syrians mislabelled as Palestinians does to the overall credibility of anything pro-Palestinians say. Gaza needs a Malcolm Al-Tucker.

  • Brilliant, bold and courageous! Bad PR and their failure to spin their message clearly got the Palestinians. Thank you Iain for speaking truth to power!

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