Brand Israel: Time for Human Rights Washing

Israeli Foreign Ministry sources confirm that singer-songwriter Arkadi Duchin called and volunteered to recruit prominent Israeli performers for a charity rock concert as reported by the Haaretz newspaper on Sunday (March 11). Syrian rebels have rejected the offer.

According to the Israeli newspaper, singer-songwriter Arkadi Duchin asked Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for help in organizing a charity concert to raise money for anti-government forces in Syria. The paper adds that a senior Foreign Ministry official said Lieberman and his aides may approve the idea, as part of a wider effort to express public Israeli support for the rebels and denounce the slaughter of Syrian people by President Bashar Assad’s regime.

On 4 March, Lieberman, instructed Evyatar Manor, the Ministry’s Deputy Director General for International Organizations and the United Nations, to contact the International Committee of the Red Cross and suggested that Israel transfer humanitarian aid to Syria under Red Cross auspices. The Committee’s representatives in Israel stated that they will respond with an appropriate reply once they have examined the population’s needs and requirements.

Lieberman stated that “the Jewish State cannot sit by and do nothing while these atrocities are taking place in a neighboring state and people are losing their entire world.” He added “it is nevertheless our moral duty to extend humanitarian aid and inspire the world to put an end to the slaughter.”

This later move to support the human rights of the Syrian population is a new stage in Israel’s international campaign to rebrand itself. This campaign was explained to the American public by Ido Aharoni, Israeli Consul General in New York.

On Sunday 20 February, Aharoni spoke at Brand Israel, an event hosted by the Marketing Undergraduate Students Establishment (MUSE) at the Wharton School and the University of Pennsylvania. According to MUSE, the event explored the connection between marketing, world politics and Israel’s current “brand image” around the world.

“Branding itself,” Aharoni said at the event, “is not about what we say. It’s about what people hear.” Branding a nation is “putting a human face on a product.” According to Aharoni, this is a process and not something that will occur overnight. “It will take time.”

Explaining Brand Israel strategy, Aharoni said that the key to any nation branding is to “find out what the nation in whole is good at and communicate that to relevant audiences.”

The objective of the Israeli branding strategy is to move away from Israeli-Palestinian conflict-related issues and focusing on repositioning popular imaginary regarding the state of Israel. Israel conceives those re-branding efforts as part of its “soft warfare” against Arab and Muslim efforts to delegitimize it.

Accordingly, Israel perceives its image as having nothing to do with its own actions. Instead, it is a function of delegitimizing Muslim and Arab propaganda as well as an increasing anti-colonial discourse which has pushed the West to blame itself for colonial crimes, thus embracing the imagery and political discourse of the Third World.

Under this conception, it is obvious and natural that on the weekend of a major offensive against the besieged Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip, Israel would launch a campaign to support the human rights of the Syrian people.

Duchin confirmed that he contacted Lieberman’s office about the issue, but declined to elaborate. In response to a question from Haaretz, the performer said he had not pinned down a date for the concert, which is still in the earliest planning stages. “I made the offer from a human and humanitarian place”, Duchin said.

For the past two months Lieberman has been highly visible in calling for castigation of the Syrian regime. Israel’s foreign minister has urged Assad to step down and offered to assist Syrian refugees who reach the area along the border with Israel.

In addition to the efforts to re-brand Israel as a human rights- abiding country, some politicians in Israel presume that a post Assad government in Syria will be ready to sign a peace treaty with Israel on Israeli terms. Labor Party MK Yitzhak Herzog,claims he conducted negotiation with unnamed leaders of the Syrian opposition, and that they told him of a peace treaty with Israel after Syrian President Bashar Assad falls.

So far, according to Haaretz, Syrian rebels did no buy into Israeli propaganda, stating clearly they do not want any aid from Israel.

* This Article was published by the Alternative Information Center

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