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Arabs need to get their public relations together
By Ray Hanania
Three times in the past, Israel and Hamas have battled and each time thousands of innocent civilians, mostly on the Palestinian side, have been killed. In 2008, 2012 and now, 2014.
The conflicts follows the same pattern. Israel claims that Hamas has fired rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israel and Israel then bombards and then invades destroying thousands of homes and properties, killing thousands more and injuring tens of thousands more.
A few Israelis, mostly soldiers, are killed and a few more are injured.
America rallies around Israel, points ugly fingers of blame at Hamas and Palestinians, and quickly justifies the killing of the civilians, claiming Hamas used they “babies” and the “children” as human shields.
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The first casualty of these battles is truth. In fact in every one of the three conflicts, Israel started the violence. Israel started the violence in 2008. Israel started the violence in 2012. And, Israel started the violence in 2014.
The problem is that when Israel commits acts of violence and state-sponsored terrorism targeting civilians, the media doesn’t pay attention. The media didn’t report on how Israel bombed civilians in 2008, 2012 and this time between January 1, 2014 and June 10, 2014 before Hamas retaliated by firing rockets.
The mainstream American news media only starts covering the conflict when Hamas responds to Israel.
Why? Well, many of Israel’s hardline supporters own the media that does the reporting, like Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York who owns Bloomberg News. Those media not owned by pro-Israel activists are owned by corporations that profit from Israel’s public relations successes.
Israel spends tens of millions of dollars on professional public relations. They not only put out press releases, they also have specific people who are prepped and ready to respond with pro-Israel “talking points” and a battalion of communications professionals who arrange media interviews with Israeli figures.
The two professional spokespeople for Israel have been Mark Regev, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesperson who speaks flawless English and who dresses and acts more like an American than most Americans. And, Israeli Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
They both will be profiled soon in Time Magazine. One of my friends is doing the feature spotlight story on the duo.
In contrast, the Palestinians have nothing. Their leaders don’t believe in “spokespeople.” There is no equivalent of Mark Regev or Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
The Arabs have no media strategy. They have no communications. They have no professional spokespeople, and they definitely don’t have effectively crafted messages ready to counter the pinpoint accuracy of the Israeli message spin.
That needs to change, but the Arab World doesn’t get it. They don’t understand that $10 million invested in professional media can make a significant difference in how America sees the conflict. For example, there was no official professional counter argument to the libelous claim that Hamas militants held babies and children as human shields when they fired their missiles.
Additionally, an Arab PR campaign must be accompanied by a political campaign to influence and inform the leaders of the U.S. Congress. They need to see the Palestinians, and Arabs, as human beings, not statistics that fire rockets.
The 33 U.S. Senators who signed a letter denouncing the United Nations for criticizing Israel’s actions as “war crimes’ received more than $5 million in campaign donations from pro-Israel PACs during the past five years.
The most vicious PR spin by Israel is the claim that Hamas is using civilians as human shields. There has been no formal pushback on that outrageous slander. It sounds reasonable, and with only circumstantial evidence provided by Israeli forces, it sounds believable.
What Israel is doing is no different than a Chicago Police Officer who chases a criminal into a convenience store full of civilians, and blows the convenient store up to kill the criminal. Ten civilians may die with the criminal and in any courtroom in the world, that would be considered a crime.
But not when Israel does it.
If those civilians are “human shields,” then in reality those civilians are hostages. And you don’t kill civilian hostages knowingly, as Israel is doing.
Professional PR would dictate that the Arabs pivot the argument and emphasize other important facts, like the fact that Israel has killed over 300 children along with 1,400 civilians, women and old people.
When you kill a baby, it is a war crime. There is no debate in a civilized society, only one that picks and choses when morality can apply.
But these counter arguments need to be made when Israel makes its assertions, not days later when Israel’s claims have had a chance to ferment in the minds of the American public.
The Arab World needs to wake up from its slumber. It has the money and the technology to counter Israel’s PR offensive, which is an appropriate word because what Israel is saying is offensive to the truth.
Both sides are guilty each in their own way, but with no professional PR, Israel’s offenses are ignored and not showcased. They need to be brought out because there is a difference between a militant who fires a rocket into the air hoping it lands somewhere and a sophisticated Israeli missile that is computer guided to strike a building identified by a live camera-drone.
To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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