How to help Israel: don’t make threats

There are ways to put Israel’s case across in public — and there are ways not to. High on the don’t list are: don’t scream at journalists; don’t send death threats to BBC producers; and don’t try to stoke up anti-Muslim feelings. More than 200 activists were primed on the most effective methods of batting for Israel at the first-ever “advocacy day” in London on Sunday organised by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom). The best message to communicate, they were told, is that Israel is committed to working for peace in the Middle East, even though it sometimes has to take difficult actions. Lorna Fitzsimons, Bicom chief executive, warned that “a very tough year” could lie ahead, with further Israeli operations likely in Gaza. But coverage of Israel’s recent raids on Gaza had been better than of the Lebanon War two years ago, she said, because the media had been briefed in advance about the threat faced by Israel. It was essential to tell the story of Sderot, the southern Israel town under rocket attack from Gaza, she said, and make people think how they would react if it were happening locally. “What British town would put up with seven years of rockets?” Communication experts, polling analysts and community leaders addressed sessions as did John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, and Israel’s ambassador Ron Prosor. One session was chaired by DJ Collins, the director of communications for Google (UK, Ireland and Benelux) who joined Bicom’s board in 2006. He said: “The opponents of Israel have got to grips with new media very quickly. A large number of people around the world don’t get their news from traditional media. I’d like to see people make better use of the web, for example, to show what happens when rockets land in Israel.” Michael Prescott, former political editor of the Sunday Times, now a director at PR agency Weber Shandwick, advised that when communicating through the media, there were three simple rules: “Be nice, never show your anger and repeat yourself. If you let your frustration or anger over an unbalanced report show, you are not doing yourself or your cause a favour. “If you are writing a letter, try and get the message in more than once. And if you are on air for two minutes, try and get your key message over three times.”

    Last updated: 3:38pm, September 23 2009