Israel’s PR campaign is failing: The more Americans know, the less favorable they become

The news out of Israel is that a survey by an American Zionist group says that Israeli PR (or hasbara) isn’t working, and the more Americans learn about Israel, the less favorably they feel about the country. The Times of Israel describes the data as devastating: “‘Devastating’ survey shows huge loss of Israel support among Jewish college students.”

The study is titled, “Sounding the Alarm: The American-Israeli Relationship.” Fern Oppenheim, head of the Brand Israel Group, which produced the survey, “repeatedly used the word ‘devastating’ — each time without hyperbole.” From the Times of Israel:

  • The gap between Israel-supporters and detractors is widening. The current Israel advocacy programs are not working, and Jewish college students are the leading defectors from Israel support.

    ‘The future of America no longer believe that Israel shares their values’

    Mainstream Americans are not starting from a neutral perspective on Israel; rather, they begin with misperceptions and negative assumptions. This creates “fertile ground” for delegitimization, said Oppenheim, who also spoke this week at the prestigious annual Herzliya Conference.

    The 2016 segmentation study’s data shows that the current campaign of depicting the Israel beyond the conflict — specifically, highlighting high-tech achievements — is not effective. In fact, the more the study participants knew about Israel, the less favorably they felt about the country.

The study says that Americans have learned a lot more about Israel since 2010, but that knowledge has fostered the country’s unfavorable reputation, and fed the “delegitimization” campaign, because Americans increasingly feel that Israel does not share their values.

(This is exactly what Adam Horowitz wrote in a joke post of April 1 last year: “Birthright ends trips to Israel — ‘American Jews are better off imagining Israel than seeing it'”.)

Oppenheim was further quoted by the Times of Israel, from an appearance in Israel:

  • “The future of America – no longer believe that Israel shares their values. This is huge! Devastating.”…

    Much of this change she blamed on the rise of “intersectionality” on campuses. There is no longer nuance in campus conversations about Israel, she said. Instead, the “atmosphere is oppressor versus victim. Israel is just another symbol of this.”

    “We are allowing Israel to be defined by its detractors,” she emphasized….

    “The sands under our feet are shifting,” said Oppenheim. “It is clear that the divide in our community is here for the next generation.”

Here’s the Jerusalem Post coverage:

  • Support for Israel has dropped 27 percentage points among Jewish college students in the US since 2010, a study released by Brand Israel Group at the Herzliya Conference this week revealed…

    Researchers found that although since 2010, claimed knowledge of Israel has increased by 14 percentage points, the public is still not more favorable to Israel. On the contrary, favorability decreased, especially among the general college student population, among the most hostile to Israel.

    In 2016, 54% overall expressed views in favor of Israel, compared to 73% in 2010, a 19 percentage point decrease. For Jewish college students specifically, 82% held positive views of Israel in 2016 compared to 95% in 2010. The same trend was noted for African-Americans, Hispanics and Democrats surveyed

    The study acknowledged a solid base of core support for Israel comprised of Jews, evangelicals, older Americans and the political Right, but noted that college students overall, Jewish college students and minority groups, are populations that Israel is at risk of losing.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding seized on the study to say that efforts to educate Americans are working. Margaret DeReus wrote in a widely-distributed email today:

  • This shift in political consciousness is exactly what you and I and the rest of our IMEU family are working toward and it is so exciting to see these indicators that our efforts are paying off!

The marvel is that these changes are not reflected in our political establishment or our media. Even Bernie Sanders, the leftmost figure in the Democratic Party, forswears boycotting Israel and is muted in his criticisms of the country. This is why I insist the problem is the Israel lobby, the extent to which the media and political elites are dominated by Israel supporters. A Time Warner executive writes speeches for Netanyahu and nobody gives a hoot.

In an indication of the disconnect between ordinary Americans and the political leaders, Grant Smith at reports that Americans don’t identify as Zionists:

  • An unprecedented poll reveals the gaping void between American identification with Israel and the official positions taken by both major political parties.

    A majority of American adults – 70.3 percent – do not consider themselves Zionists when defined as “A Zionist is a person who believes in the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.” Only 24.9 percent say, “I consider myself a Zionist” while 4.8% provided other responses…..

    In contrast to their constituents, members of both major US political parties have long operated under overwhelmingly Zionist party platforms. The 2016 Democratic party platform references Israel 9 times. Republican party platform 19. They differ little on the key issues.