It’s The Policy, Not The PR

For more than 30 years I've been speaking to pro-Israel audiences and the most frequent question I've been asked consistently remains,  “Why don't Israeli leaders get better PR advice?” My answer is always the same:  “They do, but they think they know better.” I'm sure the Arabs' friends are asking the same question.

From time to time we read reports about Arab governments hiring public relations firms to polish their images, peddle their perspectives and lobby for them in Washington.  It isn't always about Israel; very often all they want to do is clean up their tarnished images and attract business and tourists. Their message usually is we want to be good friends of the United States but you guys don't appreciate us enough or how much you need us.

You may recall that during the AWACS debate (the Reagan administration was selling the kingdom advanced early warning aircraft, F-15 enhancements and assorted missiles) in 1981 and 20 years later after 9/11 the Saudis poured millions into PR campaigns to make them look like valuable allies, and things got only worse. To one generation they were the folks who embargoed oil to punish American consumers because their government objected when the Arabs attack Israel on Yom Kippur in 1973, and more recently they wanted us to believe that their hands and souls were clean although Saudi Arabia was the home of Osama bin Laden and 19 of the 21 terrorists on 9/11.

Sometimes they tended to rely on non-Arab front groups to carry their message.  A favorite Saudi apologist was Mobil Oil, taking regular ads on the New York Times op ed pages to sing the virtues of one of the world’s most repressive regimes and human rights abusers.  But so what, it was good for business.

I've heard the alarms, the Arab lobby is strong and rich and on the move. Where's the evidence?  It may be good for fundraising by Jewish organizations and selling books, and there's nothing wrong with being alert.  Crying wolf, however, can be self-defeating.

Here's the emmes: American support for Israel — from the grass roots to the highest levels of government – is deep and bipartisan and keeps getting stronger.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.