Sonya Shapirovska

Shalom Channel: Redefining Public Diplomacy

More than four months have passed since the attack of Hamas, and it is time to learn some lessons and do the homework. Yes, Israel maintains a military advantage and sooner or later will achieve its declared goals: to release the hostages and liquidate Hamas as military and political power. However, there is a war, which Israel is losing at the same time. It is a war for human hearts all over the world. The Anti-Defamation League reported antisemitic acts had risen by about 400% in two weeks following October 7th compared to the last year in the US! The number of pro-Palestinian meetings all over the world is hundreds of times greater than pro-Israeli ones. This war is not on a battlefield, this is a media war and unfortunately, it is unfair.

In the eyes of the world, Israel is positioned as the Goliath because our politicians and military speakers that make statements saying only “We will win the war.” At the same time, Palestinian and even international media sources always show the “suffering children” and Gaza ruins, mixing criminals and victims.

Since the onset of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the term most frequently used by Israelis has been “hasbara,” which literally translates to “to explain.” However, in the context of the current conflict, it has taken on the meaning of “explaining our existence” to the rest of the world. This conflict should mark the last time Israelis feel compelled to use this term. Over 75 years after the establishment of the state of Israel, we should be employing the term “public diplomacy,” just like other developed nations.

The Ministry of Public Diplomacy, as well as the Israeli Public Broadcasting Company (Kan), which currently has little influence on our media presence, should be revitalized and restructured. To this end, it is vital to establish a new media platform ”Shalom”, which would shed light on the realities of everyday life in Israel. It would give voice to the diverse mix of cultures, cities, businesses, religions, and perspectives that make up Israel, reflecting the richness and complexity of our nation.

In the current media landscape, many international viewers, particularly in the Middle East, opt for Al Jazeera due to its comprehensive news coverage and diverse programming. Al Jazeera has become a preferred source for many seeking an “alternative” perspective on regional and international affairs. However, Al Jazeera’s reporting, especially on regional conflicts and political events, reflects a particular editorial stance that may be aligned with specific political interests, often manipulated to appear anti-Israel. It’s crucial to note that Al-Jazeera is owned and operated by the Qatari royal family, a country with limited freedom of speech.

This fact underscores the need for a media outlet that operates in a democratic country where freedom of speech is respected and upheld. Therefore, the model for “Shalom” would align more with Western democratic models, such as the ARD or CBC. These channels are public broadcasters that aim to inform, educate, and entertain while maintaining a high level of journalistic integrity and impartiality.

“Shalom” is envisioned as a public independent channel to ensure it remains accessible and impartial, serving the public interest rather than any political, private, or group objectives. It would be accessed globally in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. The operations are based on the “public broadcasting” model: free of charge, with the state budget and sponsorship financing. Commercial income is appreciated but with certain limitations. The board comprises the most trustful, creative, and respective representatives of Israeli society.

To ensure the channel remains apolitical, new legislation should be implemented. This legislation will mandate government financing for the channel, while simultaneously guaranteeing its full independence from any government intervention. This means that the government will not have the power to influence the content, fire personnel, or limit freedom of speech in any way on the channel. The members of the channel will be chosen through fair elections, further ensuring its impartiality and independence.

Amid these challenges, private individuals have risen to the task, leveraging their online following to share Israel’s reality. Influencers like Noa Tishby and Uri Cohen produce content daily. However, their efforts primarily reach an audience already supportive of Israel. This limitation is mainly due to the algorithms of platforms like Instagram or TikTok, which curate content based on user behavior and preferences. Therefore, a public channel like “Shalom” could reach a broader audience, including those less inclined to support the Israeli narrative.

Creating an Israeli international media channel is not just about counteracting the narratives spun by media giants like Al-Jazeera. It’s about ensuring that our story – the Israeli story – is heard, understood, and respected internationally. The “Shalom” channel,  a blend of news and public relations, can highlight the nation’s technological innovations, cultural achievements, and contributions to global affairs. Moreover, the channel can be a soft power, influencing public opinion and fostering positive sentiments towards Israel. It can engage an international audience personally and emotionally, transcending political boundaries and promoting cross-cultural appreciation.

The presence of a well-established, globally accessible Israeli channel can have diplomatic implications, influencing international perceptions and shaping foreign policy discourse. By actively participating in the global media landscape, Israel can assert its diplomatic interests, convey its stance on international issues, and contribute to shaping narratives that align with its strategic objectives.

Let this be the last time we must “explain our existence.” Let us take control of our narrative and demonstrate to the world the vibrant, diverse, and resilient nation that is Israel. It’s time we stop watching others tell our story and start writing it ourselves!

About the Author
Sonya, 23, made Aliyah from Kyiv, Ukraine around 9 years ago. Currently, she is a third-year student at Reichman University pursuing the Argov Fellows Program in Leadership and Diplomacy. In the future, she hopes to work in the field of Israeli Security.
Related Topics
Related Posts