Sunday, November 25, 2012

Changing The Negative Image: Israel Invites Chinese Bloggers and Hispanic/American Journalists For Visit

Most people who favor the Palestinians will claim that it's only the Palestinians who are suffering, after all those thousands of rockets Hamas fires into Israel don't do much damage, after all. Wrong. However, this misperception colors how people view Israel and its people, so the Israelis are trying to change that negative image by inviting journalists and high profile bloggers to visit and see for themselves that Israel isn't some demon country bullying its poor neighbour.

The Israeli Embassy in Beijing and the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry recently invited a group of Chinese bloggers and Hispanic/American journalists to tour the country which seemed to pay off: while visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem the journalists experienced what Israelis are consistently subjected to: the sound of sirens. The fact that Gaza rockets don't do as much harm as intended is a blessing, but certainly not the goal of Hamas. Hamas would like to obliterate Israel with each one of those rockets, so you have to admire a people that can carry on with their lives amidst a barrage of potentially fatal rocket attacks. This is what these journalists and bloggers experienced, and were then able to relay to their readers.

David M. Weinberg from Israel Hayom discusses how both these groups were affected by what they saw in Israel:

The Hispanic journalists’ visit, which had been planned well before Operation Pillar of Defense and took place on schedule, is one of the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein’s many projects. At the same time, a group of Chinese bloggers visiting Israel and seeing its tourist attractions also got a taste of last week’s terror. The ministry’s strategy is to try to reach large, new and influential audiences such as Chinese and Hispanic — who, until recently, few had tried to reach, at least as far as the Middle East conflict goes. [Snip]

“The best public relations for the State of Israel is a look at life in Israel as it is,” says Edelstein. “In times like these, since there is not much awareness of Israel beyond the conflict and what is shown in the world media, we are making an effort to bring media people to Israel — bloggers and public-opinion leaders who will see the situation with their own eyes. We hope to reach their myriads of listeners, viewers and readers, whether they’re millions of followers in China or hundreds of thousands of Americans of Latino extraction who listen to local television and radio every day.”

“When the siren sounded, people started crying and their children asked them why,” said Maria Antonieta Collins, a Mexican-born journalist who lives in Miami and writes for the Spanish-language media outlet Univision. Collins says she quickly realized that “the situation in Israel is absurd and the people here are suffering. After the one-time experience that we had at the Western Wall, I can’t imagine how it’s possible to live in a city that gets hit by thousands of rockets. I can’t imagine what it would be like if it happened on the border between Tijuana and San Diego. Now I admire the people of Israel, who keep on living and coping with this situation.”

Another Hispanic journalist, Fernando Espuela in three YouTube videos said:

“Alongside the fear of terrorism, it’s a fascinating trip and a profound experience,” he says. “I’ve been following what goes on in Israel through the media and I had general knowledge. But this visit gave me the chance to have deep talks with many people, including at the top levels of the administration — influential people — and also with the general public. I learned that the situation was much more complex than I’d thought.” What about hearing the air-raid siren go off at the Western Wall? “I got a taste of what it’s like to live in a situation of uncertainty and fear. Because of that, I have a lot more appreciation, respect and understanding for the residents of Israel’s south. I got a chance to share that experience, and the feelings that went with it, with a lot of people in the U.S.”

As for the Chinese bloggers:

One of the blogs belongs to journalist Tang Shizeng of Beijing, who writes for the news agencies in China. Here is an excerpt from a post of his from this past week: “Hamas rockets continue to attack Israeli civilians, resulting in casualties. In response, the Israeli government has mobilized 75,000 army reservists, the largest call-up since the Gulf War." Shizeng, 51, a highly experienced senior journalist in China, gave explanations about the Israeli army and reserve duty. He also shared photographs of Israel Defense Forces soldiers, including the well-known photograph by David Rubinger of paratroopers at the Western Wall in June 1967, toward the end of the Six-Day War.

Read the whole article here.

This is the way to do it, changing the hearts and minds one blogger and journalist at a time.

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