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Updated: PR firms drop Israeli image campaign

Israel wants to hire PR firms in 10 countries to improve its reputation, according to Israeli paper Yedioth Ahronoth. Norwegian PR firms have refused.

The assignment is to help the country promote its vision in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as prevent an international boycott of Israeli goods, amongst other things. Each PR agency would receive approximately 20 million kroner annually.

Israel has contacted specialists in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway. Five of Norway’s largest PR firms have said ‘no’.

“Israel is an highly controversial project,” Sigurd Grytten, Burson-Marsteller’s Managing Director, tells Dagens Næringsliv (DN).

Statements by heads of Geelmuyden.Keise, Gambit H&K, Apeland Informasjon, and First House range from “difficult”, to “no comment”. Only Kreab’s Gavin Anderson says he might consider the assignment.

According to the paper, 27 Israel-friendly Norwegian MPs believe slanted media coverage of Israel is to blame.

“Press coverage of Israel in Norway is one-sided. There is a discouragingly little talk of Israel as a dynamic and modern society which is among the world’s leaders in technology, science and culture”, says Christian Democratic Party (KrF) MP Hans Olav Syversen (KrF), leader for Israel’s friends in Parliament.

He also believes it is because PR agencies fear how their customers would react, expressing surprise at how little independence they display.

“I didn’t think they shared their clients’ view wholeheartedly.”

Aviad Ivri, Counselor at the Israeli embassy in Oslo, admits Israel faces a considerable challenge.

“It’s no secret that Israel has a reputation problem,” he says.
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