June 28, 2001
War of Words
Two media campaigns take alternative approaches to improving Israel's image.
David Suissa calls it the "three-second war," the battle between Israel and Palestinians fought with sound bites more than mortar shells, a war fought in print and on television.
The founder and CEO of Suissa Miller Advertising, Suissa has unleashed an unconventional weapon in the three-second war: pro-Israel advertising.
Suissa joined Jerusalem-based radio hosts Felice and Michael Friedson at a June 18 meeting of Israel Emergency Alliance, a pro-Israel advocacy group, to discuss practical efforts to rally public support for Israel through the media.
Suissa has done this through Jews for Truth Now, a group that pools the resources of some 200 backers, placing provocative Suissa-designed advertisements for Israel's cause that feature straight-to-the-point sloganeering and attention-grabbing quotes. One such ad features in bold print "Arafat is not a liar"; another advises "There is no alternative to destroying Israel." Both are meant to surprise and draw readers to the Israel-supporting explanations that follow. The adman says, "Truth is a diamond. We show the side of the diamond that makes our case.
"Peace is not a goal. Peace is a result," Suissa says. "Education is the goal, and the strongest thing we can do is advertising. Because with ads, [newspaper editors] can't change a word."
After an initial blitz of ads in December and January in papers across the United States, Europe and Israel, Jews for Truth Now has focused its efforts in the past four months on the opinion- and law-makers of Washington, D.C. with quarter-page salvos in Roll Call and The Hill newspapers. "[Secretary of State] Colin Powell's office called us," Suissa says, "They wanted to know where we got our information. People are paying attention." Jews for Truth Now will expand its ad campaign to college newspapers during the next school year.
Felice and Michael Friedson work the journalistic trenches on the other side of advertising -- editorial. They host the magazine-style radio show "The Jewish Horizons Radio Network," which broadcasts from Israel to American cities.
From their Jerusalem base, they also operate The Media Line, Ltd., a service to redress what they call the "anti-Israel" slant in the media.
The Media Line works with American television stations and newspapers to find and develop appropriate stories. "We don't demonize the journalists," Friedson says, "A lot of them just don't know better."
In building a "media infrastructure for Israel's gifts to the world," The Media Line has assembled a stable of "attractive, well-informed talking heads," says Friedson, experts who are available and able to present Israel's case on talk shows and news programs. The Friedsons also develop relationships with journalists and broadcasters working in Israel, introducing them to important government contacts and new immigrants from their hometowns, helping them make their stories more relevant to audiences back home.
"We're not trying to bias the news," Friedson says, "If we're biased, we're out, we're over, we don't help Israel. We provide the background and support journalists' need to create balanced stories."
Visit Jews for Truth Now on the Web at www.jewsfortruthnow.com . The Media Line, Ltd.'s Web site will be up by August.