Palestinians don’t need a Washington office, they need good PR

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Palestinians don’t need a Washington office, they need good PR

In the coming days, the Palestine Liberation Organization will close its diplomatic office in Washington. Once the symbol of movement toward achieving peace between Israel and Palestine, it has come to symbolize emptiness as the peace process collapsed under the weight of Israel’s opposition.

The PLO office was opened in 1994 as a “mission” and was later upgraded to “general delegation” in 2010. It was intended to be a diplomatic base from which Palestinian leaders could engage the peace process and members of the US Congress. As the peace process died, the influence of the PLO office deteriorated, and Palestinian representatives were relegated to insignificance. Instead of leading in defining peace, they served as talking heads reacting to events as the peace collapsed.

What has always been missing from the PLO, and from nearly every public endeavor of the Palestinian movement, was an effective public relations and communications strategy that could educate Americans and more directly impact US foreign policy. I don’t know why, but Palestinians and many Arabs have no faith in the power of public relations or strategic communications, even though Israel has relied on those techniques to reinforce the lies that define America’s approach to Palestine and the Arab world.

Israel has used PR and strategic communications to mold the perceptions of the American public to blindly support it. That public attitude has been the basis for the overwhelming support Israel has in Congress. Most Americans believe the propaganda that Israel is the “victim” engaged in a just fight for survival, and that the Palestinians are the foes of peace, engaging in terrorism to destroy “the Jewish state.”

During the 24 years that the PLO has maintained an office in Washington, Palestinians failed to engage in a campaign of effective public relations strategy. Instead, they engaged in shoot-from-the-hip, reactive rhetoric, often angrily. This has only served to strengthen Israel’s influence over the American mind.

The American public has never understood the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has only embraced the one-sided propaganda spin from Israel because it was the only story that was ever put forward. 

Palestinians wrongly believed that they could use their offices in Washington to educate congressmen and senators — but that’s not how American politics works. Power does not start at the top of the political system with the president, the White House, the 435 members of the House of Representatives or the 100 members of the Senate. Power and influence starts on the streets; on the doorstep of the average, everyday American.

The American public has never understood the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has only embraced the one-sided propaganda spin from Israel because it was the only story that was ever put forward. 

Ray Hanania

If a majority of constituents — as few as 51 percent of the voters — in one of the 435 congressional districts or the 50 Senate districts supported Palestinian rights and rejected the Israeli government’s lies, elected officials in that area would aggressively support Palestinian rights too.

Most Americans who are Christian by faith don’t even realize that Palestinians represent the cumulative history of the Christian faith; a presence that is being slowly and steadily erased, along with Palestinian rights, because of Israeli government policies.

The only way to undo the pro-Israel lies about Palestine that have been drilled into the minds of the American people by Israeli propaganda and public relations over the past 70 years is to counter those lies with the truth, delivered to Americans using an equally powerful public relations campaign of pro-Palestinian information.

Instead of wasting money on an office in Washington, the Palestinians should invest money in professional PR. A strong PR campaign can educate Americans about the truth of how Israel, not the Palestinians, has blocked peace. It might open the eyes of Americans to see how Israel, not the Palestinians, are the instigators of today’s violence.

Now that the Washington office is closing, let’s stop pretending that we need that office. Let’s stop pretending that we need the Trump administration to reverse its anti-Palestinian policies. Instead of being angry with Donald Trump, we should be thanking him for opening our eyes to the truth that peace won’t come as a handout presented to us by an American president, congressman or senator, but rather when the American people rise up to demand justice for the Palestinians.

That will only happen when we take our truth and deliver it to Americans in a professional manner that they will accept: Through strategic public relations and effective messaging.

If you don’t believe that can be done, then you really don’t believe in the power of the truth of Palestinian history. We just have to tell that truth to the American people in an effective and strategic way.

  • Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and the author of several books including “Yalla! Fight Back.” His personal website is www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania
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