February 10, 2011
Five of Norway’s largest PR firms have said ‘no’ to offers to improve Israel’s global public relations campaign, reported the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naæringsliv.
Israel is attempting to widen its global public relations campaign by hiring foreign PR firm to improve its reputation abroad. With the increasing threat being posed by the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and the publicity surrounding Israelis human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian Territory, Israel has contacted public relations specialists in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway for help.
The project, for which each firm would be paid around 3.5 million USD annually, is to help Israel promote its vision in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as prevent the international boycott, amongst other things.
“Israel is an highly controversial project,” Sigurd Grytten, the PR firm Burson-Marsteller’s Managing Director, told the paper.
Statements by heads of the public relations agencies Geelmuyden.Keise, Gambit H&K, Apeland Informasjon, and First House range from “difficult”, to “no comment”. Only one agency, Kreab, has said it might consider the assignment.
In response, Aviad Ivri, Counselor at the Israeli embassy in Oslo, said, “It’s no secret that Israel has a reputation problem.”
Norway has a growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. The country’s Government Pension Fund Global recently divested from two Israeli companies, Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, due to their involvement in the construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank.
“Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under the [Geneva] Convention,” said Norway’s Minister of Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen at the time of the much-publicized divestment.
What’s more late 2010, Israel accused the Norwegian government of funding and encouraging blatant anti-Israel incitement. The accusations were based on reports that a local Norwegian municipality is funding a trip for students to New York in order to take part in the “Gaza Monologues” play, and view an exhibition by Norwegian artists.
The play, which “deals with the suffering of children in Gaza as a result of the Israeli occupation,” was written by a Palestinian playwright from Gaza, and was presented at the United Nations headquarters. The Norwegian government responded to the Israeli accusation, saying that the Norwegian government supports freedom of expression and will not be intervening in the arts.