Israel hires PR firm on 60th birthday for a political facelift Toni O'Loughlin in Jerusalem The Guardian, Saturday October 11 2008 Israel has hired British public image consultants to give the conflict-battered nation a political facelift for its 60th birthday this year. Acanchi, which has built its reputation on altering international perceptions of nations such as Lebanon and Bahrain, has been contracted to counter anti-Israel "mindsets". "Our research shows that Israel's brand is essentially the conflict," Ido Aharoni, head of the brand management unit within Israel's foreign ministry, told Israeli daily, Haaretz. "Even those who recognise that Israel is in the right are not attracted to it, because they see it as a supplier of bad news. The conclusion is that it is more important for Israel to be attractive than to be right," he said. Israel signed the contract with Acanchi six weeks ago but the idea to remake the nation's image was proposed by its New York consulate seven years ago. In the wake of the September 11 terror attacks, pro-Israel lobbyists hoped the rest of the world would become more sympathetic to their conflict with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, which erupted soon after the birth of the Jewish nation in 1948. But Aharoni told the Guardian that the contract with Acanchi "had nothing to do with public relations". "Let's just confirm the fact that they are working for us and that's it," he said. Within the pro-Israel lobby, debate has raged between those who advocate the old approach of managing perceptions of the conflict by promoting the Jewish nation's version of events and those who advocate distracting international attention by telling positive stories. Even before Acanchi's chairwoman, Fiona Gilmore, visited Israel last week to talk to public figures, businessmen, academics and social activists, the nation had begun selling a slicker image to the rest of the world. Last year Israel launched a page on MySpace and this year, as part of its 60th birthday celebrations, it lined New York's Fifth Avenue with banners of 60 Israeli faces. But its attempt to generate goodwill abroad backfired at home last year when Israeli politicians objected to a story about Israel's female soldiers who were photographed in their underwear at the behest of Israel's New York consulate. Acanchi also declined to be interviewed about the project but its website says it aims to "discover and define the optimum brand strategy for a country, city or region". Gilmore says the new brand should be "rooted in the essence of a place". "This is always rooted in the reality and essence of the place," she says on the Acanchi website. "If a brand is changed or built only on the surface and it's not supported by deeper changes and values within a country, city or region, it will not engage people."