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Firing PR Ace Noa Tishby Was PR Blunder

The merit of Tishby’s approach is that her candor instantly boosted her credibility. And what is more important for a spokesperson than credibility?
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April 9, 2023
Photo courtesy Noa Tishby

It’s hard to imagine a time when the state of Israel was more in need of smart PR than right now. Since the most right-wing government in Israel’s history was sworn in over 100 days ago, it has been one PR disaster after another. Every day seems to bring another black eye on Israel’s image—from extremist coalition partners making reckless statements they’re forced to walk back to legislative proposals that threaten basic civil rights and allow convicted criminals to be cabinet ministers.

Of all the blunders, though, none stands out as much as the overbearing, unilateral attempt to overhaul Israel’s judicial system.

“Whatever one thinks of the judicial reforms that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition has proposed,” William A. Galston wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “it’s hard not to conclude that he is proceeding in a reckless and destructive manner.”

This is the key point. It doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on: It’s a fact that Bibi’s coalition blundered with its blatant power grab and full-frontal assault on the Judiciary. It’s not an opinion.

It’s a fact, as Galston writes, that Bibi “has divided his country” and “lost the confidence of Israel’s economic leaders” and that “members of his own Likud Party are signaling that he is going too far, too fast.”

It’s a fact that even the architect of the overhaul himself, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, has admitted in an interview with Channel 14 that his plan went too far and “could ultimately cause a constitutional crisis…and cannot be allowed in a democratic state.”

Which brings us to Israel’s latest blunder—firing Noa Tishby, its Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and the Delegitimization of Israel.

Why was she fired? Because she expressed genuine concerns about the judicial overhaul. Evidently, the Israeli government couldn’t stomach that Tishby aired honest feelings shared by the majority of Israelis.

“What’s happening in Israel right now, what we’re seeing is literally democracy on full display. It’s actually quite extraordinary,” she said on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher.”

Tishby framed the civil strife in Israel in democratic terms: “As it happens in the US, when new governments come in, they jump in to make sweeping changes quite quickly, and that’s what this government decided to do,” she continued. “They suggested a judiciary overhaul, which is going too far, and the Israeli people are basically rebelling against it.”

The merit of that approach is that her candor instantly boosted her credibility. And what is more important for a spokesperson than credibility?

In announcing her dismissal, Tishby acknowledged that “it’s not possible for me to know if their decision was driven by my publicly stated concerns about this government’s ‘judicial reform policy.’” But, she added, “given the reality that antisemitism continues its dangerous rise globally, and the threat to Israel’s existence through delegitimization policies has not slowed, it is difficult to come to any other reasonable conclusion.”

In other words, at a time when her position is more needed than ever, it makes no sense to squelch it. The only possible explanation is that she upset her bosses by being honest about the judicial reforms.

Instead of seeing her honesty as being in Israel’s interest, the government took a short-sighted and insecure approach and decided Tishby was not “loyal” enough.

Maybe they overlooked the tremendous job Tishby has done representing Israel’s viewpoint, especially with the new generation on social media. Her various and topical Instagram videos, which have garnered millions of views, have been sharp, succinct and credible. Her book, “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth,” has given her the knowledge base to offer viewpoints that have the ring of truth.

It is that ring of truth that has been Tishby’s #1 weapon, at a time when terrorism is on the rise and Israel’s legitimacy is constantly under assault, from haters on social media to BDS on college campuses to a UN that condemns Israel more than any other country.

In her post-envoy phase, Tishby will continue to fight for her beloved Israel as an activist– but something will be missing. When an official envoy is honest enough to critique her country when it merits it, that elevates the country. It says: “We’re a free society. Yes, we even allowed our envoy in the Diaspora to share her honest feelings. That’s what freedom means.”

When an official envoy is honest enough to critique her country when it merits it, that elevates the country.

Just when it was about to claim a PR triumph for freedom and democracy, the most right-wing government in Israel’s history snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

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