Thursday, December 01, 2011

My full and reasoned argument against the come back to Israel ads

The ads Israel is running to encourage expats to return to the mother land are anti-diaspora. The proof is as simple as this.

A good ad presents a solution to a problem. It shows you a way to scratch an itch. In these ads, the solution is Israel. That's the product the ad maker is selling. What's the itch?

In Ad #1 we see a couple raising a children who appears to find Christmas more significant that Hanukkah. Ad #2 gives us a child who is so out of touch with his father that he can't remember how his own father prefers to be addressed. (Billboard version at right) In both ads, Israel is being offered as a solution to the worry many expats share, namely the fear that they will lose their children to a foreign culture.

Ad #3 gives us something scarier. This spot depicts an Israeli women with a boyfriend or husband who can't relate to his own partner on a very fundamental level. He's oblivious to the things that matter most to her. She wants to mourn, while he fully, and not very credibly,misinterprets the mourning symbols. The ad's message is that you will never be fully understood, or fully known, in your adopted land. Only returning to Israel can solve that problem.

Elsewhere, some have argued that the ad isn't criticizing the disapora; rather it is stating self evident facts. After all, isn't it true that kids in America well turn out differently than Israeli-raised kids? Isn't it true that a spouse who doesn't share your upbringing will never fully appreciate some of the things that matter to you? Absolutely. The problem is that the ad frames these boring facts of life as a negative, as a problem to be solved.

We can never marry our idential twins. We can never give our children upbringing that are perfect matches to our own. Our children are always, in some ways, going to be unreachable by viture of the fact they came of age in a different times and places. Same for our spouses. Another person is never going to immediately relate to all of the things we find significant. That only comes in time, as the relationship develops.

The problem with these ads is it takes these self-evident facts, and casts them as a problem, when they're really an inevitable part of raising kids and choosing spouses. Worse, it casts these specific problems as problems caused by the diaspora when someone with ordinary parenting and communicating skills can easily avoid raising a kid who doesn't recognize Hanukkah, or settling down with a spouse who's clueless enough to hit on you while a yartzeit candle is burning.

Some claim the problems the ads identify are stated in a matter-of fact, value-neutral way. If they are right, the ad is not an ad, but a public service message. Ads don't objectivly state facts. They make arguments. They tug on heart strings. If the diaspora is harmless, why do the ads work? If the Diaspora is a great place to find a spouse, and raise a family, what problem are the ads coming to solve? Though any simpleton can see that the ads were made because Israel is losing the demographic battle, they pretend to be deeply concerned about the emotional well-being of expats.Well, if the diaspora is not something dangerous, why is their emotional well-being at risk?

Moreover, the argument in these ads are only effective is you accept that there is something inherently wrong with living outside of Israel. This, not coincidentally, is what all the ad's supporters have in common. They all agree that there is something inherently wrong with living outside of Israel. They all agree the problem is the diaspora, the solution is Israel. This perspective is what prevents them from seeing how deeply insulting the ad is to those who don't share those assumptions.


Pretend you live in Israel, and please relate to the following fictional ads.

(1) A US government ads tells you to come back to America before you lose your kids and identity.
(2) A US government ad that suggests your Israeli spouse will hit on you while you're in mourning.
(3) An Agudah sponsored ad directed at American Jews living in Israel, urges you to return to America before your kids become chilonim

The mistakes you've already identified in my fictional ads are the precise mistakes made in the real ads. The fake ads demonize other environments, and so do the real ads. The fake ads sensationalize a problem, and so do the real ads. The fake ads address themselves only to people who share a very myopic set of assumptions, and so do the real ads.


I still think the ads are good ads. They are bound to work on people who share the ad-makers assumptions. The issue is those assumptions are wrong, and unfair.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Woah! I'm really enjoying the template/theme of this site. It's simple, yet effective.
A lot of times it's very hard to get that "perfect balance" between user friendliness and visual appeal. I must say that you've done a very good job with this.
In addition, the blog loads very quick for me on Internet explorer.
Outstanding Blog!

Feel free to surf to my web blog; Good diet plans For women