Gaza: a new fragrance from Garnier


Israel, as you may have noticed, has been having problems with its public relations recently. One of its difficulties is that the sort of propaganda messages that work well within Israel, rallying people to support the war in Gaza, do not resonate much outside Israel and may actually make people more sceptical than before.

This is something that Israel's propagandists either can't understand or don't know how to deal with. 

One recent example occurred in Ireland, where the Israel embassy attempted to persuade Dubliners that their city was the next target of Hamas. The ambassador, incidentally, had previously won an Israeli award for his "extraordinary" hasbara (propaganda) skills. 

The latest incident involves Stand With Us, a militant Zionist organisation which has previously been involved in controversies in the United States (here and here), and the international cosmetics brand Garnier (owned by L'Oréal). 

On its Facebook page on July 31, Stand With Us posted photos of female Israeli soldiers smiling for the camera after receiving gifts of "girly care packages". A note from Stand With Us said:

"We are honored to be delivering these "girly" care packages for our lovely female IDF fighters!

"Today's delivery of care packages was stocked with thousands of products for our girls protecting Israel. They even received facial soaps and minerals, so they can still take care of themselves, eve while defending the country.

"Shout out to the Garnier Israel for the amazing donation of facial soaps, minerals and deoderants [sic]! A special thank you also to the amazing South African children who wrote the soldiers amazing letters of support and love.

"Want to help us care for our soldiers? Donate to our care packages here:"

This is a good illustration of the bubble within which many of the hasbara crowd now think and operate. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Stand With Us that making sure Israeli soldiers smelled nice as they went out to fight in Gaza would be perceived as weirdly incongruous by some and offensive by others.

It should have been obvious that there was a risk, at the very least, that the Garnier stunt would backfire – as indeed it did. Before long, a #BoycottGarnier hashtag had appeared on Twitter.

Garnier has now distanced itself from "the initiative" (as it calls it), and apologised for any offence caused. It seems to be denying involvement at an official level, blaming "a local retailer" instead.

International Business Times quotes Kari Kerr, Garnier's Corporate Communications Director, as saying that the company did not support the initiative, nor does it want its products to be used in any future campaign:

"Garnier values peace and harmony and has a strict policy of not getting involved in any conflict or political matter. The hand-out of about 500 products was part of a local retailer initiative. This was managed strictly at local market level and we are very sorry if anyone was offended," Kerr said in the company's first statement on the affair.

A statement from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: 

"We are pleased to hear that Garnier have distanced themselves from the attempt to associate them with the Israeli Forces. It is a pity they did not respond earlier to numerous messages asking them to do so. The Israel lobby group, Stand With Us, claim that Garnier Israel donated the packages to the soldiers. Therefore we urge Garnier to take the issue up with them and issue an urgent statement clarifying whether the company did or did not donate care packages."

This hasn't satisfied everyone, however, and some Twitter users are saying they will continue to boycott Garnier products. Garnier didn't help itself by taking more than a week to respond and, justifiably or not, its reputation has been damaged.

Stand With Us, meanwhile, seems to have achieved the opposite of what it intended, by stimulating further calls for boycotts of products associated with Israel.

Posted by Brian Whitaker
Saturday, 9 August 2014