David Baker, senior foreign press coordinator for Israel’s prime minister, grew up in East Queens. That, he said, has come in handy.
He recalled taking on a heckler in Baton Rouge, La., during a speaking tour.
“It wasn’t an even fight – for him,” said Baker, who made aliyah in 1985 and, since 2000, has served three prime ministers.
“Israel faces a difficult challenge in conveying its message,” said Baker, who will visit Temple Beth Rishon of Northwest Bergen County tonight to discuss “Israel’s PR Battle: How It Fights to Defend Its People While Defending Its Image to the World.”
“Israel is a high-tech superpower pitted against an economically challenged Palestinian population,” he said, explaining that the “imagery” works against Israel.
“Even when there’s no conflict, pictures of a big truck or plane flying over a poor village are easy tools to use against us,” he said. “We are a gleaming superpower forced to engage in defensive measures against an economically challenged rival.”
Baker noted that “Israel is engaged in an ongoing battle to protect itself from its enemies, but is often cast in a negative light,” not only by detractors but by “[those] international media who don’t spend [sufficient] time, patience, or [have] journalistic integrity in getting to the real story … and revealing why Israel must take these measures.”
He stressed, however, that this description does not fit all journalists.
“I have the highest regard” for members of the international media serving in Israel, he said.
As part of his job, Baker travels to communities throughout the world, coordinating the foreign press activities of the prime minister’s office and explaining Israel’s policies. He noted that over the past several years, he has visited 47 locations in the United States and Canada, including a sizeable number of college campuses.
“Jews are an open people,” he said, noting that he generally enjoys these visits. “Some like you, some don’t, but they [all] give you a piece of their mind.” On campuses, however, “it can be tough,” he said.
“The remedy is to go out to campuses and communities around the world,” he said, “to be proactive in getting our message out.”
Baker said the Jews of northern New Jersey “are especially active and devoted. They stuck with Israel,” he said, visiting the country “during trying times.”
“The Jews of New Jersey don’t scare too easily,” he contined. “They came in droves to be with us and we appreciate it.”
Baker said he is pleased to be visiting such a “dedicated” community. “It’s important for Israel to explain ourselves and reinforce our ties by meeting with our Jewish brethren,” he said.
Commenting on the outcome of the recent American presidential election, Baker said he “believes the American people are well equipped to make the appropriate decisions” and that he looks forward to working with the next administration.
American Jews, he said, should get more involved with local and national media and should encourage college campuses to invite representatives of the Israeli government to “officially represent” the position of the country. He suggested that local Jewish groups approach the Israeli consulate in New York “to get high-quality speakers.”
“We need an opportunity to present ourselves,” he said.
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