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Gaza: Foreign Ministry Media Manipulation

The hasbara brigade strikes again!  You always hear about Israeli attempts at media manipulation.  Everyone knows it’s going on but usually the process happens through dedicated volunteers like those involved with Giyus.  Now, we know that the Israeli foreign ministry itself is orchestrating propaganda efforts designed to fill news websites with pro-Israel arguments and information.

A friend has received the following e mail which documents both the efforts and the agency that originated them.  The solicitation to become a propagandist also includes a list of media links which the ministry would like flooded with pro-Israel comments:

Dear friends,

We hold the military supremacy, yet fail the battle over the international media. We need to buy time for the IDF to succeed, and the least we can do is spare some (additional) minutes on the net. The ministry of foreign affairs is putting great efforts in balancing the media, but we all know it’s a battle of numbers. The more we post, blog, talkback, vote – the more likely we gain positive sentiment.

I was asked by the ministry of foreign affairs to arrange a network of volunteers, who are willing to contribute to this effort. If you’re up to it you will receive a daily messages & media package as well as targets.

If you wish to participate, please respond to this email.

My friend did so and received this official communique from the ministry with talking points about Operation Solid Lead which s/he was to use in her/his propaganda efforts. Here are the links s/he was asked to respond to:

English

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/04/israel-history-comment-peter-beaumont

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5446519.ece

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2158709/posts

http://www.ireport.com/ir-topic-stories.jspa?topicId=169745 (comment on Anti-Israeli posts, post your own)

http://palestinian.ning.com/profiles/blogs/ilan-pappe-israels-righteous

http://www.nowpublic.com/world/depleted-uranium-found-gaza-victims(disinformation)

Spanish

http://video.aol.com/video-detail/ataque-brutal-y-sangriento-de-israel-contra-la-franja-de-gaza/3276528285/?icid=VIDURVENT06

Dutch

http://www.telegraaf.nl/buitenland/2925927/__Chaos_in_ziekenhuizen__.html

http://www.telegraaf.nl/buitenland/2923318/__Veel_burgerdoden_in_Gaza__.html

Material to use

http://www.bicom.org.uk/

Video – Israel history in 10 minutes -http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/middleeast/What_Really_Happened_in_the_Middle_East.asp

Amid Gaza violence, Israeli and Palestinian doctors save baby’s life -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wjqm5tzIwIQ

– CNN’s Amanpour interviews Tzipi Livni – http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ClipMediaID=3244332&ak=null

Military incursion should be seen as part of War on Terror,http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5447575.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797093

Blog from Southern Israel, Morit Rozen – http://soundsofwar.wordpress.com/

If you visit any of those articles you will identify the hasbaraniks easily through the pseudo-polite style they adopt and the programed arguments they advance.

Remember when the defense department was paying public relations companies to insert articles praising the Iraq war in U.S. newspapers?  There rightly was a media uproar about the manipulation.  We’ll see whether the same happens over this.

I just hope the foreign ministry doesn’t get a pass on this one.  They view this as maximizing their efforts to “explain” Israel’s position in the world media.  I view it as a cynical attempt to flood the web and news media with favorable flackery in a vain attempt to tilt the war effort favorably toward Israel.  Not only does it do Israel a disservice, it stains every legitimate effort that the ministry might make to explain Israel to the world, since no one will believe a word it says knowing it engages in such outright propaganda efforts.

Not to mention that this is such cheap pennyante s(^t.  What do they gain by this?  How effective can it be and how many can be convinced?  By the way, I’ve even noticed the hasbaraniks here in this blog.  You can tell them a mile away because they’ve never published a comment before yet write something like: “I’ve enjoyed your blog for a long time, but anyone with a brain in their head knows that Hamas is out to destroy Israel blah, blah blah.”  Pretty formulaic stuff.  Also, you can Google a few phrases of the comment and if you find it appears elsewhere on the web you know you either have a hasbaranik or someone who has repetition compulsion.

In the meantime, over 500 Gazans are dead.  An entire family of seven killed in their home.  Claims are flying that Israel is using depleted uranium, cluster bombs and white phosphorus munitions.  But thank God, hasbara never sleeps.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Leila Abu-Saba January 5, 2009, 10:08 PM

    Interesting, Richard. That would explain some of my recent commenters. I assume they are attracted by the general uptick in traffic at this time… hadn’t occurred to me that they’re part of a concerted effort. Whatever. Unless they are foaming at the mouth (and sometimes even if they are) I let their comments stand. Let people see the ridiculous arguments for what they are.

  • Alex Stein January 5, 2009, 10:13 PM

    “Claims are flying that Israel is using depleted uranium, cluster bombs and white phosphorus munitions.”

    It was unclear from what you wrote whether you support these claims. Can you tell us more?

  • Jerry Haber January 5, 2009, 10:34 PM

    Hey, where are you guys and why don’t you leave boilerplate on my site?

  • Richard Silverstein January 6, 2009, 1:43 AM

    @Jerry Haber: I’ll be sure to send ‘em over to you when they’re done here. In fact, I’ve got so many right-wing foul, abusive comments in moderation I don’t know what to do with ‘em. If you’ll buy ‘em in lots of 100 I could sell ‘em to ya for a very modest fee.

  • Richard Silverstein January 6, 2009, 1:45 AM

    @Alex Stein: I’m still collecting sources & trying to ascertain reliability. But some of the reports seem quite credible to me esp. as some are documented by photos such as the use of white phosphorus, which is banned under the Geneva convention.

  • Alex Stein January 6, 2009, 1:50 AM

    From what I understand, it’s not banned as a smokescreen. According to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, “White phosphorous is normally used to produce smoke, to camouflage movement. If that is the purpose for which the white phosphorous is used, then that is considered under the conventional legitimate use.”

  • ellen January 6, 2009, 2:58 AM

    Nothing new here. When you listen to the people justifying Israel they use the same phrases over and over again. It becomes clear that they have been given talking points.
    There is no point in talking to them and I am baffled why people try.
    All it does is give them a chance to spout propaganda.

    Talking will never resolve this situation. The one glimmer of hope I heard was Phyllis Bennis speaking about the role of the International community and civil society. I think she’s got something here:
    PHYLLIS BENNIS: Well, you know, this has been an extraordinary movement, because we’ve seen both the rise of an existing movement, which globally has been calling for some years now for a policy known as BDS—boycott, divestment and sanctions—as a way of bringing nonviolent economic pressure on Israel to enforce international law. That’s now been joined by a huge number of people who had not been engaged in this issue before but were so outraged by what they saw on television of the civilian consequences of this horrific Israeli attack. And we’re now seeing that being talked about in the same way by some at the United Nations.

    It raises the possibility that what we might see is a parallel to the movement that grew in the months and the year or so in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq, where you had the United Nations on the same side as this global civil society movement.

    And I think that there is some great hope among civil society activists, those who are—such as the activists inside Israel who sat in on the tarmac of the military airfield to try and prevent the planes, the bombers—made, of course, in the United States—the work here in the US of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, focusing on the US military aid. All of that is now being joined by statements coming from various parts of the United Nations, from the special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Territories, Professor Richard Falk, who of course has been on Democracy Now!; Father Miguel d’Escoto, the current president of the General Assembly—have referred to the role of civil society, and, in fact, Father Miguel has referred to the importance of the UN following the example of civil society in considering these kinds of sanctions, perhaps military sanctions, against Israeli violations.

    So it’s a very important collaboration that we’re now seeing on the rise again between civil society and social movements and the United Nations.

    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/5/us_blocks_un_security_council_vote

  • mia January 6, 2009, 8:46 AM

    It is kind of lame for the Foreign Ministry to be openly involved in something like this. The volunteer members of the “hasbara brigade” tend to do more harm than good. The message disseminated tends to be inconsistent which is no surprise given how even official and quasi official spokespersons can’t get it right – is this a war aimed at toppling Hamas or isn’t it? Members of the hasbara brigade are also sometimes a tad rabid and such a tone does nothing to sway opinion. Finally throw in grammatical and spelling errors as well as factual inaccuracies and the vaunted hasbara brigade resembles nothing less than a virtual Keystone Cops routine.

    That being said, the Internet noise generated by potentially hundreds of millions of anti-Israel voices vs. significantly less pro-Israel voices be a bit overwhelming at times. The hasbara brigades represent a drop of water compared to that raging torrent. For instance, one need only look at any Israel related video posted onto YouTube, even the most innocuous kind that have nothing at all to do with politics, and one often sees comments section chock full of some of the vilest anti-Semitic and anti-Israel invective imaginable. The only good this otherwise misguided Foreign Ministry effort will do is that it will give beleaguered government supporters the impression that their piddling efforts actually make a difference. The fact is that they don’t.

    Mass media images, which contrary to what some commentators believe are not controlled by the Jews, have a much greater impact on the world at large. We have been witness in the past to much cynical manipulation of the press and whoever does that best now will have a much greater impact than even 10,000 ideologically motivated bloggers, twitterers, youtubers and commentators.

  • Richard Silverstein January 6, 2009, 6:27 PM

    @Alex Stein: You simply cannot use white phosphorus as a smokescreen in densely populated urban areas. The chemicals burn whatever they touch on the way down. In Gaza, that means human beings, lots of them. It is acceptable to use it on the open battlefield, but not in a place like Gaza.

  • Miles Stuart January 6, 2009, 8:13 PM

    Wow! I just checked the Grauniad link. You can almost detect the moment the memo must have landed.
    This goes someway to explain something that I have found confusing. My friends, colleagues and relations are obviously not a random sample, but they are nevertheless overwhelming antipathetic toward Israel’s behaviour. I don’t think they generally make any effort to avoid buying Israeli produce, and it wouldn’t change the way they vote, but they sure aren’t happy. It is extremely hard to find the kind of open advocate for Israel I used to be pre Sabra and Shatila. The few I know well are, to be brutal, ill-informed and ineffective advocates.
    I used to canvass for elections, to principle purpose of which is to work out who your supporters are. As a rough rule, if someone answered the door and offered immediate sexual gratification they’re probably going to vote for you, otherwise not.
    I’ve been to a couple of Gaza vigils in the last few days and was quite surprised at the level of unprompted sympathy offered by passers by. It just didn’t seem to tally with the balance of opinion I have read on (UK) internet comment columns.
    Having thought about this I think it may reflect a shift in the mood of people for whom Israel/Palestine is a matter of passing rather than passionate interest. Most of the comments one will see posted are by people whose views are unlikely to be easily altered by debate or current events, but who have strong opinions they wish to express. They will therefore reflect the balance of passion rather than the weight of ‘softer’ public opinion.

    Incidentally, and unrelated, I received an email a few days ago asking for any info on the depleted uranium weapons issue. I’m not an expert but I believe DU is used for armour penetration, bunker busting and things like that. You can count the number of HAMAS facilities requiring DU munitions on the fingers of one head.

    BTW, I stumbled on this site looking for background blurb on Rahm Emanuel. It’s certainly interesting, and the debate thoughtful :) It doesn’t feel like a closed community, but it does seem to have a degree of homogeneity in which I don’t quite fit. However, I have assumed its open for anyone to post here, I hope that’s ok.

  • Richard Silverstein January 6, 2009, 9:54 PM

    @Miles Stuart: I’m not sure what you mean by “homogeneity.” There are quite a few commenters supportive of my views and even more probably who disagree.

    But anyway, your comments and views are of course most welcome.

  • B.BarNavi January 6, 2009, 11:41 PM

    “Claims are flying that Israel is using depleted uranium, cluster bombs and white phosphorus munitions.”

    I severely doubt this, if only for the fact that they overtly weaken Israel’s claim to fighting morally and carefully. Many things can be blamed on bad aim and bad tactics, but I doubt Israel would deliberately undermine its own case by using illegal weaponry.

    That said, it’s a damn shame that instead of trying to improve Israel’s image through direct action, the hasbara brigade (The Fightin’ Rationalizers) would rather explain away Israel’s troubles.

  • marzipan January 7, 2009, 2:12 AM

    This might be of interest to you:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/28/israel-gaza-hamas

    And the propaganda war continues.

    • Richard Silverstein January 7, 2009, 2:25 AM

      This article is one of the links the foreign ministry provided to its hasbaraniks. You couldn’t possibly let a Hamas representative speak to the western media without trying to manipulate the comment threads to take him down a peg or 2, now could you??

  • Miles Stuart January 7, 2009, 3:13 AM

    @Richard Silverstein: lol. Sorry, “homogeneity” is misleading. I did not mean to suggest that everyone here has the same views, far from it. I meant that from what little I have read here, the contributors seem to form a community of people who know each others views, attitudes and instincts well enough to have a genuinely interesting and informative discussion. It contrasts starkly with most of the other comment columns I have looked at over the past week or so. It has certainly given me the best sense of Rahm Emanuel, which is how I came to be here at all. However, as a newcomer I feel I have arrived in the middle of a conversation having missed the first half which the participants keep alluding to. Hardly surprising really, as that’s exactly what’s happened. For example, I had no idea (apart from context) what “hasbara” or “Giyus” referred to.

  • marzipan January 7, 2009, 4:25 AM

    “This article is one of the links the foreign ministry provided to its hasbaraniks. You couldn’t possibly let a Hamas representative speak to the western media without trying to manipulate the comment threads to take him down a peg or 2, now could you??”

    no you couldn’t……

    it’s gotten to a point where even yout most trusted sources of news (like the Guardian) are constantly failing to live up to their own standards (Comment is Free, but Facts are Sacred).

    I also think that the proportionality game being played by all governments who condemn the Palestinian deaths to be too much… It always ends or begins with ‘we don’t condone the rocket fire… Israels right to defend itself… Hamas is responsible … etc.’

    Why is it not Kosher anymore to just say “I condemn death and destruction”?

  • ellen January 7, 2009, 5:32 AM

    B.BarNavi re claims of Israel’s use of white phosphorus and other nasties, says:
    “I severely doubt this, if only for the fact that they overtly weaken Israel’s claim to fighting morally and carefully.”

    You don’t find Israel bombing a clearly-marked UN shelter to weaken the claim to “fighting morally and carefully”?

    Marzipan,
    I HATE how almost everyone feels compelled to say “I condemn Hamas…etc”
    It is part of the effort to make this seem like a balanced conflict: ‘See, both sides do bad things.’
    It’s ridiculous.

    Miles, lol, I don’t know the meaning of the Yiddish or Hebrew terms Richard uses, and I’m Jewish.
    Join in.
    It’s an on-going conversation and very inclusive.

  • marzipan January 7, 2009, 5:41 AM

    Ellen:

    I think a lot of the media and the governments should just drop their false pretenses of ‘balanced reporting’ and try doing some honest reporting instead.

  • Jonathan January 7, 2009, 8:03 AM

    You think this is bad, have you heard about the Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF)?

    I don’t know if they’re working with the Israeli govt. or not, but it’s scary!

    http://www.thejidf.org

  • marzipan January 7, 2009, 9:48 PM

    Although I do think the cyberwarriors of Israel are going over board there is also some retaliation coming from the people of the middle east. Check this article out:

    http://www.scmagazineus.com/Web-defacements-escalate-as-Israel-moves-farther-into-Gaza/article/123542/

    Boy is this conflict spreading.

  • marzipan January 7, 2009, 10:37 PM

    Also some thought provoking comment on the media battle by Juan Cole… Absolutely love the guy!

    http://www.juancole.com/2009/01/israelgaza-cyberwar-and-parallels-to.html

    I hope you’ll excuse the posts of so many links on here Richard :-)

  • Miles Stuart January 7, 2009, 10:49 PM

    I think this kind of material has some effect in the US, I suspect it has virtually none in Europe, except possibly in the new members like the Czeck Republic (which unfortunately, in this context, has just taken the rotating presidency).
    Its main effect in the short term is to shore up soft (uninformed) support, at the long term cost of being exposed as mendacious, and weakening support permanently. It reinforces the views of those whose support for Israeli policy is sectarian or misguided. In the case of sectarians the net effect is zero. In the case of those whose support is misguided the effect in the long term is even more destructive than it is on soft supporters. It is one thing to have been deceived about a cause in which one has little interest. It is quite another to have been deceived into supporting a bully. Even Tony Blair publicly expressed shock at the conditions he found on becoming the Quartet’s envoy. I suspect he is driven now by a wish to do what is politically possible in the short term rather than by any expectation of achieving a lasting settlement. We hear very little talk now of Palestinian (or Arab) ‘democracy’ and a great deal about ‘moderation’. This is the kind inconstancy that eats away at the soul of the speaker and listener alike.
    Israel has been consistently losing grassroots supporters in the outside world for decades. Admittedly the loss has been slow, but it has been relentless. There is virtually NO traffic in the opposite direction. The situation for Israel is catastrophic, similar to what happened to the Apartheid regime in South Africa. It’s support is ebbing away at an ever accelerating rate. We will one day wake up and find it has, quite suddenly, all but vanished. It is in the nature of things that such a tipping point is hard to identify in advance. Israeli officials and supporters are clearly very worried, and working hard to reverse the trend, but they have no winning strategy. The best they can do is nothing, but in the face of such a palpable loss of support they feel they must act. In trying to stem the tide they are inevitably inviting the closer scrutiny which is going to accelerate the lose of support.
    As an example, there is a huge amount of apologistic material challenging the France 2 account of the Al Dura case. Having waded through a lot of it I am dubious about the precision of the account. In doing this I have had to study extensive of film of enraged youths attacking the kind of watchtower one might see overlooking a prison, a genuinely terrified child (repeatedly), and random bystanders being shot. The ‘myth’ is undoubtedly undermined, but at the cost of exposing reality. The same is true of countless other cases.

    On a completely different tack, the 2nd Video of the JIDF site contains a comment about supporting Christians in Israel/Palestine. I think it is occasionally worth pointing out that the net effect of Israeli policies is the gradual extinction of Palestine’s historic Christian communities which represent a continuous thread from the time when Christians were a Jewish sect rather than a distinct religion. I am not sure, but I believe the same is true of Palestine’s historic Jewish communities?

  • marzipan January 7, 2009, 10:59 PM

    The christian community in Palestine has been a constant stick used by the cyberwarriors of Israel to beat at anyone who doesn’t concur 100% with their attitudes (That and the antisemitic card)… But the basic logic of it is lost in the propaganda… Does the occupation differentiate a Palestinian Muslim from a Christian one? With all the protests (constant vigils to Jerusalem by Christian Palestinians not afforded the luxury of celebrating christmas there) and reports Christian Palestinians have given to Btselem (of their being abused at check points and such), one has to wonder how the propaganda wins.

  • Miles Stuart January 7, 2009, 11:03 PM

    “UNWRA notes that video the IDF disseminated yesterday seeking to verify the army’s claim was actually shot in 2007″.
    See what I mean? They harder the propaganda push, they worse it gets.

  • Miles Stuart January 7, 2009, 11:20 PM

    @marzipan
    The propaganda doesn’t win. It has a short term benefit, but a much larger long term cost. An old friend of mine is a born again Christian who has supported Israel precisely because of this misbelief. She certainly doesn’t believe Israel ‘defends’ Christians or Christianity now, and of course the realization helpfully challenges other assumptions.

  • marzipan January 7, 2009, 11:31 PM

    Miles:

    I sincerely hope so.

  • djinnii January 9, 2009, 5:06 AM

    Al Jazeera has been reporting on this http://www.joost.com/376jmqe/t/Al-Jazeera