I tell you: Danny Ayalon is the gift that keeps on giving. I’ll miss not having him to kick around in the Knesset and foreign ministry. As his parting gift, he made a series of hasbara videos under the general rubric of “The Truth About…” The first three videos were on the subject of Jewish refugees, the West Bank, and the peace process. The fourth was about Jerusalem. Of course he wasn’t telling the real truth about any of these subjects, but rather that peculiar version of Israeli government truth called hasbara.
The producers of the Jerusalem episode, an independent contractor working for the foreign ministry used a special effect that showed a little more truth than Ayalon was prepared for: it showed the Dome of the Rock collapsing (Hebrew–in above video it is a short 5-second clip immediately after the first ad) and being replaced by the ancient Jewish Temple.
It exposed the ideological underpinning of the makers of the film. The heartfelt desire of every settler and ultra-nationalist is for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock and its replacement with the Third Temple. This is a sentiment last heard on YouTube by the Bayit Yehudi candidate Jeremy Gimpel, who told a Christian evangelical audience in Florida he imagined the mosque being blown up and replaced with the Temple. That news charmed his audience naturally. Gimpel was clearly exhilarated at just the thought of it.
Wiser heads in the foreign ministry prevailed, realizing it might be a tad embarrassing to produce and promote a film showing the third holiest shrine in Islam supplanted by the Holy Temple. A new film was produced in which “fairy dust” was used as the Dome of the Rock “disappeared” to be replaced by the Jewish shrine. That does seem to be the modus operandi of this Israeli brand of Zionism. It makes unpleasant facts represented by Muslim heritage and tradition simply disappear with a wave of the wand.
Even the cleaned up version which is embedded above (it follows several ads and is 4:25 in length–the “disappearing” Dome is at the 2:00 mark) is insulting to Muslims. But that fairy dust works wonders in softening the inconvenient reality.
All was well until Yediot discovered this bit of gaucherie and told the Hebrew speaking world about it.
Another telling aspect of the production of these videos is the prominent credit at the end indicating the series is a joint hasbara venture with StandWithUs. This further buttresses my contention that SWU is not really an NGO or independent group. It is an extension of the Israeli government itself. My hunch is that the Israeli government subsidizes the work of SWU both in Israel and outside it. If so, this would be a violation of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act. I’m waiting for the smoking gun on this one.
Almost as embarrassing as the film itself is the tone of the Yediot report which accepted as established wisdom that hasbara films of this sort were a triumph of public relations. The reporter notes with pride the series had 1.5-million views and was translated into “tens” of languages. He also quotes this laughable bit of justification by Ayalon that whitewashes the error in the Jerusalem video production:
The purpose of the video was to show Jerusalem as harmonious and tolerant of all religions, under Israeli sovereignty. The image of a collapsing Dome of the Rock would incite riots. As opposed to Arab countries which suppress the rights of minorities, Israel is proud of the freedom of religion enjoyed by Muslims, Christians and Jews.”
This little whitewash of a homily neglects the largely successful efforts by settler extremists to ethnically cleanse Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, archaeological digs sponsored by settler groups which lead to further expulsion of Palestinian residents from their homes, regular anti-Palestinian violence in the street of Jewish West Jerusalem including a pogrom that led to the near-lynching of a Palestinian in the heart of the city; a crime witnessed by hundreds of Jews who stood by and did nothing to help. The perpetrators were let off by a court with probation. The victim wasn’t so lucky and spent weeks in the hospital with serious head wounds.
Then there’s that other font of religious tolerance, called aptly the Museum of Tolerance, being built literally on top of the graves in a Muslim cemetery. Scores of skeletons were exhumed through methods little short of brute vandalism and simply destroyed. All for the greater glory of the Wiesenthal Center and its Hollywood Rabbi Marvin Hier.
Ah yes, Jerusalem, that other city of brotherly love. All brought to you by Danny Ayalon and his fellow Likud-Beitenu visionaries of religious tolerance.