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IDF Intelligence Officer Attends Brandeis, Markets “Brand Israel” as Pro-Israel Media Darling

It’s nothing new that Israel sends good-will ambassadors and hasbara operatives to tout Brand Israel to an American audience.  But the case of Ohad Elhelo takes this phenomenon to an entirely new level.  He’s an IDF intelligence officer who served with the Egoz special forces anti-guerilla combat unit.  Two years ago, he came to Boston to study at Brandeis University.  He’s now a sophomore.  His LinkedIn account says he’s majoring in Economics and plans to develop a “packaging solution” for which he has a patent pending.

ohad elhelo

Ohad Elhelo, undercover in Israel, a rock-star in Boston, here at an August 7th pro-Israel rally at City Hall (Elan Kawesh/Time of Israel)

Elhelo doesn’t spend his nights hitting the books or writing dull economics papers.  Instead, he’s in high demand by the New England pro-Israel community giving speeches and media interviews about his experiences as a combat officer in the IDF.  Essentially, his goal is to lie for his country (the ancient definition of the job of a diplomat) and for his army.  In the YouTube video featured here, he tells his audience that the Israeli army is the most moral in the world; that it avoids targeting civilians; and even aborts combat missions if they’re endangered. “No other would’ve done a better job” of avoiding civilian deaths.  “We were taught at home and in school that every life is precious.  There is no Jewish heart that wasn’t broken by the death of each Palestinian child,” he intones.  There isn’t terribly much nuance in his views about Gaza: “we say Hamas is the main [sic] responsible for the deaths of innocent civilians and WE ARE RIGHT!”

The real chiddush in Elhelo’s approach, the real innovation is that he doesn’t speak narrowly of Hamas as evil personified.  He argues that the enemy isn’t just Hamas, but also poverty and the lack of political rights.  He says after tearing down the “infrastructure of terror” Israel must rebuild the rebuild the “infrastructure of hope.”  And not just Israel, but “Jews, Arabs, Americans.”

The piece de la resistance is this final affirmation:

As an Israeli, as a Jew, as a soldier, and as a citizen of the world, I will do all that is in my power to prevent mothers, Israeli and Palestinian alike, from crying.

What a fine speech!  Let’s just spread the love.  Like an optimistic version of Rodney King, “we can get along.”  Except for one small problem: he doesn’t believe a word of it.  It’s like a catchy riff in a pop song which is otherwise banal bubble-gum music.

In his LinkedIn profile, Elhelo portrays his hasbara campaigning in terms that are fanciful, if not fraudulent:

 Ohad administers a collaborative project of Brandeis University and the Consulate General of Israel to New England, whereby Jewish and Arab Israeli students lecture on Israeli coexistence throughout New England. He represents the Brandeis Endowment at alumni and fundraising events and speaks for several Jewish organizations, as well as for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

All of us know what StandWithUs does and how it works.  In the video above, he’s speaking to an SWU audience.  SWU arranges for Israeli Jews and “Arabs” to speak to audiences about the wonders of Brand Israel.  So an Israeli Palestinian, Ashraf Hussein from the village of  Sha’ab, becomes his partner in this charade, better known as normalization.  The notion that this involves “lecturing on Israeli coexistence” is ludicrous.  The only co-existence they tout is Israel as a Jewish state in which Palestinian citizens are happy and content like the “darkies” represented in early 20th century minstrel shows.

All of this might just be a footnote in the history of pro-Israel hasbara, except that Elhelo has been given rock star status (Hebrew) by the Israeli media for his exploits on behalf of his country.  The strange thing is that the IDF censor has censored any identification of Elhelo in the linked article.  So in the article he is only reserve intelligence officer “O.”  But it’s allowed Ynet to include this video in which he is prominently named.  If you ever looked to censorship to make any sense, forget it.   This guy is not just a public figure in America, the only reason he’s being profiled is because of the supposed bang-up hasbara job he’s doing over here.  All this requires grasping the limelight and embracing it.  All of which Elhelo is doing with gusto.

So what is the censor afraid of?  The only thing I can think of is that possibly they fear Hamas or Hezbollah may read the Israeli papers and put two and two together.  This guy lives in Boston.  His security won’t be as air-tight as it would in Israel.  We’ll take him out in Boston.

What’s nuts about this is that the censor believes Hamas reads Yediot, but that it doesn’t look at YouTube or LinkedIn or any of the thousands of other places touting Elhelo’s hasbara charm.

Finally, Elhelo overwhelms the audience with his ardor, telling them he returned to Israel during Operation Protective Edge even though he had no obligation to do so.  He paid for the airfare out of his own pocket till a pro-Israel NGO was able to reimburse him.  When he arrived in Israel he went directly to Gaza, where he was assigned to monitor drone surveillance cameras.  The Ynet article says he was tasked with preventing Israel from bombing innocent civilians.  But that’s not what drone pilots do.  They identify targets to kill.  Just like an IDF drone today killed five children who were watering their garden.  That’s what Elhelo’s real job was.  Everything he tells you about himself is a fraud as are all Israel’s justifications for this ongoing massacre.

Ynet describes worshipfully the magical effect Elhelo has on his American audiences including a dentist who approached him after his speech and offered free dental care for life!  I swear, it’s like  you’re a script reader in a Hollywood agents office and your job is too read every single piece of crap that crosses the transom.  This reads like a really bad script.  Though the old Bill Murray and Dan Ackroyd might’ve made something out of it using their satirical skills.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Arie Brand August 22, 2014, 4:36 PM

    The more liars for Israel, the more people who feel the urge to speak the truth about it. So the net effect of Mr.Elhelo’s endeavours might be zero.

  • Hugh Ekeberg August 22, 2014, 4:40 PM

    I’ve read the Hasbara manual too (The Israel Project’s 2009 GLOBAL LANGUAGE DICTIONARY). This fellow has it down pat. I’d say that’s what he really studies.

  • Arie Brand August 22, 2014, 7:37 PM

    Chris Hedges gave in “Truthdig” a few examples of the habitual lies in Israeli- speak: the deliberate shooting of children (Hedges claims that he witnessed himself how Israeli soldiers got little boys to throw stones at them by swearing at these ten year olds in Arabic over loudspeakers and, after the stones, shooting them) – these murders are portrayed as cases of “children caught in crossfire”; hitting overcrowded hovels in Gaza with a 1000 pound fragmentation bomb becomes a “surgical strike on a bomb making factory”; the creation of a wide buffer zone between the Palestinians and the Israeli troops that ring Gaza becomes the “demolition of the homes of terrorists”; the shelling of UN schools, medical clinics and mosques becomes “the result of errant rockets or mortar fire from the Palestinians” or the IDF was aiming at “arms depots or launching sites”.

    Israel might not be the greatest violator of human rights (there are, alas, a fair few contenders for that title now) but it has undoubtedly sent more lies into the world about these crimes than any other party has done about theirs.

  • Non-Zionist August 23, 2014, 6:06 AM

    Other than the gratuitous slaughter of innocents, I find this facile corporate PR strategy used to present the Israeli position revolting. Dumbing down difficult , complex issues is anathema to Jewish intellectual tradition and feels like a modern form of idol worship. Netanyahu’s recent reductive equation of ISIS = HAMAS seems to be in line with this agenda of public stupefaction.
    Another example from the PR flak I’m chief:

  • Rob August 26, 2014, 8:12 AM

    I went on birthright with Ohad last year. He was intelligent, friendly, and slightly awkward. He tried to convince me he was leftist and told me about the Meretz party. I tried to turn him on to Noam Chomsky and he said he would check it out. When I saw him again in New York he said he had read some Chomsky and enjoyed it. I felt hopeful for the future, thinking that young leftist like Ohad would lead Israel out of the right-wing mire.

    What a fucking fraud.

    He is a fake through and through, trying his best to bring liberals back into the Zionist fold by spinning hasbara and outright lies. My hope for Israel’s left is crushed. I am embarrassed that I ever considered him a friend. He is a murderous propagandist, nothing more. I feel sick.

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