Drafting Israeli Tourists for World Hasbara
Ori Nir has a delightfully ironic column about Israel’s new Hasbara Ministry, yes an entire ministry devoted to Israeli propaganda. In other countries this might be called the Information Ministry, but this being Israel–let’s call a spade a spade, it’s propaganda. And guess who the new minister is? Yuli Edelstein, a settler. It figures. Why not appoint the most controversial and objectionable type of Israeli to sell Israel’s most objectionable and controversial policies abroad? And Israelis wonder why their hasbara falls flat…
Yuli did some polling and he decided, surprise, Israel has a problem:
Israel’s Ministry of Information (yes, there is such a thing – for the first time it is a full-fledged cabinet portfolio) recently commissioned a public opinion survey among Israeli Jews (yes, Jews only). Ninety-one percent, according to the poll, said that Israel has a “severe” or “very severe” image problem overseas. Eighty percent said that Israel is perceived as an “aggressive country” and 30 percent said that Israel is perceived as an “unfriendly country.”
How to solve it? Well, Israelis are famous travelers and can be found in virtually every country in the world. So why not draft them?
Edelstein told the Israeli news site Ynet last month what his solution is to Israel’s severe “explanation” crisis. “I intend to draft the millions of Israeli citizens travelling abroad to take an active part in the Israeli hasbara apparatus,” Edelstein said. He figured that over 4.2 million Israelis travel overseas annually. Soon, he said, his ministry will launch a campaign to instruct Israeli travelers how they can do the job. He’s even planning to dedicate a special website to that purpose (by the way, Israel’s Hasbara Ministry does not currently have a website).
Nir then points out that one of Maariv’s most right-wing columnists, Ben Dror Yemini (ironically, meaning “right-handed”) even he concedes Israel has a REAL (as opposed to hasbara) problem:
“It is not the Hasbara.” Here’s how it starts: “We are deluding ourselves (by believing) that it’s about hasbara; That if only we told the world how wonderful we are, everything would have been rosy for us. As one who deals a lot with the industry of anti-Israel lies, it’s hard to accuse me of not understanding the importance of Hasbara. It’s important. But let’s not exaggerate. Not everyone out there is anti-Semitic. Some love Israel. And they, even they, cannot understand us.”
Yemini goes on to point out that Israel has rebuffed Syrian President Bashar Assad’s peace overtures, Israel is consistently dismissing the Arab League’s peace initiative, and is utterly dismissing the possibility that Hamas could transform into a legitimate interlocutor. “The Image is that the Arabs are offering peace and Israel is turning its back,” he wrote, “It can be different. It is okay to say yes. The Arabs understand it. We forgot.”
Where I part company with Nir is the praise he offers to Israel’s hasbara apparatus as represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I find nothing useful or praiseworthy in their enterprise. It is devious, and employs false pretenses, and underhanded practices in order to support an opaque agenda especially on matters like Iran. And often it is but one-step (or less) removed from Israel’s intelligence services.
13 thoughts on “Drafting Israeli Tourists for World Hasbara – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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it’s becoming more and more difficult to be a non-anti-semitic American.
Israel has an official ministry of propaganda/hasbara.
The US has an office in its State Department http://www.state.gov/g/drl/seas/index.htm
through which US taxpayers pay for monitoring propaganda against Jewish people, Jewish institutions, Israel, and zionism, throughout the world, with the further task of bringing such transgressions to the attention of the leaders of the foreign state in which they are discovered, and demanding that that state take measures to correct the transgression against the Jewish people or suffer consequences from the American people.
Recently, even antizionist websites such as this one have joined the argument against Israelis who have complained that the former Israeli who is head of the US office of anti-semitism is not sufficiently pro-Israel.
umm, excuse me. This is the United States of America, not the United fiefdom of Israel.
I think that office should be closed.
Jews should not be granted greater privileges and protection by American taxpayers and bureaucracies than any other American of any other ethnic or religious origin.
I have a sneaking suspicion you may’ve published this precise comment at another site which I prefer you not do. At any rate, this site is not anti Zionist & you should know that.
I have not posted “this precise comment” on any other website, tho I probably posted a similar comment elsewhere–I believe the issue is of genuine concern, regardless of where it is noted. Hasbarists make it their practice to saturate media with their point of view.
I apologize and retract the “anti-Zionist” phrase; I was looking for a compact way to characterize this website’s position, which I think I understand to be supportive of Israel but opposed to Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
You are right. I am supportive of Israel the nation, but not it’s policies. And not even it’s current political/judicial/religious conception. But I still consider myself a Zionist in the sense that I support both the Jewish & Arab right to be free people in their own land (to quote the Hatikva) as long as that freedom does not involve depriving the other of the same right.
The problem is that by its realization – that is, the creation of the Jewish State of Israel – Zionism did deprive Palestinian Arabs and non-Arabs of that right, and they will remain deprived as long as Israel remains a Jewish State, and they are denied the right of return.
The Arabs say the very existence of the state of Israel robs them of their rights and the immigration of Jews to Israel is done without their agreement, and so is seen to be usurping Arab rights, i.e. the majority they had in the country before the mass aliyah of the 20th century. How do you square that circle as a supporter of Zionism?
I disagree w. classical Zionists and with Palestinian anti-Zionists on diff. pts. I’m not saying that either side will enjoy the compromises ea. will have to make in a future state that recognizes equal rights for all citizens. Jews will have to accomodate in order to ameliorate Palestinian Israeli suffering and the latter will have to accomodate to the fact that while Jews caused them immense suffering there will have to be a way to live together and even thrive as a country under a new regime. That will have to mean accepting the important role Jews will play in this state.
The reality is that we cannot undo the past, and we must find a solution within the parameters of the reality that has been created. Obviously, the state of Israel cannot be un-created, and the people of Palestine are not going to disappear no matter how much some people wish for that to happen. However, the Palestinian people are entitled to justice under the very international laws that Israel and the US have chosen to ignore. If that is compromised, then it is merely proof that those laws are utterly useless and will always fail to protect people living under occupation.
Bessan, great point! I was despairing that no one other than myself was aware of the perverse reach of Jewish Zionist power in the US so aptly portrayed by the statutory creation of an office within the State Department, not to combat “racism”, but only “anti-Semitism”. This crude Jewish-favoring statute, anti-ethical to the American spirit of “equality under the Law”, is a frightening example of the ways that America is threatened by the scale and reach of politically-organized Israel-favoring elements in our society. Our way of politics and life is like any other in history: there is no guarantee in the stars that it will be permanently of high quality for ordinary people. The influence of Israel, and those here who foster and favor de jure Jewish privilege in US, such as this statute, tax deductions for contributions to Jewish/Zionist organizations active in “settlements” in the West Bank, etc., menaces the America of ordinary people.
We ordinary people paid with life and treasure for Iraq and it will change the lives of ordinary Americans for decades. What’s next?
This rather pathetic post-Goldstone operation just shows how desperate things are getting. Next thing you know, Israeli school children will be drafted to become international pen pals with other gullible young people around the world, and of course the thrust of their correspondence will be friendship with a good dose of hasbara thrown in. In fact, it might even be already happening.
This is so ludicrous – to be so in denial over its criminal behaviors, Israel instead thinks the world needs its head straightened out. I am so sorry that Israel cannot see its behavior for what it is, bur categorizes it as “lies”. As long as this mindset persists, there is not a shred of hope for peace.
It is really, really troubling that there is actually an office in the State Department of the United States of America whose sole purpose is ferreting out and “combating” anti-semitism. Given that this is their sole mandate, of course they are going to find it around every corner and under every bed, no matter how much they have to stretch and torture the definition. In other words, their mandate will necessitate that they engage in witch hunting. Oh wait! We already have an organization that does that. It’s called the ADL, aka Abe Foxman. So, why do we need another, especially when our tax dollars pay for it.
And why do we need an office to detect and combat anti-semitism to the exclusion of say, racism in general, anti-Islamism, anti-Arabism, hatred of Middle-Eastern-appearing persons, Blacks, Japanese, Latinos, South Asians, homosexuals, transgendered persons, cross-dressers, etc., all of which are at least as abhorrent, and probably more common and pernicious than anti-semitism?
I would be willing to bet quite a lot that there are far more serious anti-Muslim incidents per any period of time than anti-Jewish ones. I have absolutely no doubt that more people have been murdered or maimed in hate crimes against Muslims than in anti-semitic crimes, and even more sickeningly, some of the victims of those murders were not even Muslims. How many Sikhs have lost their lives or had their lives threatened because they were mistaken for Muslims? How many “Middle Eastern appearing” individuals have been assaulted or killed? Even Arab Christians have not been immune from hate crimes. A major Arab church was destroyed by arson in my area, and there have been a number of vandalism cases against Arab churches, not to mention the widespread vandalism and arson and even bombings of mosques and Islamic centers all over this country. Can anyone present a credible case that there have been as many attacks on Jewish institutions in the same time period? I don’t think so.
And shall we talk about the internet? Sure, there are some truly disgusting anti-semitic websites, but the number of sites and their virulence and putridness pales in comparison to the anti-Islam and anti-Arab websites.
And I’d love to see someone present evidence from a credible source that anti-semitism is a bigger problem than hatred of and discrimination of homosexuals, transsexuals, and others whose sexual identification and orientation is outside the norm. Want to compare murder rates? Assault rates? Rates of discriminatory incidents? If Jews need an office to detect and combat anti-semitism, why don’t homosexuals, transsexuals, etc. need such a office?
So, why is there a State Department office to detect and combat anti-semitism, and none to detect and combat more common and more dangerous forms of bigotry and racism against other groups?
I really, really resent that my tax dollars are being used in such a discriminatory fashion and the government is not devoting an office to the need to specifically detect and combat discrimination against Arabs, Muslims, people who could be mistaken for Arabs or Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, South Asians, East Asians, Native Americans, homosexuals, transsexuals, and all the other groups that are in real jeopardy from discrimination.
Obviously, there was enough political influence and support for such an office either within the US, or Israel, or both, which is most discomfiting. Why are there no equivalent agencies for addressing Islamophobia? Or other forms of virulent discrimination which are by far more common than anti-Semitism? Could it be that their lobby groups are not as influential and are not backed by a foreign government?
This is very disturbing.
Isn’t Yuli Edelstein a former Russian refusenik? Sounds like he’s falling back on Soviet window dressing. Worked great until the bottom fell out of the Soviet Union.
So, what’s next – Israeli citizens living overseas will be bullied into speak nicely of Israel?