David Lange and his Israellycool partner in crime, Brian Thomas, have been cooking with gas lately. Not content merely to shill for Israel, they’ve outdone themselves in a few recent heroic acts of service to the “Jewish fatherland.”
Thomas recently tweeted that the IDF should’ve killed a 17-year-old Palestinian boy who the NYT’s Jodi Rudoren portrayed as someone who threw stones to resist Israeli Occupation:
“I am pissed off that he’s being arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night for the umpteenth time. Because he should have been shot and killed already.”
But we’re not surprised because in January 2012, he tweeted that I should be killed:
Is there a way to excommunicate a Jew…Does it involve firearms?
Ironically, Twitter has taken recent urgent action to protect British women who received Twitter death threats by suspending accounts of the knuckleheads who posted them. The UK police have also launched investigations of some of the perpetrators.
Twitter, however, doesn’t find that homicidal discourse by pro-Israel advocates merits the same level of concern. It refused to take any action against Thomas when he threatened me, and will no doubt refuse to take action for his death-wish tweet concerning the Palestinian boy.
What’s interesting about Abunimah’s post is that he’s found a photo of three pro-Israel chums, Brian Thomas, Avi Mayer, chief social media flack for the Jewish Agency and Barak Raz, one of the IDF’s major social media flacks. Frankly, I can’t figure out what Mayer does for his pay except shill for the bloated, mismanaged JA and its political boss, Natan Sharansky. Raz’s job I understand better: the IDF is one of the most lethal armies in the world and it sure needs the sort of flackery that Raz offers.
But placing the three of them together indicates a level of social intimacy few were aware of previously. It makes perfect sense because while Mayer and Raz possess a bit more polish than the salivating, uncouth Thomas, they’re extensions of him. They are the smiling face of Likudism and the national security state, while Thomas is the ugly, racist, homicidal dark side. One wonders whether either Mayer or Raz feel any sense of shame or embarrassment for being associated with Thomas’ vileness; or whether they’ve expressed any disapproval of him.
Last September, when another pro-Israel cyberwarrior, Semion Kras, hacked and defaced my site, Thomas wrote proudly that he’d sought out Kras and doubtless drank a few beers to celebrate this act of sophomoric pro-Israelism. That makes Thomas an aider and abettor of Israeli cyber-war. Not exactly the sort of cyber-warfare that Raz promotes from his perch as IDF spokes-flack. But close enough. A nod is as good as a wink for the hasbarafia.
Now for Thomas’ partner in crime: Alex Kane exposed the lies Lange spun concerning Alicia Keys’ recent BDS-busting appearance in Israel. Keys wasn’t satisfied merely with performing in Israel. She allowed herself to be co-opted by the Israel advocacy machine. She met Rachel Greenberg, who’s affiliated with Thank Israeli Soldiers, a pro-military NGO. Greenberg got a photo of herself escorting Keys on a guided tour of the group’s Jerusalem office, located in the home of a prominent Republican American-Jewish couple in Occupied East Jerusalem.
Lange was so pleased to be able to trumpet this example of co-opting an international celebrity on behalf of the IDF that he plastered the news (and photo) all over his blog:
“I have it on good authority that the photo was taken in the old city of Jerusalem, at the Thank Israeli Soldiers office, a group that mostly sends care packages to, and hosts Shabbat meals for, IDF soldiers,” reported “Aussie Dave.”
You won’t be able to find the post at his blog because he deleted it. Apparently, either Greenberg or more likely Thank Israeli Soldiers (or perhaps the PM himself) was pissed that Keys might be placed in an embarrassing predicament having, in effect, semi-publicly endorsed an army that kills Palestinians regularly. The hasbara machine went into overdrive, and in no time Lange was back-pedalling from his previous story.
At first, he confirmed the photo’s authenticity, but explained he was asked to remove it (presumably to protect Keys’ reputation and the chance that the hasbara apparatus might be able to exploit her fame at some later date):
“It was from Facebook and was genuine. I can’t go into details as to why I was asked to take it down, but I acceded to the request once I realize there was an issue.”
This comment too disappeared. The next thing we know, Lange is claiming the photo was not authentic and that this was why he deleted the post:
“I was led to believe she visited there and then my source was told this was not the case. So I could not leave my post up… What I can tell you is I was under no pressure to pull it, not from Alicia Keys nor anyone connected with her. As much as I would have loved it to be true, once I was told my initial info was wrong, I had to pull the post for credibility’s sake.”
Don’t ya just love it when an inveterate liar tells you he did something commendable in order to protect his good name and reputation? Alex Kane was too polite to say so in his post, but I’ll say it here: Lange is a liar. Perhaps Lange lied to protect Rachel Greenberg and her job. So it’s not a lie out of a malignant motive. But it’s a lie nonetheless. He’s not the only liar here. The NGO staffer who told Alex Kane Keys hadn’t been to the office likely lied too. They’re all tied up in a knot of lies. Isn’t that just like the hasbara machine in general?
Do you remember the time Lange discovered a “David Silverstein” from Seattle was prosecuted for welfare scam? Lange trumpeted that news too on his site, based on his review of personal photos online which show that I have a relative named “David.” From there it was only a hop, skip and a jump to claiming my brother was the same David Silverstein. Only problem is he got it wrong, dead-wrong. I have no brother named David. Neither have I or anyone in my family been accused of any crime including welfare fraud. Tant pis for poor Duvidel. He’ll have to continue his crawl through the sewers till he finds something more suitable.
Returning to Keys’ visit with the troops, her management released a statement which, when read carefully, doesn’t deny that Keys’ was in the NGO’s office though it appears to (unfortunately Kane didn’t notice the nuance when he wrote his post):
“There was no planned visit with any group Israeli or Palestinian.”
The key here is “planned visit.” It’s entirely possible that Keys met Greenberg in the run-up to her concert, that Greenberg invited her spontaneously to visit to cheer the troops, and Keys did so in an unplanned manner. As far as I’m concerned, this is a non-denial denial from Keys’ folks.
Lange and Thomas are the vanguard of the Israeli propaganda machine. They’re cheap knock-off representations of hasbara, but they’ll do.
Yesterday, Haaretz publicized another disgusting iteration of the hasbara apparatus. This one concerned Danny Seaman, whose prior claim to fame was working in the government press office, where he bullied foreign journalists who didn’t toe the party line. He threatened not to renew their work permits.
After failing to enter Knesset on the Likud party list, Seaman’s been rewarded by Bibi with a seat in the prime minister’s office. Seaman will direct a new social media initiative which will partner with the Israeli university student union. He will recruit student leaders at each of Israel’s seven universities. They in turn will recruit a cadre of Israel advocates who will monitor online sites and post paid propaganda on Israel’s behalf. The kicker is that these hasbara flacks will not identity themselves as being associated with this project nor will they admit they are being paid to flack for Israel.
The seven student leaders will receive full scholarships to be paid from a $750,000 fund the prime minister is setting aside for this purpose. Let’s hear it for debasing Israeli academia by co-opting it on behalf of the propaganda apparatus. Not to mention that this will be music to the ears of those supporting BDS and academic boycott. Once Israel’s universities become part of the government’s nationalist agenda it becomes that much easier to label them political tools rather than legitimate and independent in their pursuit of knowledge.
There are several important elements in this development. First, it signals the further corruption of online discourse regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead of championing Israel’s cause in the online world as the government believes it is doing, it’s generating disgust among those who populate that world.
Frankly, I will warn the pro-Israel commenters who publish here that henceforth I will consider all of them either paid shills or potential paid shills for Israel’s Likudist government. If you’re disturbed by the short-shrift and disrespect I accord you, you don’t have to go far to look for the reason. Your own prime minister. He’s the one who’s made you all suspect. Take it up with Bibi and his hasbarafioso, Danny Seaman.
The second element that’s important is that Israel is displaying its desperation in believing that such a propaganda operation will have any material positive impact on Israel’s status in the world. In fact, this will further lower Israel’s status. Instead of investing its energy in pursuing peace, Israel provokes a propaganda war in the social media outlets. It’s a sad, sordid thing.
The final element that is important to note is that the Israeli government is increasingly co-opting willing NGOs to become semi-official extensions of the government itself in its propaganda wars. Groups like Im Tirzu, StandWithUs, The Israel Project, MEMRI, NGO Monitor, and now the Israel Student Union have lost their standing (if they ever had one) as independent groups. They are cogs in the machine and fighting a dirty war.
Of course, it would be helpful to find a smoking gun indicating the government funded the groups directly. But there are more than enough far-right Jewish donors to substitute for official government funding. Besides, the government, while not sophisticated, is slick enough to understand the damage that could be done by directly funding such groups (not to mention that they’d have to register as foreign agents here in the U.S.).
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.