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.
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.