Culture, Israel, Politics

Israeli lefty sets up copycat hasbara site

The tweet rumors abound and now JPost has the story: 32-year-old Ofri Mann from Rishon Lezion, Israel set up a copycat site to the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora’s hasbirim web portal aiming to turn average Israelis traveling abroad into propagandists. Mann’s parody purports to be the “Ministry of Truth” and links send visitors to B’Tselem’s web site among other alternate Israeli viewpoints.
Ynet reports that Mann is not anti-government, although “I believe the Jews deserve a state, and I support the Law of Return. But at the same time, if we continue with these wars, nothing will come of it.” Beautiful. If there’s one thing I really appreciate about Israeli culture, it’s their ability to make fun of themselves.

Hasbirim site copycat, screenshot
The deeper story is that the existence of this ministry is a political handout by Bibi Netanyahu to sustain the largest cabinet in the the state’s history, a whopping 32 ministers. That’s over 25% of the Knesset. Handing out titles for ministries created overnight, Bibi virtually bought his Prime Ministership. The present Israeli administration is a bloated chaos, chock full of extreme voices from Israel’s political margins.
Scratch a little deeper and you see how right-wing MKs see the Diaspora and themselves. Jeff Barak, former Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, details the more laughable “facts” on the official hasbirim site. Like how Israeli women’s hair is on par with fashionistas in New York and Paris. Not only is this snort-worthy, but now the portrayal of foreign journalists by the official Ministry of Public Diplomacy is hurting press relations abroad.
Hasbara believers think these efforts will somehow stem the tide of negative images that pour out of the West Bank and Gaza like a printing press left unattended. In the Diaspora, we can laugh at StandWithUs and Israel21c as they pump out positive factoids like candies. Intelligence, nuance, open dialogue and amenity to sharing blame is all that’s required to conduct Israel advocacy. Makom of the Jewish Agency for Israel (shockingly!) is one of the few official, governmental programs that pursues Israel education this way.
Like candy, shallow factoids and hasbara glitz leave consumers with a sugar crash, rotten gums and hungry again later for substance. Israel advocacy is a two-way dialogue, not a frontal presentation. As for that occupation printing press left spitting negative images, why not turn it off? Instead they insist on giving us all a toothache.

2 thoughts on “Israeli lefty sets up copycat hasbara site

  1. ISRAEL21c does not print out “positive factoids like candies”. All of our stories are well-researched articles written by some of Israel’s top English-language journalists.
    We are extremely well-respected by news organizations worldwide for the quality of our reporting. Our stories are picked up widely by the international press and covered by news outlets ranging from Reuters, and AP, to Al Jazeera, the New York Times and CNN.

  2. Nicky, thanks for reading Jewschool. From the Israel21C web site:

    ISRAEL21c’s mission is to focus media and public attention on the 21st century Israel that exists beyond the conflict…The outcome of this process is increased support for Israel during difficult times

    Factoids that will make people support Israel more. But as I said, this information makes people feel temporarily good about themselves, but unable to parse the complicated morass of security, human rights, and the right to exist of both Israel and a Palestinian state. Instead it produces two problems for Israel advocates:
    (1) Israel’s right to exist is not a function of its patent production rate. If we could prove that Israel is producing more ill and than good for the world, then we reach an uncomfortable conclusion: if Israel were in the red, so to speak, then does it deserve to be erased? Absolutely not.
    (2) Even uglier, we should never allow Israel fans to believe that perhaps all of these wonderful inventions justify the poverty and statelessness of the Palestinians? Surely nobody should justify the discrimination and statelessness of Jews because Germany invented the Vokswagon Bug or because Muslim scholars invented the number zero.
    Support for Israel based on factoids is dangerous — because it is shallow and easily undermined. All it takes is one operation like Cast Lead for people to change their minds. All the toothpaste invented in Israel doesn’t matter a dime when the public is debating whether or not a thousand deaths in Gaza were civilians or terrorists. Israel21C and company are sprinklers; the occupation is a fire hose.
    If Israel weren’t accelerating down the road of demonization and if funds were unlimited, I wouldn’t care. But the wasteful amount of money consumed by bad and counterproductive hasbara can’t be tolerated. According to tax records, Israel21C costs $1.4 million a year. Think of the nuanced, face-to-face Israel education that we could accomplish by repurposing that money; it’s enough for nearly 30 well-paid Israel educators.
    My mind boggles with possibility.

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