Israel’s liberals have become politically invisible. The country is therefore increasingly run by the right and far-right. Hooray for them.
In light of the Jewish state’s shocking global image (aside from the political elites who love its plucky nature and war against Palestinians), the Israeli government has a wonderful idea (it’s truly hard to read this and not laugh):
The Israeli government, deeply worried about the country’s declining international image, began a campaign on Wednesday to turn every Israeli — and ultimately every Jew — into a traveling public relations agent.
With a Web site backed by an advertising blitz, the Information and Diaspora Affairs Ministry began issuing Hebrew-language pamphlets to passengers on Israeli airlines and offering coaching courses to groups heading abroad. The message: “Are you fed up with the way we are portrayed around the world? You can change the picture.”
The information minister, Yuli Edelstein, said in a statement that a poll he had commissioned found that 91 percent of Israelis believed that their country had a poor image and that the vast majority wanted to play a role in improving it.
“To counter the big money invested by Arab states in propaganda against Israel, we have to mobilize our human capital, meaning the residents of Israel,” Mr. Edelstein said.
The new Web site presents a conservative interpretation of the issues over which Israel is most often criticized abroad — its settlements in the West Bank and its treatment of Palestinians, including the war in Gaza a year ago. But it also seeks to puncture what the ministry considers common myths about Israel — that it is a big and primitive country, that its food consists of little more than hummus and falafel, and that Israelis as a group do not seek peace.
One main message of the campaign is that Israel is a technically advanced and diverse society and that its government policies are not the source of regional conflict. It notes that a number of important agricultural breakthroughs have occurred here, including drip irrigation and the development of the cherry tomato.
Yep, the wonders of the juicy tomato will really make the world forget about occupation of Palestine.
UPDATE: Just read the response by Americans for Peace Now to this latest initiative :
Unfortunately, what the Ministry of Information offers its amateur ambassadors in the way of explaining Israel’s complex challenges is appalling. It’s a collection of half-truths (if not worse), which in most cases do not address the real, piercing questions that Israeli strategists have to deal with.
Astonishingly, there is nothing about a two-state solution. Israel’s goal, in terms of its relations with the Palestinians, is depicted as “coexistence,” yes, coexistence of Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the West Bank.
There isn’t even recognition that the West Bank is occupied. The discourse in Israel about the West Bank is depicted as evolving around Judea and Samaria’s “strategic value and the question of its being vital to Israel’s security.” C’mon!
Settlements? They are not the question, according to the Hasbara Ministry, and, anyway, Judea and Samaria are the land of the Bible; Jews were there first. So asserts the web site.
How about Israel’s future as a democratic state if the occupation of the West Bank continues? The Israeli hasbara volunteer is advised to argue that the demographic balance is actually a myth because the current numbers of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians – as well as the forecasts – are inflated. Seriously!
The Palestinian’s right for independence and statehood? The site advises the hasbara ambassador to argue that first the Palestinians have to stop inciting to violence against Israel. Then we’ll see about peace.