FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

How Israel Battles "Barbs of Criticism"

While attempting to read an article on the Haaretz website this afternoon about the brutality of the IDF takeover of the Gaza-bound boat Irene, filled with Jewish activists, I was distracted by an advertisement at the top of the page.

The ad featured a cheerful non-Israeli woman with bangs and a flowered scarf around her neck, a picnic scene in the background, and a skewer of meat oscillating at her side. The accompanying speech balloon, which alternately appeared in Hebrew, Russian, and English, was a reference to the skewered meat: “Cooking methods in Israel are quite primitive…”. The balloon was then replaced by a black box of text with the following appeal:

“Are you tired of seeing how we are portrayed in the world?

You can change the picture! Now in English, Russian and Hebrew.”

Viewers interested in multilingual pictorial change are invited to visit a website established by the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, which refers to visitors as “Novice Ambassadors” and announces:

“Many of us [Israelis], whether we’re traveling or living abroad for an extended period of time, get involved in discussions with locals during which they bring up misconceptions and false information regarding Israel, without our having the tools and the correct information for coping with the questions or the barbs of criticism put to us. At such moments, we’re seized with an urge to make the other person open their mind and especially their heart, and see us—see Israel—differently.” [excessive emphasis in original]

The introductory note goes on to explain that the website “will make it possible for each one of us to arm ourselves with information and pride in Israel’s global contributions and history and to present a more realistic image of Israel to the world.” As for apparent misconceptions of Israel, a video advertisement on the site acquaints us with the context of the Haaretz ad, and we learn that the woman with bangs—who now walks and talks as opposed to simply smiling next to an oscillating skewer of meat—is from a Spanish-speaking nation and is under the impression that most Israeli houses are not equipped with electricity or gas, hence the primitive cooking methods.

Erroneous cuisine-related convictions are counteracted elsewhere on the site via a photograph of a fried egg dish with the caption: “Not just falafel!” Also debunked on the page with the fried egg photograph is the myth that West Bank settlements are an obstacle to peace, which is debunked in the following manner, once again in bold text:

“Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are also liable to be perceived as settlements in the Arabs’ eyes. The Palestinian Authority sees the roots of the conflict as being the ‘1948 settlements,’ whereas the facts show that the settlements were founded after the 1967 war.”

The two words “show” and “that” are additionally highlighted in red, perhaps to distract the Novice Ambassador from wondering how it is that the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs has turned the universal call for Israel to return to its 1967 borders in exchange for peace into an imaginary and nonsensical debate over whether the post-1967 settlements were founded in 1948 or after 1967.

Another video advertisement on the website features a vest-clad presenter who interprets a desert scene with camels:

“This is the camel. The camel is a typical Israeli animal used by the Israelis to travel from place to place in the desert where they live. It is the means of transport for water, merchandise, and ammunition. It is even used by the Israeli cavalry.”

At first viewing I was concerned that the Israeli government was attempting to patent the camel as an example of Israel’s global contributions and history, although this concern was quickly dispelled when the ad once again ended in the question: “Are you tired of watching how we’re being presented to the world?” and instructions for changing the picture.

For those of us convinced that Israeli presentation to the world has nothing to do with what its Air Force does while hypothetical foreigners in vests are busy propagating stereotypes about camel-borne cavalry, the website provides an arsenal of rotating factoids on the right side of the screen for use in countering barbs of criticism against Israel. I have listed a few below:

An Israeli invention for an electric hair removal device makes women happy all over the world.

85% of the garbage in Israel undergoes treatment to make it friendly to the environment.

Each month Israelis consume close to 15 million bags of [the snack food] Bamba; every fourth snack sold in Israel is Bamba, and 1,000 bags of Bamba are manufactured every month.

Muslim terror takes place throughout the world with no connection to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian issue, Israel-US relations or the existence of Israel and its policies.

As for the “astounding [Israeli] hydrological methods that enable [the] growing [of] crops in the most arid areas[,] Israel has exported this knowhow to many other nations throughout the world; even the Hopi Native Americans in Arizona enjoy the irrigation methods developed in Israel.” The Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs apparently detects no irony in this case in permitting original landowners access to their own water supplies, just as Haaretz apparently detects no irony in interrupting my recent perusal of articles concerning the Israeli uprooting of Palestinian olive trees with advertisements encouraging Israelis to “make Israel green again” by donating a tree on behalf of their relatives.

The Israeli military has meanwhile proven itself overly qualified for the position of Novice Ambassador in water-related disagreements and deftly debunked myths of a military massacre of international humanitarian activists on the high seas in May. The IDF might still benefit from a review of body language tips for “the Novice Public Diplomat”, however, or at least the suggestion in the section on posture that “[q]uick, nervous movements can create a sense of confusion and anxiety”—which might indicate that shooting at your potential interlocutor while descending from a military helicopter onto a boat is not the ideal way to initiate productive interaction.

As for the passengers on board the Irene, Israeli diplomatic prospects are somewhat encumbered when the ambassadorial pool includes a former Air Force pilot reporting inhumane treatment at the hands of IDF interceptors and a Holocaust survivor who is quoted as comparing “what I went through during the Holocaust to what the besieged Palestinian children are going through.”

BELÉN FERNANDEZ’s book Coffee with Hezbollah, just released by New World Digital, Inc., can be ordered at http://belenfernandez-writings.blogspot.com/ or on Amazon.com

More articles by:

Belén Fernández is the author of The Imperial Messenger: Thomas Friedman at Work, published by Verso, and Martyrs Never Die: Travels through South Lebanon.

August 13, 2020
David Correia, Justin Bendell, and Ernesto Longa
Nine Mile Ride: Why Police Reform Always Results in More Police Violence, Not Less
Vijay Prashad
Why a Growing Force in Brazil Is Charging That President Jair Bolsonaro Has Committed Crimes Against Humanity
Brett Wilkins
Teaching Torture: The Death and Legacy of Dan Mitrione
Joseph Scalia III
Yellowstone Imperiled by Compromise
Binoy Kampmark
Don’t Stigmatise the Nuke! Opponents of the Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty
Margot Rathke
The Stimulus Deal Should Include Free College
Thomas Knapp
America Doesn’t Have Real Presidential Debates, But It Should
George Ochenski
Time to Face – and Plan for – Our Very Different Future
Ted Rall
Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Pick is … ZZZZZ
Purusottam Thakur
‘If We Don’t Work, Who’ll Produce the Harvest?’
Robert Dreyfuss
October Surprise: Will War with Iran Be Trump’s Election Eve Shocker?
Gary Leupp
The RCP, Fascism, and Chairman Bob’s Endorsement of Biden for President
James Haught
The Pandemic Disproves God
Robert Koehler
Election Theft and the Reluctant Democracy
August 12, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump’s War On Arms Control and Disarmament
P. Sainath
“We Didn’t Bleed Him Enough”: When Normal is the Problem
Riva Enteen
Kamala Harris? Really? Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
Kenneth Surin
The Decrepit UK Political System
Robert Hunziker
Freakish Arctic Fires Alarmingly Intensify
Ramzy Baroud
The Likud Conspiracy: Israel in the Throes of a Major Political Crisis
Sam Pizzigati
Within Health Care USA, Risk and Reward Have Never Been More Out of Kilter
John Perry
The US Contracts Out Its Regime Change Operation in Nicaragua
Binoy Kampmark
Selective Maritime Rules: The United States, Diego Garcia and International Law
Manuel García, Jr.
The Improbability of CO2 Removal From the Atmosphere
Khury Petersen-Smith
The Road to Portland: The Two Decades of ‘Homeland Security’
Raouf Halaby
Teaching Palestinian Children to Love Beethoven, Bizet, and Mozart is a Threat to a Depraved Israeli Society
Jeff Mackler
Which Way for Today’s Mass Radicalization? Capitalism’s Impending Catastrophe…or a Socialist Future
Tom Engelhardt
It Could Have Been Different
Stephen Cooper
Santa Davis and the “Stalag 17” Riddim
August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
Binoy Kampmark
Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem Down Under
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail