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That commenter on your blog may actually be working for the Israeli government

By Cecilie Surasky | July 14, 2009

Straight out of Avigdor Lieberman’s Foreign Ministry: a new Internet Fighting Team! Israeli students and demobilized soldiers get paid to pretend they are just regular folks and leave pro-Israel comments on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites. The effort is meant to fight the “well-oiled machine” of “pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets… with content from the Hamas news agency.” The approach was test-marketed during Israel’s assault on Gaza, and by groups like Give Israel Your United Support, a controversial effort to use instant-access technology to crowd-source Israel advocates to fill in flash polls or vote up key articles on social networking sites.

Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?

“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”

The full article, translated by Occupation Magazine into English here:

The Foreign Ministry presents: talkbackers in the service of the State
By: Dora Kishinevski
Calcalist 5 July 2009

Translated for Occupation Magazine by George Malent

After they became an inseparable part of the service provided by public-relations companies and advertising agencies, paid Internet talkbackers are being mobilized in the service in the service of the State. The Foreign Ministry is in the process of setting up a team of students and demobilized soldiers who will work around the clock writing pro-Israeli responses on Internet websites all over the world, and on services like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. The Foreign Ministry’s department for the explanation of Israeli policy* is running the project, and it will be an integral part of it. The project is described in the government budget for 2009 as the “Internet fighting team” – a name that was given to it in order to distinguish it from the existing policy-explanation team, among other reasons, so that it can receive a separate budget. Even though the budget’s size has not yet been disclosed to the public, sources in the Foreign Ministry have told Calcalist that in will be about NIS 600.000 in its first year, and it will be increased in the future. From the primary budget, about NIS 200.000 will be invested in round-the-clock activity at the micro-blogging website Twitter, which was recently featured in the headlines for the services it provided to demonstrators during the recent disturbances in Iran.

“To all intents and purposes the Internet is a theatre in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and we must be active in that theatre, otherwise we will lose,” Elan Shturman, deputy director of the policy-explanation department in the Foreign Ministry, and who is directly responsible for setting up the project, says in an interview with Calcalist. “Our policy-explanation achievements on the Internet today are impressive in comparison to the resources that have been invested so far, but the other side is also investing resources on the Internet. There is an endless array of pro-Palestinian websites, with huge budgets, rich with information and video clips that everyone can download and post on their websites. They are flooding the Internet with content from the Hamas news agency. It is a well-oiled machine. Our objective is to penetrate into the world in which these discussions are taking place, where reports and videos are published – the blogs, the social networks, the news websites of all sizes. We will introduce a pro-Israeli voice into those places. What is now going on in Iran is the proof of the need for such an operational branch,” adds Shturman. “It’s not like a group of friends is going to bring down the government with Twitter messages, but it does help to expand the struggle to vast dimensions.”

The missions: “monitoring” and “fostering discussions”

The Foreign Ministry intends to recruit youths who speak at least one foreign language and who are studying communications, political science or law, or alternatively those whose military background is in units that deal with information analysis. “It is a youthful language”, explains Shturman. “Older people do not know how to write blogs, how to act there, what the accepted norms are. The basic conditions are a high capacity for expression in English – we also have French- and Swedish-speakers – and familiarity with the online milieu. We are looking for people who are already writing blogs and circulating in Facebook”.

Members of the new unit will work at the Ministry (“They will punch a time card,” says Shturman) and enjoy the full technical support of Tahila, the government’s ISP, which is responsible for computer infrastructure and Internet services for government departments. “Their missions will be defined along the lines of the government policies that they will be required to defend on the Internet. It could be the situation in Gaza, the situation in the north or whatever is decided. We will determine which international audiences we want to reach through the Internet and the strategy we will use to reach them, and the workers will implement that on in the field. Of course they will not distribute official communiquיs; they will draft the conversations themselves. We will also activate an Internet-monitoring team – people who will follow blogs, the BBC website, the Arabic websites.”

According to Shturman the project will begin with a limited budget, but he has plans to expand the team and its missions: “the new centre will also be able to support Israel as an economic and commercial entity,” he says. “Alternative energy, for example, now interests the American public and Congress much more than the conflict in the Middle East. If through my team I can post in blogs dealing with alternative energy and push the names of Israeli companies there, I will strengthen Israel’s image as a developed state that contributes to the quality of the environment and to humanity, and along with that I may also manage to help an Israeli company get millions of dollars worth of contracts. The economic potential here is great, but for that we will require a large number of people. What is unique about the Internet is the fragmentation into different communities, every community deals with what interests it. To each of those communities you have to introduce material that is relevant to it.”

The inspiration: covert advertising on the Internet

The Foreign Ministry admits that the inspiration comes from none other than the much-reviled field of compensated commercial talkback: employees of companies and public-relations firms who post words of praise on the Internet for those who sent them there – the company that is their employer or their client. The professional responders normally identify themselves as chance readers of the article they are responding to or as “satisfied customers” of the company they are praising.

Will the responders who are hired for this also present themselves as “ordinary net-surfers”?

“Of course,” says Shturman. “Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the policy-explanation department of the Israeli Foreign Ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the Foreign Ministry developed.”

Test-firing in the Gaza War

According to Shturman, although it is only now that the project is receiving a budget and a special department in the Foreign Ministry, in practice the Ministry has been using its own responders since the last war in Gaza, when the Ministry recruited volunteer talkbackers. “During Operation Cast Lead we appealed to Jewish communities abroad and with their help we recruited a few thousand volunteers, who were joined by Israeli volunteers. We gave them background material and policy-explanation material, and we sent them to represent the Israeli point of view on news websites and in polls on the Internet,” says Shturman. “Our target audience then was the European Left, which was not friendly towards the policy of the government. For that reason we began to get involved in discussions on blogs in England, Spain and Germany, a very hostile environment.”

And how much change have you effected so far?

“It is hard to prove success in this kind of activity, but it is clear that we succeeded in bypassing the European television networks, which are very critical of Israel, and we have created direct dialogues with the public.”

What things have you done there exactly?

“For example, we sent someone to write in the website of a left-wing group in Spain. He wrote ‘it is not exactly as you say.’ Someone at the website replied to him, and we replied again, we gave arguments, pictures. Dialogue like that opens people’s eyes.”

Elon Gilad, a worker at the Foreign Ministry who coordinated the activities of the volunteer talkbackers during the war in Gaza and will coordinate the activities of the professional talkbackers in the new project, says that volunteering for talkback in defence of Israel started spontaneously: “Many times people contacted us and asked how they could help to explain Israeli policy. They mainly do it at times like the Gaza operation. People just asked for information, and afterwards we saw that the information was distributed all over the Internet. The Ministry of Absorption also started a project at that time, and they transferred to us hundreds of volunteers who speak foreign languages

and who will help to spread the information. That project too mainly spreads information on the Internet.”

“You can’t win”

While most of the net-surfers were recruited through websites like giyus.org, which was officially activated by a Jewish lobby [and has basically the same goal and modus operandi], in some cases is it was the Foreign Ministry that took the initiative to contact the surfers and asked them to post talkbacks sympathetic to the State and the government [of Israel] on the Internet and to help recruit volunteers. That’s how Michal Carmi, an active blogger and associate general manager at the high-tech placement company Tripletec, was recruited to the online policy-explanation team.

“During Operation Cast Lead the Foreign Ministry wrote to me and other bloggers and asked us to make our opinions known on the international stage as well,” Carmi tells Calcalist. “They sent us pages with ‘taking points’ and a great many video clips. I focussed my energies on Facebook, and here and there I wrote responses on blogs where words like ‘Holocaust’ and ‘murder’ were used in connection with Israel’s Gaza action. I had some very hard conversations there. Several times the Foreign Ministry also recommended that we access specific blogs and get involved in the discussions that were taking place there.”

And does it work? Does it have any effect?

“I am not sure that that strategy was correct. The Ministry did excellent work, they sent us a flood of accurate information, but it focussed on Israeli suffering and the threat of the missiles. But the view of the Europeans is one-dimensional. Israeli suffering does not seem relevant to them compared to Palestinian suffering.”

“You can never win in this struggle. All you can do is be there and express your position,” is how Gilad sums up the effectiveness so far, as well as his expectations of the operation when it begins to receive a government budget.

(*) “department for the explanation of Israeli policy” is a translation of only two words in the original Hebrew text: “mahleqet ha-hasbara” – literally, “the department of explanation”. Israeli readers require no elaboration. Henceforth in this article, “hasbara” will be translated as “policy-explanation”. It may also be translated as “public diplomacy” or “propaganda”.

Source

February 10, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , | 2 Comments

Israel’s propagandists shoot themselves in the foot as they shoot off their mouths

By Greg Felton | September 30, 2009

If you have ever visited a blog or on-line discussion group on the Middle East you have doubtless had the misfortune to run into them.

They are known by the language they use: depraved sexual insults, bile, bigotry, threats, disinformation and character assassination. That’s right: I’m talking about “hasbarats,” Zionist trolls who infect the Internet with hasbara, pro-Israel propaganda. Of course, mainstream media hasbarats have been around for decades, as have “hasbaratchiks,” fifth-columns in foreign governments who subvert national policies to serve Israel. The Internet, though, is the latest, some might say the greatest, propaganda playground, and Israel cannot cope with factual, passionate, well-documented stories that expose its war crimes and unrepentant criminality.

If you’ve come across a hasbarat, on-line or otherwise, you have learned that no amount of reasoned argument or intellectual maturity has any effect. That’s because hasbarats don’t care if they come across as ignorant, obnoxious, nasty or inane. All that matters for them is sabotaging criticism of Israel and support for Muslims. They’re like anti-intellectual stink bombs: designed to cause maximum discomfort but have little if any real power.

This deliberate proliferation of on-line hasbarats raises two points. The first concerns why anyone would spend hours a day to prostitute themselves for Israel. Money, of course. Ilan Shturman, deputy director of the Israeli foreign ministry’s hasbara department (!), told an Israeli business newspaper in July that US$150,000 had been allocated for the first stage of a campaign to seed the Internet with hasbarats:

“Our people will not say: ‘Hello, I am from the hasbara department of the Israeli foreign ministry and I want to tell you the following.’ Nor will they necessarily identify themselves as Israelis. They will speak as net-surfers and as citizens, and will write responses that will look personal but will be based on a prepared list of messages that the foreign ministry developed.”

The second point is why Israel felt it had to resort to intellectual fraud on an international scale. The Internet has shown that Israel is a failed oppressor state that commits crimes against humanity as a matter of policy. The last straw for many was “Operation Cast Lead,” an act of such unspeakable unapologetic sadism that allusions to Nazi Germany are entirely appropriate.

Every day, it seems, the mythic foundations of Israel’s legitimacy—the holocaust, Jewish victimhood, Jewish “people,” Israeli “democracy,” “evil” Muslims—are exposed for all to see.

In January, Amir Gissin, Israel’s consul-general in Toronto, sent out a hasbara recruitment letter, which read in part: “If you are frustrated or concerned with the portrayal of Israel in Canadian News and with biased [!] depictions, your voice can be heard. Now, think that you’re not alone 10,000 voices like yours can respond every day: praise, protest, inform, correct on leading Canadian news websites, in real time, effectively.”

The weakness with this tactic, as you probably figured out, is that hasbarats will inevitably shout and whine themselves into irrelevance. Eventually, intelligent people will tune out the Zionist boilerplate, the anti-Muslim smears, and the interminable drone about the holocaust. Already, the once-dreaded epithet “anti-Semite” has lost all significance, as if it ever had any, and the person who hurled it is more likely to be mocked than feared.

Two recent events demonstrate the growing desperation and ineptitude of Israel’s propaganda industry. Today, we look at an example of “positive hasbara.”

Toronto International Film Festival

A major tactic of hasbarats is to project the illusion that Israel is a normal Western democracy, thereby taking focus away from Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. Also, countries that buy into the deceit will be unwilling to criticize Israel for fear of calling into question their role in covering up zionist war crimes.

This tactic was tried at the recent Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as Tel Aviv was spotlighted in a City-to-City program with Toronto. The ostensible purpose was to use an apolitical, cultural event to obscure the tyranny that Tel Aviv represents, but more than 1,000 filmmakers and performers, weren’t fooled. They put their names to The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation, an open letter to the TIFF that protested the co-optation of the festival by the Israeli propaganda machine.

The protest accomplished precisely what the hasbarats tried to prevent. “Rather than talking about Israel’s rich cinematic culture, the buzz this week in Toronto has centered on the one thing Israeli officials had sought to avoid: the conflict with the Palestinians,” reported the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

2009_09_30_TIFF

The hasbara campaign to ‘re-brand’ Israel during the Toronto International Film Festival failed miserably. So much attention was paid to the protest that it overshadowed the political objectives of Israel’s propaganda machine.

Another major defeat for Israel came courtesy of Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert. After offering a knee-jerk condemnation of the City-to-City protests, he reversed himself the next day:

“I wasn’t prepared with enough facts about the events leading up to the Festival’s decision to showcase Tel Aviv in the City-to-City section. I [initially] thought of it as an innocent goodwill gesture, but now realize it was part of a deliberate plan to ‘re-brand’ Israel in Toronto, as a pilot for a larger such program. The Festival should never have agreed to be used like this. It was naïve for the plan’s supporters to believe it would have the effect they hoped for.”

Speaking of naïve, how about Ron Huldai, mayor of Tel Aviv! Whether out of overconfidence or stupidity, he publicly admitted the underlying hasbara in an interview with the JTA:

“While the City to City program was initiated by the festival, the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs was involved as part of its Brand Israel media and advertising campaign, which was launched last year.”

Quite obviously, Israel would have been better off if the hasbarats had not tried to manipulate the festival. Even the predictable pro-Israel counter-protest merely added to the protest’s notoriety and detracted from the cultural propaganda. Moreover the standard claim that the protest was an attack on Israel and artistic freedom was demonstrably false. If anything, the protest highlighted Israel’s active suppression of Palestinian culture. According to the authors of the Toronto Declaration:

“Many Palestinian artists and filmmakers, denied freedom of movement by Israel’s Occupation and pass system, are de facto boycotted, unable to communicate with their communities or travel freely. The double standard is mind-boggling and, slowly, these are the issues we are helping to put under a spotlight.”

Finally, it is important to note that the Declaration’s authors succeeded without any media help. They had no money to place ads, and no newspaper would publish their open letter. On the other hand, hasbarats had the full support (read: “obedience”) of Canada’s national media, and lost.

If a modest, unfunded, popular protest can effectively defeat an orchestrated propaganda campaign, what does that say about Israel’s ability to pose as a legitimate, democratic state? Even though hasbarats get their disinformation out with relative ease, it is not clear that it’s generally accepted.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 3 Comments

Israel: South Africa labeling decision ‘discrimination’

Ma’an – 23/08/2012

BETHLEHEM – Israel on Wednesday denounced South Africa’s cabinet decision to label goods from illegal Israeli settlements as produced in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said the decision “is without precedent, as no such measure has ever been adopted in South Africa or in any other country. It constitutes therefore a blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction.”

The statement added: “Israel and South Africa have political differences, and that is legitimate. What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott. Such exclusion and discrimination bring to mind ideas of racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected.”

The ministry said South Africa’s ambassador would be summoned Thursday.

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 1 Comment