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Once Again, Israel Shoots Itself in Both Legs

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Israelis have been going on and on for decades about how nobody understands us, about how we're fighting for a just cause, and how it's always the other guy's fault.

Over the years, governments in Jerusalem constantly changed their Hasbara tactics, but to no avail. (Hasbara, as Wikipedia points out, is "a term that has been used by the State of Israel and by supporters of Israel to describe their efforts to explain Israeli government policies, and to promote Israel to the world at large.")

2010-02-18-YuliEdelstein_small.bmpJust today, The Minister of Public Information and Diaspora Affairs, Yuli Edelstein, the guy who's basically in charge of Israeli Hasbara, told Prime Minister Netanyahu that he's swamped. Apparently, he's so busy dealing with the repercussions of the Goldstone report and with the diplomatic effort to get sanctions against Iran, he asked Netanyahu to relieve him of some of his other duties.

Meanwhile, Edelstein managed yesterday to launch his new campaign, an ambitious attempt to enlist basically every citizen into the Foreign Ministry, by training the common Israeli in how to answer the tough questions posed while traveling abroad, or, G-d forbid, by some lunatic leftist who happens to be against the occupation (how dare they!).

The campaign is now all over the place: Radio, TV, internet and more.

As you can probably imagine from the tone of my words thus far, I'm against such adventures. I prefer changing the policy itself to something a tad more, how shall I say, "correct." It seems a bit more reasonable than explaining ridiculous existing policies like ... "settlements."

But when I first caught a glimpse of the campaign on TV, I cringed.

Talk about low standards ... This stuff is something no advertising executive would ever want in his portfolio.

Take a look:

How pathetic is this ad? (And did you notice how terrified the "reporter" was of the camel?)

It's so pathetic, it's actually mocking Israelis themselves. It shows that the Ministry believes Israelis are a bunch of ignoramuses who think that the rest of the world believes that we ride on camels, and worse: When I went into the official campaign site, I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry.

Apparently, the rest of the world thinks Israel is all one big hot desert, that we only eat falafel, that the country is ruled by a military junta, and more.

Here's a taste from the "Myth vs. Reality" page on the site:

Myth: Israel is a primitive country.

Not true. Israel is known around the world for its achievements in the sciences, arts, technology and more.

Yes, it actually says "Not true" after each "Myth."

Here's one of my favorites:

Myth: Because of the settlements there is no peace.

Not true. ... Tel Aviv and Jerusalem may also be seen as settlements by the Arabs ... "

The pages about "Israeli History" and "Israel and its Arab Neighbors" are so conservative, they're even more right wing than Likud policy. A very tough read.

But they certainly save the best for last, where Edlestein gives us a lesson in persuasion on the "Tips" page:

  • First listen, then speak.

  • Eye contact is very important. If you look to the sides, the person you are speaking to will feel uncomfortable.
  • Body language -- Use large arm gestures, it shows that we mean well ... Smile only when you really mean it, make it an honest smile ... Posture -- the straighter you stand, the more confidence you demonstrate ...

And it goes on, and on ...

The first thing that came to mind, is that this ad blitz tells Israelis how to deal with exactly nothing. That's right -- nothing. Because people abroad aren't going to ask Israelis on vacation how fast a camel can make it from Haifa to Tel Aviv. Instead, they might be asked something like: "So, how does it feel to live in an apartheid state?", or "So, 1,300 Palestinians dead vs. only five Israelis during 'Cast Lead,' how do you explain that?". Edelstein doesn't really give us any ammo for the tough ones, huh? I don't know, maybe if I stand straight enough ...

But then I got to thinking, how bizarre is it that this campaign coincided with the unfolding story about the Dubai killing of a Hamas militant, most probably by the Mossad. It's just too good to be true.

Another case of Israel spitting in the face of international law, and here comes Edelstein telling us how to deal with our tarnished image abroad.

I'd pay a lot of money to see him practice what he preaches in front of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, when he has to explain why Israel sent a death squad to Dubai and in the process stole identities of at least six British citizens to carry it out.