Government asks Breaking the Silence to help with hasbara

Breaking the Silence member Mikhael Manekin says the Israeli’s governments attempts to divert attention from the occupation with social media propaganda are not only condescending, they simply will not work.

By Mikhael Manekin

Today Breaking the Silence was invited to a meeting that will take place next week in the Knesset. The meeting is sponsored by Dani Danon, chair of the Immigration and Absorption Committee, who is also known for being one of the main backers of the stigmatization campaigns against human rights organizations such as Breaking the Silence. The meeting will examine the challenges that Facebook and YouTube present for Israel’s “hasbara” (Hebrew for “propaganda”). According to the sender of the invitation, we were invited, among other reasons, because we have a “strong presence on YouTube.”Other guests included important staff from the Prime Minister’s Office and members of the Jewish Agency.  I predict that they will complain about the democratization of information, how this poses a threat to Israeli policy (they will just say “Israel”), and how to deal with it (“Did you know that Israel created the disk-on-key? Did you know that Israel invented the technology in your cellphone?”)

So, why were we invited? Well, I haven’t a clue, but it seems like a trap (or a firing squad). Either way, we have already notified the committee that we won’t participate, as the chair of said committee has done more to de-legitimize Israeli democracy (and international opinion of it) than almost anyone else by wholeheartedly supporting the occupation and the suppression of human rights organizations.

As a product of Diaspora Jewry (I was born in the U.S. and spent a large part of my childhood there), what bothers me most is the condescending tone all these Israeli committees inevitably take.  Non-Israelis, especially, Diaspora Jews, are basically treated as idiots who will swallow hasbara whole.

Show them a picture of happy beachgoers on an Israeli shore, think members of these committees, and no one will care that we are occupying a nation of millions.  Information on the internet is easily accessible, of course, and by now many people around the world, Jews included, know that there is more going on in Israel than innocent fun at the beach. Sure, people think that the bars in Tel Aviv are cool, but they also understand that there’s Gaza and the continuing ramifications of Operation Cast Lead.

Sure, Israel’s medical teams rushed to help in Haiti, but that doesn’t mean that Hebron isn’t an ugly reality which Magen David Adom helps perpetuate. The problem is that Dani Danon just doesn’t get it: his value system is different from that of most Jews and non-Jews around the world.  And if Dani Danon justifies settlement expansion for ideological reasons as well as the silencing of those who disagree with him, the world will understand just that.

Last week, military spokesperson Avi Benayahu said that the military is training “hackers” to fight on Facebook and other social media for Israel’s side.  Here are two tips for Mr Benayahu (and all others still getting acquainted with the Internet): First, you are misusing the term hackers– you just mean people who use Facebook. Second, in the long run you will lose this fight. Because as long as the Occupation is real, it will also be virtually mirrored on the Internet.  And ultimately, you won’t be able to cover that up.

Mikhael Manekin is a member of Breaking the Silence and former officer in the Israeli infantry.

Government asks Breaking the Silence to help with hasbara.

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