Yesterday, Israel’s ‘Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister’ Yuli Edelstein spoke at some length about his country’s ‘PR problem’, including possible plans to create a 24-hr news channel. But further down the article, Edelstein talked about the ways in which Israel’s propaganda effort is being increasingly delegated to volunteers:
“We’ve been working on creating an infrastructure of our friends and allies around the world, in the Jewish and Christian communities, which is not fully ready yet. It’s based on volunteers and professionals [who will coordinate the transmission of accurate information],” the minister said.
Edelstein conceded that the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Ministry suffered from restrictive budget problems. Nevertheless, he was seeking to implement ambitious initiatives based on volunteers.
“This is the 21st century, and that means things that are not officially called hasbara are the best hasbara. The moment things come from the government, the state, or ministries, they are perceived as being less reliable and as propaganda,” Edelstein said.
”There are many things only volunteers can do. Writing on Facebook, Twitter blogs, and sending e-mails to friends is second to none. The best things people can do are not about money, but about doing things in the right way.”
Edelstein cited an operations center housed in his ministry and staffed by volunteers, as well as a ministry secretary, both aimed at maintaining continuous contact with Diaspora communities.
Edelstein makes it clear that key elements of the state’s hasbara drive are being carried out by ‘volunteers and professionals’, particularly through media like Facebook and Twitter. Crucially, this ‘infrastructure’ should not be seen as coming from the government – which gives the game away.
This reminded me of another article from just over a week ago, this time in Ha’aretz. Here the intention of disseminating propaganda through ‘front groups’ is made explicit:
The Foreign Ministry is planning to use front groups to transmit hasbara (public relations ) messages in order to influence senior politicians, opinion shapers and journalists in Europe, ministry sources said.
The goal is to create a public diplomacy track parallel to the one used by the Foreign Ministry, whose message does not bear the “fingerprints” of the Israeli government, the source said.
Yet more money and time invested in apologising for apartheid – this rebranding business can definitely be tricky.