Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Israeli Think-Tank Molad Takes Easy Way Out To Regain Ground Lost By The Left

Haaretz reports Think tank: Israel's poor international image not the fault of failed hasbara Israel's poor international image not the fault of failed hasbara:
Study finds that Israel's advocacy effort has become one of the world's most efficient and productive, but Israel nevertheless suffers from an image problem - which is rather a product of the Israeli government's policies.
The report comes from a think tank called Molad which claims in its report, Israeli Hasbara: Myths and Facts:
While nonpartisan, Molad takes pride in being a political institution, unafraid of formulating clear positions on the fundamental questions of Israeli social and political life and putting forward concrete policy proposals. Infusing the political discourse with new ideas is a necessary condition for extricating Israeli democracy from a snowballing crisis. 

Writing about Molad back in August, Haaretz reported: Reviving the Israeli left is a ten year project, says think tank:
The somewhat pretentious goal of the group is to revive the Israeli left, which collapsed 12 years ago following the failure of the Camp David peace talks and the eruption of the second intifada. This revival process is expected to last no less than a decade; and during that time, the revivalists will brain-storm and devise plans and policy positions suited to a resurgent left-wing camp. At the end of the period, these idealists hope, Israel will regain the political structure that characterized it for most of its life before the year 2000: a contested political arena divided into two large ideological camps, the left and right, each with a coherent world view.
Regardless of whether or not the ends justify the means, Molad's reports -- starting with this one -- has a left-wing agenda.

That assessment is further supported by NGO Monitor, which notes that Molad is chaired by Avrum Burg, who wrote an op-ed in the New York Times decrying Israel's Fading Democracy; led by Avner Inbar,  co-founder of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement; boasts Assaf Sharon, a leader of Breaking the Silence, Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, and Ta’ayush as its research director and whose Director of Policy is Mikhael Manekin, a former Breaking the Silence official.

These are people and groups that have attacked Israel -- at times viciously -- in the past.

With that in mind, it is not surprising to see where they place the blame for Israel's image problems.

The conclusion of the Molad report is two-fold:
  • "Israeli hasbara apparatus is an elaborate, well-coordinated, sophisticated mechanism that adjusts to emergency situations and is able to facilitate cooperation between a varied set of players...Israeli public diplomacy is particularly effective in using new media and informal communication; it has successfully internalized the importance of 'soft power'."

  • "[O]ne cannot attribute Israel's poor international status and image to insufficient and inefficient hasbara. The conclusion of this study is that the “hasbara problem” is a myth that diverts focus from Israel's real problems which are the results of problematic policy, not flawed hasbara of appropriate policy."
Thus, Dr Andre Oboler, an expert in social media and online public diplomacy, notes Molad's attempt at Reclaiming Israel’s left with its report and notes:
The logic of the report’s conclusion runs like this: if Israel’s Hasbara has improved, but there are still anti-Israel sentiments, then the blame for anti-Israel sentiment must rest with Israel. Ergo, all things being equal, it is the policies of the Israeli government that are to blame. This logic ignores the evidence of a concerted propaganda attack based on false claims of human rights violations, war crimes, apartheid, etc. and multiple instances of outright fabrication that were circulated and then retracted by mainstream media. The conclusion is so disconnected from the report that it appears to have been chosen in advance rather than being the natural result of the research process.
Molad's mistake is that by blaming Israeli policy,  the hatred -- both of Israel and of Jews -- derived from ideology, religion and other factors go ignored. Thus the fatal flaw in the report:
In ignoring the reality of Israel’s situation, the Molad report reaches for a toy solution to a toy problem that has been carefully constructed and bears little resemblance to anything in the real world. The bias against Israel in the global left can’t be ignored. The bias in the media and academia also can’t be ignored. Nor can the deliberate manipulation of the media by terrorist organisations like Hamas, or by political activist journalists, or by NGOs. The role of antisemitism cannot be ignored. The state sponsored hate from Iran, the online activism of Electronic Intifada, and sophisticated slick campaigning approach of Avaaz can’t be ignored.

The report makes much of the centralisation of Israeli government Hasbara, but it fails to recognise that most Hasbara is not done by the Israeli government but by volunteers operating independent. There is nothing to suggest a centralised approach for unofficial hasbara is more effective than a decentralized approach. The Reut report, as mentioned before, suggests the opposite is true. In social media, decentralisation and personal endorsement lends legitimacy that officially sanctioned material without endorsement lacks. We, the public, no longer trust official sources.
According to Oboler, the attempt to regain the ground lost by the Israeli left by attacking Israeli policies is misplaced. In taking the easy partisan route, Molad avoids the real challenge facing the left in Israel:
The left must face up to the real challenge: how they stand up to the international left and demand equality for Israel in all things. That’s a far scarier challenge than pretending criticism of Israel is just criticism of the Israeli right, and hate of Israel is a result of Israel’s actions.
Molad and the Israeli left could do worse than standing up for Israel -- and reason it has lost ground is that up to this point, it has.

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