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StandWithUs to take cash, messaging from Israeli gov't

The American ‘hasbara’ organization will disseminate government messages in a contract with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

By Itamar Bazz / ‘The 7th Eye

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, will fund a hasbara organization to disseminate propaganda on behalf of the Israeli government. The allocation of public funds, over NIS 1 million (over $250,000) in 2015, is intended to fund a joint project by the National Information Directorate and the Israeli branch of StandWithUs, an American hasbara organization.

Hasbara is a Hebrew term that refers to public diplomacy efforts on behalf of Israel.

The committee in the Prime Minister’s Office that issues tenders for government contracts met at the end of November to approve an allocation of NIS 860,000 a year to a joint project with StandWithUs, while the organization’s funders will contribute a matching amount. The cooperation between the two parties, which was approved by the committee, may be extended for another two years at the end of 2015. The PMO told the Seventh Eye media watchdog website that the initiative is meant to strengthen “Israeli hasbara on social media platforms.”

According to the agreement, StandWithUs will run “interactive media war rooms” manned by students who will be trained to disseminate Israeli hasbara on social media platforms. The project will be based a model that was tried during Operation Protective Edge and previous military operations, in which “hasbara war rooms” were established in academic institutions across Israel in order to disseminate IDF and government messages.

A graphic distributed online by StandWithUs during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

A graphic distributed online by StandWithUs during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge.

At the end of the operation, the volunteers were rewarded with a recorded thank you message from the prime minister, who is in charge of the National Information Directorate. The goal of the new initiative is to allow such activity to take place on a regular basis.

According to the governmental plan, the students who will be enlisted to take part in the program will be trained by Yair Edi Freiman, the head of interactive media and hasbara organizations in the National Information Directorate, alongside workers from StandWithUs. In addition to Israeli students, the project will also enlist students from the U.S. and Britain, who will be flown to Israel in order to take part in “educational and training meetings.”

‘Citizen activism’

The participants in the new project will spread official governmental messages, although the initiative is marketed in such a way that will amplify authentic voices among the younger generation in Israel and the Jewish communities around the world.

In a press release, the organizers of the project characterized the initiative as a “volunteer-based start-up” that is meant to provide its participants a chance to work in “citizen activism.” The head of the StandWithUs branch in Israel, Michael Dickson, was quoted saying that the project is intended to give young people in Israel a chance to “raise their voice and describe their experiences as they experience them.”

Yarden Vatikay, who manages the National Information Directorate, took a similar line and declared that the “goal of the program is to provide young students the tools to pass on their message to a crowd that uses social media in the best way possible.”

However, the committee’s protocol, which includes details on how the project will be run, clarifies that the National Information Directorate will be highly involved in determining the messages disseminated by the students, and will include a mechanism that allows government representatives to oversee the content of those messages as well as the means of their dissemination.

According to the agreement, “the degree of involvement by the National Information Directorate in the initiative will be high, and will include the [project’s] strategic planning and the messages that they wish to spread.”

“In addition, a steering committee will be established and run by the representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, including Mr. Freiman, as well as oversight mechanisms. Representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office will be part of the committee that selects the students.”

Read the minutes of the committee meeting in Hebrew here (PDF).

This article was first published in Hebrew by The 7th Eye media watchdog website. It is reproduced here with permission.

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    1. Pedro X

      $250,000 dollars seems like a small investment in getting out Israel’s message by citizen activism. You can only buy a few hell fire missiles with those funds.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mikesailor

      If this organization is being directly funded by the Israel government, then they will have to register as a foreign agent under US law. AIPAC has escaped from registration claiming all of their funds are domestically raised within the US. “Stand With Us” will not be able to make such a claim. I wonder how their “hasbara” on US college campuses will be accepted when the students realize they are being fed propoganda directly funded by Israel? Should be interesting to say the least.

      Reply to Comment
      • C.C. DeVille

        Thanks for the tip!

        Reply to Comment
    3. Benjamin

      Feeding the young susceptible ignorant with directed thought instead of tuition in reason, logic and unbiased oversight.

      It is called propaganda training.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        i think the word you want is indoctrination. At the risk of being called names it seems to me that there is a shadowy but well-funded conspiracy out there to subvert western democracy (joking only!).

        Reply to Comment
        • ICat

          “Joking only”? At least you know what you are doing and the difference b/w an anti-Semite and healthy person. If in your mind you are not “joking”, then you know that I am right when I say that you are an old, senile anti-Semite.

          Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        What’s your view Bar on whether this jeapardises StandWithUs’ non-profit status – surely its difficult to justify American tax dollars subsidising the propaganda arm of a foreign state?

        Reply to Comment
        • ICat

          You are not even an American, Bryan. Why is a man of your advanced age spending what remains of his old age obsessing with Jews and ranting daily and incessantly on the comment sections of blog and websites dealing with Jews only? What is wrong with you, old man?

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Judging from the “About” section of this web-site I have a far-better claim to be here than you do (“+972 is a blog-based web magazine that is jointly owned by a group of journalists, bloggers and photographers whose goal is to provide fresh, original, on-the-ground reporting and analysis of events in Israel and Palestine. Our collective is committed to human rights and freedom of information, and we oppose the occupation. However, +972 Magazine does not represent any organization, political party or specific agenda.”)

            So note – nothing says you have to be young and ignorant of the world; nothing says you have to be so immature that you have not resisted the indoctrination you have received; nothing says you have to be receiving dirty shekels as a paid propagandist of the SOI while you struggle to put yourself through college; nothing says only those who can insult their elders are welcome here. Many of the contributors here are Jewish, and I immensely appreciate their perspectives and the detailed knowledge they provide – so this is an unlikely haunt for either anti-Semites or Fascists. Can I ask you what you are doing here(since the readiness with which you label anyone with mild criticism of the Israeli occupation seriously devalues the whole concept)? Surely even you can see that direct Israeli funding of an organisation with the integrity of StandWithUs is not likely to enhance the credibility of the Case For Israel?

            Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            Seems you are happy to respond to my criticism of StandWithUs non-profit status being compromised by the funding of a foreign state with two killer comments (1) I am not an American – but what affects American policy affects the whole world so it is not illegitimate for world citizens to follow American developments (2) I am older than you – but not entirely convinced of the relevance of that fact, if indeed it is a fact.

            You have failed to respond to an argument I made at the same time, so let me repost it to give you another opportunity:

            “I think you are getting to the heart of the matter. There is the old form of antisemitism which was the irrational hatred of Jews. That thankfully waned (to be replaced by Islamophobia, hatred of Arabs, immigrants and other groups). Then some bright spark invented new antisemitism (the failure to love Israel enough; the international resentment of colonial occupation, ethnic cleansing, dispossession, the denial of national rights etc).

            Now if indeed you are right that 99.9% of the entire world Jewry are Zionists then the old antisemitism = new antisemitism. If you are wrong then these are two quite separate matters. If you can demonstrate that 99.9% of Jews are Zionists then I will shut up because I abhor all forms of racism including “old” anti-Semitism. So please give me some evidence.

            Hersh Lowenthal estimates 69% (http://www.truetorahjews.org/qanda/demographics); Pew Research found that caring about Israel is not an important element of Jewish American identity (it actually ranked 5th behind remembering the Holocaust, leading an ethical and moral life, working for justice/equality, and being intellectually curious.) See http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/10/03/8-fascinating-trends-in-how-american-jews-think-about-israel/

            Perhaps it depends on how you define Zionism. If you define Zionism as support for the continued existence of a predominantly Jewish state within its 1948 boundaries then you could get a figure of 99.9% (and by the way I would then put my hand up to being a Zionist). If you define Zionism as support for the current Israeli government and all its policies you would get a figure much nearer to 50%. If you define Zionism as support for Greater Israel, its settlement policies, its discrimination against non-Jews and its refusal to recognize Palestinian self-determination and work towards a lasting and effective peace you would get a figure much nearer to ZERO.

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            “… (1) I am not an American – but what affects American policy affects the whole world so it is not illegitimate for world citizens to follow American developments…”

            Indeed, Bryan, except you remember that ONLY when you hear the word “Jews” and/or “Israel”. That’s the point, Bryan, you racist hypocrite!

            Reply to Comment
          • ICat

            “…(2) I am older than you – but not entirely convinced of the relevance of that fact, if indeed it is a fact….”

            Except that you are a hateful liar, a dishonest and dishonorable racist anti-Semite. In your advanced age, you ought to know better. That’s the point.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Allyson Rowen Taylor


      Reply to Comment
    5. Mikesailor

      Regurgitated Hairball: Are you back again? I see the same inanity but I was hoping you actually read some of the papers lining your carrier. Perhaps you would learn something. As to Allyson: Merely citing a hashtag is really sad. get a life or, if not, get an education.

      Reply to Comment
      • ICat

        When are you going to quit regurgitating and repeating the same nonsense over and over again, “Mikesailor”? Can’t you come up with something new and original? Are you really that dense?

        Reply to Comment