Israel student union sets up “war room” to sell Gaza massacre on Facebook LINK AND VIDEO HERE
“This article was published in August 2013, but it is even more relevant today, as the world witnesses more attacks on Gaza and an important propaganda operation from Israel.
In a campaign to improve its image abroad, the Israeli government plans to provide scholarships to hundreds of students at its seven universities in exchange for their making pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets to foreign audiences.
The students making the posts will not reveal online that they are funded by the Israeli government, according to correspondence about the plan revealed in the Haaretz newspaper.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, which will oversee the programme, confirmed its launch and wrote that its aim was to “strengthen Israeli public diplomacy and make it fit the changes in the means of information consumption”.
The government’s hand is to be invisible to the foreign audiences. Daniel Seaman, the official who has been planning the effort, wrote in a letter on 5 August to a body authorising government projects that “the idea requires not making the role of the state stand out and therefore it is necessary to adhere to great involvement of the students themselves, without political linkage or affiliation”.
According to the plan, students are to be organised into units at each university, with a chief co-ordinator who receives a full scholarship, three desk co-ordinators for language, graphics and research who receive lesser scholarships and students termed “activists” who will receive a “minimal scholarship”.
Mr Netanyahu’s aides said the main topics the units would address related to political and security issues, combating calls to boycott Israel and combating efforts to question Israel’s legitimacy. The officials said the students would stress Israeli democratic values, freedom of religion and pluralism.
But Alon Liel, the doveish former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, criticised the plan as “quite disgusting”. “University students should be educated to think freely. When you buy the mind of a student, he becomes a puppet of the Israeli government grant,” he said. “You can give a grant to do social work or teach but not to do propaganda on controversial issues for the government.” (FULL)
““In light of the success in the battle for awareness during the Pillar of Defense Operation [the Israeli military operation against the Gaza Strip in November of last year] and the experience gained in activating a large number of situation rooms on university campuses and work with students in general, it was decided to establish a permanent structure of activity on the Internet through the students at academic institutions in the country,” Seaman wrote. “The students are an organized population that is familiar with, and active on, the Internet on an ongoing basis, trained in use of the field, [who] live and speak the language of the [medium].”
The Prime Minister’s Office said in response that the project is designed to strengthen Israel’s public diplomacy and adapt it to changes in how information is being consumed. “The national public diplomacy unit in the Prime Minister’s Office places an emphasis on social network activity,” the office stated. “As part of this, a new pro-Israel public diplomacy infrastructure of students on Israeli campuses is being established that will assist in advancing and disseminating content on the social networks, particularly to international audiences.”
Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office said the main subjects that the campus-based units will deal with are diplomatic- and security-related issues, efforts to combat the boycott of Israel and anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel. The students will emphasize Israel’s democratic values, freedom of religion, pluralism and “other subjects that give expression to the Israeli government’s public diplomacy policy.” The Prime Minister’s Office added that similar efforts with students were successful in recent years. “This model significantly advances Israel’s public diplomacy capabilities so that concurrent with messages conveyed by the country’s official spokespeople, content will also be conveyed that has been developed and disseminated by the students that is adapted to social media.”
“We believe that this involves an essential tool to strengthen Israeli public diplomacy and addresses the major importance that we attach to advancing public diplomacy of the State of Israel on the social networks.”
Hagar Yisraeli, a spokeswoman for the Union of Israeli Students, added: “Israel is dealing with an extreme, ongoing delegitimization campaign that is being conducted against it on the social networks. The student population is a talented, educated group of people with independent and diverse views and speaks [a variety of] languages and can therefore assist in dealing with such an [anti-Israel] campaign… The students are an integral part of the Israeli reality and it is therefore appropriate, in our view, that they take an active part in dealing with the delegitimization. It is accepted in the world that students are integrated and take part in various diplomatic activities. The student union is not a political organization and is not identified politically [with one school of thought]. The members of the union hold a range of views from across the Israeli political spectrum, and it is our intention to preserve that.” (MORE)
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