War through social media now main role of Israeli agencies

March 28, 2012
Sarah Benton

Jewish agency ‘Social media guru’, invents UN scandal, denies Armenian genocide

Richard Silverstein, Tikun Olam

The Jewish Agency, led by Israeli neocon darling, Natan Sharansky, is joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IDF by getting into the social media hasbara game. They’ve hired Avi Mayer as their “social media guru,” as the Jewish Agency’s own website calls him. The Jerusalem Post has also profiled his herculean efforts to promote the Israel brand in the virtual world.

Avi was a small time hood as far as Twitter was concerned. His profileconveniently omitted the fact that he was a paid hasbara shill:

Just some guy living in Israel, trying to help advance the Jewish people and repair the world. No big whoop.

But it was fairly obvious from his tweets that this was his “game.”

All that changed a few weeks ago when a UN employee, Khulood Badawi, during the most recent Israeli assault on Gaza in which 2 children and 24 others were killed, tweeted a picture of a Gaza child saying she’d been killed by Israel:

“Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by #Israel.”

Mayer and the hasbarafia began digging and discovered that the girl, featured in a Reuters photo, had died in 2006. They further alleged that she hadn’t died at Israel’s hands, but rather had fallen from a swing and died from the fall.

Then they really went to town. Mayer passed the story off to Ron Prosor, Israel’s UN ambassador, who ten days later demanded Badawi’s head, accused her of deliberate fabrication in an attempt to smear Israel. They said that her behavior typified that of the entire UN and the only way the organization could clear its name was to sack her. They’ve now enlisted the pro-Israel media advocacy group, Honest Reporting, toamplify the campaign, taking it to the streets, as it were.

This typifies a relatively recent Israeli government strategy by which they collaborate (or more accurately, connive) closely with right-wing NGOs like Im Tirzu, Honest Reporting and StandWithUs to advance Israel’s political interests. The NGOs take over where the government leaves off. They can get their hands dirty (as SWU has with the Olympia Food Coop lawsuit it just lost) in ways an Israeli official might not. The line between the government and the NGO is so thin as to be almost non-existent. What’s important about this is that if an American group like SWU actually is financed by the Israeli government, then its activities within the U.S. take on an entirely different light and it becomes an agent for a foreign government.

The Badawi controversy turns out to be quite timely for Israel, which has always detested everything to do with the UN. The Human Rights Council, which first appointed Judge Richard Goldstone to investigate Cast Lead, has announced an investigation of Israeli settlements. The current right-wing government has gotten into high dudgeon. Foreign minister Lieberman is accusing Mahmoud Abbas, who inspired the investigation with “diplomatic terrorism,” whatever that means. Israel not only refuses to cooperate with the investigative team as it did with Judge Goldstone’s panel, it has permanently severed any relationship with the world body. A strategy, by the way, which most Israelis came to realize was a dismal failure since it prevented Israel from telling its side of the Gaza story.

So now Israel needs a suitable UN scapegoat and Khulood Badawi provides an excellent specimen on which Israel can vent its fury.

Maan now reports a few little problems with the hasbara version of the Badawi’s story. It turns out that the child, Raja Abu Shaban, was killed while playing about 300 feet from an IDF airstrike aimed at Palestinian militants. It also turns out that either she fell off the swing as a result of the attack and hit her head, causing her death; or that the swing set fell on her during the missile strike and killed her. Either way, she was certainly killed at least indirectly as a result of an IDF attack. The only thing wrong with Badawi’s original tweet was her presumption that Shaban died during last month’s attacks on Gaza (which she believed, because of an error made by the individual who first posted the image she used). And Badawi didn’t even explicitly state in her tweet that the girl had died last month.

Now we see what is Avi Mayer’s game. It’s part of the hasbara war, the delusional campaign by the Israeli far-right against so-called “delegitimization.” Part of the ongoing and again imagined eternal war for the survival of the Jewish people against anti-Semites everywhere who seek our extermination. Mayer is an appendage of Natan Sharansky, who sits in his highly paid sinecure at the Jewish Agency wasting tons of money lavished upon it by Jewish donors and the Israeli government (formerly more than currently as the tap has closed somewhat). In order to prove his relevance and usefulness to the current far-right government, Sharansky and his made-man, Mayer, prowl the social networks seeking out enemies who they can skewer. They found one in Ms. Badawi. But she is their sacrificial victim and I urge the UN not to offer her up on the altar of pro-Israel expediency.

A bit more on some of Mayer’s more sordid political history: when he was a University of Maryland student in 2007 and chair of the “pro-Israel” Terrapin Alliance, he hosted a nice soiree at Hillel for a senior Turkish diplomat, who proceeded to deny the Armenian genocide (“Tanc defended Turkey’s role in the killing and relocation of Armenians…”). In all fairness to Mayer, he was only doing his hasbara job, because in 2007 the Turks were on our (that is, Israel’s) side and that meant there was no genocide. After the Mavi Marmara massacre, all bets were off and suddenly Israel rediscovered the Armenian genocide. What did Mayer have to say about the diplomat’s genocide denial?

The president of Pro-Israel Terrapin Alliance, Avi Mayer, called the event “tremendously instructive.”

About as “instructive” as his Twitter smear of Khulood Badawi, I’d say.

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