Watching yesterday’s (June 6 2010) Israeli Channel Ten TV evening news, I had the dubious pleasure of watching a Caroline Glick and her merry band of Hasbaristas celebrate. They were sitting around Glick’s kitchen table, clinking champagne glasses. At one point, the hostess banged on the table and announced “finally, some Hasbara!”
What I found remarkable was not the grotesque scene at the home of the Jerusalem Post’s Deputy Managing Editor, but rather the TV reporter’s framing of the event: A gathering of a citizens’ Hasbara commando group, just returned from a successful raid behind enemy lines.
Not everyone in the Israeli media has completely lost his grip on reality. As the newscast ended, my copy of Globes, a conservative evening business daily, was delivered. Columnist Yoav Karni, continued his series on the strategic threat Turkey is posing to Israeli national security. This installment was a desperate call for some effective public diplomacy to counter Erdogan’s ambition. He cited Glick’s clip as an example of what not to do:
The most popular news show on Canadian radio reported on the video with restrained rage, adding sarcastically that it gave Israel the opportunity “to do something it never does”: apologize.
Fortuitously, someone at the Prime Minister’s Office thought that the Jerusalem Post video was worthy of international dissemination. Later it had retract it. There is a human limit to expressions of of lack of empathy to the suffering of the other, even when the other is a Palestinian child in Gaza (in the satire, the Gazan child needs “a little cheese and rockets for breakfast.”)
This kind of thing makes people who are not pre-disposed to hating the country, who do not share Erdogan’s neo-Jihadist agenda, detest Israel.” These people need a sign of remorse from Israel.
Yes, remorse. Those who have their backs to the wall have nothing to lose now, not even their dignity.”
Karni is unfair to the Jerusalem Post. They didn’t publish the video. The neoconservative operation where Glick moonlights, Latma, did. In fact, this morning’s edition of the newspaper provides some helpful context about the kind of effective public diplomacy that Latma has produced in the recent past:
Jacobson is one of three actors employed regularly by Latma, and can be seen in previous clips portraying White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel calling himself a “Capo,” and in semi-blackface (“autumn-face”) as US President Barack Obama, in whose guise he sings of his hatred for “dirty Jews” and his hope that the Koran will rule the world and the Jews will drown in the sea, before calling for Iran to strike Israel with a hydrogen bomb [from 01:33].
The editorial section provides Israelis with a balanced selection of American commentary on the Flotilla Debacle, no doubt helping them get a realistic grasp of US public opinion on the issue: Opening with Charles Krauthammer, continuing with Elliott Abrams and ending with Anne Bayefsky.
On Friday (June 4 2010,) uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic published a post entitled Israel Derangement Syndrome III. It linked to We Con the World, a remarkable video clip produced by Latma, the right-wing satire project lead by Caroline Glick, who doubles as The Jerusalem Post’s Deputy Managing Editor.
The video is a repulsive attempt to use satire to make Israel’s case on Flotilla Debacle. I recommend suffering through its entirety to grasp just how much. This is not really surprising to anyone who has ever read Glick’s columns or makes a cursory inquiry into her background. She is, for example, the recipient of the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) Outstanding Journalism in the Mideast award, which was presented to her in a ceremony featuring the esteemed John Bolton. Memorably, Glick was also quick to report (Hebrew), while embedded with a US unit in Iraq that she had “discovered” the first stash of WMDs.
The kind of US audience Glick appeals to is illustrated by the fact that Latma is fully funded by Center for Security Policy’s Middle East Media program, headed by Frank Gaffney, and that Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) was quick to post the video on its website.
The growing importance of the Israeli nodes of American neo and theo conservative networks is not new and regulars readers of Coteret know that we have followed it closely. But the reception this clip has received in Israel was surprising.
On Friday, I began to see intelligent, mainstream, Israeli opinion-leaders posting the clip on their Facebook pages. I assumed they were doing so for the same reason I was: To illustrate just how misguided some Israeli public diplomacy efforts had become. A closer look revealed just how wrong I was. These posts were intended for non-Israelis. One caption, posted by a successful left-of-center Israeli PR operative on the Economist Facebook page, read “make sure you see this before making up your mind.” On Saturday, they began doing the same thing with a classic Glenn Beck segment on the Flotilla Debacle and were incredulous and argumentative when I pointed out that Beck was not exactly the most effective source to cite if one wanted to make Israel’s case abroad.
In a two-page spread, this morning’s edition of Yediot (June 6 2010, full translated text below, Hebrew original here and at bottom of post), billed the clip as an effective citizen’s initiative ”that defended Israel better than any of the experts.” It also made the following stupefying revelation:
Members of the Government Press Office who encountered it thought it was a state-sponsored clip and disseminated it overseas. After a Spanish journalist researched its sources, the GPO was forced to clarify that the parody was disseminated accidentally and that the contents of the clip did not reflect the official position of the State of Israel.
Writing about the Glenn Beck segment referenced above, MJ Rosenberg warned that American popular support for Israel is becoming increasingly restricted to the far-right. The way in which mainstream Israel perceived the public diplomacy value of Glick’s clip is a good illustration of this point. Indeed, with the Israeli media increasingly providing front and center venues for arch-conservatives such as Newt Gingrich (Israel Hayom) and Elliott Abrams (Maariv), one should not be surprised that the perceptual gulf between Israelis and most Americans is widening.
The editor recruited her friends, the lead actor came back specially from reserve duty and the director bought Keffiyehs
How the clip that defended Israel better than any of the experts was created
Zvi Singer and Itai Shmoscowitz, Yediot, June 6 2010 [page 8; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
In a place where the official Israeli public relations failed, a popular wave has risen up and succeeded: a satiric video clip that mocks the way in which the participants in the Gaza flotilla were cast as heroes around the world, became a hit this weekend on the internet.
Many Israelis were infuriated by the way the IDF operation was depicted around the world. Shlomo Balas, the director of the Latma website, decided to fight back in the best way he knows how: with incisive satire. “The blood was boiling in my veins,” Balas said last night as he recounted watching the reports from aboard the Marmara. “I immediately called the site editor, Caroline Glick, sand said to her: ‘we have to do something.’” And that is how the Israeli video clip that has become a global hit was born. In the space of a single day the clip titled, “under the title Israel Derangement SyndromeWe con the world,” was viewed more than a million times.The idea of taping a satiric take-off of the song “We are the world,” which was recorded in 1984 for the starving millions in Africa, was given by Tal Gilad, one of the writers on Latma. Gilad wrote the lyrics in English, and actors and singers were enlisted to take part in the clip. The group of performers was headed by Noam Yaakobson, who plays the role of Captain Stabbing.
Among the people who appear in the clip are Caroline Glick herself and the musician, Karni Eldad, who is the daughter of MK Aryeh Eldad. “We worked under very intense pressure. The writing was done on Monday morning, then we found the recording studio and we enlisted the singers, and on Thursday we recorded into the evening. I felt as if I was going to do reserve duty,” said Balas, a resident of Efrat. He said the overall cost of producing the clip came to USD 15,000, which is a pittance in comparison to the millions of shekels available to the state’s Hasbara Unit.
The clip shows the participants donning keffiyas and brandishing knives and clubs during the refrain. That gimmick almost got Aviv Kersozki, the director of Latma’s satiric newscast, into trouble. He was detained by the police on his way to the shoot after he was caught in possession of the knives and keffiyas in the Tel Aviv central bus station.
The song’s success was phenomenal. The official version of the clip, which was posted on Latma.co.il reached third place in the list of the most-viewed clips in the world on YouTube, with 672,555 views. The overall number, in that version and other unofficial versions that were posted on YouTube came to close to one million. “I received messages in support from Kurds and Armenians as well,” said Glick.
Yaakobson took part in the clip during a furlough from reserve duty on the northern border. On Thursday night, immediately after the shooting of the clip was over, he returned to the front line. “Ever since I returned to the base I’ve been flooded with text messages and phone calls,” he said. “The clip had an impact, big time. I shot it with a sense of mission. I felt as if the State of Israel were waiting for this.”
The clip also caused an embarrassing incident. Members of the Government Press Office who encountered it thought it was a state-sponsored clip and disseminated it overseas. After a Spanish journalist researched its sources, the GPO was forced to clarify that the parody was disseminated accidentally and that the contents of the clip did not reflect the official position of the State of Israel.
Meanwhile, the IDF has also been bombarding the internet on all fronts. The clips that the IDF has released about the flotilla have been much more popular than the clips that were disseminated by the supporters of the flotilla.