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Israel hires army of bloggers to fight image war

More than one million Israelis recruited to monitor blogs

As Israel withdraws its ground troops from Gaza it has deployed “an army of bloggers” fluent in several languages, recruiting an all-volunteer force to combat anti-Zionism in cyberspace and escalating its battle to control Israel’s image abroad. Israeli press reported Monday.

More than one million Israelis who speak a second language have been recruited to monitor blogs in English, French, German, and Spanish and more are to be recruited for Portuguese and Russian blogs, Erez Halfon, director general of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, told the Israeli daily Haaretz Monday.

The ministry media department directs volunteers to websites that are considered "problematic" in hopes of focusing attention on the positive aspects of Israeli life and the way Israelis suffer because of being under a constant threat of terrorism, the Jerusalem Post reported Monday.

Within 30 minutes of announcing the hasbara, or public diplomacy, program five volunteers had applied, said Halfon.

The first volunteer was 31-year-old Sandrine Pitousi from Kfar Maimon, a town five kilometers (3 miles) from Gaza, who said she decided to join the program right after she heard about it on the radio.

"I decided to join because I'm living in the middle of the conflict," she told the paper.

Criticism of Zionism

The massive civilian casualties during the Gaza war coupled with an ongoing humanitarian crisis and international condemnation of Israel’s human rights violations has created a public diplomacy nightmare for the Jewish state.

The ministry launched the initiative to encourage people respond to criticism directed against Israel and Zionism, according to the reports, and provide a pro-Israel perspective.

"In recent years, the Absorption Ministry has invested many resources in developing work in cyberspace out of an understanding that the Internet is a key to the future," Absorption Minister Eli Aflalo was quoted as saying.

The ministry decided to "answer the challenge and attempt to form a pool of Israeli commentators in languages that can bolster Israel's public relations in the virtual world and answer all the Israel-bashers who spread the seeds of hate."

Erez Halfon stressed the importance of new immigrants' role in combating attempts to tarnish Israel’s image.

"New immigrants have all been a strong Zionist nucleus which has contributed to the state's endurance," she told the Jerusalem Post. "I call on new immigrants to join the Israeli hasbara ranks and thus contribute to improving the country's image throughout the world."


(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid.)

New immigrants have all been a strong Zionist nucleus which has contributed to the state's endurance...I call on new immigrants to join the Israeli hasbara ranks and thus contribute to improving the country's image throughout the world

Israeli minister