Israeli diplomats dominated media during Gaza riots, Foreign Ministry says

Rejecting criticism of public diplomacy effort, Israel says its envoys around the globe raked up a total of 161 media appearances

Raphael Ahren is a former diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A girl raises a Palestinian flag as another Palestinian boy holds a wooden key symbolizing the return, as they stand with others before the barbed-wire marking the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 13, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
A girl raises a Palestinian flag as another Palestinian boy holds a wooden key symbolizing the return, as they stand with others before the barbed-wire marking the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 13, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Israeli diplomats held intensive contacts with foreign media across the globe to explain Jerusalem’s policies regarding the violent riots at the Gaza border earlier this month, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Responding to claims that Israel has no “hasbara,” or public diplomacy, the ministry published data showing that the country’s senior diplomats gave interviews or wrote op-eds for at least international 161 news outlets.

This number is incomplete as not all embassies and consulates reported about their media outreach back the headquarters, the ministry said. The number also does not include background briefings to journalists.

“To all those who argue, without basic knowledge, that Israeli hasbara didn’t function properly in recent days: over 160 interviews of our representatives in important capitals [leading to the] exposure of Israel content in social networks to millions across the world,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon tweeted.

“We at the Foreign Ministry work hard at all times all over the world.”

In Europe, 17 out of 35 diplomatic missions reported back to Jerusalem headquarters about their hasbara efforts, saying Israeli envoys gave a total of 69 interviews.

Israeli diplomats in Paris, for instance, had a total of 22 media appearances, including eight interviews with Ambassador Aliza Bin Noun, six interviews by her deputy, Marc Attali, and another eight by the embassy’s spokesperson, Shimon Mercer Wood.

In London, Israeli diplomats gave 17 interviews; in Madrid five; and in Berlin, Rome, Bern, Riga and Vilnius three.

Curiously, Israeli diplomats in Latin America, who had 53 media appearances, appeared to have been busier than their colleagues in North America, who only raked up 31, according to the figures the Foreign Ministry provided. (Israel has 14 diplomatic missions in Latin America and 13 in North America.)

There were only two media appearances in African media, by the ambassadors to Kenya and Ethiopia.

Israel’s hasbara has long been criticized by Israelis and friends of the Jewish state, who argue that Jerusalem is failing in the information war against Hamas and other terror groups and losing global sympathies despite its just actions.

“There’s a war being waged, and we’re not even on the battlefield,” Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy Michael Oren told The Times of Israel in a recent interview. Indeed, he posited, Israelis underestimate the importance of public opinion for the army’s ability to continue defending the country.

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