If you have a moment or are bored or depressed, if you suspected there might be some truth in the criticism of Israel, or if you just feel like laughing out loud, just enter the Information and Diaspora Ministry's Web site.
There you'll find an innovation of global proportions - propaganda intended to mislead propagandists and public relations to deceive PR experts, rather than the target audience. Nicolae Ceausescu couldn't have phrased it better, and the Cairo radio station that broadcast threats in pidgin Hebrew before the Six-Day War never sounded as ludicrous. The Information Ministry presents: an insult to intelligence, contempt of reason - not only to the intelligence of "people overseas," to whom this cheap propaganda is geared, but to us, self-declared Israeli "ambassadors."
If this is the official message from Israel then we're really in trouble. If these are our arguments, then all our critics are right. Information and propaganda ministries exist, but in the third world. Welcome, Israel. Sex, lies and videotape? There's not much sex on this site, but plenty of all the rest - mixed with trivia, tastelessness and embarrassing parochialism.
How shall we begin our "information" quest? Perhaps with the list of achievements - 15 million bags of Bamba produced a month - 1,000 bags a minute of that peanut-butter-flavored children's snack. We're also a rising Krembo power - 50 million a season of that chocolate-coated marshmallow treat. The heart swells with pride. There's nothing like it in the world. A land of milk, Krembo and Bamba.
So why don't you visit us for the Krembo? Maybe you'll end up liking us for the Bamba. The actress Ayelet Zurer is doing well in Hollywood, and another Israeli is the world's cotton-growing champion. And an epilator that "makes women happy all over the world" was invented in Israel.
Let's move past "the typical Israeli warmth," "our tremendous national achievements" and our date produce (182 kilos a tree) - all intended to open our critics' and haters' minds. In propaganda as in propaganda, Goldstone is not mentioned, the occupation has disappeared. The Golan is "a land of water streams," the Palestinians are "refugees who invaded from Arab countries," the Galilee is Tuscany and the Dead Sea is a world wonder, all ours. The television broadcasts accompanying this delusional trip tell us the world thinks we ride camels (because we haven't heard of cars), eat barbecued meat (because we have no electric power) and shoot each other (because that's the way we are).
Well, there's not a bit of truth to it. How easy it is to refute the camel and barbecue lies, because who still believes this is what Israel is like? Ask any tea grower in Sri Lanka or banana farmer in Cameroon and they'll tell you that Israel is seen as a global weapons provider, a political and economic power, an occupying and oppressing state. We can only wish they thought of us as camel riders and barbecuers. We'd be so much better off. But these lies are easy to disprove, so let's go with them - otherwise we might get entangled in allegations of war crimes and human-rights violations. Confuting those is a much harder feat, almost impossible.
Actually, not quite. The Israeli propaganda ministry has "tips" for such problems as well. Its doomsday weapon: "Body language is no less important than content." Maintain eye contact, relaxed hands, smile only when you mean it, and try to keep a gentle expression. Then the white phosphorous clouds over Gaza will disperse.
Now seriously, despite this propaganda nonsense, Israeli PR is a resounding success story. The world accepts all our quirks and whims. The great Russia was forced to retreat from Georgia, but not Israel from the territories. Gilad Shalit has gained a global reputation as though there are no other prisoners of war in the world, and even the hysteria over Iran is made in Israel.
So what do we need all the Bamba and camel stories for? Let's keep doing our thing - occupying, bombing, shelling, building settlements, usurping and exploiting. At worst, we could always whip out Ayelet Zurer, Krembo and the Israeli-made epilator, for we indeed are the chosen people.
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