The Strategic Affairs Ministry has invited bids for a senior management position in cultural affairs. The job involves managing a campaign against “cultural delegitimization,” including the development and management of projects that will promote Israel’s information initiatives, as well as developing public diplomacy based on the ministry’s strategy, with the objective of “bolstering Israel’s public image.”
The ministry was initially set up as a consolation prize for Avigdor Lieberman and Moshe Ya’alon. Since 2015, under Gilad Erdan, it has greatly augmented its activities against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Under the guidance of its former director general, former military censor Sima Vaknin-Gil, the ministry began using security-oriented language and modes of thinking, often collaborating with security services.
Accordingly, the new role in the cultural arena will include “working with the Intelligence department in the formation of a picture of the threats faced by Israel, including the responsibility for defining vital intelligence gathering in relation to the cultural arena, according to priorities set by the person responsible for this area.”
In recent years, the ministry, which had a budget of 46 million shekels ($13 million) in 2018 (with another 50 million shekels contingent on execution), has diverted much of this amount to private bodies, in a nontransparent manner which is unusual for a government office. The argument was that identifying the recipients of these funds would render them unable to function.
The new tender notes that the role includes “forming associations with extra-governmental agencies, defining their roles in each case, participation in steering committees for the formation of recommendations in each of the designated areas, while monitoring all projects in the cultural sphere, whether carried out directly or through nongovernmental agencies. This will include oversight and an evaluation of performance, while coordinating between the different projects, as needed.”
In view of criticism claiming that this ministry is operating in areas normally under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry, which is greatly underfunded, the job description states that “projects will be done in full collaboration with relevant government ministries, using critical and relevant data these ministries possess.” Foreign Ministry diplomats who spoke to Haaretz asked in amusement that expressed their frustration whether they should apply for this job in order to lay hands on the funds they needed for their own information-dissemination projects.
The requirements for the job included not a word about knowledge in cultural areas, but rather talked about the ability to analyze threats hovering over specific targets and “knowledge in the field of delegitimization.”
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The BDS movement, which promotes a political boycott of Israel, has focused in recent years on cultural events, calling on leading performers not to perform in Israel. Its supporters say it’s a matter of freedom of expression and a protest of citizens in other countries against Israel’s occupation policies. BDS opponents, led by Israel’s government, argue that a boycott is an illegitimate economic weapon. They also say the BDS movement is anti-Semitic. Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has been stressing in recent years that his office is also fighting the boycotting of Israeli settlements and their produce.