Editorial |

A Concert of Shame

Haaretz Editorial
Cousins Meetup, an event organized by Concert and the Strategic Affairs Ministry in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in May.
Cousins Meetup, an event organized by Concert and the Strategic Affairs Ministry in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in May.Credit: Raz Roscoe
Haaretz Editorial

At the initiative of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the cabinet decided this week to breathe new life into a failed nongovernmental organization called Concert (formerly Kela Shlomo, or Solomon’s Sling). It had operated in conjunction with the Strategic Affairs Ministry – which the current government closed, and rightly so, half a year ago.

Concert’s goal was to shape awareness in the digital and media arenas, fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and antisemitic discourse by enlisting pro-Israel activists and organizations in Israel’s public diplomacy efforts. According to the cabinet resolution, Concert will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll and receive 100 million shekels ($31 million) in state funding over the course of four years. An additional 100 million shekels will be raised from nongovernmental donors.

Lapid’s decision to spend a huge sum of money to breathe new life into this organization, which has a ridiculous name, a ridiculous purpose and ridiculous methods, and to allow a deputy cabinet minister to conduct this grating concert, is a sorry joke at the public’s expense. This decision makes it very hard to cling to the belief that this government brings us tidings of change; the only thing it does provide is an answer to the riddle of why Gilad Erdan has been kept on as Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations.

That riddle has now been solved. After all, Erdan was the person who founded Concert when he served as strategic affairs minister under then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He remains in his current post because he has no significant diplomatic or other disagreements with Lapid and the other members of this “government of change.” Erdan faithfully represents this government.

Concert is the result of Netanyahu’s sick diplomatic logic, which holds that good public relations can cover for bad policy. According to this logic, Israel can continue adhering to its diplomatic rejectionism, incite against its Arab citizens, enact discriminatory legislation that enshrines Jewish supremacy and Arab inferiority, expand the thieving settlement enterprise, abuse Palestinians, remove all restraints from the settlers and continue suffocating the Gaza Strip, because a few tweets, Facebook posts and Instagram posts will be enough to “create positive sentiment toward Israel.”

About 18 months ago, the minutes of this failed venture and the projects it funded in an effort to shape “the consciousness of the masses” were published. The projects included delegations of Evangelical Christians (“influencers”), the Reservists on Duty organization and workshops for Israeli backpackers before their trips to Thailand and South America. This cartoon was Netanyahu’s substitute for the Foreign Ministry.

This is not the stuff of which cabinet resolution are made, but rather of skits on the satirical TV program “Eretz Nehederet.” The project must be shelved immediately, even before it once again fails to raise money. The only potential it has is the potential to further damage Israel’s image.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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