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J'lem plans to bring non-Jewish US leaders to Israel
By HERB KEINON
02/01/2013
Foreign Ministry unveils NIS 50m. plan to bring 3,000 young, non-Jewish US leaders to Israel to combat "industry of lies."
 
“Seeing is believing” is the philosophy behind a Foreign Ministry proposal to bring 3,000 North American non- Jewish campus influentials to Israel to show them the country and combat what ministry director-general for public diplomacy Gideon Meir called the “industry of lies” against the country.

Meir recently presented the NIS 50 million proposal to the Finance Ministry. The plan would move the government wholesale into the sphere of bringing opinion-makers and influentials to Israel, a role currently played on a smaller scale by various American Jewish organizations.

The idea, Meir said, was to bring to Israel college students who had been pinpointed as future leaders and opinion-makers, and give them a first-hand look at the country.

While the Foreign Ministry does bring over groups, mostly journalists, Meir said it was just a drop in the ocean compared to what was being proposed now.

A similar proposal is in the works to bring over European non-Jewish opinion-makers.

The plan was approved by the Foreign Ministry. Meir said the idea was for the government to partner with Jewish philanthropists who would help defray the costs.

“I’m not talking about propaganda,” he said. “I just want them to see things with their own eyes.”

He said that the groups would be given the opportunity to meet Palestinians.

“I’m not afraid of that,” Meir said. “I believe that our cause is just.”

The idea was to combat what Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky termed the 3Ds – the demonization, double standard and deligitimization of Israel – with 3Es: education, engagement and exposure, Meir said.

The plan was especially pertinent now, he added, at a time when Israel’s “stock internationally is on the decline.”

Meir said the program was an effort to move into areas beyond traditional hasbara, or public diplomacy.

“We don’t need to explain, or apologize, but become more proactive and assertive,” he said, adding that he hoped to widen the lens and give the visitors a wider context of Israel beyond what they were provided in the media.
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