'Hasbara in Muslim lands urgent'

Euro-Asian Jewish Congress head tells 'Post' Israel's image must improve.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
July 21, 2007 23:00
1 minute read.
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Israel must drastically improve its hasbara efforts to counteract world opinion that's turning against it, according to Dr. Alexander Mashkevich, president of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress. In the Muslim world, the need for hasbara is more dire and urgent than in the West, Mashkevich told The Jerusalem Post in a recent interview in Jerusalem. "Simple people don't know the real situation [in Israel]. You cannot imagine how we [Jews in central Asia] feel it on our skin," he said. "More and more people believe Israel is at fault. Everyday they see how Palestinian children cry and terrible Israelis kill [Palestinian] mothers." A billionaire "oligarch" from Kazakhstan, the little-known Mashkevich presides over an umbrella Jewish organization based in central Asia whose member communities come from many Muslim-majority countries, including Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, alongside countries such as Australia, China and Myanmar. He added that "any politician who wants to get elected has to follow the opinions of simple people," so "if they don't like Israel, the politicians won't either." Furthermore, to the Asian Jewish Diaspora, Israel plays a central role in its identity. "Without Israel, nobody in the Diaspora could stand up for himself and feel good," Mashkevich believes. At the same time, it's important to advance relations with the majority of the Muslim world, in order to prove "that it's not our fault if a small part of the Muslim world doesn't want to live with us." After meeting with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in June, Mashkevich came away with some cautious hope. On the importance of hasbara, "she agreed completely." EAJC activities include occasional interfaith conferences, teacher training on tolerance throughout central Asia, and the maintenance and funding of Jewish institutions in the region.

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