'Left-winger' sets up copycat hasbara site

Site shows videos of Border Patrol officers shooting rubber bullets at demonstrators in Bil'in.

By HAVIV RETTIG GUR
March 2, 2010 04:53
2 minute read.
The copycat Masbirim Web site.

fake hasbara web site 311. (photo credit: Screenshot)

A self-described “left-winger” from Rishon Lezion has set up a copycat Web site, mirroring the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and the Diaspora’s Masbirim site, using the format and logo of the original but with videos and links that are critical of Israel and Israeli policies.

The original site, masbirim.gov.il, is an effort by the ministry to encourage Israelis traveling abroad to talk about their personal experiences in order to combat misleading perceptions of Israel around the world.

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The copycat site looks identical, but shows videos of Border Patrol officers shooting rubber bullets at demonstrators in Bil’in.

Its headline changes the name of the ministry from the Ministry of Public Diplomacy and the Diaspora to “the Ministry of Truth,” while buttons ostensibly linking to Israeli technological achievements and history in fact take viewers to BBC coverage of Israel, a Web site called “Armagedon” (sic) that opposes Israeli nuclear research and alleged military nuclear capabilities, and to the Web site of the Israeli rights group B’tselem.

The site was registered on February 18, 2010, by 32-year-old Rishon Lezion computer programmer Ofri Mann.

“The point is not to pretend to be the hasbara [public diplomacy] Web site,” Mann told The Jerusalem Post by phone on Monday. “It’s to show that the [original] hasbara Web site is not necessarily telling the whole truth. There are other perspectives that they prefer not to explain.”

His site is only in its initial stages, he says. He hopes to fill it with original content from writers and friends.

Mann insists his initiative is not opposed to “the good things the [government] site tells about Israel,” and remarks, “I believe the Jews deserve a state, and I support the Law of Return. But at the same time, if we continue with these wars, nothing will come of it.”

The government Web site lacks the other side of the story, Mann believes.

“The history of this region includes two peoples, not one. If you write history, you should try to give a full history,” he insists.

Following a Post query, Public Diplomacy minister Yuli Edelstein’s office said the minister had asked the ministry’s legal advisers “to check who stands behind this identity theft and the prohibited use of the design and the state’s symbols.”

According to an official, the ministry was looking into legal options to take down the site for violation of copyright laws. The ministry said it would not comment further until it had obtained legal advice.

Mann said he agreed that his site misused the state logo, and that he would correct it.


Reached for information, an employee of the site’s internet hosting company, Interspace Ltd., in Netanya, acknowledged she knew of “something to do with it being an improper site.”

“It looks like we might take down the site,” she said.


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