PM lauds Israel's rights record in YouTube video

Netanyahu video on Human Rights Day is small sign of new ‘hasbara’ policy.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311  (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu 311
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
As part of a new preemptive hasbara (public diplomacy) policy, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu uploaded a YouTube video Thursday lauding Israel’s human rights record two days before International Human Rights Day. Israel’s detractors generally use this day as a peg to lambaste the country.
“International Human Rights Day is a day the State of Israel stands proud,” Netanyahu said. “Proud of its record as a vibrant pluralistic democracy. A democracy that has maintained its values despite security challenges faced by no other nation on earth.”
Appearing just a couple of days after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as having said in a private conversation that some IDF soldiers’ refusal to listen to female singers reminded her of Iran, Netanyahu underlined the differences.
“We are proud that in the Middle East where women are stoned, gays are hanged and minorities are persecuted, Israel has a woman who is a chief justice, we have gay pride parades and one million Arab citizens who are free,” he said.
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Government sources said that the video had nothing to do with Clinton’s criticism, and was planned weeks ago.
Indeed, the video is part of a more aggressive hasbara policy that is being ushered in by Yoaz Hendel, Netanyahu’s new director of communications and public diplomacy, who took over the job some four months ago. He is also the head of what is called the National Information Directorate, set up as a result of the recommendations made after the Second Lebanon War to better coordinate between the various government and nongovernmental agencies involved in public diplomacy.
According to Hendel, this body – which since his arrival has added a number of new positions – is dealing with hasbara on three levels.
The first is to come up with a unified Israeli response to events as they occur, such as crafting Israel’s reaction in September to the Quartet’s release of a new framework to return to negotiations with the Palestinians.
The second level has to do with drawing up the country’s hasbara strategy for events that are known beforehand, such as Saturday’s International Human Rights Day, or a flotilla setting sail from Turkey, or a report on Iran coming out of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
And the third level has to do with planning for unknowns, or having contingency plans for how to deal with a wide variety of possible scenarios, so that when one of these scenarios takes place – such as a military action in Gaza or elsewhere – the hasbara strategy will have already been thought out, and will not be improvised on the run.