Cuts threaten advocacy efforts of Israeli NY consulate
A letter sent by Consuls states: "This is not the way to build hasbara".
By MICHAL LANDO, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
New budget cuts at Israel's New York consulate will critically reduce the office's hasbara (advocacy) efforts, senior consulate employees said in a letter sent out this week.
The New York office was notified this week of additional cuts to its hasbara workforce that put the total cuts to hasbara manpower at 25 percent since the start of the year - over and above a 40% reduction to the office's overall hasbara budget.
"This is not the way to build hasbara," stated the letter, written by David Saranga, Consul for Media and Public Affairs, Sharon Regev, Consul for Hasbara, and Stella Rapp, Consul for Administration. The letter was addressed to heads of the professional and administrative departments that deal with communication, including the deputy director generals for political affairs, administration and communication and public relations.
"Every month, another substantial cut arrives at our door, while the tasks we are confronting only get bigger," the letter, published Monday in Yediot Aharonot, states.
The letter goes on to detail challenges Israel must counter, including the conflict with the Palestinians, the increasing threat from Iran, the media's blind eye to the Kassam rockets that fall on Sderot and Israel's negative image on campuses worldwide.
In an era dominated by the media, budgetary cuts will directly affect Israel's image in the international community, the letter warns. Directing the cuts at the consulate in New York, "the center of media worldwide," seems like Israel shooting itself in the foot, it said.
Foreign Ministry officials said the budget and manpower cuts to the consulate were ordered by officials concerned with administration, not hasbara.
"We understand the reality... when it comes to budgetary problems, but there should be more creative ways to deal with it [without] harming hasbara efforts," one official said.
The New York consulate is particularly worried about what these cuts will mean for outreach efforts to "new" communities such as the US's Latino population, as well as communities with which it already has established ties, such as Evangelical Christians.
"In the era in which we live, [a country's] strength - particularly in the case of Israel, is a function of its image and its support... in international public opinion," the letter stated.
"Cutting staff means less contact with the media, and it means reaching less communities," said an official in the New York office, who wished to remain anonymous.
Also of concern are the fates of recent projects using new media initiated by the New York Consulate this past year, such as its Israel blog 'Isreali' (http://isrealli.org) and a MySpace page, both of which have sought to extend hasbara efforts to a greater audience.
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