They call it digital diplomacy. Israel pays students to promote the country.


New “diplomatic” strategy to fight anti-Semitism adopted by the Israeli government, which would encourage students to honor and defend their country by posting and liking on various social networks positive comments and facts about Israel. ‘Encourage’ though is not the exact verb to define this action, since scholarships and salaries are being offered for all students who sustain and participate in this campaign.

As Uri Agnon – second-year philosophy student –  pointed out in the video: “you are basically turning a human being in a human commercial […] instead of trying to make Israel a good democracy for instance giving out scholarships to people who would try to make this country a better place, it gives out scholarships for people to say it is a good place”.

This form of manipulation, or better-called “digital diplomacy”, fell into doubts when the Deputy Director General for Information at the Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy, Daniel Seaman, sallies the new social strategy even before its beginning. Mr Seaman, head of the project, has been in the spotlight for his anti-Muslim posts and insulting comments towards Palestinians. Here below  few of them:

“The Palestinians commemorated the Naqba with a 65 seconds siren in Ramallah. That’s not nearly enough time to stop and pause to think about how stupid they are.

 “Does the commencement of the fast of the Ramadan mean that Muslims will stop eating each other during the daytime?” 

Professions related to social media and social networks have become quite regular nowadays, where a company cannot afford not have a online social side to connect with all generations all over the world. It is a job for whom people get paid, but this is way far to what it is happening in Israel, and certainly it is not an excuse or explanation.

How easy is it to get students from your side when you are offering salaries and scholarships? Very much, especially to those in a bad economic situation. Induce people to do something in exchange of money is first of all unethical and as the student Uri said, why would you pay students to act as they like the country? Apparently the government doesn’t find enough support voluntarily.  The Israeli government also offered anonymity for those who would like to hide their identity while promoting the country.

Israel is not the only country that undertook this strategy. China, known for its press and speech repression, fuels the pockets of the ‘fifty cent army’ to write positive messages about the government.

Early this morning I had a class about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the guest speaker, Geor Hintzen, an expert on the matter and lecturer at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. The questions at the end of the lesson was the same one that everyone is asking for decades, what to do to end the conflict? Either one or two states solutions are far from reality if this is the attitude. Israeli students will be relieved from their financial plight…at what cost?

Laura Zuffi


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