Israel dispatches diverse delegation to counter Apartheid Week

Eighty Israelis, including actor Aki Avni, national security experts, new immigrants, Arab Israelis and settlers set to depart for 20 countries this week to speak with students and journalists, and present the Israeli point of view

Israel has launched a public diplomacy counterattack in response to Israel Apartheid Week, held by Palestinian sympathizers on university campuses throughout the world, 80 Israelis, including actor Aki Avni, national security experts, new immigrants, Arab Israelis and settlers will depart for 20 countries on three continents this week to engage in dialogue with students and journalists and present the Israeli point of view.

The delegation was the brainchild of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein (Likud). The idea is that regular Israelis, not professionals, will present Israel’s viewpoint, acting as a counter force to informal Palestinian activists at the world’s largest universities. Those activists seek to persuade students that Israel is engaged in apartheid policies in the territories, an idea the delegation hopes to stymie.

“The government spokesperson in a suit does not work in such places. We have identified the kinds of people who are effective — people on the ground who can meet with students,” said Gal Ilan, a spokesman for the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

These informal spokespeople will visit North America, Europe and Africa. Despite the constant support for Israel from the U.S., Israel is not forgoing that country either, because Palestinians are making great efforts, massively financed by the Arab League, to change public opinion there in their favor. In the U.S., Palestinians focus their work on campuses, investing in the next generation of political leaders and military commanders.

Israel has even recruited a celebrity advocate — actor Aki Avni, who appeared in “Free Zone” with Natalie Portman and on the U.S. television drama “24” — who is being sent to Dublin. Like all the other participants, Avni is working on a volunteer basis.

“We made it clear to the volunteers from the start that ‘You can say whatever you want,’” said Shai Atias, head of public diplomacy in the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry. “It was clear to me that we had to allow everyone to speak their minds freely, otherwise there would be no point. It is not our place to tell people what to say, but how to say it.”

Among the public diplomacy tools in the volunteers’ toolkit is a film in which soldiers at a checkpoint allow an ambulance to pass through, and the ambulance explodes shortly afterward.

Click here for article on Israel Today

Published: February 19, 2012
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