While Israel fights Hezbollah with tanks and aircraft, its supporters
are campaigning on the internet.
Israel’s Government has thrown its weight behind efforts by supporters
to counter what it believes to be negative bias and a tide of pro-Arab propaganda.
The Foreign Ministry has ordered trainee diplomats to track websites and chatrooms
so that networks of US and European groups with hundreds of thousands of Jewish
activists can place supportive messages.
In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish
Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that
alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post
contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a
host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed
up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.
Jonny Cline, of the international student group, said that Jewish students
and youth groups with their understanding of the web environment were ideally
placed to present another side to the debate.
“We’re saying to these people that if Israel is being bashed, don’t
ignore it, change it,” Mr Cline said. “A poll like CNN’s takes
just a few seconds to vote in, but if thousands take part the outcome will be
changed. What’s vital is that the international face of the conflict is
Doron Barkat, 29, in Jerusalem, spends long nights trawling the web to try
to swing the debate Israel’s way. “When I see internet polls for
or against Israel I send out a mailing list to vote for Israel,” he said.
“It can be that after 15 minutes there will be 400 votes for Israel.
“It’s very satisfying. There are also forums where Lebanese and
Israel’s Foreign Ministry must avoid direct involvement with the campaign
but is in contact with international Jewish and evangelical Christian groups,
distributing internet information packs.
Amir Gissin, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s public relations director,
said: “The internet’s become a leading tool for news, shaping the
world view of millions. Our problem is the foreign media shows Lebanese suffering,
but not Israeli. We’re bypassing that filter by distributing pictures
showing how northern Israelis suffer from Katyusha rocket attacks.”
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