Total Pageviews

Monday, December 17, 2012

Israeli Embassy Deletes \'Christmas Thought\' Attacking Palestinians From Facebook

Last Update, 3:10 p.m. A “Christmas thought,” suggesting that if Jesus lived in the modern world he would “probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians,” was deleted from the official Facebook page of Israel's embassy in Ireland on Monday, just a few hours after it was posted.

The Lede captured a screenshot of the update, and of a second message giving credit for the thought to a Facebook friend of the embassy, before both posts were deleted from the page and replaced with an apology “to anyone who may have been offended.” Later on Monday, after reporters began scrutinizing its contents, the entire Facebook account disappeared from the social network.

A screenshot of an update added to the official Facebook page of Israel's embassy in Ireland on Monday. The message was later removed. A screenshot of an update added to the official Facebook page of Israel's embassy in Ireland on Monday. The message was later removed.

A screenshot of a message added to and later removed from the Facebook page of Israel's embassy in Ireland. A screenshot of a message added to and later removed from the Facebook page of Israel's embassy in Ireland.

Derek O'Flynn, a press officer for the embassy in Dublin, told The Lede that he did not know who ha d posted the messages. “People who post on the embassy Facebook page include embassy staff and also people based in Israel itself,” Mr. O'Flynn wrote in an e-mail. “We don't know who actually made the original post. All I know is that when it was brought to our attention, we here in the embassy deleted it immediately and posted the new message in its place.”

Mr. O'Flynn would not say if the officials in Israel with access to the Facebook account of the embassy in Dublin are from the ministry of foreign affairs or another government agency that handles social media information campaigns.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry told Barak Ravid, a diplomatic correspondent for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, “Removing the post is of course the right thing to do, and as fa r as we are concerned that is the end of the story.”

According to Mr. Ravid, the Facebook message was just the latest in a series of “embarrassing provocations by Israel's envoys at the mission, who try to think creatively when it comes to public relations (hasbara).” The journalist added that the Dublin embassy's “provocative” approach to diplomacy was set by Ambassador Boaz Modai and his wife, Nurit Tinari Modai, “who serves as deputy head of mission.”

In June, The Irish Times reported that Ms. Tinari Modai had proposed starting a campaign against pro-Palestinian Israeli activists in Ireland in a letter to the Israeli foreign ministry, obtained by Israel's Channel 10. In the letter, the ambassador's wife, who is a cultural attaché in Dublin, suggested that photographs of the activists should be published to “cause embarrassment for their friends in Israel and t heir family.” She added, “The activity of those activists against the state is, in my evaluation, not necessarily ideological (!) but grounded in psychological reasons, (generally of disappointment with the parents, sexual identity problems) or the need to obtain a residency visa in one of the countries in Europe.”

A look at the rest of the Dublin embassy's Facebook page reveals that messages aggressively attacking Israel's perceived enemies are a common feature of the feed.

As Mary Fitzgerald, a Middle East correspondent for The Irish Times, noted, one update on the page called Ireland's government “naive” for supporting Palestine's upgraded status at the United Nations.

Another update, posted on Friday afternoon, drew attention to an Israeli group's YouTube critique of what the embassy page called “the Irish biased one-sided media,” which, it said, worked “in favor of the Palestinian Industry of Lies and against Israel.” The accompanying video, produced by the conservative Israeli satirists Latma, is a mock news report featuring an Israeli actor in a red wig and tweed cap, playing the part of an Irish journalist who admits to fabricating footage for news reports to favor the Palestinians.

A mock news report produced the conservative Israeli satirists Latma in 2010 showed an actor playing an Irish journalist who openly admits a pro-Palestinian bias.

A number of Irish journalists have reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent years for prominent British news organizations, including the BBC.

Sympathy for the Palestinian cause is common in Ireland, a country where partition along ethnic lines as Britain retreated from empire in the last century contributed to decades of sectarian violence. The long struggle in Northern Ireland also sharpened divisions over Israel. Before the Irish Republican Army renounced violence, the nationalist militants made common cause with Palestinian armed factions. The Ulster Unionists, for their part, have generally supported Israel, seeing the Jewish state as an example of a similarly embattled ethnic minority asserting itself in the face of hostility from it s neighbors.

As The Lede reported in 2010, while Irish nationalists took part in the Gaza flotilla challenging the naval blockade of the Palestinian territory, Israel appointed a former leader of the Ulster Unionists to its own panel of inquiry on the deadly raid on those ships.

Before it was withdrawn, Palestinian activists responded to the Israeli Embassy's “Christmas thought,” by noting that Christmas is freely celebrated in Bethlehem. Yousef Munayyer, the director of The Palestine Center in Washington, posted an update on Twitter contrasting the embassy's Facebook message with video of celebrations in Bethlehem on Saturday, following the lighting of the Christmas tree in Manger Square.

Video of the celebrations in Bethlehem on Saturday, as a Christmas tree was lit in Manger Square.