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Jerusalem Tech Community Gathers to Develop Tools to Boost Israel’s Public Diplomacy Amid Gaza War

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen speaks during a press conference with Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis at the Foreign Ministry in Athens, Greece, July 6, 2023. REUTERS/Louiza Vradi

Leaders of industry, government, and academia in Israel’s capital gathered at the headquarters of Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP), a top venture capital fund headed by Erel Margalit, for a “hackathon” to develop tools to assist Israel in its public diplomacy efforts amid the Jewish state’s war with the Hamas terror group.

The event, in partnership with Israel’s Foreign Ministry, was developed to bring together the top technical talent in the capital city’s hi-tech scene for a three-day event to “help amplify Israel’s voice in the digital domain.”

Dubbed “HasbaraTech” — taking on the Hebrew word hasbara, the term used to denote efforts to explain Israel’s place in the world — the event combined top corporate and public partners to make it happen. Partners included private tech firms, top academic centers, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and Israeli government agencies at both the local and federal level.

At the event, a member of the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit came to address the importance of their work.

Participants have been working on solutions such as a GIF generator to produce pro-Israel content, as well as a tool to share pro-Israel content on social media with just two clicks.

Lital Vilensky, head of innovation and marketing at the Hadassah Academic College’s Blender Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, explained the reasoning behind the event.

“How do we harness the ‘Startup Nation’ and all the brilliant minds here to amplify our voice in the world and compensate for our numerical gap?” she said. “The solution we found for this — a technology hackathon — for 48 hours, the best minds from Israeli hi-tech met together with the factors that lead Israeli hasbara to develop technological solutions for them that will increase Israel’s voice in the world.”

According to Jonathan Sagir, one of the event organizers, the hackathon aims to combat the “challenges identified as the main weak points of Israeli hasbara, including: fake news, developments to optimize the delivery of messages on social networks, and the development of tools to monitor and measure anti-Israeli biases in traditional media.”

The hackathon ends on Sunday afternoon, when the participants will present their built-out solutions to representatives of the Foreign Ministry at their headquarters in Jerusalem. Representatives from other ministries will be present as well. The goal is for some of the proposals to be picked up — through either direct funding or adaption of the tool — by any of the relevant ministries to help their hasbara efforts.

The event comes as Israel continues to face international pressure to curtail its military campaign in Gaza against Hamas, which launched the current war with its Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israeli communities. Pro-Israel advocates have argued that the Jewish state’s public relations strategy will be in many ways as important to the war effort as its military strategy.

The post Jerusalem Tech Community Gathers to Develop Tools to Boost Israel’s Public Diplomacy Amid Gaza War first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Top IDF Brass Blindsided by UNRWA Fallout

View of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash90.

i24 NewsSenior Israel Defense Forces (IDF) command was caught off guard by the speed with which the allegations implicating UNRWA staffers in the October 7 atrocities became public knowledge, according to a New York Times report published Saturday.

When, on January 18, UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini sat down with senior Israeli diplomat Amir Weissbrod in Tel Aviv for a routine meeting, the UN official was supplied with intelligence about the agency employees’ involvement in the massacre.

While the intelligence was provided by the IDF, the military establishment didn’t expect the explosive information to leak into the public domain. It emerged that Lazzarini relayed the allegations to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and began firing employees, eventually reporting the developments to U.S. officials.

Unnamed IDF officials cited in the NYT report were concerned that the allegations had been disseminated without Israel having devised a proper strategy for the fallout.

European countries, from the UK to Germany, as well as the United States, Canada and Australia all froze funding to UNRWA amid reviews in the aid agency and its employees.

While some have pushed for a complete shutdown of the agency, including U.S. lawmakers and Israeli ministers, others — including unnamed senior IDF officials — have said that it was inadvisable to do so during the war when UNRWA was providing needed humanitarian aid.

The post Top IDF Brass Blindsided by UNRWA Fallout first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists

Families of hostages and supporters protest to call for the release of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

i24 NewsHamas on Sunday said it rejected the proposed hostage deal formulated in Paris, demanding that Israel release more Palestinian terrorists locked up in Israeli jails, according to a Saudi outlet.

There are 136 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists, abducted during the October 7 incursion and massacre.

The statement comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated Israel had “red lines” which could not be crossed.

Thus, the leader said, Israel will not end the war until all its goals are met, namely “the eradication of Hamas, the rescue of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will never again pose a threat to Israel.”

“We will not agree to every deal, and not at any price,” he said, adding reports in the local media whereby Israel agreed to freeing large numbers of terrorists were not true.

The post Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Dennis Ross Is Blaming Israel Again

Former Clinton adviser and US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgFormer U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross just can’t stop blaming Israel.

Speaking via Zoom for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy on Jan. 31, Ross offered some expected, perfunctory criticism of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah. But again and again, he managed to bring in one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel.

Referring to Israel’s counter-terrorism actions in Judea and Samaria, Ross said: “West Bank violence [by Arabs] is not disconnected from Israel’s policies in the West Bank.”

That’s just absurd. The terrorists are not responding to Israeli policies. They were murdering Jews long before there were any settlements or so-called occupied territories. They oppose Israel’s existence, not its borders. It’s these terrorists who are the aggressors, and Israelis must respond to them.

Regarding Gaza, Ross said: “The Israelis haven’t done everything they could to spare civilians in Gaza.” Is he kidding? The Israelis have refrained from striking terrorist targets where there are civilians. They have personally warned civilians to evacuate, again and again, through leaflets and phone calls and public announcements. They have risked the lives of their own soldiers by going house to house, instead of just bombing from the air. What else can they possibly do?

Ross also commented on the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice—the ruling that failed to condemn Hamas and demanded that Israel give more aid to Palestinians in Gaza. He said the ruling was “not irresponsible” and that it was provoked by “extreme statements by Israeli politicians.” That’s simply nonsense. The statement that the court cited most prominently was made by Israel’s left-leaning president, Isaac Herzog, who said that many ordinary Gazans supported the Hamas massacre, which was a perfectly reasonable statement of fact.

The practice of saying a few perfunctory crucial words about terrorists and then “balancing” it with criticism of Israel is typical of the grotesque “even-handedness” that Ross and his colleagues pushed during his many years at the U.S. State Department.

That approach was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. There can be no “balance” between good and evil. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not on the same moral level. Israel is America’s loyal, reliable, democratic ally. The P.A. is a terror-sponsoring, hate-mongering dictatorship.

In recent months, Ross has been saying that Israel should allow the Hamas leadership to leave Gaza in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages. He points to Israel’s decision in 1982, under U.S. pressure, to allow PLO chief Yasser Arafat and thousands of PLO terrorists to leave besieged Beirut.

But Ross never mentions what happened after Arafat left. He didn’t retire. He set up PLO terrorist headquarters in Tunisia, and then 20 additional years of terrorism followed—suicide bombings, intifadas, mass shootings, stabbings. Ross’s new plan would have the same result.

This is the same Dennis Ross who has acknowledged—on the op-ed page of The Washington Post in 2014—that he pressured Israel to allow Hamas to import concrete. Ross wrote that the Israelis opposed his demand because they feared that Hamas would use the cement to build terror tunnels. Ross insisted the concrete would be used to build houses, and because of his pressure, the Israelis gave in. We all know the result.

In his Zoom talk this week, Ross had the chutzpah to mention that Hamas used imported cement to build tunnels instead of homes, though never mentioned that he was the one who helped them to get that cement into Gaza in the first place.

Ross is frequently quoted in The New York Times and invited to appear on television shows and webinars. He’s treated as if his past involvement in Mideast diplomacy makes him an expert on how to make peace today. Yet every one of those diplomatic efforts failed. He has never facilitated real peace because he continues to pretend that both sides are to blame for the absence of peace.

The Jewish world is full of talented speakers, thinkers and writers. Surely, our institutions should be able to find more thoughtful lecturers than those same tired, old critics of Israel with their familiar and disastrous proposals.

The post Dennis Ross Is Blaming Israel Again first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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