Israel Paying Students to Combat Criticism Online Rather than End Cause of Criticism: The Occupation

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The Israeli government is offering full and partial scholarships to university students who dedicate their time to posting Israeli propaganda on social media networks and online forums.
The program, funded by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office, will hire students to become social media warriors asked to target criticism of the occupation and its settlement enterprise, both of which have drawn international rebuke and boycotts.
A statement from Netanyahu’s office described the program as:

“A groundbreaking project aimed at strengthening Israeli national diplomacy and adapting it to changes in information consumption.”

Of course, one reason Israel’s national diplomacy needs to be “strengthened” by university students is because its leaders continue to embarrass and reject Israel’s strongest diplomatic allies.

Just this week, Israel embarrassed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry by announcing construction on over 1,000 new settlement homes just after Kerry had secured peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
And just to make sure the message was clear, here is how Israel’s Housing Minister framed that announcement:

“With God’s help we will continue building all the land of Israel and Jerusalem the capital. It must be made clear that this is only the beginning. This melody can’t be stopped.”

Rather than rein in such ‘Greater Israel’ tendencies which a) make the two-state solution a Sisyphean task, and b) continuously embarrass Israel’s most important allies, Netanyahu’s plan is instead to hire students who will attempt to counteract the inevitable and growing critiques against Israel’s civil and human rights abuses.
This program exists because Netanyahu, and a majority of Israeli politicians, have no real interest in ending its illegal settlement enterprise and the occupation of the Palestinian Territories. It has no interest in backing off those policies which generate the types of critiques these students will be charged with counteracting.
This much was made clear when, after the European Union announced an effective settlement boycott, Israel responded by freezing cooperation with EU-funded humanitarian aid projects and by suspending all new programs with the EU.
Europe called upon Israel to reconsider the self-destructive road down which it has chosen to travel.
Israel called university students in for interviews.

Follow David Harris-Gershon on Twitter @David_EHG