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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Agenda driven?

Yehuda Berlinger thinks that Wednesday's International Jewish Blogger's Conference was a failure because it failed to accomplish Nefesh b'Nefesh's 'agenda.'
In particular, there is no common conviction that Israeli bloggers are doing hasbara, or should be doing hasbara, or even what hasbara is. Among the three or four key speakers, and the eight panelists, there was little consensus that there was common ground for hasbara. Several of them denied doing it, some were completely against it, and barely any even addressed the question.


Why? Because Nefesh B'Nefesh hosted the event. And they had a mistaken impression of what it is that bloggers do. In this, they were no more or less misunderstanding of blogging than the companies to which I applied for blogging positions.
Well my friend, you're right that Nefesh b'Nefesh has an agenda, but it's nothing so sinister as making us all into hasbara (public relations) geeks. In fact, their agenda is right out in the open. Nefesh b'Nefesh's agenda is promoting aliya. And that agenda was a spectacular success at Wednesday's conference for a very simple reason: All those people watching by webcast at home saw a group of Anglos that ranged from the totally secular to the ultra-Orthodox, from the guys in t-shirts and cut off jeans shorts to the ones in long black coats with black hats, from the ladies in - I won't go there - to those who had their elbows, knees and every strand of hair covered.

The message was real simple: No matter where you are on the political/religious spectrum there's a place for you here. There's someone in this room with whom you can identify. You can make aliya and have a social group here.

P.S. The guy with me in the picture at the top is Zeb Stubb, who runs JANGLO (thanks to Avi G.). The guy behind me on the left is really cool.

Picture courtesy of Jacob Richman.


At 4:54 PM, Blogger Yehuda Berlinger said...

Fair enough.

My Shrapnel said unequivocally that her blog is NOT hasbara, it is simply whatever she feels like writing. To which she was told that simply being, living, and writing is, in itself, hasbara.

On some level, ANYTHING that is not conflict-related is hasbara. My board game blog is hasbara, because it shows yet another Israeli who has more on his mind than politics.

If that's the lesson that NbN gained from the meeting, then that part of their agenda wasn't a total failure. But it means that the answer to "what can bloggers do for hasbara?", which was one of the two explicit topics of the conference, is "nothing more than we're already doing; go away."

At 5:19 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I consider the political stuff to be hasbara as well. I don't believe you have to ape the government's line for that purpose.

Where on the program did you see "What can bloggers do for hasbara" as a topic? If you're referring to Zafi's being there, I'm going to deal with that in yet another post... eventually... I have to get some work done today....

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Yehuda Berlinger said...

First of all, check out the video where the NbN spokesman said that there were two purposes for the conference: 1) work with bloggers to promote hasbara, and 2) provide a forum for bloggers to meet.

Second of all, the two panel discussions were a) increasing your readership, and b) building Israel using blog posts. The addition of a Foreign Ministry brand management professional on branding Israel kind of cements the latter purpose.


At 5:44 PM, Blogger Mrs. S. said...

We had a previous commitment, and so we couldn't make it (either in person or online). But your point about the wide range of participants is exactly what I found striking about all the pictures I've seen. It's incredibly rare and very moving to see such diversity in one event. As you note, everyone could find someone to identify with.

On a related note, I should take this opportunity to express my long overdue hakarat hatov to you and your wife. Back in the mid 1990's, as we were preparing and planning for aliyah - we just celebrated our ten year aliyah anniversary - your respective posts to Tachlis really inspired us. The two of you were - and are! - obviously people whom we could not only relate to but also really respect. You even took the time to respond to some of our questions directly.

As you suggest in this post, it really made us feel, "hey! we can do that too!"

So - thank you.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


Hasbara can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. When I think of hasbara, I think of it as trying to make people see Israel as being correct in its war with the Arabs. But that's certainly not the only definition. If hasbara means that we're trying to convince people that we're not 'religious fanatics' like the Saudis, I'd have to rate last night a success as well.

Mrs. S.,

I really wish I knew who you are. There were a bunch of former tachlisers there last night. When I mentioned tachlis a bunch of people cheered.


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