The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs enlarged its budget for the “Brand Israel” campaign last year to an unprecedented 100 million Shekels (over $26,260,000). In an article entitled “Will we conquer the world?”, translated by PULSE media, Globes found out that the Ministry’s PR activity would focus on the internet, especially on social networks.
Is.Real 2011 has its own website and Facebook page, and purports to show the “real and authentic Israel”. It is a “project initiated by a select group of students from Tel Aviv University who participate in the StandWithUs Fellowship”. The Fellowship program “works on behalf of StandWithUs in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Student Union.” StandWithUs then have the gall to add that they are a-political and non-partisan. The StandWithUs organisation most recently released its ‘Flotilla Facts’ about the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza that include typical hasbara such as, “The flotilla organizers intend to aid and support Hamas” and this nugget, “International statistics indicate that Gazans have a higher standard of living than people in nearly all of Africa, including South Africa”.
One of the participants of Is.Real 2011 is a Christian Arab Israeli (Palestinian citizen of Israel), Ayman, who was “born and raised in the village of Yassif”, is into fashion, and is unashamedly camp. Also crucially, there is a gorgeous blonde: Savannah is an Australian singer-songwriter who made Aliya to Israel, while Yair grew up in a religious family in the illegal West Bank settlement of Beit Horon. Meanwhile, Shay, “the most prominent and successful female basketball player in Israel” is the perfect cultural ambassador for Israel. Indeed, they are all just that, as conveyed by the not-very-funny Professor Puppet (below). This is how you sell apartheid Israel to an increasingly critical foreign traveller and international viewer, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows it. That is why the docu-reality series appears to be either in, or subtitled in English.