The Israeli embassy and Zionist groups in Britain are coordinating a “social media” campaign to counter calls to boycott performances by the Tel Aviv-based drama group Habima in London’s Globe theater.
On Friday afternoon, the Liverpool Jewish Community sent out an email with the heading “An Important Message from the Israeli Embassy”. The email contained step by step instructions for a planned Twitter campaign this coming Tuesday, designed to trend the hashtag #LoveCulture.
The email begins (my emphasis):
As part of the campaign around Habima’s performance at the Globe this coming week, we are aiming to get something relevant trending on Twitter. After careful consideration, we have decided to use the hashtag #LoveCulture as it is short enough to fit on a substantial tweet and won’t be taken at first glance as a political statement.
we will start tweeting with #LoveCulture at 08:00 UK Time (which is GMT +1) on Tuesday 29 May
The message from the Israeli embassy also includes specific suggestions about what to tweet:
Examples of tweets that you can use (please try and edit them) are:
· Great to see @HabimaTheatre celebrating the Cultural Olympiad @the_globe…all the world’s a stage #LoveCulture
· Fantastic seeing the foremost Hebrew speaking theater company perform the Merchant of Venice @the_globe #LoveCulture
· Was great to hear @edvaizey enjoyed watching @HabimaTheatre…did he understand any of it though? #LoveCulture
· Jealous of all those off to see sold out @HabimaTheatre at @the_globe tonight…last night was great #LoveCulture
The message concludes by saying that any questions should be directed to two email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
The former is clearly associated with the Israeli embassy in London, while the latter is the address for Elliot Jebreel, public affairs officer for the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) whose role includes implementing “the JLC’s social media strategy.”
It seems some were too excited to wait until the appointed hour, since on Friday morning, the #LoveCulture hashtag had already been used in relation to Habima, which has previously performed in illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank. One use of the hashtag was by the Labour Friends of Israel account, another by Jeremy Newmark – CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council – and also by an account with no followers and only two tweets.
Just this last week, leaders from pro-Israel groups in Britain were presenting evidence to a subcommittee in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) on “Zionism in Britain”, chaired by Knesset member Einat Wilf. Amusingly, the meeting was originally going to be called “UK: World Leader in Anti-Israel Rhetoric,” but “after concerns from the British attendees…Wilf agreed to tone it down.”
The Israeli embassy’s effort to counter the boycott call comes as The Globe’s management prepares for the performances by issuing extraordinary “conditions of entry” restrictions to ticket-holders, including:
the right to refuse admission to anyone we have reason to believe may cause a disruption to the performance.
This raises the question of how exactly the Globe is going about identifying potential “disruptors.” An article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz mentioned that the “list of regulations” followed “discussions with London’s Metropolitan Police.” A piece in the Times of Israel noted that “the Globe says that it is taking ‘all necessary precautions’ to make sure that the performances can proceed smoothly”, but “will not disclose any details.”
The call to boycott Habima has already been a significant embarrassment for Israel advocates in Britain, with the public debate often focused on how best to respond to Israeli human rights abuses (rather than on whether those abuses are fact or not).
Even before the Israeli foreign ministry-funded performances, it all adds up to be a failure for Israel’s brand of propaganda or hasbara, as it’s known in Hebrew. Habima’s general manager might see the Globe’s invitation as an “honorable accomplishment for the State of Israel in general” but it looks more like a hasbara farce.