18.11.09, Sderot, Israel: For the first time since Operation Cast Lead, senior government officials and Minister of Public Affairs and Diaspora, Yuli Edelstein, gathered together in Sderot to discuss the efficacy of Israel's current public diplomacy in a media forum organized by Sderot Media
Noam Bedein opened the conference by stating that the primary weak point during Operation Cast Lead was the lack of coordination between advocacy bodies to present the Israeli perspective with on-ground information at an official level.
International Media Advisor to the Deputy Foreign Minister, Ashley Perry, commented that advocacy bodies must think not only of tactics in the public diplomacy battle.
"Having a unified strategy in presenting Israel's case is critical. The other side has been working on delegitimizing the Jewish state of Israel for years with a well-thought out strategy especially in terms of the Internet," Perry said.
"When prominent people from all over the world believe that Sderot is a settlement somewhere and has no idea of the context of the Gaza conflict, we cannot assume that people outside of Israel know the basics," Perry added.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Deputy Spokesman, Andy David commented on the positive effect of Sderot Media Center as a grassroots organization. "SMC has the power to communicate the voices of Sderot residents in a way that the Foreign Ministry, a formal government body, cannot. Sderot Media Center's work in social networking, cultural projects and presentations to student groups are like diamonds in this advocacy field that need to be advanced further."
Government Press Office Director, Danny Seaman, agreed. Seaman stated that Sderot Media Center's Community Treatment Theater project "has been the best piece of hasbara that Israel has seen in a long time."
"Only girls who have actually grown up under rocket fire can perform a play about Qassam rockets as realistically as these high school actresses do.”
Sderot Mayor, David Buskila and and Director of the IDF Public Relations Branch, Lieutenant, Asaf Liberty also participated in the panel discussion.
Knesset Minister, Yuli Edelstein, thanked Sderot Media Center for organizing the media forum and for their advocacy work on behalf of Sderot residents. "SMC does a great job portraying the human side of Sderot and getting basic facts out to the world."
Bedein gave an overall summary of Sderot Media Center’s work during and since Operation Cast Lead.
"Our work here, as a grassroots media organization, is unique because of our close interaction with the residents here. Most of the SMC staff live in Sderot and have experienced the rocket attacks and alarms, as well as the relative ceasefires, along with the rest of the community. We are the only information source available here in the western Negev dealing directly with the rocket reality and its impact on Israeli civilians."
"During Operation Cast Lead and after, SMC has worked with hundreds of foreign journalists, political figures and college student groups, to communicate the situation of Sderot residents. When we visit the UN, Capitol Hill, the Australian Parliament and other governments and international organizations, we directly represent the people of Sderot,” said Bedein.
"The goal of this forum tonight is to find a way to utilize our work, our documentation of Sderot and Negev life under this rocket reality, in preparation for the next rocket war and media battle," Bedein concluded to the press.
“Tonight is a stepping point for public advocacy bodies to meet and find ways to cooperate towards a new dawn for Israel public diplomacy.”
Photos: Roy Borovski
Video: Tal Avitan