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Katie Hopkins, Tommy Robinson, and why Israel needs to up its media game

Israel’s media operation in this country needs urgent attention, writes Daniel Sugarman

    Mark Regev
    Mark Regev (Photo: SAMEH SHERIF/AFP/Getty Images)

    Last August, the JC Twitter account received a direct message, from a senior official at the Israeli embassy.

    “I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce Mark Regev, who arrived just over a year ago,” it read.

    “I think you’ll enjoy following the UK-Israel relationship as it unfolds in the eyes of Ambassador Regev.”

    The message was disturbing. Not because this Israeli diplomat was suddenly contacting us, but rather that he seemed to think that we needed an introduction to Mr Regev, who, as the message itself pointed out, had been in the U.K. for over a year, and whom we had covered and spoken to many times. 

    Even if the message was automated, as it probably was - to send such a message over a year after Ambassador Regev’s arrival seemed almost ludicrous, like a neighbour suddenly introducing himself after living next door to you for a year. 

    I’d like to be able to tell you that this message came as a surprise. But the truth is, it didn’t. Not in the slightest.

    What did surprise me, however, were the events of Sunday night, at the dinner of the Zionist Federation. Like a pork chop at a Friday Night Dinner, Katie Hopkins was, for reasons which defy all understanding, present at the ZF event.

    Ms Hopkin’s hate-filled oeuvre includes referring to African migrants as “cockroaches”, tweeting after the Manchester attack last May about the need for a “final solution” and writing “dear black people: if your lives matter, why do you shoot and stab each other so much?” 

    The fact that Ms Hopkins was present was infuriating but, sadly, not surprising. There are unfortunately some within the wider Zionist movement who appear to believe that any amount of loathsome behaviour is bearable, as long as a perceived support of Israel is there (see Donald Trump). 

    What was shocking, however, is that Ms Hopkins was able to be photographed with Mark Regev, the Israeli ambassador. She also tweeted about how she'd told him that she had “pencilled him in” as her fourth husband. Just above her latest tweets denying the ongoing genocide in Syria. 

    (Photo: Getty)

    Mr Regev was for many the official voice of the Israeli government to the outside world. He is a comms professional, unlike Jeremy Corbyn (who was photographed with Ms Hopkins just after she made her “final solution” tweet). The question everyone should be asking is: how on earth could someone with Ms Hopkin’s repugnant views have been able to get within 10 feet of him? How was he ever put in that position?

    The answer to this question is the same as the answer to why a message was sent to us a year after Mr Regev took office, “introducing” us to him. It is not a welcome answer.

    The bald truth is that, with the glaring exception of Mr Regev himself, the communications team of the Israeli embassy in the UK is awful - often tear-your-hair-out-in-frustration levels of awful.

    I have lost count of the number of times JC staff have found themselves blindsided by something that a moment’s thought would have led someone at the Israeli Embassy to think it worth mentioning. And, more often than not, the failure to receive a satisfactory response to the most simple of inquiries.

    And we are a paper generally,and rightly, perceived as being friendly to Israel. Is it better or worse, I wonder, for papers which are regarded as hostile?

    Other examples pile up if you care to look – such as Shai Masot, the junior flunky whose ridiculous boasts about “taking down” UK politicians hostile to Israel were caught on camera by an undercover Al Jazeera reporter. Or the diplomatic faux-pas just a few months ago when Elad Nehorai, the embassy's Director of Public Diplomacy, approvingly retweeted another far-right activist who likes Israel - Tommy Robinson.

    When called out on it, the retweet was hurriedly deleted, while the Israeli embassy attempted to claim it hadn't happened, despite screenshot evidence showing it had.

    It's so amateur it's almost comic, particularly given the number of anti-Israel activists who gibber about Israel’s nefarious control of the media. Run the media? They sometimes behave as if they couldn’t run a bath.

    None of this gives me pleasure to write. I care deeply about Israel, its safety and its future. I regularly defend Israel, both in print and online. But far from exerting mysterious sway via an army of paid Hasbarah propagandists, Israel’s media operation in this country needs urgent attention. Because communication is one of the most important battlegrounds of the twenty first century – and, sad to say, the Israeli embassy here is currently fielding a Dad’s Army corps. 

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