New website constitutes part of the Ministry’s diplomatic effort to bring unbiased information regarding Israel to the awareness of the Iranian people.
(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
The web-launching ceremony of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ new Persian-language website took place on Monday, 9 July. Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni and MFA Director-General Aaron Abramovich both attended the ceremony.
The website constitutes part of the MFA’s diplomatic effort to reveal the true Israel to the Iranian public, who for many years has been denied any reliable information about the country, while at the same time being exposed to hateful, distorted and deceptive information by the Iranian regime.
The new website, named "Hamdami" – which in Persian means "camaraderie" – can be accessed at http://www.hamdami.com – a name easy to remember and user-friendly for Iranian surfers.
The launching ceremony marks the end of a long process that took most of a year. The project was initiated by Israel’s current ambassador to Dublin, Dr. Zion Evroni, in his previous position as head of the Ministry’s Political Planning Division.
The website will be managed by the Arab Media Department of the MFA’s Information and Media Division. Mr. Menashe Amir, formerly head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Persian language division, was appointed as chief editor of the new website.
FM Livni welcomes visitors to MFA’s Persian-language website
"The Israeli Foreign Ministry today is opening a new channel of communication with the Iranian people. We have always made a clear distinction between the peace-loving Iranian people and the regime that, by its declarations and actions, is isolating Iran and turning it into a threat to world peace.
The Jews are considered to be one of the most ancient groups among Iran’s population. The relations between the Iranian people, coming from one of the most ancient cultures in the world, and the Jewish people, who gave the world monotheism and the Book of books, began 2700 years ago, when the Jews first settled the Persian plain.
We remember Cyrus the Great, who not only freed the Jews from the Babylonian exile but allowed them to return to their homeland and provided them with material assistance for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, which is the focus of Jewish spiritualism and the symbol of the restored Jewish state.
Israeli-Iranian relations reached their peak, for the benefit of both peoples and the strengthening of regional peace, before the change of regime in Iran. In the 1960s and 1970s, Iran and Israel had friendly relations that extended to the realms of economics, science and politics, and included cooperation in medicine, agriculture, etc.
Unfortunately, the regime’s extremism, statements that include Holocaust denial, and the threats that it expresses publicly against Israel and the entire world have created a rift between us.
Israel is making a genuine, sincere effort to promote peace with the Arab states and is constantly striving to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Israel’s values are based on the desire for good neighborliness between us and all the peoples in the region.
The launching of a website by the Israeli Foreign Ministry in the Persian language indicates the importance Israel assigns to deepening the understanding between the two peoples, in anticipation of a future of peace and cooperation."
Transcript of web-launching ceremony
Amira Oron [Head of Arab Media Department]: Madam Foreign Minister, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Director General of Information and Media, we are pleased to hold the ceremony launching the Foreign Ministry’s Persian language website. Your presence here attests to the great importance that we ascribe to public diplomacy and to the effort to build a bridge and to open a channel to the Iranians.
The website will be going online today after a concerted effort over the past year by the Information and Media Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thus we continue the pioneering tradition of the Ministry, which was the first government body to set up information websites online in foreign languages: English, Arabic and now Persian. All of them contain a great deal of information on the State of Israel and Israeli society.
After the Foreign Minister addresses us, I will request that Mr. Menashe Amir, the chief editor of the website and the person who served until recently as the director of the Voice of Israel in Persian, take us on a tour of the website. Afterwards we will be happy to answer questions from the press.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni: First of all, thank you very much. From our standpoint, this is an opportunity to put our policies into practice.
Now, in 2007, in light of the fact that the world really has turned into a global village, the tool that we must use more than ever is really the Internet. There is no doubt that there is an enormous gap between Israel’s image around the world, primarily in the Arab world, and what we really are. Unfortunately, from Israel’s standpoint, that leads to two extremely problematic processes in public opinion in the Arab nations.
One is the fact that the extremist leadership takes advantage of such public opinion to unite opinion around ideas of the type expressed by Ahmadinejad – about wiping Israel off the map, denying the Holocaust and other intolerable texts – when there is no alternative information available to that public giving them the real facts.
The second problem is one I have encountered personally, even with moderate leaders in the Arab world, who today understand that the threat to the region is not coming from Israel, that we share the same interests and maybe are even exposed to the same threats. Those leaders say to us: "We have a problem with public opinion in our countries. Our people are still living with the history in which Israel is the source of the problem, in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impacts public opinion and we have trouble facing that public and enacting policies that call for more cooperation with Israel when, in actuality, the general public thinks otherwise."
In the past, we thought that progress and technology would provide the opportunity to foster a process of moderation among these communities. Today these tools are being utilized by extremist entities precisely to strengthen those extremist or religious sentiments, or extremism based on other ideology. If we are now seeing openness to the world, this openness is happening through the warped lens of television such as Al Jazeera or other television broadcasts that present the events in a distorted manner. This, of course, develops on the convenient basis of a system of distorted stereotypes.
The Internet is now being used by organizations such as Al-Qaeda to reach that public, in order to incite them. We see Shi’ite organizations that use Internet websites to promote radical ideologies and even such practical matters as how to make a bomb. So we must make a concerted effort to get into this field, to get our message across – not at the level of propaganda, in the antiquated sense of the word, but simply to try to bring the actual reality to as large a public as possible, precisely in those countries where the possibilities for us to reach out and for the public to be exposed to us are limited.
In this context, the Iranian arena and the Persian language website are critical.
We must understand that today the world is applying economic sanctions, resolutions of the UN Security Council. We are trying to expand the sanctions through other entities which are not just government related, but also economic entities. But there is also a public in Iran, not just leaders, and that public must understand that this is happening to them because of their leaders. They must understand the international view of the issues in context, that the sanctions are not intended to harm them, but rather to change policies that are unacceptable to the world, along with the intolerable desire to attain the bomb to implement those policies.
Amira Oron: Before Menashe conducts the tour, I just wanted to quote the words of the person who conceived the idea of setting up the website, our colleague Dr. Zion Evroni, who left Jerusalem several months ago to serve as ambassador in Dublin, so he could not be with us here today.
Zion says: "I think that setting up the website has a double purpose. Firstly, getting across a message to the Iranian people, telling them that the State of Israel has no quarrel with them but only with their extremist leadership. Secondly, providing a response to Iran’s intensive anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda in all the Iranian media, by which millions of Iranians are educated. I think that this website will be an important addition to public diplomacy with Iran."
Menashe Amir: I congratulate the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its great initiative in setting up the Persian language website. I would like to give, but not accept, congratulations because I think it is a very important step and I have always thought that there was a great deal to do in the field of information and communication on behalf of the State of Israel and, unfortunately, we have always lagged behind.
This site was established in order to present the real face of the State of Israel, reliably and without propaganda, just as we have done in our Persian language broadcasts on the Voice of Israel, for which we have between 2 and 6 million listeners a day. That is a very respectable number.
The home page of the Persian language website will be updated every day, sometimes two or three times a day. We will try to give the Iranian what he needs to hear about the State of Israel, what people think about Iran in Israel, and also to present positions, political declarations and research articles by Israeli professors, as well as everything that is done in Israel with an Iranian connection. Foreign Minister Livni has referred to the fact that Jews went to Iran 2,700 years ago, citing also Cyrus the Great and the close ties that existed between Israel and Iran before the advent of today’s extremist regime. That is what we are striving for – to return to that situation – and that is the basis of the project.
We will also open a section on the website for questions and answers. We hope that we will receive many e-mails from Iranians with pertinent questions and we will try to respond to them, and post selected questions and answers on the site.
With regard to the rest of the website, it covers many aspects of Israel. There is an explanation of Israeli democracy, the subject of the Holocaust is covered extensively, and not just the Holocaust itself. We have also set up a section in which we respond to 20 contentions of Holocaust deniers in Iran. There is also material on culture, literature, industry, economics, technology and medicine in the State of Israel. The history of the people of Israel is presented and there is a special section on Jerusalem and the importance of maintaining its unity, and a small section on the Israel Foreign Ministry.
Q: Minister Livni, first of all, beyond your objective that the Iranian people will be exposed to what is happening in Israel, is another objective that the people will influence the regime or perhaps, ultimately, there will even be a revolution there – brought about through the Internet, when they know what is happening here? And will you also be placing on the website negative and problematic things that are happening here in the country?
FM Livni: The intention is to open a window to Israel, a window that tells, first and foremost, about everything that is happening here. I think that Israel excels in telling things the way they really are and not just sending out sugar-coated reports.
From the standpoint of observing the Iranian public, there is no doubt that the Iranian public must understand that ultimately it is they who are paying the price – the price of the sanctions, the price of international isolation, the price imposed upon it because of its leadership, which is trying to lead Iran to a place of religious extremism, a place that denies the Holocaust, that talks in terms of the annihilation of another country, of Israel, a place that is not acceptable to anyone in the international community. This is something the public must know.
Can this work alongside the sanctions that the international community is now implementing against Iran? Certainly. It is important that the people understand that what is happening to them is not the result of international caprice. It is not because of the desire of Israel to be in conflict with the Iranian people. On the contrary, they have been placed in this position because of their leaders, who have deviated from any accepted international criteria.
Q: So do you believe that via the Internet you will be able to achieve with the Iranian people what you have not been able to achieve by other means?
FM Livni: We are talking about one type of action, and another, and another. We are talking about a cumulative effect in which every means is important.
Q: Why do you think that the Iranian people will see the contents of this website as something other than Israeli propaganda?
FM Livni: I know that there were those who have said that there is no need to open this kind of website, because it will be perceived as propaganda, and propaganda doesn’t work. But I believe that in 2007, when people, especially the young generation, are using the Internet site, this is another place to get information. I believe the approach – and this is part of how this site is going to work – is to present facts. Therefore, I hope that the young generation in Iran will use the website in order to obtain more information on Israel and that it will be interesting enough for them to do so.
The Islamic regime in Iran is conducting a poisonous propaganda campaign against Israel and the West using eight television stations, daily broadcasts in more than 50 languages that are picked up all over the world, and thousands of websites.
On July 9, the Israel Foreign Ministry launched a website for dialogue with the citizens of Iran in their own language. This is the first official Persian-language website in Israel, and it will present comprehensive information about the state and its people.
The growth rate of Internet surfing in Iran is unprecedented. Only three years ago, the number of surfers was less than a million. A year ago, there were already three million, and today, the number is estimated at 11 million surfers (out of a population of about 70 million people). It is assumed that most of the surfers in Iran are young, knowledgeable about the Internet and frequently visit a variety of sites. Considering that 60% of Iran’s citizens are under the age of 40, the new MFA website can be a valuable source of information about Israel to the Iranian population as well as an important means of connecting the two peoples.
Content of the website
The new website’s homepage will be updated daily, seven days a week, in order to provide current information on events as they occur.
The permanent sections of the site (which will also be updated regularly) will provide comprehensive information on a variety of subjects. The main topics:
Current events: News updates, political statements, cultural and sporting events, new books in Hebrew about Iran, new books in Persian about Israel, opinions and analyses, answers to questions about Israel, etc.
Israeli democracy: Description of the structure of Israel’s government and state and public institutions.
The Holocaust: A complete account, starting from a description of Jewish life before Hitler’s ascent to power, the Nazi takeover of Germany, the outbreak of World War II, life in the ghettos, the concentration camps, heroism and resistance, the righteous gentiles, and the post-war trials of Eichmann and other Nazi war criminals.
Holocaust denial: A presentation of 20 main contentions by Holocaust deniers, including those of Iranian president Ahmadinajan, with detailed rebuttals.
Israeli society: Different facets of Israeli society – urban and rural, religious and secular, women, youth and the elderly, the different ethnic groups, etc.
Culture and science: Information about Israeli scientific and technological achievements, education and culture, the media, music, the arts, architecture, etc.
Economy: Explanation of the economic structure in Israel, industry, agriculture, tourism, etc.
Israel among the nations: Israel’s foreign relations
Peace process: Includes details of milestones such as the Madrid Conference and the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.
History of the State of Israel: A review of the history of Israel from independence to the present.
History of the Jewish people: The story of the Jewish people from its inception, including a review of different historical periods, the struggle for independence, up to the establishment of the State of Israel.
Jerusalem: The history of the city of David starting more than three thousand years ago, the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, and its status as the united capital of Israel.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Short descriptions of the various departments in the Ministry and their functions. The section about MASHAV (Center for International Cooperation) is longer and more detailed, in light of the cooperative relations that existed in the past between Iran and Israel – reflected in development projects in Iran in the fields of agriculture, irrigation, housing and construction, the war against desertification, medicine, academia, education, etc.
Visitors to the site can send in comments and questions. The webmasters will respond to questions of general interest and post selected responses on the website.