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August 8, 2007

Israeli Consul General Danoch praises new Hamdami website for outreaching to Iranians in Iran

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/israeli_consul_general_danoch_praises_new_hamdami_website_for_outreaching_t/

On July 9th Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially launched its first Persian language website called “Hamdami” (http://hamdami.com). The site not only provides regular updated news about Israel for Persian language readers around the world, but gives Iranians living in Iran unique information about their own government that they normally would not be able to attain through their government controlled media outlets in Iran.

Hamdami, which is Persian for “camaraderie”, is the latest effort by Israel’s government to outreach to average Iranians in hopes of winning their hearts and mind in a time when their leadership has repeatedly called for “Israel to be wiped off the map”. Nearly three quarters of Iran’s population is under the age of 30 and this Persian language site seems to be geared toward opening the eyes of this key group.

Several weeks ago I had a chance to chat with Israeli Consul General Ehud Danoch about the Hamdami website and get some of his insights about the motivation behind launching the site. The following is a portion of my interview with him:

How important was it for Israel to launch this Persian language site at this point in time when Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction?

This is the first time you’re seeing Israel’s Foreign Ministry is opening a direct channel to the Iranian people. We have always distinguished completely between the people of Iran—who we believe are striving for peace—and the Iranian regime which is very radical. If you think about it, there has been relationship between the Iranian people and the Israeli people for many years that started over 2,700 years ago when Jews were in Iran. This is where one of the ancient populations of earth began, not to mention Cyrus the Great who allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their holy temple.

What is the main objective of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in launching this Persian language site?

The main objective is to open a window for the public in Iran to learn about Israel. It’s for them to receive information about the state of Israel, the society in Israel, the Jewish people, who we are, what Israel is all about, that we are a nation of peace—and we are a nation that strives for peace. This is information that through out the years was prevented from reaching the public in Iran. As you know they (Iranian regime) control completely the information the people receive and unfortunately the information they provide the public is hatred toward Israel and incitement against the State of Israel. We want to make sure that they will have another venue to understand and learn about Israel without any interference.

Obviously this site will have news and information about Israel, but can you share some of the specific issues the site will cover?

It is important to mention that visitors to the site will see discussions of issues of the day about political declarations, cultural issues, the arts, sports, the peace process, Israel’s agriculture, economic issues, the importance of Jerusalem to the Jewish people, new books in Hebrew about Iran and new books in Farsi about Israel. Also political pundits will be replying to viewer’s questions from Iran and receive answers about Israel’s democracy and about the democratic institutions in Israel. They will also find information about the Holocaust, stories from the Holocaust, chapters of history about the lives of Jewish people before the rise of the Nazis, life in the ghettos and concentration camps, resistance and courage of the Jewish people during the Holocaust, Eichmann trial. There will be another section about Holocaust deniers where you will see 20 main claims from Holocaust deniers including the denier of the Holocaust Ahmadinejad and a lot answers about issues that he brings up. There will be a Q&A for people from Iran to ask questions from the government of Israel through this internet site and will answer us from directly. The site will also have information about the ministry of Foreign Affairs—about work that we do in Africa, Latin America and humanitarian issues that Israel is involved in internationally. So image all those issues being in Farsi for them to understand. We believe that it’s a tremendous step in Israel’s public diplomacy when it comes to the issue of Iran.

How effective do you think the Hamdami site will be as the Iranian government in the past has been able to block out sites that they deem unfavorable?

I don’t know exactly what the regime in Iran will do to prevent their people to see this site. But I can tell that you there was a huge press conference when the site was launched and there was a lot of media there. The Persian media did not give out the internet site’s address but many people in Iran understood that there was a new internet site to see. Now it is unprecedented the number of people in Iran that are using the internet. Three years ago the number was about a million and today you have 11 million Iranians out of a 70 million in their population who are receiving information through the internet. The assumption is that a vast majority of young people that know how to operate the internet will visit this site. What do they know about their regime’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah? Do they know a large part of the Iranian government’s budget goes in support to terrorist activities? So it’s very important that they will be able to have another venue not only to learn about Israel, but also see how their own regime supports terrorism rather than supporting the prosperity of the people.

What type of response has the site received so far directly from Iranians in Iran since its recent launch?

The response has been unbelievable. We are planning on having an event here at the Consulate to launch the site and invite people from the Iranian community who are not Jews. We believe this site will be very successful just as the same ones have been in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

Thank you for your time and chatting with me.

This article was originally published by the online Iranian Jewish Chronicle magazine: http://www.ijchronicle.com/article.php?idcat=19&idart=187

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