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Middle East

Israeli government distances itself from senior official after series of offensive Facebook posts

The online PR chief touched on Palestine, Japan and the Church of Scotland in his rants

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has distanced itself from a series of obscene Facebook posts written by a senior official who is currently in charge of efforts by Israel to improve its image.

Daniel Seaman, who was recently promoted to the post of head of Israeli public diplomacy on the internet, is the architect of a controversial new programme to mobilise hundreds of university students to write pro-Israel Facebook posts by giving them scholarships, and formerly served as director of Israel’s Government Press Office.

The offensive posts were made beginning in May and continued up to last week. They were called to public attention by an article in the Israeli national newspaper Haaretz.

In a post on May 26, Mr Seaman responded to a statement by Palestinian official Saeb Erekat calling for Israel to cease all settlement construction in the West Bank, with the post: “Is there a diplomatic way of saying ‘Go F*** yourself’?”

Also in May, Mr Seaman disparaged the Palestinians for marking the 65th anniversary of what they term the naqba, or catastrophe of their displacement when Israel was established. “The Palestinians commemorated the naqba with a 65-second siren in Ramallah. That’s not enough time to pause to think how stupid they are,” he wrote.

On July 9 Mr Seaman took aim at the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan: “Does the commencement of the fast of the Ramadan mean that Muslims will stop eating each other during the daytime?”

Referring to a report by the Church of Scotland which said that Israelis do not have a special right to the Holy Land, he posted: “The Church of Scotland, the Calvinist Presbytarian (sic) Church of Scotland. Why do they think we give a flying F*** what you have to say?”

On August 8, two days after memorials for the victims of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mr Seaman wrote “I am sick of the Japanese ‘Human Rights’ and ‘Peace’ groups the world over holding the annual self-righteous commemorations for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the consequences of Japanese aggression. You reap what you sow.”

Israeli officials issued a statement that the posts “are unacceptable and do not express the views of the Israeli government. The National Information directorate has instructed Mr Seaman to immediately cease from making expressions in these matters.”

But Ghassan Khatib, former director of the Palestinian Authority government press office, said the statements were not an aberration.

“I think he is saying publicly what many officials think but for diplomatic reasons don’t say publicly. Israeli official actions such as expansion of settlements and its aggressive attitude and behaviour creates an environment conducive to such hostile, racist and inciteful statements.”

Zehava Galon, head of the liberal Israeli Meretz party, termed Mr Seaman’s posts “scandalous”. She said that Mr Netanyahu’s not dismissing Mr Seaman “means that he gives legitimacy to these kinds of expressions”.

“You can’t advance peace in this way, and this shows that Netanyahu does not intend to reach an arrangement with the Palestinians.” she said.