The Hebrew word Hasbara, literally translated means "explanation." But according to Gideon Meir, Deputy Director General for Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there is no English equivalent for the word used most often to express the Israeli government's official position on an issue.
"The majority of the people in the world don't know the real story when it comes to Israel," Meir noted during a brief visit with leadership at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. "Our narrative is a difficult story to tell."
Meir's visit was coordinated through Federation's Community Relations Committee's Israel Advocacy Task Force. In addressing the difficulties associated with educating the public about the State of Israel, Meir said that while the Bush administration is one of the most friendly toward the Jewish state, the media often perpetuate a story of myth rather than fact when it comes to Israel. Storylines often point to Israel as the aggressor and paint Palestinians as victims, while journalists covering the region are often thrown into the situation with little or no background material.
"Tanks are not photogenic," he said, referring to the image most Americans see when they view news coverage of Israel.
Advocating for Israel comes naturally for the Jerusalem-born Meir who served in Israel's Defense Forces from 1965-1967. He later worked as Consul and Administration Officer for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. and is distinguished as being a member of the negotiating team on Israel's peace treaty with Egypt. Later, as Director of the Training Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, his responsibilities included training of all Foreign Ministry diplomats. He has also held positions with the Israeli embassies in London and in Ottawa, Canada.
Though he is critical of the media's portrayal of Israel, Meir can often be found speaking out on behalf of the Jewish State on news networks such as CNN, BBC and Fox News.
"Our ultimate goal is to convince the governments of the world to support Israel," he said. "Only through pictures can we bring the attention of this story to the world."