As The Electronic Intifada reported last week, Israeli official Daniel Seaman, tapped to head a “covert” social media program employing Israeli students to spread pro-Israel messages online, was officially suspended from his duties amid outrage over remarks posted to his personal Facebook page which sparked a diplomatic row with Japan.
Seaman’s post that he was “sick of” Japanese human rights groups commemorating victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to a formal protest from the Japanese embassy in Tel Aviv, after which Israeli media reported that Seaman had been suspended until further notice.
The scandal emerged just as it was reported that the program might be only one element of a massive and unprecedented $300 million initiative to improve Israel’s image abroad.
Haaretz, whose journalist Barak Ravid broke the story of Seaman’s offensive Facebook posts, has since published an op-ed calling for Seaman to be fired, while Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz has defended Seaman’s remarks, praising him for “astutely and intuitively understanding which way the wind blows.”
Earlier today, Ravid reported that Ya’akov Amidror, national security advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had issued an official apology to the Japanese ambassador. Ravid noted that the incident had received extensive media coverage and generated widespread outrage in Japan, even leading to the creation on the Japanese-language Wikipedia site of a page for the previously little-known Seaman. According to the Israeli embassy in Tokyo, it remains “too early to assess the damage to Israel’s image” caused by the incident.
As The Electronic Intifada has noted, the scandal erupted only three weeks after Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida visited Israel to discuss Japanese-Israeli ventures including natural gas exploration and several major construction projects.
Following Kishida’s visit, but before the scandal emerged, Israeli defense website i-HLS reported that Japan may also be in talks to purchase a supply of Israeli-made drones.
Seaman had been deputy director general of Israel’s Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs, which was closed in May, to be folded into the National Advocacy Department at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Despite the fact that the ministry has been defunct for over three months, its Facebook page has remained surprisingly active, including two posts which appeared after Seaman was reported to have been suspended.
It is unclear who actually made the posts, but both were undoubtedly made following Seaman’s suspension — and not scheduled beforehand — because they consist of shared content that had not yet been posted by their original sources until 15 and 19 August.
It is also unclear why the ministry’s Facebook page has remained active for months following its dissolution.
On Sunday, The Times of Israel posted an article noting that Seaman “has not been fired from his current job and might still end up being promoted,” despite an ongoing investigation into his conduct. Seaman is unlikely to be fired from government service due to his seniority, The Times of Israel reported, but his recent appointment could theoretically be rescinded.
Seaman himself, despite being instructed not to speak with the press, appears confident that sparking a major diplomatic incident is no threat to the job security of an established Israeli public relations professional. His LinkedIn page has already been updated to reflect his anticipated promotion, even going so far as to state that he “currently” occupies the new position: