New Hasbara chief under fire for anti-Rivlin comments

Recent appointee as Head of Public Diplomacy and Media at the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr. Ran Baratz has found himself in hot water over remarks made against President Reuven Rivlin.

The President’s bureau sent a request Sunday to the Prime Minister’s Office demanding an explanation for the questionable comments.

“We view this gravely,” wrote the President’s office, “and demand an explanation of whether the words written by Baratz were known to the Prime Minister when he made his decision to appoint Baratz to this job.”

One controversial post published on Facebook last week – and revealed by Channel 2 – sees Baratz mocking Rivlin for flying economy class on his trip home from a state visit to the Czech Republic.

“I think it says a lot when the President travels in economy class, walking around shaking everyone’s hands,” Baratz wrote. “It mainly shows him to be such a marginal figure that there is no concern for his safety. I think he could be sent in a paraglider to the Syrian Golan [Heights] controlled by ISIS. They’ll return him the next day with a request for negotiating their return to Iraq, if only we take him back.”

“Your president walks around shaking everyone’s hands, trying to speak in Arabic which he doesn’t know, telling us to unite instead of being separate tribes. In short, the gang is totally demoralized, despairing of life, even talking of setting up a human rights group to examine the cruel usage of flat jokes as part of psychological warfare. The New [Israel] Fund is already showing interest,” Baratz quipped.

One person commented on the post with a photo of nationalist activist Daniella Weiss, arguing in a television interview that Rivlin “is not important enough for someone to assassinate.”

Baratz responded: “I said this way before she did, but it’s good when practical people confirm the observations of theoreticians.”

Dismissing the criticism leveled against him, Baratz told Channel 2 that the post had been written satirically and was “not serious.” If someone chose to take it otherwise, Baratz added, “that’s another matter.”

“I’m an opinionated person who uses humor and satire in combination with criticism. I’ve done so for the last 20 years and there’s no reason to be offended by every joke on Facebook,” he added, noting that such posts would likely stop as he enters into public office.

The President’s office, however, was unamused, asserting the incident was “especially serious since he is a senior official in the state’s service, someone designated to serve in a representative capacity, reflecting Israel’s polices in Israel and abroad.”

Baratz, 42, resides in Kfar Adumim, Judea. He holds a PhD in philosophy from Hebrew University and did his IDF service in Air Force Intelligence. His appointment as Head of Public Diplomacy and Media was announced Wednesday afternoon.