Hasbara That Works (For a Change)

Israel has an image problem. Also, a reality problem. As presently governed, Israel shows no inclination to deal with reality and indeed, often seems to delight in making things worse.

Part of this process of making things worse is known as Hasbara or “public diplomacy.”

Hasbara is conducted at many levels, from senior officials flaunting their self-righteous arrogance to cringe-inducing government-sponsored TV commercials to the efforts of thousands of volunteers. These goodly people do everything from “setting the record straight” to flinging the ideological and religious certainties they find personally compelling.

Of course, the “record” never gets straight, mostly because nobody pays attention to endless corrections and the strategy is pathetically reactive. As for belaboring their own verities – Hasbara’s practitioners do a magnificent job of convincing themselves while boring and alienating most of the rest of us.

Time to get real. Which is another way of saying, time to depart from the expected script and start doing things that take the opposition off-script.

Long ago, my wife (a radical feminist former U.S. Army officer, author and journalistic veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan) and I decided that the alternative to same old/same old is to “break the debate.” Our experience has been that when this happens, when you say something unexpected, the opposition either shuts up, flails hopelessly, or gets very and incoherently mad.

It works. (For the theory behind it, look up “John Boyd” on the Net)

A few examples we’ve used. The accusations are in bold face, the responses in plain type:

The world community . . .

No such thing, just 200 or so countries and a lot of trans-national criminals, crazies, contrarians and Holier-Than-Thou-niks snapping at each other on the same bedraggled planet. Judged by the standard of everybody else’s conduct in this “community,” we ain’t doin’ that bad.

International law . . .

Law without enforcement power isn’t law. Law without enforcement power is opinion.

Israel is an apartheid society.

Dunno ‘bout that, but in 2011 I was diagnosed with leukemia. The doctor who saved my life is an Arab woman. Anyway, a salient fact about the Arab population of Israel is how few have “voted with their feet” since 1948. If Israel’s such a nightmare, why do they stay? Wouldn’t they be happier to be ruled by their co-religionists in Lebanon or Syria or Iraq or ISIS? And if there were an independent Palestine, how many would go there?

In 1947-48, half the Arab population fled.

Half didn’t. Whose descendants are better off today? By the by, British statistics show that the Arab population of Mandatory Palestine doubled between 1922 and 1942.  What do you suppose attracted all those newcomers?

Before 1948, the Jews stole Arab land.

A complicated issue that goes back to Turkish land registration policies of the 19th century and the common Palestinian practice of registering land in the name of effendi families as a tax dodge. This enabled many effendi to sell land they didn’t actually own, sell it from out under their own people. This provoked a series of increasingly restrictive British Land Transfer Ordinances designed to protect small Arab farmers and villagers. The result: By 1940, there were only two places on earth where Jews could not legally buy land – Palestine and Nazi Germany.

Arab Israelis should not have to leave or lose their homes and lands.

Agreed. On 15 May 1948, the new State of Israel could have declared every Arab in the country an enemy alien. Instead, Israel declared them citizens. For all that has happened since, and for all that needs to be corrected (and there is much), that singular fact remains.

Israel is a colonial state with no right to exist.

You know those bumper stickers and lapel buttons – U.S. Out of North America.

An essential aspect of justice is consistency. If you don’t condemn the United States – and most of the rest of the nations on the planet – for colonization and conquest, you’re unjust. The process of human movement and territorial displacement has been going on ever since the Neanderthals got run out of their caves. And what is the Islamic influx into Europe and America, except more of the same Volkerwanderung that has been the triumph and the curse of our species?

The “Law of Return” is undemocratic and discriminatory.

Every sovereign state possesses the fundamental right of determining who may enter and be eligible for citizenship. If Israel decreed that residents of Detroit, Osaka and Buenos Aires whose ancestors include at least two Ukrainian-Eskimos were eligible for immediate citizenship, it would be Israel’s prerogative.

The Israeli nuclear arsenal is destabilizing.

The most striking fact about Israel’s nuclear capability is its total lack of use. Could a nuclear Iran go for forty-plus years with the same outcome?

The Territories are a repressive occupation.

There’s no such thing as a benign occupation. Ask the Jordanians and the Egyptians how they handled things between 1948 and 1967, when they occupied the West Bank and Gaza. An independent Palestine could have come into existence with a couple Egyptian and Jordanian pen strokes. Why didn’t it?

BDS will make Israel get out of the Territories.

We’ll start with BDS in the next post.


About the Author
Philip Gold made Aliyah from USA in 2010 after several decades as a Beltway "public intellectual" of sorts.
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