Ronald Scheinberg

It’s Not Me, It’s You

For as long as I can remember, supporters of Israel have been lamenting about the sorry state of Israel’s public relations. With all of the yiddishe kop smart minds in the advertising and public relations industries, the perennial question has been, why can’t Israel mount a credible public relations effort to sway the American and European publics to our way of thinking? Why can’t we mount a campaign to call out terrorists for what they are, and convince the world that Israel is on the right side of the argument?

Israel’s public relations effort is known as hasbara. While there is no equivalent word in English, it literally translates as “explanation”. More to the point, hasbara is the organized effort or program to educate the public about the Israeli position. We see hasbara in action when IDF spokesmen, Israeli politicians and pro-Israel pundits explain the Israeli position on the air, on X (Twitter), TikTok, Facebook and Instagram, in podcasts and in print. There is no shortage of people explaining and arguing the Israeli position.

So, what is it then, that makes Israel’s hasbara efforts so ineffectual? There can be two answers to this question: first, Israel is in the wrong, so no matter how you spin it, if you put lipstick on a pig, it is still a pig; second, Israel is in the right, but the public not only does not care, but is biased against Israel. Regrettably, I am of the belief that the answer to this question is the latter.

The bias against Israel is not new. First, let’s look at the media. Most mainstream media: The New York Times, The Washington Post, the BBC, CNN and countless others (with rare exceptions such as the Wall Street Journal and Fox News) have been consistently biased against the Jewish State. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is blatant, but it has been consistent over the many decades I have been following Israel in the news. Israel is portrayed as the aggressor, the bully, the belligerent, the oppressor and, for good measure, the colonizer. Palestinians, and Arabs generally, are, conversely, the victim.

Second, let’s look at the “public”. My perception is that vast segments of society in the United States and Europe are, at best, indifferent to the plight of Jews.  While I hate to trot out the canard of antisemitism, this indifference cannot be explained except for antisemitism. This Blog is not the place to analyze the pervasive antisemitism in our society, but suffice it to say, the opprobrium visited on Jews and Israel that we would never see visited on other groups says to me that Jews and Israel are unworthy of sympathy.

So, with this said, I am afraid that the problem is not that the hasbara efforts are inadequate, but rather, the message is falling on deaf ears.

About the Author
Brown University, BA 1980 Harvard Law School, JD, 1983 Commercial Aircraft Finance Lawyer Author: The Commercial Aircraft Finance Handbook (2nd ed., 2019)
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