There are things that cannot be ‘explained’

“Over the past four months, the professional team of the Ministry of “Hasbara” (Explanation) was unable to fulfil the policy and vision outlined by the Minister, and the goal for which it was established, not even a little bit,” stated the press release coming from the Ministry, justifying the dismissal of the Ministry’s director general Dr. Gali Sambira.

Turns out four months of concentrated efforts were a total failure, and even after the establishment of a designated Ministry of Hasbara, the state of Israel failed to “explain itself” yet again. In that exemplary release, Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan promised that she “takes the assignment bestowed upon her as a calling and her personal mission”, but don’t hold your breath, even four months from now, the State of Israel will still fail to explain itself.

It’s alright, Minister Distel Atbaryan, we will not demand your resignation over the failure, you’re not the main problem. Neither was Dr. Gali Sambira, who you dismissed. The problem is that there are some things that simply cannot be “explained”.

This disconnection from reality does not charactarise just the Minister of Hasbara, but rather large parts of the Israeli public. Every time one extremist minister or another says something that slightly reveals reality as it is they are immediately jumped by hordes of commentators and thinkers. “A terror attack on the image of Israel” they cry, as if the problem is with the words of Ben Gvir or others, and not the reality these words convey.

What the Minister of National Security said about his and his family’s freedom of movement mattering more than the Palestinians’, is a precise description of the reality in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. A reality in which there are different laws for different people.

If we needed a reminder for that, we got it a few weeks ago when Jewish rioters went out to the grounds of the Palestinian village of Burqa, burnt cars and killed 19-year-old Qusai Maatan. The murder suspects were all fortunate enough to stand before a civil court, and were even visited by Knesset Members, while Palestinians, whose only crime was trying to defend their soil, were arrested and brought before a martial court, where MK Ahmad Tibi’s request to visit them was declined.

As long as this is the prevailing reality, as long as more and more shots fired at the back of a Palestinian’s head, or a stamped Star of David (sorry, shoelaces), on another Palestinian’s face, or an outrageous verdict, like the one acquitting A.Y, the border patrol officer who killed Eyad al-Hallaq , no “organizational change” in the Ministry of Hasbara can help anything. Because if it looks like apartheid and sounds like apartheid, then no explainer has been born who can convince the world that this is a democracy.

The State of Israel’s policy in 2023 cannot be explained. If, until now, the Occupation for some existed alongside democracy for others, with free speech and freedom of expression, at least to most residents of the state, then this, too, is no longer the case.

The number of Palestinians killed this year has already crossed 200, compared to 180 in all of 2022, which was the bloodiest year since 2004 during the Second Intifada. The bleeding reality of Arab society cannot be expanded upon further. And now, under the auspices of a terrified judicial system and a collapsing police, Itamar Ben Gvir and his friends succeed in their mission to violate more and more demonstrators’ against the Judicial Overhaul rights. Police violence grows, the infringement of demonstrators’ right to protest continues on, and all this while the government of Israel shamelessly promotes one Commission of Inquiry after another, with the sole purpose of disrupting the trial of the man leading it.

This government’s misogyny cannot be explained, either. It has no women director generals in any ministry, and even the remaining one was dismissed. We’re lucky that our women gatekeepers, that the government is trying to dismiss, are talented and brave women like the Supreme Court Justice , the Attorney General, and the Head of the Government Companies Authority.

“Hasbara”, better known in English as “Propaganda”, is a tool used by non-democratic states and cannot convince any person possessing a pair of eyes. What impacts states’ international status is reality, and not the attempts to beautify it.

Israel’s image around the world actually improves thanks to the protesters out in the streets showcasing our state’s liberal side, but those are the very protesters that the Minister of Hasbara despises so much.

Here’s free advice to all those interviewing for the position of director general in the Ministry of Hasbara, don’t count on keeping the job for very long. The interview you are attending is not for the Ministry director general position but for the position of the next scapegoat.
That’s what it’s like when you imagine that you can explain an unexplainable reality.

About the Author
Nadav Tamir is the executive director of J Street Israel, a member of the board of the Mitvim think-tank, adviser for international affairs at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and member of the steering committee of the Geneva Initiative. He was an adviser of President Shimon Peres and served in the Israel embassy in Washington and as consul general to New England.