HASBARA IN A WORLD OF ITS OWN
Israel calls its propaganda “hasbara,” which means “explaining” in Hebrew. But it doesn’t explain, it obfuscates, it doesn’t illuminate it hides, and it serves only to reinforce the Israeli “narrative” as it wants people, especially the Americans, to believe even when faced with facts that prove the contrary. It has no bearing on what actually is, or what they like to call “facts on the ground,” nor is it supposed to. It is to manufacture sympathy, false consent for the war crimes and crimes against humanity it commits and to foster the bi-polar victimhood/strength ideal of Israel. It doesn’t make the myths per se, but reinforces them (having to negotiate with Palestine is “diplomatic terrorism, ” the lifeline tunnels from Gaza into Egypt are “terror tunnels). The government pours money into hasbara programs, even has a Ministry of Hasbara and offers monthly stipends and tuition for students to spread its propaganda online. But it’s not limited to the Internet, the mainstay of hasbara has been the news media. Its propaganda is not just vile and untruthful but dangerous as well.
31 July, 2014 al-Akhbar English
Ever since the advent of the Zionist movement, Zionists paid little respect for the truth. This was not accidental, the very Zionist idea was based on a collection of lies: that Palestine was not inhabited, that the Palestinians would not mind giving their homeland away, that the Palestinians don’t exist, or that the Palestinians could easily seek repatriation in any other place under the sun. And Israel often relied on the perpetuation of public ignorance in Western countries about the Middle East in order to facilitate the promotion and circulation of its propaganda. This may explain why the public in all European countries are (by varying degrees) more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israelis, while in the US the public supports Israel by a ratio of 5 to 1 at least. The Zionist lobby in the US consistently opposes and sabotages the establishment of Middle East centers on US college campuses, and when such centers are established they are compelled to succumb to ridiculous Zionist standards by which the population of Israel (some 6 million or so) is equated in terms of coverage and academic scope with the 1.6 billion Muslims, and where the teaching of Hebrew (spoken by some 6 million or so Israelis) is regarded as important as the Arabic language (spoken by some 350 million). Courses on the Arab world have to be “balanced” with courses teaching the state of Israel, and the teaching of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be avoided altogether (it has never been taught in most major departments of political science in key American universities, like Stanford or Yale or the University of California, San Diego until recent years and only on a visiting basis).
Israeli propaganda has no connection to reality but to the demands of political operation in Washington, DC. Zionist propaganda has been quite flexible in adjusting its terminology and code words to suit the political climate in the American capital. In the 1940s, and 1950s, the Zionists simply presented their enemies to the world as Nazis. The Palestinian national movement was portrayed as a mere branch of the Nazi movement (never mind the low status that Arabs occupied in the heinous Nazi hierarchy of races and people). The one photograph between Hajj Amin and Hitler was THE evidence. There are books written in multiple languages about that one (or two according to some) meeting between the two. Hajj Amin (this buffoonish traditional Palestinian leader) is still written about as if he was a key leader of the Nazi state (of course, there were Zionist groups that had more extensive dealings with Nazis than Hajj Amin but that was not to written about – Hannah Arendt was shunned and condemned as a self-hating Jew for mentioning that in her Eichmann in Jerusalem).
Nasser, similarly, was also presented in Zionist propaganda as a Nazi, but Zionists had a hard time labeling Nasser with the Nazi brush. Here was a sophisticated leader who chose his words rather carefully, and he never had any dealings with Nazis (unlike Anwar Sadat who was from his early years a Nazi enthusiast and an anti-Semite). Zionists could not find one evidence against Nasser but struggled to find anti-Jewish elements in his rhetoric (there wasn’t any). Similarly, they wanted to label him a Nazi because Egypt hosted a number of Nazi scientists or functionaries – but their number was much smaller than the number of Nazi scientists and functionaries who were hosted by the US government.
The era of the Cold War required a different label to the enemy. The US was obsessed with the specter of communism and the Zionists portrayed all Palestinians as communists and their organizations were all classified as communist organizations. This was the era when most books on the PLO dealt with “the Soviet connection.” The one common theme in all Zionist propaganda was about the notion that there really is no Palestinian national movement and that whoever uses the label “Palestinian” is hired by some enemy of the US – always by an enemy of the US – to do its own bidding. But the Cold War was over and the Zionist had to invent a new terminology.
Once the Cold War was over, the same people who were labeled communists and socialists only a few years earlier were now labeled Islamists. In fact, the Zionist lobby participated in elevating Muslims – all world Muslims – into the level of terrorist enemies of the US and the West (Israel always places itself in the camp of the “West” in total disregard of half of the Jewish population who hails from Asian and African countries). Zionist organizations in the West became major promoters of hate and fear against all Muslims and the ties between the Zionist lobby (and its affiliate organizations) and the production of hate against Islam and Muslims were not even hidden.
So basically, Israel can always place the Palestinians in the camp of the enemies of the US, and not only justifies killing them but gets paid by the US for killing them. This is where liberals and conservatives agree in the US. American liberals can’t stand to be in the company of American conservatives but when it comes to Israeli conservatives they all rush to declare their support. Mario Cuomo was one of the last self-described liberals in American politics but he struck a long-standing political alliance with Netanyahu.
Israeli rhetoric, even on Gaza, has been the same. People who studied the history of Israeli crimes in Gaza can see a pattern. In the 1950s, the Israeli government said that once the terrorists of Nasser are killed, there will be peace in Gaza and the Israelis and Palestinians would have no problems. In the 1960s, the identity of the enemy changed. Then, the Israeli government said that once the Palestinian Fatah and communist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorists are killed, Gaza will have peace with Israel and the occupation can go on indefinitely for the benefit of the occupiers and occupied. Hamas only came later, in the late 1980s. If the issue is Hamas, why did Israel have to kill thousands of Gazans from the 1950s all the way into the 1980s when Hamas first emerged?
And Israel uses the rhetoric it used against the PLO in its propaganda against Hamas. Israeli propagandists identify the problem: it is due to the “Hamas covenant” (there is no such thing as a “covenant” of Hamas but Israel uses the word on purposes to make it sound like something religious, out of the Qur’an itself), just as it used to complain about the “PLO charter.” But the PLO charter of 1968 – before it was amended by Arafat under pressure by the American administration of Bill Clinton – was a beautiful political document promising a secular democratic state in all of Palestine. There isn’t one single offensive reference to Jews in the charter but Israel managed to equate it with Mein Kampf.
And in watching today’s propaganda rhetoric, one notices that it does not even get updated. The rhetoric I heard as a boy by Israel against Palestinian secular nationalists and communists is being used yet again against Hamas and its comrades in Gaza. Zionists are not even shy about citing the horrific words of Golda Meir in which she expressed anger at Arabs for making her kill Arab children. Imagine if one were to argue in a court of law that the parents of children forced the killer to kill the children. Yet, such Orwellian arguments were cited by a CBS News presenter as persuasive. Israel butchers Palestinians but manages to blame its political enemy (whoever it is at a particular juncture) for the victims of its own bombing, and for the bombing of its enemy. In other words, Israel is blameless for its own violence and for the violence of its enemies, when it is actually responsible for both.
But the racism and genocidal intentions of the Israeli government (and public) is clear when an Israeli ambassador refers to civilians in Gaza as “Hamas civilians.” If Palestinians were to refer to Israeli civilians as “Likud civilians,” the International Criminal Court for Brown and Black people would have been compelled to take action. Israel does not even feel it has to justify hitting children, schools, and mosques in dealing with US media. The US media and government are willing to justify any Israeli war crime no matter the scale. I have no doubt that the US government and media (and most of the public who identify with Israel at all times) would be willing to accept if Israel were to drop a nuclear weapon on Gaza or on Iran. I can imagine an Israeli leader borrowing from Golda Meir and saying: we hate Arabs and Iranians for making us drop the nuclear bomb on them. US officials would then applaud Israel for its humane rhetoric.
Gaza will not go away. Yitzhak Rabin – the “man of peace” in US terminology – famously expressed his desire that Gaza sink into the sea. Such a wish did not generate bad press as fabricated sayings by Israel attributed to Arabs in 1967 (about “throwing the Jews into the sea”). Palestinians are here to stay, and the struggle for the liberation of Palestine and the return of refugees won’t end. With every war, with every massacre, and with every “assault,” Israel (the government and its people) genuinely thinks that this war crime would do the job and finish off the flame of Palestinian nationalism once and for all. And every time, Israeli attempts fail. This war won’t achieve its objectives except in producing another generation of Arabs who are intent on taking revenge on Israel – and not through social media.
Dr. As’ad AbuKhalil is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, a lecturer and the author of The Angry Arab News Service. He tweets @asadabukhalil.