Israel can’t be faulted for anything, thanks to hasbara culture’s narrative of Jewish victimhood
BY YAKOV HIRSCH
ANTISEMITES OF LEFT AND RIGHT ACCORDING TO YAIR ROSENBERG’S VIDEO EXPLAINING THE PERSISTENCE OF ANTISEMITISM IN HISTORY. THE LEFTWING ANTISEMITISM IS ALWAYS ASSOCIATED WITH CRITICISMS OF ISRAEL. SCREENSHOT.
My work is focused on hasbara culture: the social construction of alternative reality centering on the victimization of the Jewish people that has little to do with the real world. But despite hasbara culture’s ideas being ahistorical, its concepts and discourse on Jew hatred are now conventional wisdom in Jewish and American political culture. And that has had a myriad of calamitous consequences for the world we live in.
Hasbara is the Israeli word for propaganda, and hasbara culture holds that anti-Semitism is a unique hatred that is in a different category from other hatreds. And the guardians of the victimhood narrative do whatever it takes to continue to maintain this perspective.
Jeffrey Goldberg perfectly stated the hasbara culture perspective on “eternal” antisemitism in a 2009 NYT op-ed on “Israel’s Fears.”
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Anti-Semitism is a sui generis hatred, one that is shape-shifting, impervious to logic and eternal.
It is impossible to understand today’s world without first understanding hasbara culture’s grand struggle against this “sui generis hatred.” Hasbara culture proselytizers point to events in Jewish history to convey the belief that the whole world is obsessed and always has been with the demise of the Jews, right up to today with the existence of the Jewish state.
Yair Rosenberg’s victimhood perspective is not a reflection of the real world. As I showed in my last article, Rosenberg’s new series of videos “explaining anti-Semitism” ascribes an incorrect larger “meaning” to events. Human beings, their individual thoughts and motives is not what hasbara culture uses to interpret the world. Hasbara culture proponents are in constant search for that “larger meaning”.
In his video “Beyond left and right,” Yair Rosenberg argues that antisemitism continues to flourish today because rightwingers and leftwingers only tend to police anti-Jewish bigotry when it comes from their political enemies. The narrator says It’s understandable why this happens.
“It’s a lot harder to speak up when the bigotry is coming from your friends and allies.” Where do you have the power to make changes, he asks, with your friends or with your enemies? In your community or in someone else’s? So, while the right wing calls out antisemitism on the left and the left calls out antisemitism on the right, they don’t condemn their own bigots.
In the hasbara culture imagination, what historians call an “antisemitic being” is constantly stalking the Jews. And therefore the Jews need protecting. This is the role and duty hasbara culture journalists have taken for themselves. And since according to hasbara culture the Jewish people and now Israel are eternal victims, they become eternally innocent as well.
The result of this “out of history” innocence is that any hate and racism emanating from the Jewish community now becomes “understandable.”
Contemplate Yair Rosenberg’s take on the “embarrassing” Israeli politician Miri Regev, formerly minister of culture under Benjamin Netanyahu. According to Rosenberg Regev’s rightwing extremism is understandable because of antisemitic tweets he has unearthed on Twitter.
And it’s not just Rosenberg. A whole generation of hasbara culture journalists have browbeaten the real world with this victimhood perspective: that eternal antisemitism makes anything Israel and its advocates say understandable. Just consider Jeffrey Goldberg’s reaction to the rapturous reception that AIPAC gave Donald Trump in 2016:
What would Jeffrey Goldberg answer were he to be asked, Why people should stop expressing surprise over the AIPAC audience’s delirium for Donald Trump? What would Goldberg say is the difference between the AIPAC audience and a usual Trump crowd that Goldberg has spent years relentlessly condemning? Why is Goldberg giving a pass to a Jewish pro-Israel organization that he would not give to any other pro-Trump gathering? Where is his usual moralizing? His answer to that question would explain a lot.
All that has to happen to make sense of the world is for Jeffrey Goldberg to answer that question.
Note that Peter Beinart had no problem condemning the same event. As I’ve argued before, the cultural importance of Peter Beinart is that he is the most influential Jewish journalist without a victimhood perspective.
The foreign policy discourse is full of examples of how the victimhood perspective shapes the world. How did Bret Stephens explain to New York Times readers why it looked like Israel was about to annex the territories? He said Netanyahu’s hand was being forced by Israel’s global critics.
Naturally, according to Stephens’s victimhood perspective, annexing the territories is “understandable.”
This victimhood perspective makes everything Netanyahu did legit. I have already called Netanyahu’s enablers out for escaping the scene of their cultural crime.
Look at this David Frum tweet. Frum was on the side of Netanyahu vs the liberal newspaper, Haaretz. After Chemi Shalev of Haaretz tweeted a New York Times op-ed saying that “Benjamin Netanyahu Is Crushing Israel’s Free Press,” Frum responded:
Netanyahu’s evil plan to crush the press? Allowing the existence of a paper Israel’s left doesn’t like. Yes, really
Netanyahu’s long reign cannot be understood without considering the cultural protection provided by these Jewish journalists. Wasn’t Jeffrey Goldberg the worlds #1 expert on Israel and Netanyahu when Obama and Kerry were so supposedly anti-Israel? Where has he gone? Who better than Goldberg to explain how it’s possible that hasbara culture’s corrupt sacred strongman came within a hair’s breath of becoming dictator of the Jews? But as predicted Goldberg lost all interest in Israel and the Jewish issues that made his career once he became editor of the Atlantic under Trump.
Let’s look at some more “understandable” actions by Israelis. According to hasbara culture it’s understandable that Israeli Jews lynch Arabs. Just read Jeffrey Goldberg’s 2012 column A Near-Lynching in Jerusalem where he takes NYT reporter Isabel Kershner to task for labeling a Jewish ambush of an Arab a “lynching.” Once again according to hasbara culture the attack on innocent Arabs is understandable.
Note the subtext: After all, these Jews come from poor neighborhoods and many of them are descendants of Jews who fled, or were expelled, from Arab countries. So their revenge is natural.
It is this obfuscation and obscurantism that MUST lead to the pogroms against Arabs that have since become almost a weekly occurrence.
Hasbara culture’s view of the innocence of Israel in the face of eternal antisemitism is why the “principled” Rosenberg and other hate-fighters have been silent as 1930’s-era hatred repeats itself in front of the whole world. Their victimhood discourse led to total impunity and immunity for Benjamin Netanyahu. Just read this Eli Lake
Is it any wonder that Netanyahu has gone around the world giving out Israel’s spyware software to benighted regimes? Hasbara culture journalists have his back. According to victimhood perspective Netanyahu is in a “tricky position” trying to protect Israel. Everything Netanyahu did became “understandable” and no one knows it better than Netanyahu. As I have argued that was the secret of his success.
And from the Jewish victimhood perspective Israel can’t be faulted for anything.
Why? Because being to hard on Israel will “empower” the antisemites and raise the risk of Israel’s destruction. Look at this Rosenberg tweet to see how hasbara culture responds to accusations of Israeli apartheid. According to hasbara culture doctrine, “the least surprising tweet progression,” is the leap from Israel is guilty of apartheid to the idea that “The Holocaust didn’t happen.”
Hasbara culture refuses to accept that people of good will can look at Israel and see apartheid. It’s always about the Jews.
Yair Rosenberg like Jeffrey Goldberg before him has spent years scouring twitter for confirmation of hasbara culture dogma. For instance, when Netanyahu and Israel barred Congresspeople Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar from visiting the country two years ago, look what Yair Rosenberg did to try to make sure Israel didn’t look bad. This is Trump’s fault.
David Frum did the same thing, protected Netanyahu by blaming Trump.
And naturally, according to Jeffrey Goldberg “Trump’s actions and statements about Jews and Israel have little to do with the Jewish people.” It’s someone else’s fault.
Is that actually the case? Those of us who live in the real world know it was Sheldon Adelson and hasbara culture money that dictated Trump’s policy on Israel, not to mention his own son-in-law’s steady pressure in support of Israel. This is another example of Israel and the Jewish people being taken out of history that I wrote about in my last article.
So why does hasbara culture think that so many have and always will have it in for the Jews? Hasbara culture’s answer is that Jewish people are better than other people. Yair Rosenberg describes how exceptional the Jewish people are.
This is how Bari Weiss put it to Jake Tapper at the 92d Street Y two years ago:
“Our specialness is frankly why we drive people crazy still.”
The ethnocentricity seen in this article has laid waste to Jewish political culture. And there is no greater Jewish struggle than to discredit this hasbara culture sacred victimhood perspective.