THE PROBLEM IS WITH THE HASBARA, NOT WITH THE AUDIENCE

NOVANEWS

In the final years of the Apartheid era in South Africa, Coloreds and Indians enjoyed political representation. They elected a Colored Parliament, with 85 MPs, and an Indian Parliament, with 45 MPs.  The whites, for their part, elected a white parliament with 178 MPs. The three chambers combined formed the electoral college that appointed the President and the Cabinet. Thus, Colored and Indian MPs could give speeches, criticize the government, enact laws that applied to their communities, etc., but when it came to actually holding power, the result was inexorable: the President and the Cabinet ministers where all white, courtesy of the absolute majority the whites enjoyed in the electoral college. Indeed there were three parliaments, but one was all-important and the other two were irrelevant.
The Israeli Knesset combines both systems in one and the same legislature. There are around 110 Jewish MKs, who make the decisions that affect the country, and 10 token Arab MKs, who can give speeches and complain all they wish, but who can never influence any act of government, much less one that affects them.
This similarity (yet another one) between Apartheid South Africa and Israel sprang to my mind upon reading (at this prompting) a purported rebuttal to claims of Israeli apartheid. This document is a very interesting example of what Saree Makdisi (here) calls the linguistic contortionism of Israel apologists. I’d like to focus today on the following extraordinary paragraph from the executive summary:

Israel is a multi-racial and multi-colored society, and the Arab minority actively participates in the political process. There are Arab parliamentarians, Arab judges including on the Supreme Court, Arab cabinet ministers, Arab heads of hospital departments, Arab university professors, Arab diplomats in the Foreign Service, and very senior Arab police and army officers. Incitement to racism in Israel is a criminal offence, as is discrimination on the basis of race or religion.

The verb participate  is broad enough that a bull can be said to participate in a bullfight, or a slave in human trafficking. Whoever said that participants in a process are equal to each other? The paragraph above simply  takes advantage of this ambiguity to distort the truth.
It would be accurate to say, for instance, that Jews actively participate in the political process in Argentina. In the last mayoral election in Buenos Aires, the incumbent, Jorge Télerman, was Jewish, as was one of his rivals, Daniel Filmus. The third contender, Mauricio Macri, was Catholic. Mr. Macri won the election — because he convinced the electorate, not because of any limitation on the Jews’ political rights.
Similarly, in my city Roberto Miguel Lifschitz defeated Héctor Cavallero to become Rosario’s first Jewish mayor ever, and proceeded to appoint Mirta Levín as his Planning Secretary, as well as several other Jewish advisors. Other examples abound. Jorge Alperóvich is the governor of Tucumán (possibly the country’s most heavily Catholic province), Héctor Tímerman is the ambassador to Washington, Carlos Kúnkel one of the most prominent lawmakers from the governing party. The Jewish participation in Argentinian politics means that they can effectively influence events.
This is hardly the same as the situation in Israel, where Arabs can participate to elect an irrelevant Arab caucus in the Knesset, but can’t expect to become mayors of Tel Aviv, ambassadors to Washington or key Cabinet members. The quoted paragraph contorts language in presenting events that have happened once or twice in the country’s history (like the token appoointment of an Arab to a minor ministerial position) as if they were normal occurrences, and by including in the category, “Arabs,” the Druze, who are less discriminated against than Muslims and Christians, and who form the totality of all those “very senior Arab police and army officers” (the State itself recognizes the Druze as a separate nationality).
But the most egregious distortion is the phrase “Incitement to racism in Israel is a criminal offence, as is discrimination on the basis of race or religion.” Of course such practices are banned by the legislation, but the laws are never enforced against the Jews. Very senior officials have incited against the Arabs without facing any retribution. Case in point, housing minister Ariel Attias, whose reflections on Arab Israelis were recently reported by Haaretz:

Housing Minister Ariel Atias on Thursday warned against the spread of Arab population into various parts of Israel, saying that preventing this phenomenon was no less than a national responsibility.
“I see [it] as a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the state of Israel,” Atias told a conference of the Israel Bar Association, which focused on a reforming Israel’s Land Administration.
The Shas minister referred to Harish, a housing project built for the Haredi community in northern Israel, saying that the Arab population from the nearby Wadi Ara was spreading into the Harish area.
Atias went on to address the issue of the Galilee, saying that “if we go on like we have until now, we will lose the Galilee. Populations that should not mix are spreading there. I don’t think that it is appropriate [for them] to live together.”

Remember, this is the Cabinet minister who decides who will live where. This key official promulgates an explicit policy of preventing the “spreading” of Arabs “who don’t love Israel” (not a single word against Jews who reject the State, like the Neturei Karta) to certain parts of the country and their mixing with Jews, yet there’s no Apartheid in Israel!
Israel’s Hasbara officials often vent their frustration that their efforts fail to convince their target audiences. They publish booklets, support rabid organizations like CAMERA and MEMRI, go on TV, even enlist Israeli tourists for the cause, but the world keeps talking about Israeli apartheid. They tend to conclude that prejudice against the Jews is so deeply ingrained that all explanatory efforts are doomed.
A better idea would be to stop taking the public for idiots and making ludicrous denials that are disproved by an even cursory look at the Israeli press.  The problem is not with the audience; it’s with the intelligence-insulting hasbara that is served them.

Publicado por Ibrahim Ibn Yusuf

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