Israeli mendacity long ago became a form of high art. Israeli pro­pa­ganda long ago merited its own spe­cial­ized synonym in the dic­tio­nary: hasbara, the hyper-sophisticated art of Zionist “expla­na­tion.” The messaging asso­ci­ated with sending aid to the Haitians, already the object of ridicule on Israeli tele­vi­sion, now has passed parody to being purely pathetic.
A couple score thousand dead? Good for the Jews, because it provides a prime oppor­tu­nity for Israeli pro­pa­ganda. So surreal and so blatant that the London Review was obliged to weigh in.
Via LRB (fire-walled):
Hasbara is the noun form of the Hebrew verb ‘to explain’, in the sense of advo­cat­ing a position. ‘Pro­pa­ganda’ might seem the obvious trans­la­tion but that might not do justice to the intensity of feeling that lies behind it. A Ministry of Hasbara was first created in 1974, with Shimon Peres in charge; in 1975 it was disbanded and hasbara became a multi-ministerial task. Since then, the impor­tance of hasbara has come to the fore every time Israel has been involved in a major conflict – the 1982 war, the 1987 intifada, the 2000 intifada. In March 2009, two months after the invasion of Gaza, Israel re-established the Ministry of Hasbara; the current minister is Yuli Edelstein.
The hasbara aspect of the Gaza operation was put in train several months before the invasion. In May 2008 four French-speaking Israelis were selected by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in con­junc­tion with the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organ­i­sa­tion, to visit Switzer­land, France and Belgium, where, as the Jewish Agency spokesper­son put it, they were to ‘deliver the messages that our official diplomats cannot’. ‘Stick to your personal stories,’ they were told, ‘do not be drawn into political dis­cus­sions. There will be people who irritate you and say that you are occupiers … do not go there.’ Similar, English-speaking del­e­ga­tions set out for Britain, Ireland, Holland, Denmark and the US. German speakers went to Germany. On arrival, they gave inter­views to the local media; they met members of par­lia­ment, members of the Jewish community and local bigwigs and spoke, as instructed, of their own expe­ri­ence – the constant shelling, the effects on their families, their busi­nesses, their daily lives.
In February this year, the government’s Masbirim website (masbirim: ‘those who explain’) drew up a set of instruc­tions for Israelis trav­el­ling abroad. The website, which according to the Ministry of Hasbara had 130,000 hits in its first week, aims to ‘provide infor­ma­tion to counter criticism that might be expe­ri­enced abroad’. It details Israel’s achieve­ments in tech­nol­ogy and agri­cul­ture, as well as sug­gest­ing ways to ‘encourage visits to Israel’, ‘to dispel myths about Israel’ and to deal with political criticism. Visitors to the website are advised, when arguing with ‘people of other cultures’, to ‘maintain eye contact … if you look away it might be seen as lack of attention and your argument will lose its force,’ and ‘to keep generally still … rapid movements can create ner­vous­ness and confuse.’ The same advice is being broadcast on Israeli tele­vi­sion. Further afield, to ensure that the Israeli tourist is com­pre­hen­sively brain­washed before landing in London or Rome, the Ministry of Hasbara dis­trib­utes its brochures to pas­sen­gers about to board El Al flights, and the TV campaign is beamed to aircrafts’ in-flight enter­tain­ment systems. There is no running away.
When Israel sent 200 soldiers to Haiti to set up a field hospital on a football pitch in Port-au-Prince, the Israeli media crowed. ‘What do you think about that, Goldstone?’ was one headline. ‘Israeli Del­e­ga­tion to Haiti Makes All Others Pale,’ said another. ‘Well Done Us,’ said a third. But the most dis­turb­ing was: ‘The Haiti Disaster: Bad for Them, Good for the J
Tech­no­rati Tags: Haiti, Hasbara, Israel, Palestine, Zionism
March 8th, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized | Comments (0) 

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