HOW ISRAEL CAN IMPROVE ITS HASBARA
Why It Needs To
Virtually every news commentator compares Israel's temporary removal back in 1996 of 400 terrorists to Lebanon with the heinous crimes of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The United Nations was being asked not to have a double standard for Iraq and Israel. In fact, the Palestine Liberation Organization, having been recognized as the world's highest moral arbiter, has been asked by the then United Nation's Secretary General Boutros-Ghali to draft a resolution condemning Israel and calling for sanctions. Something is obviously wrong with this picture. It is time for Israelis and their supporters to recognize that Israel has a public relations problem.
The actions Israel took to defend its security were quite moderate by Middle East standards. Its ability to explain what and why it took such action was inadequate. Along with most of the pro-Israel community, I'm a frequent critic of Israeli information policies. I had a pleasant lunch last week with an Israeli official and we discussed this very issue. As a result of our conversation, I am not convinced that the Israeli government is doing everything in its power to communicate its message to the media, political leaders, and general public. Its just not working.
What is needed is a whole new approach to Israeli public relations. Let's call it: THE MARKETING OF ISRAEL, and look at the problem from an advertizing perspective. About nine months ago, I discussed with an executive of a major advertising company the possibility of producing television spots supporting Israel's positions on various political issues. I became discouraged upon learning that the major stations do not permit "advocacy" commercials. Fortunately, this has changed.
I think it is time to take a second look at my concept but expand it to include radio, magazines, cable television (cable will accept this type of commercial) and newspapers. The ads should range from the very soft evocative travel type to some hard hitting but subtle political messages. Pretend that Israel is a corporation with a vast market in the United States. Receipts from that market top $9 Billion Dollars (including US economic and military aid, UJA, Israel Bonds, JNF, Hadassah plus all the other campaigns from Yeshivas to the Technion). What would you spend to protect a market of that magnitude? Two percent would equal $180 million. You can run for president with that kind of money. In a wild fantasy, lets say we have that much money. And let's say we hire a talented creative ad man to develop a multi-faceted, multi-media, and multi-year campaign to win the hearts and minds of the American people.
This should not be an impossible task. Israel is a good product, lots of virtues, few vices. Can you imagine convincing the American people to love Osama Bin Ladin? We could do nothing, but the consequences are not so good. Public opinion polls are beginning to show the Arabs winning more and more sympathy. Yes, Arabs who keep their women in bondage and cut off their clitorises to deny them sexual pleasure; Palestinians who disembowel pregnant teachers in front of their classes; Syrians who peddle narcotics to American inner city youth and commit mass murder if provoked; Saudis who threaten to behead a man for practicing Christianity; all of these and more are almost as popular as Israel. The terrorists Arabs delight in the mass murder of Israel and Jewish civilians. They especially blowing arms and legs off women and children.
The Arabs are good at smearing the good name of Israel. Just listen to Hanan Ashrawi some time. No matter what the question, she manages to fit in a lie about Israel in her answer. Israel has already lost the college campus, half of the Afro-Americans, a good portion of the Protestants except for the some Baptists and the Evangelicals and some in the Jewish community. Unfortunately many American Jew or eight ignorant or apathetic about the fate of Israel.
The Israel government needs to realize that we are living in a new world where telecommunications brings us closer that ever before to each other. In the fifties when Israel was criticized, Ben Gurion used to say, "Its not what the world thinks, but what the Jews do that is important." It is a different world now and for every Israeli policy, the public relations aspect must be examined. I am definitely not calling on Israel to submit to public opinion but instead to organize and mold it for their benefit. I don't want Israel immobilized by fear of bad public relations. I want Israel to plan, with the help of experts, a strategy to counteract the negative effects of any public policy move. Would Sharon send his soldiers into battle without a detailed plan and strategy to win. The time has come for Israel to develop a strategy the win the public relations battle. The Jewish community in this country is more than willing to lend its money and advertizing talent to aid in this task. Let's do it!
HASBARA AND REALITY
THE JERUSALEM POST reported several years ago on plans at the Israeli Foreign Ministry to abolish its "hasbara" or information efforts. It reported, "The decision to abolish hasbara is in keeping with the then Foreign Minister Shimon Peres' view that 'if you have good policy, you do not need hasbara. And if you have bad policy, hasbara will not help.'" Those of us who have been in the trenches, fighting Arab propaganda for years, were stunned by this policy change. Most of all, we were stunned by this apparently incorrect perception of reality.
The propaganda battlefield, from which the Foreign Ministry seems eager to withdraw, is a surreal Kafkaesque landscape filled with the evil utterances of that unholy alliance of Arabs and anti-Semites. Their propaganda targets the Jewish community in America as well as Israel for a one simple reason: Anything that weakens the Jewish community and reduces their status in America ultimately limits the ability of Jews to aid Israel politically and financially. George Orwell would be quite at home with the "newspeak" of the "politically correct" bigots. Language, history, and religion become a twisted mass of bizarre concepts such as Zionism = racism.
CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) regularly reports on the most glaring examples of media bias to its members. Over the past few months, we have been shocked to discover that Encyclopedia Britannica has joined in the distortion of Israeli history to conform to what's "politically correct." In its description of the Six Day War of 1967 there is no mention of the Egyptian removal of UN troops, the closing of the Straits of Tiran (an act of War by international law), the movement of 100,000 troops into Sinai or the huge mobs in Cairo whipped to a frenzy by Gamal Abdul Nasser with cries of "DEATH TO THE JEWS" The Britannica account of the '67 war reads, "The Arab-Israeli War of 1967 devastated the Arab nations. In six days in June, Israel not only dispatched the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, but also overran vast tracts of Arab territory...which formally had been parts of mandated Palestine." For the average reader of the supposedly authoritative Britannica, Israel launched an aggressive war to seize land and devastated innocent Arabs. PRECISELY THE VERSION OF HISTORY THE ARABS WANT!
A quick scan of recent CAMERA literature reveals that the New York Times' correspondents for Israel, have a decidedly ant-Israel viewpoint. Harper's Magazine has published 22 viciously anti-Israel articles in the last five years. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) shows one biased report after another on the Middle East. National Public Radio (NPR) has become a hotbed of the most anti-Israel and anti-Semitic programs in the nation. And it is taxpayer supported! The American Library Association (ALA) has begun taking official anti-Israel positions and its 18,000 members are urged to carry books on the Middle East supporting the Arab version of history. The ALA's annual meeting several years included a panel discussion entitled, "Israeli Censorship: There and Here." Israel has a free press ( though 90 % leftist) and censors only for security reasons. On the other hand the Arab world is the most censored and restricted in the world, with death penalties for authors who go against the law of Islam. Why is the ALA discussing Israel and no other country? The answer: attacking Israel is politically correct.
What we are witnessing is the success of Arab propaganda in America. The following excerpt from ARAB PROPAGANDISTS JOIN FORCES WITH ANTI-SEMITES (my first published article in 1965 and still true today) should warn us of the consequence of abandoning the information field to the Arabs. "What do the Arabs hope to gain by this great effort and expense? Bluntly speaking -- to bring about conditions that would facilitate the destruction of the State of Israel. They concentrate most of their propaganda in the United States, because they feel that this country was the greatest single influence that contributed to the creation of Israel and that it still is the major force standing in the way of Israel's destruction."
It is my hope that the Israel Foreign Ministry will heed this warning and reassess their policy on hasbara before any more damage is done to the reputation of Israel and the Jewish community in this country.
ARAB PROPAGANDA AND ITS GOALS
"It is time that Americans realize that these teeming masses of Zionists who infest their cities and sit astride the arteries of their commerce are, in every sense of the word, aliens."
The above quotation, in passion and paranoiac ring could have come from the pen of anyone of our local hate mongers, whose rhetoric we have come to know well over the past half century. Yet, these words are neither the work of a professional rabble-rouser, nor of a right-wing extremist; rather they come from a presumably scholarly work written by an Arab college professor.
This points up two rather disturbing realities: That Arab propaganda has broadened its area of attack against Jewish populations out-side of Israel; it has, in effect, joined forces with local anti-Semites. Secondly, this propaganda apparatus, sanctioned, as it is, by duly recognized governments which together form an influential political power bloc, has lent these local anti-Semitic efforts the aura of respectability.
The Arabs, therefore, aim to neutralize the impact of America on the Middle East and, if possible, to draw her over to their side. This requires that the propaganda apparatus achieve the following effects: To drive a wedge between Israel and the American Jewish community; to alienate the Jew from the rest of America, and destroy his political and economic strength; and to convince the American people, and through them the American government, that it must adopt a pro-Arab, anti-Israel foreign policy.
Arab propaganda constitutes a formidable threat to the Jewish People and Israel. It must be counter-balanced by a strong and vigorous defense of Israel and the Jewish People. Recent efforts, like that of the Israel Project will fail as will the Israeli Foreign ministry effort. The reason for that failure is their attempt to disavow Zionist ideology and pursue a delusional "peace" with those who wish to destroy us.
What do the Arabs hope to gain by their propaganda against Israel Bluntly speaking they plan to bring about the conditions that would facilitate the destruction of the Jewish State.
The Arabs, there for aim to neutralize the impact the impact of America on the Middle East. In many ways they have turned the United States into their ally in the process of dismemberment of Israel.Let us briefly examine these three conditions and understand why their achievement is absolutely necessary before an Arab policy of eliminating Israel can hope to succeed. The Arabs have always looked at the Jews of America as allies of Israel, and it is against this alliance that the bulk of the Arab propaganda is directed. During the past fifteen years, the Jews of America have given invaluable material and political support to the State of Israel. American Jewish aid has helped make possible the absorption of over 1,000,000 immigrants in Israel, and has given impetus to her economy. The Arabs, therefore, believe that they must destroy this relationship as a precondition to destroying the state. Recognizing that such a campaign might not succeed, the Arabs have devised other means of limiting the effectiveness of the American Jew. If Israel can not be made alien to the American Jew, then the Jew can be made alien to his non-Jewish neighbor. Isolate the Jew, and you isolate Israel; destroy Jewish prestige in America, and you destroy Israel's; weaken Jewish economic and political strength and you weaken Israel's potential to survive.
And finally, they believe that a long-range program to win wide-spread support of their policies from the American people is essential. If they can do this they will be able to prevail upon the American government to take a pro-Arab. anti-Israel position in its foreign policy. These ideas and projected goals are certainly plausible and, to a great degree, necessary, if Israel is to be destroyed with impunity.
To achieve these goals, the Arab Information Centers and the funding of Islamic studies at most major American Universities has turned a whole generation of scholars and students against Israel. School and public libraries regularly receive large amounts of unsolicited propaganda; civic, church and political clubs are treated to a host of polished Arab speakers who are able to lecture on a wide variety of subjects but always manage to direct the discussion to the Arab-Israeli conflict; hundreds of anti-Israel letters are kept flowing to large and small papers across the country.
The themes and techniques exploited in the letters, books, pamphlets and speeches follow a pattern. Virtually all Arab propaganda is based on the following postulates:
* The establishment of Israel represents a great "imperialistic" injustice to the Arabs.
* The Arabs of Palestine were expelled from their homes by "alien" invaders who seized their country.
Muhanimad T. Mehdi spells this out explicitly in his pamphlet The Question of Palestine:
"The question of Palestine is basically a problem of intrusion of a group of foreigners, largely Europeans, into the Arab land of Palestine, against the will of the Arab people, but with British and later American and Western support."
A wide variety of proposals, arguments, themes and accusations based on these postulates appear periodically in Arab propaganda. In all of their efforts the distinction between Zionist and Jew is blurred, although the Arabs frequently claim to have no quarrel with the Jews, but only with the Zionists. We will deal with this lack of precise distinction, when we discuss the use of anti-Semitic themes in its propaganda.
Here, then, are some examples of recurrent themes:
An 'international" Zionist (often Zionist-Jewish or Zionist-Jewish-Communist depending on the audience) conspiracy was able to take aver Palestine because:
(a) It controls the mass media in this county.
(b) It controls the wealth of this country.
(c) It controls both political parties
Israel is guilty of stealing land and property that belongs to Arabs; of military aggression; of creating tension to help it pleas for aid.
The UJA. is not a chanty; therefore contributions should not be tax-exempt.
Highly Organized, well financed "minority groups" pressure the American government to adopt programs that are supposedly in their respective private interest, but are, in fact, detrimental to the United States.
The Zionists (Jews) are, in reality, loyal to Israel, and, therefore, aliens to America.
Israel benefits from anti-Semitism in the sense that it uses it as an excuse to increaseimmigration and ask for more aid
Israel preaches peace, but is guilty of aggression; it desires territorial expansion.
There would be peace if Israel accepted U.N. Resolutions
American prestige in the Middle East is damaged, end Arab-American friendship is inhibited by American supporters of Zionism.
Desecration Christian and Moslem holy places.
Charges of atrocity.
Israel persecutes the Arab minority
The Jews have been worse than even the Nazis in their relations to the Arabs.