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December 9, 2016 / 9 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Hasbara’

Hasbara: Why it’s Harder and More Important Than You Think

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Abu Yehuda}

Everyone says Israel does a poor job of hasbara, but the question is “what is the job?”

Hasbara is information, propaganda, public diplomacy, clarification of policies, telling the truth about Israel or telling lies. It depends on whom you ask.  Folks who don’t like what I write sometimes call me a ‘hasbarist’, which is apparently something like a pederast.

One form of hasbara – defensive hasbara – responds to what Richard Landes likes to call ‘cognitive warfare’. Cognitive warfare is a real thing that nations and ideological activists expend a lot of effort and money on and which can have serious, concrete effects.

Cognitive attacks can be targeted at different populations and intended to produce different effects. It can be aimed at an enemy population to demoralize it, reduce support for its leadership, destroy will to fight, create confusion, or cause the leaders to make mistakes. It can also be aimed at third-party nations, to keep them from supporting the target. Cognitive warfare techniques can also be used to strengthen one’s own population’s identification with particular policies.

Israel’s enemies flood the world’s media and institutions like the UN with descriptions of the IDF’s ‘disproportionate’ use of force, ‘excessive’ civilian casualties, use of prohibited weapons, cruelty and even deliberate targeting of children. Defensive operations are portrayed as unprovoked aggression. These accusations are either exaggerated, presented out of context or made up from whole cloth – sometimes they are based on faked or doctored video, the so-called ‘pallywood’. Documentation is often no more than unsupported statements from Palestinians, laundered via the NGO ‘halo effect’ (“if Human Rights Watch reports it, it must be true”) to give them credibility. Organizations like ‘Breaking the Silence’ spread unsubstantiated allegations of war crimes both in Israel and abroad. A massive quantity of accusations are made in order to overwhelm our capacity to respond.

The campaign gets results: the IDF adopts tactics to reduce collateral damage even further, to the extent that its operational effectiveness and morale of its troops are impacted. Israel is deterred from initiating operations that might result in legal action against its officers and soldiers. Unfriendly regimes in the US are unopposed when they act to turn Israeli military victories into political defeats or cut off deliveries of weapons in wartime. Sympathy for terrorist entities like Hamas and Hezbollah make it possible for them to ‘stay in business’ between conflicts and rearm. Israeli young people may even be influenced by the smear campaign to avoid military service so as not to be involved in what they are told is an immoral enterprise.

The BDS campaign that is being waged all over the world, including Europe, South Africa, Australia and the US, is a major cognitive offensive. While it is doubtful that it can ever amount to more than an economic pinprick against Israel, that isn’t its primary objective. What it has already been successful at doing, whether or not resolutions to boycott, sanction or divest are passed, is to give currency to the idea that Israel’s behavior is so egregious that decent people are expected to shun it. Even where anti-BDS laws or resolutions have been passed, these are spun as a response by ‘Jewish power’ to justified grass-roots outrage.

Defensive hasbara counteracts these sorts of cognitive warfare. Although the sheer volume of false accusations makes it difficult, they must be refuted before they can be turned into concrete legal or diplomatic challenges.

The role of the government and the army in responding to false accusations is key, because only they have the access and authority necessary to find out the truth about incidents that happened in war or in confrontations between soldiers and civilians. The record of the Israeli authorities in this arena has been spotty at best. One of the worst failures was the case of the alleged killing of Mohammed al-Dura in 2000, which almost certainly was a scripted ‘Pallywood production’ in which neither the young al-Dura nor his father were wounded. A map showed that IDF soldiers could not have shot them. Nevertheless, shortly after the incident, the IDF officially apologized for the young al-Dura’s ‘death’!

Defensive hasbara is one piece of the puzzle, a necessary response to cognitive attacks, but in itself not sufficient to win the cognitive war. If all we do is defend ourselves, the result is that we simply help spread the accusations (I’m reminded of an anecdote about Lyndon Johnson advising his PR person to spread the story that an opposing candidate had sex with chickens in order to force him to publicly deny it). We can’t afford to ignore specific accusations, but we also need to ensure that people on our side have access to a correct account of our historical, moral and legal rights to the land of Israel as well as the justification of specific policies.

The thrust of Palestinian Arab propaganda – and it indeed is thrust at the world continuously – is that the Jews stole the land from an indigenous Palestinian people and Israel occupies it today (on both sides of the Green Line) as a cruel racist, colonialist oppressor. As long as this story is believed, then there will continue to be pressure for ‘justice’, which usually involves changes to borders and security features (e.g., the elimination of the security barrier or the blockade of Gaza) that will advance the Arab program to destroy the Jewish state and kill or disperse its people.

Just as the Palestinians and their supporters have a logically consistent (but false) narrative of history and current events to justify their demands, we too need to develop and broadcast our (in this case true) narrative. In contrast to defensive hasbara, I’ll call this positive hasbara.

If we were doing this, we would advocate for our narrative in both the inward and outward directions, in our own educational system and also in our informational efforts to the outside world. The narrative would rest on a Zionist philosophical foundation, accurate historical scholarship and solid legal argumentation. All our organs of state – the Prime Minister and government, the Foreign and Defense Ministries, the army, the Broadcasting Authority, and more – would be on the same page when it comes to our basic right to have a Jewish state here, why we must maintain military control of the territories, why Jews have a right to live anywhere in the land of Israel, and why our security measures are justified.

Needless to say, this is not the case today. We tell the world how much we want peace with the Palestinians, how beautiful our beaches are, how gay-friendly we are, how we have a lot of high-tech startups, how our medical technology is the best in the world, how our soldiers are nice to cute Arab kids, and how the terrorists murder us. The world responds by saying that terrorism is our fault because we don’t ‘end the occupation’, ‘stop settlement activity’ and ‘free Palestine’.

The necessary messages are not getting through because they are not being sent. Why is this?

We have a political and social culture that is very tolerant of political diversity. A small percentage of Israelis tend to be extremely, even pathologically, critical of the state, and at the same time sit in key positions in our most important information-related institutions, not to mention the ministries, the courts, even the army. There are academics, media personalities, artists and intellectuals who are anti-Zionist and anti-state. Instead of Naomi Shemer we have Aviv Geffen. University faculties are ludicrously unbalanced toward the Left.

These individuals can directly create roadblocks, but they also foster a lack of confidence on the part of others who don’t share their point of view. In Israel, unabashed Zionists are considered at least naïve and often extremists. Nobody wants to look silly.

Because we don’t project a consistent message that justifies our existence, we should not be surprised that people all over the world don’t bother to sort through the contradictory messages – including many that can only be called suicidal – that emanate from Israel, and instead prefer the simple call for ‘justice for the Palestinian people’.

I don’t have a solution for this problem. We aren’t Yasser Arafat, who created a unitary voice for the Palestinians by murdering anyone who disagreed with him. We aren’t the Soviets, who tightly controlled all means of expression and sent people to the Gulag for illegally using a typewriter. But as long as we don’t unite behind a Zionist ideal, we won’t be able to present a counter-view for the Palestinian narrative. And indeed, we won’t have an answer for the nihilism of the post-Zionist Left among us.

Shimon Peres said that you don’t need hasbara if you have good policy. This is wrong for many reasons, but one of them is that you can’t have good policy if you don’t have a consistent understanding of who you are and what your objectives are. You can’t fight a cognitive war over your legitimacy if you don’t know what the basic arguments for that legitimacy are. You can’t negotiate if you don’t know what you can compromise and what you can’t. Positive hasbara is more than propaganda, it’s also getting our own selves clear about what we ought to do and why.

Cognitive warfare is real and dangerous. Defensive hasbara is the necessary response. We can improve our execution of it by adding money and manpower to the effort to counter the enemy lie machine. It’s difficult, but we know how to do it. And we should.

Positive hasbara, answering the Palestinian narrative with a persuasive one of our own, is a much harder task, because it requires that we have a consistent national narrative that we feel comfortable asserting. And we don’t.

And that’s the answer to the question at the beginning of this post: “the job” we need to do is a political one, not just a PR operation: it is no less than to unite Israel’s Jews under a Zionist ideological banner. Until we are successful at this, the only hasbara game we can play will be the defensive one.

Vic Rosenthal

Hasbara. A Tale of Official Neglect.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Those of us fighting against the tsunami of anti-Israel haters were no surprised to read the State Comptrollers Report accusing government ministries of gross negligence in the fight against anti-Israel activism. The headlines of one Israeli media outlet, covering the State Comptroller’s report, called the government “dysfunctional” and “failing utterly” in its fight against BDS.

What has been glaringly absence has been the total lack of involvement in local diplomacy abroad not only by our ministries but also by our overseas embassies. Officials both at home and abroad have abandoned Israeli supporters with an arrogance that is hard to explain.

I cannot begin to list the limitless complaints I receive from supporters who have been turned away by Israeli embassy officials when they have asked for minimal assistance in organizing pro-Israel events and actions as part of their efforts to take on the anti-Israel groups in their local towns. I personally can vouch for the lack of concern by certain key embassy people in my attempts to set up special Israeli advocacy groups in certain countries. I wasn’t asking for money, simply for them to arrange contacts and simple logistical help. Israeli hasbara at local level it seems is not their task, at least not with individuals or small local groups, despite the fact that these are the people who are our most avid and enthusiastic activists.

Despite a newspaper headline in July 2015 that the Strategic Affairs and Information Ministry had been allocated one hundred million shekels to fight anti-Israel activism there is no clear action plan in place. Simply put, it is a case of throwing money at a problem but with no clear idea how to solve it.

With a lack of understanding what is happening abroad, it will be tempting for government ministries to take the easy road and form a coalition with the major Jewish organizations abroad including offering them funding. This may be a mistake for a number of reasons.

In certain countries, it has been the major Jewish organizations that have been unable or unwilling to promote affirmative pro-Israel actions in times of Israel’s needs. In fact, this is what has led to the development of so many grassroots support groups who have taken to the streets to confront the anti-Israel protagonists when they have been demonstrating for Hamas or boycotting local stores selling Israeli products.

It would also be wrong for the government to lump their actions abroad through national Jewish organizations because, in many countries, the most affirmative action-minded groups have been Christian supporters of Israel. Two of many examples I can quote of brave pro-Israel advocacy have been set by Nigel Goodrich, a Scottish teacher, who has built a coalition of twelve Scottish branches of Friends of Israel, and two Dutch girls, Brenda Aartsen and Sabine Sterk, who have voluntarily, and at no small cost and sacrifice to themselves, have created Time to Stand With Israel. I spoke at one of their events which drew a large and enthusiastic Christian audience. They also led a group of both Christian and Jewish Israel supporters in a face to face confrontation with BDS outside Amsterdam City Hall over the proposed cooperation plan between the cities of Amsterdam and Tel Aviv which BDS was protesting. These two girls also organized a pro-Israel rally in Dam Square at the time of the 2014 Hamas terror assault on Israel.

It takes a network to defeat a network and our government really has to learn what is happening out there and use that knowledge with precision accuracy to support, particularly with funding, the NGOs and local groups who have the successful track records of achievements on behalf of Israel and not squander preciously short resources on heavy establishment organizations who have let our supporters down so badly and have been unwilling or unable to act for Israel when needed.

Our embassies must be manned by young enthusiastic diplomats trained and guided by our effective NGOs to assist the nimble local groups with material, logistical and budget needs as these are our first-line, rapid-response, teams in times of emergency. They know the territory and know the local enemy who are hyper-active in trying to defeat us.

Readers will be amazed at the spectacular successes achieved by these local groups and NGOs. With greater help, these willing warriors can take the battle to our enemies and win many more victories because our cause is right and we have both the moral and legal rights on our side.

Barry Shaw

Listen to Them Howl!

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Listen to them howl, the Jew-haters of the world. Listen carefully as they condemn us for living.

Thousands of bloodthirsty Muslims and Europeans congregating in the streets, screaming for Jewish blood, and these are the people Israel wants approval from. The hell with the European Union! The hell with Obama and his band of anti-Semites! They would see us drown in our blood.

While our troops are on the ground, (may G-d protect them!) I will try to refrain from attacking the government.

But I have demands of my own.

  1. I demand that our soldiers be given every bit of protection and cover during the operation.
  2. I demand that Netanyahu stop valuing the lives of beasts more than our brothers and sisters. And G-d willing,
  3. I demand that when the battle is over, we retake Gaza and throw them out because if they remain, they will murder us; this much is clear.

These are my demands because the Torah requires it.

 The full force of the IDF must be unleashed. I mean this in every sense of the word. If ever there was a savage enemy that warranted no mercy, Gaza certainly is one place he can be found. The barbarism of the Arab world cannot be fathomed and it is on full display in Gaza. Those who use their own children as human shields have clearly thrown away their souls. They lack something that is most basic in the brutal world of the animal kingdom. Watch how a mother bear protects her cubs and then compare this to the inhuman behavior of Hamas.

Gaza, where the murder of three Jews warrants a holiday with treats for the kids and music in the streets; where parents send their sons and daughters to detonate themselves in a crowd of Jews, and then celebrate with ghoulish smiles and adoration for the last act of their accursed shaheed. Gaza, where a “civilian” populace allows tunnels to be drilled in their own homes and schools, because they know that the Jew will be hesitant to fire on his home, but he is willing to risk it, if the possibility exists that Jews will be murdered there.

Most of the Israel is now experiencing a modicum of what the Jews of the westernmost Negev have endured for years, the consequence of Sharon’s perfidious expulsion of the Jews of Gaza and hisappeasement of Hamas. That is to say, they are experiencing the terror of the unknown, the “W questions: When will that awful wailing siren begin its terrible cry? Where will the kids be? Will we have time to get to the shelter? Will Netanyahu allow our noble soldiers to “finish the job” in Gaza? The sense of hopelessness when a government refuses to do what the social contract mandates, cripples the body politic.

The double standard of what Jews have to put up with is nauseating to any Jew with self-respect. If terrorists fired a rocket in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, and hit a rural lake that only the most ambitious campers have ever seen, this group of terrorists would be destroyed, without a doubt. Perhaps not today under Obama, but virtually any previous U.S. President from the right to the left of the spectrum would have acted likewise. Why? Because the people would demand it. Why must Jews accept the unacceptable and live the unlivable?

(As an aside, I ask the reader to consider the long-term affects of people in these regions. Places like Sderot, and other rural communities. Several years ago a study reported that approximately 45% of people were suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Foolishness. I would double the number and tack on a few points. No one can endure such long term madness without succumbing. The most battle-tested soldiers would become psychic casualties. That’s why combat soldiers are given leave after extensive time in the field. Today, military minds understand what they didn’t thirty five years ago. So I worry about the long term effects, particularly of children who are terrified, anxious, and whose parents cannot tell them that everything will be okay. Such people cannot grow up without lashing out in frustration for things out of their control.)

Donny Fuchs

Israel’s Secret Weapon!‏

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

Too many people judge Israel’s guilt or innocence according to the amount of wounded and dead we have in these “military conflicts.” As a daily blogger I have complained (on Facebook) about how hard it is to get “good pictures” of damage and injury in Israel of Israelis. The Arabs are just so photogenic and love to shove blood and gore into the camera.

International media just love to show the suffering Arabs, while all we have to show is a burning field and scratched up car, broken windows, toys, some fallen shrapnel and the trail of the Iron Dome taking out the missiles before they can land. Thank G-d, yes, thank G-d for the fact that not more Israelis have been injured and killed. And thank G-d for those “timings” when the camp or the nursery school or the stores or the kitchen was hit and destroyed just as the children or family weren’t there.

Israel has a secret weapon:

G-d Almighty!

Yes, the One True G-d loves us, despite our flaws and sins and foolishness and awful politicians and disloyal doubting media.

Personally, I think that the name the Israeli PR hasbara staff gave our retaliation to the potentially deadly rockets the Gazan Arab terrorists are constantly bombarding us with, Operation Protective Edge, is limp at best and the so-called “war aim” to just return to a status quo ceasefire is a dangerous mistake. We’ve been through this too many times before, and it just gives the Arab terrorists time to further perfect their weapons. Then they always start aiming and launching at us again. And each time their reach is further. Now almost the entire country can be targeted and damaged and potentially, innocent Israelis could be murdered or injured, G-d forbid. How long will G-d protect us and swerve the rockets to save us?

Since G-d is our only true ally, let’s stop checking for United States or United Nations approval and destroy the entire terrorist missile network and infrastructure. There is nobody to please other than G-d, so let’s just do it!!

Batya Medad

Government to Pay Students for Pro-Israel Social Media Messages

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

The Israeli government has come up with a scheme to increase pro-Israel messages on social media by offering students scholarships for taking on the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel movement.

The project will allow the students to post message through a government link so that they will not have to identify themselves, according to the office of the Prime Minister.

Israel launched a “hasbara” explanation campaign more than two years ago to try to offset rampant anti-Israel media and the Boycott Israel movement.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/government-to-pay-students-for-pro-israel-social-media-messages/2013/08/14/

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