Pro-Israel public diplomacy, or hasbara, has been the subject of several attacks recently seeking to highlight its failure to properly deal with Israel’s poor standing with several target audiences. Over the years, there has bemoaning, hand-wringing and downright temper-tantrums.
A sympathetic Andrew Silow-Carroll asks “If Israel has such bad PR, why does it remain so popular?” and the nasty anti-Zionist Philip Weiss declares, “Hasbara is dead.” David Brinn writes of “Israel’s ‘Hasbara’ Plight,” and Irina Tsukerman thinks that “Israel’s Hasbara (PR) is Actually Spectacularly Successful.” The problem is that it fails in an effective division of labor.
Other weaknesses that are pointed out are a lack of essential financial investment, the ingrained media bias, the larger numbers of Arab states and organizations involved, as well as the normal lying, fabrication and misrepresenting of what has actually happened whether down at Gaza, in Judea and Samaria, or in Jerusalem. There are those who do not accept Israel’s right to exist in any territorial configuration or are willing to view Zionism as other than a racist and colonialist ideology. Many others either have very little knowledge or an inability to correctly read and understand elements of the arguments made. And there are the anti-Semites who didn’t like Jews in ghettos or their neighborhoods—or even in their own country, for that matter.
While this, or most of it, are concerns that do impact significantly on Israel’s “explanation” problems, the core issue is that Israel’s officialdom is too hesitant in confronting its detractors and too shy to forthrightly put forward Israel’s just case since that would entail asserting claims that would make target audiences cringe or respond with aghast.
Here’s a short list of the themes and concerns that are the essential cutting-edge of what hasbara activity should be dealing with and putting forth arguments and facts about:
- There was never an Arab Palestine. Quite simply, it never existed in all of history. On the other hand, in the 1922 League of Nations mandate decision, the Jewish historic national home is to be “reconstituted” having existed first as a tribal federation, then the First Monarchy and the Second Temple Commonwealth.
- Almost until the 1930s, the major demand of the Arabs of Palestine was that the territory of Palestine be joined to the French Syria and Lebanon mandate as they considered the area Southern Syria.
- A Palestinian Arab nation never existed. They considered themselves as Southern Syrians (see #2 above). All attempts to claim, for example, that Jesus was a Palestinian or that today’s Arab Palestinian population is an ancient resident group in this area, is incorrect.
- The Arab conflict with Israel and Zionism has always been and continues to be not one over territory or borders, but rather over Israel’s right to exist.
- Israel is not a colonialist project. Jews are the indigenous population. Arabs themselves are the true colonialists and imperialists, having come out of the Arabian Peninsula in the first third of the seventh century, conquered and occupied the Jewish homeland which the Roman occupiers had altered its name from “Judaea” to the new province of “Palaestina.” Any Arab claim to being “Canaanite” or “Jebusite” is pure unsubstantiated myth.
- The British Mandate decision, supported unanimously by more than 50 countries, recognized the Jewish right of “close settlement” on all the land west of the Jordan River. Jewish settlement rights to the lands east of the river were, for the time being, postponed but never proscribed.
- Jewish settlement in the historic Jewish homeland can never be “illegal.” In fact, the activity of rejuvenating a Jewish presence throughout the territory should be termed “resettlement.”
- If there is to ever be a “two-state solution,” it cannot be one in which there are two Arabs states in the area of former Palestine without Jews and one which is Jewish but is also populated by Arabs. A fair population distribution is warranted.
- An ethnic-cleansing campaign carried out through violent terror operations including murder, pillage, destruction of homes, property and fields, was accomplished by Arabs between 1920-1948. Some 20,000 Jews were expelled from their homes in locations such as Hebron, Jerusalem and environs, including Gaza, Nablus/Shechem, Jenin, Jericho, Tul Karem, Gush Etzion and other sites.
- Arabs have always rejected any diplomatic or political agreement, as well as any compromise, including the removal of Transjordan from the Mandate for the Jewish National Home, an Arab Legislative Assembly, several partition schemes in 1937-39, the 1939 White Paper which reneged on the original Mandate intention that deigned to establish not a Jewish national home but a “Palestine State” as well as the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan. Afterwards, they refused the offer of Israel to return all the territories except for Jerusalem at the infamous “Three No’s” 1967 Khartoum Conference, the Dayan Functional Plan, the Allon Plan, the Begin Autonomy Plan, the Camp David II offer and subsequent Clinton Parameters of 2000-01, the Olmert/Livni Offers, the Netanyahu Construction Moratorium of 2009-10 and more.
- The Palestinian Authority is a non-democratic dictatorship ruled by a variety of competing terror warlords. The political, human and civil rights of its Arab residents are virtually non-existent. It promotes terror and intransigence, does not encourage peace and coexistence with Jews and Israel, while religiously promoted anti-Jewish prejudices are ingrained through its educational system from the lowest grades up.
- The Palestinian Authority had adopted a “slay-for-pay” policy that motivates its populace to murder Jews so their families can receive money.
- If any peace arrangement is to be explored, it can come only after there is full peace between the PLO/Fatah and the Hamas for a number of years and then after a deprogramming process of the terror and anti-Jewish education content of the schools’ curriculum as well as the P.A.’s sponsored media outlets has been in force for a decade.
This is not an exhaustive list, but one that includes the necessary elements for defending Israel and offering the possibility for a future relationship with Israel and Zionism’s enemies based on coexistence and peace.
Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and author.