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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It's Not the Hasbara, It's the Reality

Hasbara or Pro-Israel PR has become the great obsession of Pro-Israel activists and the Israeli government. One article calls for Israel to spend as much effort on communicating its message, as it does on its defense budget. Another castigates the many failures of Israeli diplomats in getting their message across. Still another features Frank Luntz who has been brought to tell Israeli leaders that they need to use kinder and gentler language to win the debate. Stop saying "security" and start saying "protecting innocent life", and everything will be well. Except of course it won't. Because the problem is not in the message, it's in the reality.

No doubt Israel's PR could use some work. Like most Western countries, Israel's diplomatic corps consists  of incompetents who are there as a political favor, and left wingers who are good at what they do, but hate their own country and sympathize with the enemy. Like most Western democracies confronting terrorist groups, it also suffers from allowing a plurality of opinions, which means there will be no shortage of Israeli politicians, activists and reporters who actively work on behalf of the terrorists. On top of that the personality of the average Israeli has much in common with that of the average New Yorker, while the terrorists have no shortage of Marxist academics educated abroad who know exactly how to talk to European diplomats and reporters.

But none of this is really the point, because Hasbara is not really the point. Israel is not suffering from a communications problem. It isn't losing the debate because it can't get around to explaining that terrorism is wrong. It's losing the debate because the media and Western governments don't agree that terrorism is wrong. They don't agree that Israelis shouldn't be under fire or that terrorists shouldn't be rewarded for killing people. The terrorists aren't scoring points because Israel isn't communicating its message. The terrorists are scoring points because their core audience in Europe and in some cases America, agrees with their message.

Israel has repeatedly shot itself in the foot PR wise, but no more so than most of the countries it's trying to convey its message to, have. Because the PR really doesn't matter that much. Whether or not people take Israel's side or that of the Muslim terrorists has little to do with the PR, and a lot to do with their politics, their view of Jews and Muslims, and the legitimacy of terrorism.

That is why most Americans continue to support Israel, even when confronted with a barrage of negative media coverage. It is why sizable numbers of Europeans dislike Israel. European media coverage is more overtly hostile to Israel, and supportive of terrorists-- but not by nearly enough to explain the difference.

A poll that shows Europeans rank Israel as the biggest threat to world peace, has to be tied in with polls which show Europeans blame Jews for the economic crisis, and a range of other things. Which is to say that negative views of Israel are likely to emerge from a negative view of Jews, either due to conventional bigotry or political bigotry on the right or the left. That is the same reason why American media coverage of Israel is at odds with the general attitude of Americans toward Israel. The American media skews to the left. The same left which dislikes the military, and has longstanding issues regarding Jewish identity as well. Which is to say talk of better Hasbara is all well and good, but all it means is learning to do a better job of arguing with bigots.

The numbers on Israel have less to do with PR, and more to do with innate attitudes by religious and political groups. Americans and Europeans who are more conservative are more likely to be pro-Israel. But they're also more likely to be supportive of countries fighting terrorism in general. The picture skews inversely when it comes to the left. The radicalization of liberalism, means that there is much less support among liberals for Israel, not so much because Israel has changed, but because what used to be the hard left is now mainstream liberalism.

Europe did not become hostile to Israel somewhere around 1967 or 1981. It was always hostile to Israel. One only needs to read H.G. Wells or George Bernard Shaw's comments about Israel and the Jews to see that, long before the modern state even existed. And American liberals were traditionally more supportive of Israel than their European counterparts, because they were less likely to be bigots, less likely to be anti-religious-- and less likely to be knee jerk anti-military. Two out of three of those factors have changed dramatically. The third is wavering. And this is what accounts for the growing antipathy among liberals for Israel. As American liberals become more like their European counterparts, that translates into hostility toward Israel.

In Europe some liberals like Nick Cohen try to calmly and reasonably explain the situation, only to receive a round of namecalling in return. That is because you can't argue with people's prejudices. Cohen warns the left about the dangers of Islamism, communicates a rational and concise view of the position that Israel finds itself in-- and receives exactly the responses at the Observer, that he would have received in Der Sturmer in 1939 trying to explain that Jews really didn't cause the Great War. And very few Israeli spokesmen or activists are going to be able to communicate half as well as Cohen does.

It is always good to know how to answer a bigot, so long as you understand that you will not convince the bigot of anything. The bigot is not interested in a reasonable discussion, only in venting his hatred on a favored target. Jews have been that target for a very long time. If you understand that, you can humiliate a bigot in front of a large audience, as David Horowitz did. If you don't understand that, you'll be stuck justifying everything Israel has ever done-- which is a mug's game, because every country has its black spots, and bigots love nothing more than to use them to paint the entire country black.

Calling emergency Hasbara conferences are a waste of everyone's time. And rephrasing everything in Frank Luntz's Compassionate Conservative Bushisms are the sort of thing corporations do to polish up their image during a crisis. Unfortunately this entire emphasis on Hasbara mirrors corporate behavior. Inviting people in to teach you how to say things in a kinder and gentler way comes off as dishonest weaseling, rather than tackling the problem. Israel's problem is not Hasbara, it is reality. Its problem is that it is engaged in an indefinite terrorist conflict in a media saturated environment, with foreign and domestic activists on the ground helping the terrorists. Until it changes that reality, Hasbara will do little good.

Hasbara is not capable of reversing the leftward drift of American and European liberals, who also dominate the media and foreign policy establishments. Which means it's best to focus on smart solutions to ending the terrorism, rather than trying to market Israel's War on Terror as a War Against Cruel People. Most people have already decided where they stand, with the terrorists or against them. Hasbara will not significantly change that either. Most people who support the War on Terror, support Israel's War on Terror, and vice versa, most of those who oppose America's War on Terror, oppose Israel's right to defend itself against terrorists as well.

The only way to win at PR against a pro-terrorist left and its Islamist allies, is to take the war off the table by winning it. Because an indefinite crisis will bring enemies out of the woodwork, and give bigots plenty to feed on. That's the cold hard reality of it. The only way Israel can win the PR war, is by defeating the terrorists. Trying to win the PR war in order to be able to fight the terrorists, has been a common mistake in the Israeli paradigm. Dispensing with that paradigm as quickly as possible and winning the fight, is the only way to get the monkey of hate off Israel's back.

20 comments:

Paul said...

Yes, the problem is not in the message, it's in the reality.

But the reality for Israel is not Europe or the US, it is the Middle East. Israel is a Middle Eastern country and it's real problem is in the religious beliefs of its neighbors which have no foundation in reality and despite that are the roots of a fanatical hatred.

The other reality is that the experience of the Jews in Europe has been equally unjust and based on a similar irrational, religious based hatred.

The best weapon that Israel has is the truth about its people, their land and the beliefs of that people as they stand in contrast to the beliefs of their oppressors. Experience shows that Jews cannot stand passively by while they are denounced with lies, that leads to doom.

But experience shows all of us that none of us can stand idly by while people lie and falsely pose an innocent people as aggressors and then murder them on the pretext of those lies. Such murderers soon look for other victims to profit from and then anyone can be the target of such lies.

Ria said...

I don't know exactly what is making them to hate Israel or Jews, but I agree that nothing can change their mind. Maybe "morality" and "guilt" are keywords. A tiger never feels guilty after having slaughtered a prey. The animal is just doing what it is designed to do. The first tiger who shows guilt will be the scapegoat of all tigers in the world. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent article.
You have an amazing ability to express yourself in infinite ways on a daily basis. Kudos!

I only wish more people could read your articles.

Eventually Bloggers like you will take the center stage of reporting once people realize that the regular media is selling them out just to sustain their organizations. As they blurt almost fearlessly that "rating counts" not the truth.

Yes the stark reality is that you need first to defeat terrorism (even if it means using the same terroristic tactics) in order to win the PR war.

The harder you strike, the more you are respected.
No point trying to argue with bigots and no point trying to explain yourself to death.

Keep up the excellent work.

May the force be with you.

Anonymous said...

"The terrorists aren't scoring points because isn't communicating its message. "

It's harder to understand sentences with many negatives, but I don't understand this one at all. Perhaps this sentence can be reworked to be in the affirmative.

Anonymous said...

Emmy possibly for Al-Jazeera for its coverage of Gaza.

Muslim as forever victim where ever they kill infidels.

mindRider said...

Than what is the use of Hasbara if no argument can convince an opponent? Is it not better than to say f..k you and forget about PR and just fight the battles without any "gloves on" and realy inflict a crushing defeat on the ennemy, because the media and alledged liberals shall condemn Israel anyway even if it tries to defend itself in the most "humane" miltairy manner possible.

Holy Infidel Surfer Dude said...

When you say that Israel should end it, the problem for some is that the terrorists hide their arms in mosques and fight using women and children as shields. This has been the subject of many photos. I see no way around killing scores of women and children to turn Hamas into Hamburgrs and Fatah into feta cheese; the bombing of mosques, Hydro towers, schools, SInai hotels, hospitals ( where Hamas caches weapons) and even playgrounds and shopping malls, if the IDF finds evidence of it as a "bodega" or a boutique for bombs. Using a channel on YouTube is effective and Israel's supporters are strong in the digital era.

I say that this is tragic but go for it. Hard to have compassion for 6th century troglodytes.
I subscribe to a "us" or "them" mentality. The "them" are these "stuck in the 6th century barbric inbred muslims" as well as their Marxist supporters in academia, US, Canada and the EU. What they say in Latin American newspapers is gibberish and irrelevant to me.
Bleeding heart Jews have to stop seeing themselves worthy of pity and move on and stop building bridges in inter-religious dialogues or saying that every poor person from Central America is a refugee.

My fear is the reprisals against 1) Jews outside of Israel or 2) Vocal non Jewish supporter of Israel by muslims. Given the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, I am surprised more have not since occurred.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

all those things that people worry will happen if Israel takes action, are happening anyway

Kevin said...

I think Israel should ally with right wing Europeans, they're our best friends.


Obvious: The European Right Are the Jews' Best Friend
http://www.corrupt.org/news/the_european_right_are_the_jews_best_friend

Sultan Knish, Pamela Geller is organising a 9/11 protest in New York and inviting Geert Wilders. I think you should attend too, and support her organisation to fight Islamism.

DP111 said...

The only way to win at PR against a pro-terrorist left and its Islamist allies, is to take the war off the table by winning it. Because an indefinite crisis will bring enemies out of the woodwork, and give bigots plenty to feed on. That's the cold hard reality of it. The only way Israel can win the PR war, is by defeating the terrorists.

Been saying so for years if not decades. Heck, Old binLaden says it, that people admire the strong horse.

When Israel defeated the Arabs in 1967, the entire world, including Arabs, admired Israel. Since then, Israel has been acting like a liberal sissy, ever trying accommodate its enemies, and all it has got is more demands from the Arabs, and contempt from the rest.

Change tack for heavens sake. What has Israel got to loose.

Way forward

Make publicly clear that from henceforth, each terrorist attack on Israel will lead to the permanent confiscation of territory. The size will depend on the number of Israelis killed.

This way the Jihad, which is all about seizing territory from the Infidel, starts to loose its charm. Moreover, the Palis will start to request their Lefty allies to tone it down, as it only annoys the Israelis, and they then take it out on the Palis.

What is happening now is idiotic- Israelis are dying as well as loosing territory. You couldnt get a more insane strategy. If you are going to lose people, then atleast gain territory and strategic depth.

What if the world objects? Really, whats new?

Actually, after a little commotion, the world (the non-Muslim part anyway), will realise that Israel is now behaving like a normal, rather then a stuck up holier-then-thou country, and will soon loose all sympathy for the Palis.

DP111 said...

My fear is the reprisals against 1) Jews outside of Israel or 2) Vocal non Jewish supporter of Israel by muslims. Given the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, I am surprised more have not since occurred.

That sadly is true, and will continue to be the case so long as the enemies of Jews have nothing to fear in retaliation. Retaliation + interest.

Keli Ata said...

People know the truth. They just don't care.

There are plenty of You Tube videos, Israeli blogs in English.

Lemon said...

Right wing Europeans are no pals to Jews and once Arabs are no longer a threat they will fill in the void just as they always did in the past.
Right now right wingers simply have a common bone to pick but without that they would turn on Jews yet again.

Geert Wilders is a notable exception to the above, however.

Jesterhead45 said...

Israel should simply tell rest of the world to FUCK OFF and take a leaf from the Sri Lankan Army’s handbook as to how to deal with enemies, the only issue is that such a scenario is unlikely to happen short of coup against the Erev Rav Elite currently ruling Israel.

The same probably goes for other nations as well when it comes to fighting against the Islamic quest of world domination, since the West appears to have its own version of the Erev Rav that makes common cause with islam and even goes as far as to be islam's biggest promoters.

You cannot convince people, who have already made up their minds that Israel should just go away and as well as pretty much decided that both Israel and the Jewish People guilty of (in their minds) being an annoying anachronism that refuses to die (along with Christianity to a lesser extent).

Originally, the three cities that served as the West’s foundation were Rome, Athens & Jerusalem; today those haters currently in power have since cut out the Jewish roots of the West and have gone on to replace Jerusalem with Mecca.

I also agree with Lemon above, just like the Muslims say that after Saturday is Sunday so likewise, for quite a few in the West after Friday comes Saturday.

Anonymous said...

Arabs undermining Israel from the Pacific now too - yes from the Pacific. They are very strategic:

"The Arab world has launched a ''seduction offensive'' in the South Pacific, where most of the region's 14 archipelago-states traditionally support Israel within the United Nations and other international bodies, hindering the votes of much more populous nations. The daily paper The Australian has today reported on the Arab League's decision to send an official delegation to the Pacific and to open its own office in the region. Moreover, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have created a 38-million-euro development fund for the islands and will be the location of the headquarters of the new Arab-Pacific Cooperation Forum....

...In a document released at the end of the summit, the Pacific states ''note the concern on the part of Arab states over the conflict in the Middle East, especially in Palestine, and the need to resolve disputes on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions and the principles of the Road Map, and recognise that the positions of Arab states are crucial for peace which is fair, comprehensive and permanent.' http://www.ansamed.info/en/news/ME.XAM10481.html

Morry Rotenberg said...

Liberals love the "under dog." Israel stopped looking like that dog in 1967. It was at that time that she lost the propoganda war. Better to lose a propoganda war than a real war.
The big fear I have is how many Israelis are now "post" Zionist. I know how badly the post Zionist Jews of America have hurt Jews throughout the world.
What can be done Sultan? Will there be another "open hunting season" against Jews again as it was in Europe in WWII?

Asian said...

Great article, so right, so true.

Israel should forget about human right for those barbaric people. Human right is for human, not for the barbarians who don't live by human right precept. Just wipe them off by whatever means, the sooner the better. With all those barbarians wiped out, Israel has no more obligation to explain anything to the world bigoted lefties who can't be convinced by any reasoning. Just do it covertly if Israel fears indiscriminate condemnation of the liberal lefties. Employ whatever means including terrorist tactics against the terrorists. Wipe out all the cancer cells once and for all.

As there are lots of very smart Jews, I hope as part of the strategy, Israel can invent better replacement for middle east oil. If all those mideast Arabs can't get anymore money from their oil field, they can't fund Israel hatred anymore and with no innovation, may their sick countries crumble into dust. It'll be great for the betterment of humanity.

DP111 said...

An exchange here...
Vivek G. writes (August 12, 4:30 p.m.):

There are two things to be kept in mind and understood here.

1. Obama's policies are failing to win Muslim world's heart.

2. The more a non-Muslim tries to win a Muslim heart, the more Muslims dislike him. By this, they encourage the non-Muslim to make more and more concessions to the Muslims so that eventually the non-Muslim digs his own grave towards reducing oneself to a Dhimmi.

So, it is not only important to understand point 1, but it is even more important to understand point 2 and not fall into the Muslim trap!

LA replies:

Very well put. And why is the situation as you describe it? The non-Muslim and the Muslim are operating from two different sets of assumptions. The non-Muslim is a liberal, who thinks that all men can get along on the basis of reason, good will, and mutual concessions. He thinks that the Muslim has some genuine or at least sincerely felt grievances against him, and that if he makes moves to appease Muslim's sense of grievance, the Muslim will feel better disposed toward him and drop his hostility. But the Muslim, unbenownst to the non-Muslim, is not a liberal; he does not believe in a world of mutual concessions based on reason and good will; he believes in Islam and in the rule of the world by Islam. Therefore the moment the non-Muslim makes a concession to the Muslim, the Muslim knows that the non-Muslim is moving in the right direction, toward dhimmitude, but that he still has further to go before before he reaches full dhimmitude. Therefore, in response to the non-Muslim's concession, the Muslim will not reduce his hostile demands on the non-Muslim, but increase them.

This drama of dhimmitude, fatal to the non-Muslim, will not cease until he finally recognizes the simple truth about Islam: that Islam is in a state of permanent war with all non-Muslims, and therefore that no material concessions should ever be made to it.

Ben W. writes:

LA: "This drama of dhimmitude, fatal to the non-Muslim, will not cease until he finally recognizes the simple truth about Islam: that Islam is in a state of permanent war with all non-Muslims, and therefore that no material concessions should ever be made to it."

http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/017073.html

Though why such a lesson is necessary for Jews, is beyond me. Why? Cause the Jews have the distinction, or should I say the 'honour' of experiencing first hand, and first time, the reality of the sword of Islam.

But strangely enough, it is Jews, not just in Israel but in the West, who continue to give Islam a pass, and thus put us all in existential danger.

Islam is in a state of permanent war with all non-Muslims, and therefore no material concessions should ever be made to it.

And the corollary to that is that we need to start making singular demands from Muslims, backed up with force.

DP111 said...

Though why such a lesson is necessary for Jews, is beyond me. Why? Cause the Jews have the distinction, or should I say the 'honour' of experiencing first hand, and first time, the reality of the sword of Islam.

But strangely enough, it is Jews, not just in Israel but in the West, who continue to give Islam a pass, and thus put us all in existential danger.

Islam is in a state of permanent war with all non-Muslims, and therefore no material concessions should ever be made to it.

And the corollary to that is that we need to start making singular demands from Muslims, backed up with force.

Anonymous said...

Great column Mr. Knish. Just beat the crap out of the terrorists and have them whimpering like dogs will shut them up. Hesitation in fighting them sows discord and doubt even amongst our supporters in the righteousness of your cause.Think of the dark days of Dec. 200 1- April 2002 when almost every day seemed like a suicide bombing was happening and Israel acted confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head doing nothing. She still got bashed even when she did nothing. She should have killed Arafat and started killing terrorists on a daily basis not in dribs and drabs but by the score!

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