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.
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.
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.
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.