Israeli Propaganda Isn't Fooling Anyone – Except Israelis

'Hasbara' is the Israeli euphemism for propaganda, and there are some things, said the late ambassador Yohanan Meroz, that are not 'hasbarable.' One of them is Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
Benjamin Netanyahu delivers his speech before Congress, March 3, 2015.
Benjamin Netanyahu delivers his speech before Congress, March 3, 2015.Credit: AFP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

And propaganda shall cover for everything. We’ll say terrorism, we’ll shout anti-Semitism, we’ll scream delegitimation, we’ll cite the Holocaust; we’ll say Jewish state, gay-friendly, drip irrigation, cherry tomatoes, aid to Nepal, Nobel Prizes for Jews, look what’s happening in Syria, the only democracy, the greatest army. We’ll say the Palestinians are making unilateral moves, we’ll propose negotiations on the “settlement bloc borders,” we’ll demand recognition of a Jewish state and we’ll complain that “there’s no one to talk to.”

We’ll wail that the whole world is against us and wants to destroy us, no less. The deputy minister will call on Switzerland to boycott, the minister will declare that boycotts are unacceptable, the deputy director of the Foreign Ministry will explain that a bigger budget is needed, and Sheldon Adelson will convene an emergency conference in Las Vegas – and despite it all, nothing will budge. Propaganda won’t cover for everything.

The policy of denial and disconnection from reality is rising to a dangerous level, and the illness is getting worse. When the world starts to show encouraging signs of stirring to action, Israel further entrenches itself in its imaginary reality and erects more and more separation barriers for itself. Israel seems to think that what worked well in its society and succeeded in almost totally wiping out all consciousness and awareness, will work just as well in the rest of the world. That the brainwashing campaign that was such a dazzling success here will be just as effective abroad – it’s all just a matter of “hasbara,” the Israeli euphemism for propaganda – and of budgets, of course.

Just give them enough funding and hasbara tools and they’ll explain to the world how wrong it is and how right the state of the Jews, who have no other country. A convention in Las Vegas, some brainstorming in Jerusalem, and the world will change its attitude.

It’s only to be expected when facing a worldwide campaign aimed at implementing justice and international law: the stage of denial, of repression and clinging to the false, nearly magical belief that if Israel will just explain its position better and invest the appropriate resources, everything will be fine. In other words, Israel continues to think that the world is dumb (and Israel is smart). That you can sell the world anything, just as you can sell anything to Israelis. That Adelson will buy the world’s sympathy the way he buys politicians in America, and the deputy ambassador in Dublin will show those Irish anti-Semites what’s what.

It’s self-deception, of course, and it’s also part of the campaign of propaganda and lies. There are some things, said the late ambassador Yohanan Meroz, that are not “hasbarable.” One of them is Israel’s actions. No explainer or propagandist can explain the perpetuation of the occupation. It just won’t work.

Granted, in a country full of propagandists, it has been working for close to 50 years already; most Israelis are convinced that all is really fine with us; that the IDF is really moral and the occupation is really an occupation of no choice; that Israel can live by the sword forever and be dismissive of the whole world, that it can tyrannize the Palestinians, wreck Gaza every other year, shoot children and believe that justice is on its side and that the world will see this too. That propaganda can replace any other policy.

That you can fool the whole world all the time. You can come up with all sorts of new (and strange) conditions every two or three years for ending the occupation and insisting that the spit we’re feeling is just raindrops. You can blame the Palestinians for everything and obscure the simple fact that this brutal occupation is Israeli. You can tell the world that it all belongs to us because the Bible says so and believe that anyone will take you seriously. You can be sure that the memory of the Holocaust will serve us forever, and justify any injustice.

Of course, it won’t work indefinitely. It hasn’t worked in any country in history, no matter how strong and well-established, not even in the mightiest empires. Justice always triumphs in the end, even if very belatedly. And justice says that Israel cannot continue to tyrannize another people forever, even if Haim Saban himself lends his support.

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