Opinion |

Hasbara Guide to the Perplexed Israeli

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
Right-wing Israeli activists wave national flags during a rally in Jerusalem, in April.
Right-wing Israeli activists wave national flags during a rally in Jerusalem, in April.Credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

In the outside world, they don’t like us. They don’t like occupation and repression. Who is responsible for them not liking us? Antisemitism and hasbara, or Israeli PR. But antisemitism as an excuse is losing altitude, it is impossible to use antisemitism to explain every response to our abuses. The pose of the persecuted Jew has been replaced by the crazy Israel. So we are left with hasbara.

Hasbara for the goyim is a waste of time. For 56 years we have been explaining and explaining, and it does nothing – we can grab the world by its ears and scream that God promised, and all that, and they will still hate us. In the meantime, you can take advantage of the world’s absentmindedness, its tendency to focus on its own problems, that now Ukraine interests it more than the transfer of 1,000 Palestinians and the building of another 4,000 apartments in the settlements.

So who needs explaining to? We do. What, we need for them to explain to us? We, who allowed half a million settlers to wipe out this place’s future as a safe home for our children and grandchildren? We, who time after time elected the people who brought them down on us? We, who were silent, who turned away, who were busy with more important things – we have to have it explained to us? Yes, definitely, because all of us are Likudniks, under every leftist heart beats a Likud heart – because we all believe in “Jewish and democratic,” which destroys all hope.

Okay, then if that’s what we are, why do we need hasbara? After all, we swallow everything. Please, test us: Uprooting trees in the territories? Just fine. Arresting children? Great. Chasing after flags and shirts? Even better! So if everything is great fun, why do we need to explain it?

The answer is: because of the stupidity, or, according to Barbara Tuchman, because we are “acting against our own interests.” Go ahead and try to understand why we’re acting against our own interests – even someone who is sure that the Palestinians are monsters doesn’t understand the logic in sending policemen to a funeral, in killing a journalist, in expelling villagers and building outposts. Even if they demand to know how all this helps them in life, and even if they know: Stupidity is worse than leftism.

Who is capable of explaining stupidity? There is no lack of experts. From “the child” to the IDF spokesman, they know the drill. They know how to deny and after that confirm, to present lies as facts and facts as fabrications, to invent fake accounts and spread wild suspicions: Are you sure the Shin Bet didn’t kill him? Wait a minute, we didn’t accuse them, we were just asking.

How have we all become Likudniks? If you want to know the spring from which your brethren have drawn their brutality, crudeness and ignorance, go to the schools, look at the educational system. The closed-mindedness and racism were born there. Nationalism and ignorance were joined in the Bible and history classes like a date-rape drug in the glass of an innocent young woman. The Bible has become a political manifesto, and history lessons were censored for the needs of the government. They taught us not to ask questions, not to have doubts, because questions might tread on a political bunion and doubt could undermine the rock of our existence. National values that were suitable for a country when it was starting out have become ultranationalist ones in its maturity. Heroic stories have changed and the changes have not been absorbed. We are no longer the few against the many, our land is no longer tiny, our rights to the land are not recorded in the Land Registry, and when they sang back then “to labor and produce” they weren’t sending you to trade school.

Children who were educated to be ignorant nationalists have become teachers who raised generations of ignorant nationalists. Those who don’t have the tools to understand by themselves need the hasbara especially. They will have a hard time without it to deal with the gap between the theory they learned in school and the practical reality they encounter. Let the IDF spokesman explain to them how it is possible to learn about human rights as a student and to violate them as a soldier.

Not only them, all of us need hasbara to believe that things really still run like clockwork, we need hasbara to deny, lie, to fire the stenographer, to claim the nonsense was taken out of context, the folly was carried out under orders, and the commission of inquiry’s findings will be submitted “in the next few days,” in other words never, or we’ll wait 30 years for the transcripts that will prove they were right. Someone is needed to explain in the most authoritative manner: There is nothing because there was nothing, never, ever.

Knowing this will not be the last time we’ll need hasbara to understand the idiots who gave the instructions, who signed the order or slept standing up, gives me chills.

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