Israel wants to be seen as a normal country while claiming exemption from international norms. It must twist the truth to play the victim, hide its brutal features, the occupation, the Wall, the Law of Return. Unrelenting hasbara (Heb. explanation/propaganda) is its only recourse. Wars that were months, sometimes years, in the making are backed up with scripts casting atrocities as benign. Last December Mark Regev and Major Avital Leibowitz stood by in well-equipped press facilities on the border, rehearsing predetermined denials before the first soldier set foot in Gaza.
Leibowitz, Deputy Spokesperson for the IDF, says its spokesperson’s office has opened up a 24-hour North American desk, a European desk, a Russian desk, a Latin American desk, a new Arabic desk, as well as a film and photo desk. She described three main objectives, ‘maximizing access for news media, twenty-four hour availability, and showing the human face of the IDF.’ Indignant assertions that the IDF is the ‘world’s most moral army’ spew down the wires.
The foreign ministry’s deputy director for cultural affairs, Arye Mekel, recently declared, ‘We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, plus theatre companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.’
Israeli Embassies around the world dictate terms of reference such as ‘disputed territories’ and ensure that Jerusalem is referred to as the capital of Israel. Many succumb to the constant barrage of zionist hasbara from cyber ops such as Honest Reporting, BBC Watch, The Jewish Internet Defence Force, Tom Gross Media and the use of downloadable gizmos like Giyus.
A network of emailers and bloggers, known as The Hasbara Brigade, supports Israel’s governmental, military and ‘diplomatic’ hasbara, demanding apologies, retractions and resignations. Suppression is the objective and Karl Sabbagh believes ‘for this to succeed it must be directed at people who are unfamiliar with the issues and who might be persuaded that they have somehow “got it wrong.”’
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) sent hundreds of lobbyists urging Members of Congress sign a letter to President Obama demanding Israel be ‘allowed to set the pace of any future negotiations.’ HonestReporting.com sent up to 6,000 emails a day to CNN executives, paralysing their system. The Jewish Internet Defence Force focuses on sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Google Earth, taking control of social networking groups campaigning for Palestinian human rights and dismantling them.
Jim Hoagland revealed in The Washington Post ‘a queasiness between the two allies (USA and Israel) that cannot be publicly discussed by either without damaging political consequences.’ [April 26, 2009) That is hasbara at work.
Far from a heterogeneous ‘Jewish conspiracy’ the most influential purveyors of pressure and misinformation are united by a common neo-con agenda, not by race or religion. The intimidating spectre of Rupert Murdoch, personal friend of Ariel Sharon, haunts the newsrooms of London, Sydney and New York. On January 26, 2009, a London Times editorial parroted Murdoch’s Newscorp mantra: ‘Israel is better than its enemies…The bitter lesson of this war is that Hamas cannot be allowed to win.’ For ‘Hamas’ read ‘Palestinians’ and you get the drift.
Sam Kiley once wrote of the fear Murdoch instils, ‘The Times foreign editor and other middle managers flew into hysterical terror every time a pro-Israel lobbying group wrote in with a quibble or complaint, and then usually took their side against their own correspondent—deleting words and phrases from the lexicon to rob its reporters of the ability to make sense of what was going on.’ [6th September 2001, ‘Middle East War of Words,’ Evening Standard.]
Associated Newspapers’ Daily Mail with over two million readers always mirrors Israel’s pronouncements,‘Revealed: UNRWA spokesman who lied about Israel’s shelling of a school previously worked at the BBC with Jeremy Bowen.’ [January 9, 2009]
An example of the solidarity Israel receives from other colonial settler societies and their presses was the walkout in Geneva at The Durban Review Conference, ‘A great victory,’ Shimon Peres crowed. The influence of hasbara was noticeable in coverage of the event.
Haider Eid, writing about The Durban Review Conference for Maan, reminds us,
‘The conflict has been misrepresented, by CNNized mainstream media owned by those who decided to boycott the DRC, as a “war” between “two sides.” In fact, as I have argued, and as the late Palestinian intellectual Edward Said put it, there are not two sides involved in the “violence” in the Middle East. There is a colonial state turning all its great power against a stateless people, repeatedly made refugees – a dispossessed people, bereft of arms with the aim of destroying this people.’
A sign that the tide is turning came when former Evening Standard editor Max Hastings wrote in the Guardian on Saturday, 9th May, 2009, that he has ‘fallen out of love with Israel.’ He spoke for many more journalists and editors who, for decades, unquestioningly tolled the bell for the zionist state but are now wearying of its needy, megaphonic demands.
Max Hastings’ article can be read in full at: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2009/05/08/limitsofforce-hastings.pdf