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Hasbara – Netanyahu’s folly



So much for hasbara. Behold! A HAMAS ops center in the middle of a civilian area in Gaza. Yet Gaza's dependence even on Israel itself remains.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personifies perhaps the most pernicious error in Israel’s foreign policy, the belief in hasbara. Before elaborating on this theme, I must mention his book A Place Among the Nations.

People know Mr. Netanyahu better for his words than for his deeds. His most notable deeds one can encapsulate in his policy of “territory for peace.” Netanyahu has wedded himself in what some have called a Catholic marriage to this policy for more than twenty years. This despite its horrific consequences: the murder and maiming of thousands of Jewish men, women, and children by his “peace partner,” the Jew-killers of the Palestinian Authority. Let this serve as an introduction to Hasbara.

Defining hasbara

Hasbara consists of information campaigns to improve Israel’s image abroad, primarily about Israel’s conflict with the barbaric Palestinians. It’s not enough for Netanyahu to emphasize – and he rarely does so in graphic terms – that these Muslim Arabs use their own children as human bombs. Hence, I am not suggesting that hasbara should be ignored. But the importance attached to “marketing” Israel is grossly exaggerated. Indeed, I see it as indicative of a national flaw, perhaps an inferiority complex. Moreover, hasbara exaggerates the efficacy of reason or moral suasion in international affairs.

Even more significant, too many Jews believe that Israel’s problem in foreign affairs consists of changing the hostile attitudes of the “goyim,” when the real problem is to change the milquetoast attitudes of Jews, and their fearful concern about Israel’s “image.”

Boasting of democracy

To be more precise about the misconceptions or intellectual shallowness pervading Israel, her politicians, academics, and journalists all too readily boast that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. By so doing they unwittingly condition their counterparts in the democratic world to expect Israel, far more than her despotic adversary, to make concessions in the so-called peace process. Only democratic Israel is expected to “take risks for peace” no other government would dare ask of its people.

The fact that Israel is reputed as a democracy does not win the support so much as the contempt of many Gentile politicians abroad, their statements to the contrary notwithstanding. It can be stated as an axiom which PM Netanyahu should take seriously: The more Israel’s government seeks to win the approval of the nations, the more it will be despised by the nations!

Let Jews be Jews!

By seeking the approval of others, Israel’s political leaders must imitate others. This requires them to act less like Jews and more like Gentiles. Such self-abasement betrays their lack of pride in the Jewish heritage. This is exactly why Israel so often suffers humiliation.

Of course, Israel’s leaders attribute the negative attitude of the nations to anti-Semitism. Here they often confuse cause and effect. The truth is that a great deal of anti-Semitism is the consequence of Israel’s failure to comport herself as a Jewish nation. Besides, anti-Semitism serves the historical function of reminding Jews that they are Jews. Not only will assimilation fail to placate the nations; it will arouse their contempt.

Especially appalling is the imitation of American culture, which is hardly a culture. How can culture exist in a multicultural society where all “lifestyles” are morally equal, or where moral relativism is rampant. This relativism is logical consequence of American democracy, who’s basic principles, freedom and equality, lack ethical constraints?

It’s sheer folly to try to improve Israel’s image abroad by extolling “Israeli democracy.” Yet one can hardly find an academic in Israel who has the wit and guts to say that it is precisely the leveling tendency of democracy that undermines Israel’s image!

The true distinction of Israel: the Torah

It’s not democracy but the Torah from Sinai that has endowed Israel with dignity and of being worthy, not merely of having a “place among the nations” (ala Netanyahu), but of the highest praise notwithstanding any contrary opinions of these Gentile nations.

I will anticipate two objections to this “politically incorrect” statement. One is this: “What would you have Israel become, a theocracy?” A theocracy, however, is a state ruled by a priestly caste, which is foreign to Judaism. In Judaism there is no “clergy” and no “laity”. The most authentic form of Jewish leadership is that of the teacher. His power is not political but intellectual and moral. These qualities do not overflow the secular state of Israel. Witness the disgrace of some of its highest officials.

Dependency on America

A second objection is this: “Israel’s economic and military dependence on the U.S. prevents her from taking a more independent stand in Arab-Jewish affairs.” This reminds me of a remark by former US Undersecretary of State Joseph Sisco to Israeli author, the late Shmuel Katz, in 1989:

I want to assure you, Mr. Katz, that if we were not getting full value for our money, you would not get a cent from us.

That same year a conference on “American Aid to Israel and Its Effect on the Israeli Economy” took place at Tel Aviv University. The country’s leading economists, industrialists, and banking figures took part. They concluded that American aid to Israel results in

loss of motivation, absence of will to be independent, a craving for luxuries, waste, and emphasis on immediate fulfillment rather than long-term planning…. American aid corrupts the economy, inflates the public sector without justification and indirectly causes high taxation and growing deficits.

In short, the growth in American aid leads to a decline in productivity. That in turn leads the rapid transfer of capital from investment to consumption, and the sharp increase in government spending. From this it should be obvious that Israel’s political elites have a vested interest in American aid. But this makes Israel all the more inclined to imitate American democracy and thus become all the more contemptible.

Israel does not need better hasbara. Instead, it needs a more high-toned system of government. Such a government should have learned JEWS, rather than mediocre Hebrew-speaking gentiles. ☼


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