Hasbara

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Hasbara refers to the propaganda efforts to improve Israel's image abroad, to justify its actions, and defend it in world opinion. It is a public diplomacy effort undertaken by Israeli government officers, or individuals in target countries (public or private efforts; group or individual efforts). Israel portrays itself as fighting on two fronts: against the Palestinians/Arabs and world opinion. The latter is dealt with hasbara. The premise of hasbara is that Israel's problems are a matter of better propaganda, and not one of an underlying unjust situation.[1]

Hasbara Campus Manual

A Hasbara manual for students to use on US univesity campuses is now available online[2]. A summary of the techniques is provided from page 31 onwards:

Propaganda is used by those who want to communicate in ways that engage the emotions and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote a certain message.

The manual goes on to describe seven propaganda techniques:

  1. Name calling: through the careful use of words, then name calling technique links a person or an idea to a negative symbol.
  2. Glittering generality: Simply put, glittering generality is name calling in reverse. Instead of trying to attach negative meanings to ideas or people, glittering generalities use positive phrases, which the audience are attached to, in order to lend positive image to things. Words such as "freedom", "civilization",…
  3. Transfer: Transfer involves taking some of the prestige and authority of one concept and applying it to another. For example, a speaker might decide to speak in front of a United Nations flag, in an attempt to gain legitimacy for himself or his idea.
  4. Testimonial: Testimonial means enlisting the support of somebody admired or famous to endorse and ideal or campaign.
  5. Plain folks: The plain folks technique attempts to convince the listener that the speaker is a 'regular guy', who is trust-worthy because the are like 'you or me'.
  6. Fear: Stressing that ignoring the message will likely lead to war, terrorism[3]
  7. Bandwagon: Suggest that the stated position is mainstream and use polls to suggest this. [4]

Other hasbara efforts

Nation Branding

The Israeli government has contracted with several international PR companies to improve its image in the US, Europe and Canada. In the UK, Acanchi was hired to work on Israel's nation branding[5]. Saatchi and Saatchi acknowledged that it works with the Israelis free of charge on the re-branding effort.[6] Haaretz also revealed that it attempted to hire a Norwegian PR company for the same purposes.

Cultural Event exposure

Part of the efforts to improve Israel's image abroad is to increase the number of cultural events at which Israeli artists are present. Israeli writers, film makers, dance groups, etc., are subsidized by the Israeli government so that these groups can go on tour. Artists receiving funds to represent Israel abroad are paid, and they are also required to sign a contract requiring them to comment positively about Israel.[7] The Batsheva Dance Company tours Europe and North America as the "cultural ambassadors for Israel".[8] The company is mostly funded by the Israeli government and the Rothschild family.

Production of Propaganda films

Several films have been produced to either portray Israel in a good light or to portray Palestinians/Muslims in a negative light.[9] Geert Wilders, the right-wing Dutch politician and pro-Israel hawk, has been on tour to present Fitna, his anti-Islam film. The organizers of the events where Wilders spoke and showed the film was Ruder Finn, a leading PR company that has long represented Israel abroad.[10]

Pink-washing Israel

PR companies hired by Israel have taken prominent gays on tour to Israel, and also taken prominent Israeli gays on tour to Europe and the United States. These efforts attempt to show that Israel is a tolerant and gay-friendly society.[11]

Proponents and Practicioners

Resources

External resources

  • UC Cork University's PIWP database lists hundreds of articles on the following aspects of hasbara:
  • Habara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus, World Union of Jewish Students, March 2002.
  • Fadi Kiblawi, Israel's Campus Concerns, The Palestine Chronicle, Oct. 23, 2003. Quote: "The Hasbara Handbook prescribes fascinating instructions on attacking the messenger and avoiding the message at all costs ‘in ways that engage the emotions, and downplay rationality, in an attempt to promote’ their cause. In a section entitled ‘Name Calling,’ Israel's Jewish Agency writes, ‘Creating negative connotations by name calling is done to try and get the audience to reject a person or idea on the basis of negative associations, without allowing a real examination of that person or idea."
  • Conal Urguhart, Israel uses TV show to find its best spin doctor, The Guardian, Nov. 27, 2004.
  • Gary Rosenblatt, "Hasbara’ Goes Prime Time", The Jewish Week, December 3, 2004.
  • Hilary Leila Krieger, Expert: Israeli PR improving, but..., Jerusalem Post, December 16, 2004. Interviews Frank Luntz during the 2004 Herzliya Conference.
  • Gary Rosenblatt, "Inside Israel’s Image War", The Jewish Week, January 19, 2007.

References

  1. Akiva Eldar, Israel seeks PR help for image makeover, Ha'aretz, 8 May 2005.
  2. Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus, March 2002.
  3. ibid., page 25
  4. ibid. page 26
  5. Anshel Pfeffer, Foreign Ministry, PR firm rebrand Israel as land of achievements, Haaretz, 6 October 2008. Also, Toni O'Loughlin, Israel hires PR firm on 60th birthday for a political facelift, The Guardian, 11 October 2008.
  6. Bill Berkowitz, Israel Looking for an Extreme Makeover, Electronic Intifada, 12 January 2007.
  7. Yitzhak Laor, Putting out a contract on art, Ha'aretz, 25 July 2008. Yitzhak Laor, one of Israel's foremost poets and cultural critics, describes at length the contents of the contract that writers and film makers have to sign in order to qualify for state funds to travel to book fairs or other cultural events.
  8. Omar Barghouti, "Boycott Israeli Dance Troupes, They are Complicit", Dance Insider, 19 July 2006. Also, Omar Barghouti, "Above Politics? "Out of Israel" and into Complicity", Dance Insider, 21 February 2008.
  9. Khody Akhavi, Film on "Radical Islam" Tied to Pro-Israel Groups, Common Dreams, 27 March 2007.
  10. The press releases for Geert Wilders' events (in Italy, UK, Israel, and The Netherlands) were handled by Ruder Finn. Upon writing to Ruder Finn (to Lisa Limor at Ruder Finn-Israel) student groups were sent a DVD of Fitna for free.
  11. Lee Petar, Lost in the PR fog, Ha'aretz, 7 December 2007.
  12. Jeffrey Blankfort and Grant F. Smith, Ruder Finn: Profile, PIWP database (Accessed: 29 April 2011)