Robert Azzi: Goodbye, Hasbara
Public diplomacy in Israel, known as hasbara, is a well-known and successful public relations effort until recently to positively disseminate information about Israeli actions around the world.
In 2015, columnist Gideon Levy wrote that hasbara “is the Israeli euphemism for propaganda” and there are some things …[…] … Which are not “hasbarable”. One of them is the treatment of Palestinians by Israel.
Between Israelis and Palestinians there are competing and seemingly irreconcilable narratives – one motivated by hasbara, the other by displacement and occupation.
Each side has the choice to either idolize its own narrative to the exclusion of the other, or to recognize the legitimacy of the other and seek the path of justice and peace, recognizing that peace is not is not simply something to be desired but stems from justice, which itself stems from truth.
In a globally connected world that recognizes the intersectional connection between dispossession in Palestine and Ferguson, between oppression in Gaza and Minneapolis-St. Paul, between settler colonialism in the occupied West Bank and Standing Rock, hasbara (which before TikTok, WhatsApp and Instagram served Israel well) today only serves to reinforce false representations and historical falsehoods about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict .
The false claims and falsehoods that persist on both sides but have a disproportionate impact on Palestinians more than Israelis.
“And the propaganda will cover it all,” Levy continued. “We will say terrorism, we will cry anti-Semitism, we will cry delegitimization, we will mention the Holocaust; we will say Jewish state, gay-friendly, drip irrigation, cherry tomatoes, aid to Nepal, Nobel Prize for the Jews, … the only democracy, the largest army … and we will complain that “there is no one there who to tell… “
Not only is there no one to talk to, the West has been told, but there are no Palestinian injustices, grievances, resentments or occupation worthy of reparation or compassion. .
Palestinians, hasbara informs us, are simply not worthy, not even capable of loving their children like Golda Meir, in a racist cope of unfathomable hatred, once said: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will have peace with the Arabs only when they love their children more than they hate us.
What is inexcusable is that they fail, at every moment, to recognize the humanity of the Palestinians, that they do not recognize that keeping a people trapped, delegitimized, impoverished, besieged and deprived of their rights is ultimately the opposite. to its moral or national interests.
If you want to know how the Palestinians were treated, ignore the hasbara. Listen to your heart, listen to the testimony of the witnesses, read the story.
Read that when Israel’s apologists point out that 69 Jews were murdered by Arabs in Hebron in 1929, which is true, they almost always fail to add that A, the British were the government authority in Hebron and that the Police commander, RO Cafferata, refused to deploy his forces to deal with the crowds, and B, they fail to mention that at least 300 Jews in Hebron were rescued by Arab neighbors who hosted them in their homes.
Read that Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Knesset, said: “My family is from Hebron – on my mother’s side, I am an eight generation Hebronite. In the 1929 massacre, half of my mother’s family was killed, and half of her family was rescued by the Palestinian “Righteous Among the Nations” here in Hebron.
Read that at its founding, as Israel expelled 750,000 Palestinians from its new state, massacres were inflicted on the Palestinians (as recounted by Israeli historian Benny Morris in The birth of the Palestinian refugee problem, 1947-1949) in Saliha, Upper Galilee, Deir Yassin, Lod, Dawamiya and other locations, killing hundreds of civilians.
Read that from 1948 to 1966, Arab citizens of Palestine were ruled by martial law.
Read that Hamas is in part an Israeli Frankenstein, a creation of the Israeli security forces who believed they could create and control an Islamic alternative to Yasser Arafat’s more secular Fatah movement, all well reported in both the Wall Street newspaper (“How Israel Helped Generate Hamas”) and the Washington post (How Israel Helped Create Hamas.)
Read that in 1994, an American-Israeli Kahanist, Baruch Goldstein, murdered 29 worshipers and injured 125 others in the Ibrahimi Mosque. Also read that last month Netanyahu was considering including the Kahanists in Israel’s far-right Jewish ruling party in his government.
Read that since 1967 Israel has illegally occupied and annexed East Jerusalem, occupied the West Bank and imprisoned the 2,000,000 residents of Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians have been cleansed of their lands, settlements built, crops stolen, olive trees destroyed, homes razed, children incarcerated and people killed for the “crime” of being Palestinian.
Read that since 2007 Israel has imposed a land and sea blockade on Gaza, one of the most densely populated places in the world.
I agree that the rockets launched by Hamas from Gaza at Israel were acts of terror and must be condemned, launched from populated areas as there are no uninhabited areas in Gaza. Resistance movements do not set up military bases in remote areas to be easily targeted. On the contrary, they survive, as Mao Zedong said, by “mov[ing] among the people like a fish swims in the sea.
Except in Gaza where even the Mediterranean is closed to Palestinians.
But bombing Gaza will not stop the rockets. Recognizing the humanity of the Palestinians, recognizing the injustices inflicted on them and viewing them with dignity and respect, having a law for all, could be a start.
I have already written that while Israel can be a democracy for its Jewish citizens, it is not for Arab citizens. To assert that Israel is a democracy for all because it has an Arab Supreme Court and Arabs in the Knesset, or an Arab beauty queen, is to assert that America is free from systemic racism because it once had elected a black president.
Indeed, in 2018 Israel affirmed the status quo by passing the racist “nation-state bill”, which declares not only that Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, but that “the right to exercising national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people, ”depriving more than 20% of its non-Jewish population of the right to vote.
This year, in response to this nation-state law, Avraham Burg called on the Israeli government to revoke his official designation as a Jew. Expressing his opposition to the bill, Burg said: “The meaning of this law is that a citizen of Israel who is not Jewish will suffer from a lower status, similar to what Jews have suffered for generations. incalculable ”, adding:“ what is hateful to us, we are now doing to our non-Jewish citizens. “
I can’t imagine the force or the anguish it took to ask to be delisted as a Jew.
While all of the above is true and irrefutable, what is true is that one could go back for millennia to who did what to whom when and where, which is just as true. is that today the Palestinians of Israel and the occupied territories, live in a prison state where each of their movements, desires, thoughts, even access to clean water, health and education, is subject control of a highly militarized sovereign state.
That Israel, in trying to cleanse Sheikh Jarrah of its Arab residents and attacking the Al Aqsa Mosque, “jumped the shark” (Monitor, 5/23/21) is irrefutable and cannot be redeemed by hasbara and falsehoods. statements.
It can only be redeemed by recognizing that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians they hold under occupation in their colonizing state is illegal, contrary to international and moral law, and contrary to its own interests.
Today we must recognize that the Palestinians, now united after the shooting and gassing of worshipers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, have internalized and implemented the belief, as Mexican revolutionary leader Zapata said, that “ it is better to die standing than to die living on your knees.
(Robert Azzi is a photographer and writer. He lives in Exeter and can be reached at [email protected].)