Hasbara

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Hasbara refers to the propaganda efforts to sell Israel, justify its actions, and defend it in world opinion. Using contemporary euphemisms, it is Public Diplomacy for the Israeli state. Israel portrays itself as fighting on two fronts: the Palestinians 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.

The techniques utilised

  • Smearing/defaming critics of Israel, aka, attacking the messenger. This is even the terminology found in the Hasbara Handbook produced for the World Union of Jewish Students.
  • Selective discussion of issues
  • Framing of issues, and setting the terminology used in discussing Israel
  • Harassing media about its coverage, aka, flak
  • Challenging the portrayal of an alternative narrative, and attempting to keep the zionist narrative as the dominant one.

Hasbara Campus Manual

'The Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus', is now available online. [1] And this is an interesting admission (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
  7. Bandwagon

Flak Machine

On July 2006, during the Israeli attack against Lebanon, the Israeli foreign ministry adviced supporters to generate a flak offensive against possible critics/criticism. (the letter sent to campaigners can be found here) Part of this offensive included the use of a software tool (called Megaphone) that would coordinate activists towards a given target. Their aim was to distribute Megaphone to 100,000 activists, and then direct propaganda campaigns against politicians, journalists, editors, broadcasting companies, etc. [2]

Similar software tools have been distributed by zionist groups which enabled flak campaigners to generate hundreds of complaint emails at the touch of the button. In that case, campaigners still had to sign in at a website to determine the flak target, but now, with Megaphone, the flak target messaging is sent directly from the campaign organizer to the campaigners. It is not clear if the spam-flak generator is a feature of the current program.

About the operation:

In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.
Jonny Cline, of the international student group, said that Jewish students and youth groups with their understanding of the web environment were ideally placed to present another side to the debate.[3]

Resources

  • "Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus", World Union of Jewish Students, March 2002.
  • Fadi Kiblawi, Israel's Campus Concerns, The Palestine Chronicle, 23 October, 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, 27 November, 2004.
  • Hilary Leila Krieger, Expert: Israeli PR improving, but..., Jerusalem Post, 16 December 2004. Interviews Frank Luntz during the 2004 Herzliya Conference.
  • Stewart Purvis, Israel ups the stakes in the propaganda war, The Guardian, 20 November, 2006.
  • Gary Rosenblatt, "Inside Israel’s Image War", SpinWatch/The Jewish Week, 19 January, 2007.

Notes

  1. 'Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus', Middle-East-Info.org, accessed 2 April, 2009
  2. An overview of Megaphone can be found at the Give Israel Your United Support website.
  3. Yonit Farago, Israel backed by army of cyber-soldiers, TimesOnline, 28 July, 2006.