Israel’s Communications Offensive against the Palestinians continues Unabated
By: John Mason / Arab America Contributing Writer
Even before the State of Israel was formed, Zionists had been enacting information campaigns to justify their anti-Palestinian activities. Now their strategy to propagate a negative campaign against Palestinians is in full force. The report also depicts a masterful Palestinian initiative to counter Israel’s public relations war in the U.S.
Information propagation as a Zionist, then Israeli, strategy to communicate Palestinian ‘transgressions’
Early pre-Israel Zionists called their efforts to influence foreign audiences propaganda. This was during a period when the term propaganda did not have the negative, manipulative connotation it has today. It was used in the days when Israel was only a blueprint on a drafting table when Zionist leader Theodor Herzl 1899 addressed the 3d Zionist Congress. There, he used the term “propaganda” as a neutral, descriptive term in instructing Zionists on how they should communicate to others the idea of the new arrival of the State of Israel.
These days, the term propaganda is used mainly by critics or opponents of the Israeli government or pro-Israel advocacy groups. The critics accuse the government and these groups of always showing Palestinians in a negative light. More recently, anti-Palestinian communications gurus in Israel began to use a Hebrew term, hasbara, to conceptualize the strategy for always making Palestinians wrong. Hasbara means approximately “explaining,” in this case rationalizing government actions against Palestinians, justified or not.
Today, to shield their true motives in maligning all Palestinian factions, the communications tzars have code-switched to use of yet another term, this time the slippery concept known as “public diplomacy.” Here, they have devised a strategy that permanently depicts the Palestinians whom they occupy as the enemy. They do not wait for the Palestinians to do something wrong—but put them in a category in which they are always wrong.
Propaganda, Public Relations, or Public Diplomacy? It’s mostly a matter of words
Whether it’s hasbara, propaganda, PR, or public diplomacy, the purpose of the State of Israel and pro-Israel advocacy groups is to “explain Israeli government policies, and to promote Israel to the world at large.” According to Wikispooks, this strategy aims to show Israel combatting on two fronts: (1) “A hostile, native, non-Jewish Palestinian population and Israel’s surrounding Arab States and 2.) World opinion. The latter is the province of Hasbara (explanation). All problems in public relations may be put down to inadequate hasbara.”
Israeli public diplomacy relies on all forms of communications, including social media, such as Facebook, which targets unaffiliated civil populations overseas. The government and pro-Israel groups use “open and fully attributable, unidirectional mass communication that targets so far unaffiliated civil populations in other countries, both via social media and traditional mass media.” It also uses communications to “counter what they see as attempts at delegitimization of Israel.”
A masterful Palestinian initiative to counter Israel’s public relations war in the U.S.
A 2016 documentary, “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States,” is an excellent effort to counter Israel’s propaganda on the 2014 Gaza-Israeli war. Directed by a University of Massachusetts professor, Sut Jhally, the film was intended to compete with the much greater coverage on U.S. TV of Israel than the Palestinian point of view. It aimed to gnaw away at the 57% of Americans polled who believed Israel was justified in killing at least 2,000 Palestinians.
The film depicted such personalities as Hanan Ashrawi, who exclaims how easy it is to blame the victim. And it quoted Israeli propaganda, saying about the Palestinians, “They hate us because we’re Jewish—it’s never about land or occupation (meaning stealing our land and occupying us). Noam Chomsky appears, averring that “This attack was murder.” The documentary notes that Israeli propaganda is supported in the U.S. by pro-Israeli public relations groups and includes such TV outlets as Fox (News).
Some Israelis reported on the graphic character of Palestinian photography depicting the barrage of Israel’s air attacks, including many deaths of civilians, including children and women. They said, “in the war of pictures, we lose.” Their response to criticism of the ferocity of Israel’s military attacks, was “What would you do…about the rockets pouring out of Gaza?” The film questioned whether Israelis might possibly inquire about whether there is something they might do about the oppression and continued occupation of Palestinians?
“Public diplomacy of Israel,” Wikipedia
“HASBARA–The Comprehensive Guide to The Truth about Hasbara,” The Truth about Israel – an NGO, (no date available)
“The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations war in the United States,” a documentary film, Sut Jhally, 2016
John Mason, PhD., who focuses on Arab culture, society, and history, is the author of LEFT-HANDED IN AN ISLAMIC WORLD: An Anthropologist’s Journey into the Middle East, New Academia Publishing, 2017. He has taught at the University of Libya, Benghazi, Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, and the American University in Cairo; John served with the United Nations in Tripoli, Libya, and consulted extensively on socioeconomic and political development for USAID and the World Bank in 65 countries.
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