February 01, 2010

Israel establishes Hasbara Central

Like the nazis before them, Israel has decided to place its propaganda efforts under one roof, a kind of hasbara central. According to a former adviser to Menachem Begin, David Admon writing in Ha'aretz, even Begin baulked at the idea of so obvious a ploy as a government run propaganda machine:
I recall that many years ago, when I served as director of the celebrations for Israel's 30th Independence Day, between the visit by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and the Camp David summit, members of Peace Now were organizing stormy demonstrations.

In response, then prime minister Menachem Begin called me in for a conversation (before the 1977 elections I served as Likud spokesman) and said: "We have to get the Likud hasbara headquarters going again."

"Mr. prime minister, sir, get the central hasbara machine going again - it's in your hands," I said to him.

"Heaven forbid. The government doesn't do hasbara - here we will not have Goebbelsism!" replied Begin, referring to the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and said no more.

I believe that this story explains the meaning of our traditional skittishness toward hasbara: the memory of the propaganda in dark regimes and a sense that it isn't clear where hasbara ends and propaganda begins.
Of course propaganda and hasbara are the same thing. It was, after all, Goebbels who gave propaganda a bad name, just as Israel gives hasbara (aka propaganda) a bad name. But there is another reason why the State of Israel should not spend money on propagating lies on its own behalf. See this Hasbara Committee list of hasbaranik authors. It's a rogues' gallery of authors who donate their pro-zionist propaganda skills for free. That coupled with the lack of counter-argument in most western media suggests to me that Hasbara Central would be wasting money that could be spend on what the hasbaraniks are actually covering for, the continued dispossession and displacement of the Palestinians.

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