Tag Archives: Hasbara

Frank Luntz’s latest hasbara talking points – how to defend Israel post-Gaza

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The man we can all thank for catchy Orwellian phrases like “The Personal Responsibility Act” (which gutted federal support for poor families) and the “Death Tax”, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, is also the guru for Israeli hasbara. That’s right, more than any single person in the U.S., Frank Luntz has been responsible for teaching thousands of eager warriors for the Israeli government how to sell human rights violations and settlement expansion to increasingly dubious audiences. One example is this Israel Project 2009 classic, oddly euphemistically titled the Global Language Dictionary.

JNFBut now I’ve got great news boys and girls. The long wait for the latest “Words that Work” from Frank Luntz is now over (thanks for posting a leaked copy Jewish Philosophy Place–we almost missed the best read of the year! ) You can now download your own 2014, post-Gaza version of Communicating the Truth About Israel.

Lucky for us, it includes a great deal of current, original research on what Americans think about Israel, and what words test well in responding to their doubts. It seems to have been commissioned after Israel’s horrific attacks on Gaza–groups like the Jewish National Fund recognized that the reaction of near universal horror to Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians was, indeed, the mother of all Israeli public relations problems.

We decided to hunt down the document after spotting Frank with a Powerpoint walking around in an odd new propaganda video filled with well-dressed young Jewish fraternity members–looking like they’d just stopped by on their way to internships on Wall Street. In each interview, these young men seem increasingly isolated and devastated by pro-Palestinian activism on their campuses which they conflate with anti-Semitism. One can’t help but feel for these students. I have no doubt that for many of them, the isolation and confusion they feel is real. And I hope they get support. After all, having your world view turned upside down, and your own power and privilege challenged in ways that make you uncomfortable, is part and parcel of what we used to call a good education.

But it says everything that these students are not at a gathering with therapists, or spiritual leaders, or experts in reconciliation and peace or building a healthy Jewish life on campus. No, they are at a conference with literally one of the world’s greatest propagandists for hire.

In fact, the video calls for a kind of war against “these radical, hate-driven organizations,” aka student groups that support Palestinian rights.

Hasbarists have been telling students at divestment hearings to avoid the facts and use the talking point “I feel unsafe” for years. Their elders are not doing these students a service by making encouraging them to feel even more fearful and separated.

In his presentation, Luntz relies on standard hasbara fare–thinly veiled racism and “oppositelandia” attacks on peace and justice advocates, as though church groups and pro-BDS Jewish college students were actually the ones responsible for the gradual closing of the door on a two state solution.

Luntz tells advocates to talk about Israel as standing on the front lines against global terrorism, a beacon of civility in a tough neighborhood, and to trot out the constant line about Hamas using human shields. He instructs hasbarists to use human, emotional, heart-felt language. He tells his followers to blame Palestinian rejectionism for Palestinian suffering, and to divert questions away from the realities of Israel occupation and repression.

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And remember, as Frank always says, “It’s not what you say that counts. It’s what people hear.” And I’d add, “It’s not what is actually happening on the ground that counts, it’s what Frank Luntz tells you to say.”

-Cecilie Surasky

Nazism, Zionism, and the Arab World: Countering myths

Holocaust survivor Annette Herskovits has written an important article— Nazism, Zionism, and the Arab World: Countering the myths spread by pro-Israel ideologues.

She describes the tactics and goals of pro-Israel campus watchdogs and the harm wrought by their unabashed falsification of history and of current realities in Palestine/Israel.

Conquerors have always justified seizing another people’s land on “moral” grounds, to ward off the world’s disapproval as well as the burden of a bad conscience. And while the world’s support for the creation of Israel was fueled in large part by the plight of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust–the fact remains that the taking of land already occupied by Palestinians in order to create a refuge was (and still is) justified using false histories and slogans like “A land with no people for people with no land.”

The process of removing Palestinians from their land—which goes on to this day– requires a literally never-ending production of moral justification, and pro-Israel zealots are only too happy to oblige.

Most damaging? People like Alan Dershowitz paint Arabs and Muslims as heirs to Nazism, bent on exterminating the Jews. The sparse history of Arab collaboration with the Nazis—nothing like what took place in most European countries—is used to “explain” Arab hostility to Israel and obscure Israel’s crimes.

This “nazification” of Arabs and Muslims has been debunked by historian Gilbert Achcar in his book, “The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.” Campus Watch then launched a smear campaign against Achcar.

From Herskovits’ article:

About hasbara:

Propaganda produced by Israel and the American Jewish establishment inverts reality. This is crude stuff, manifestly false to anyone who would look up information published by a multitude of respected media and human rights organizations. But omissions and outright lies are probably a deliberate tactic: deny, deny … confuse, confuse… Like Israel’s building of “facts on the ground” (settlements, roads, etc.), it gains time; the hope is that Israeli power will eventually be so entrenched in the land of “Greater Israel” that nobody will remember Palestinians ever lived there.

About pro-Israel zealotry:

As someone whose mother and father were murdered in Auschwitz, and who herself survived the Nazis’ barbarous nationalism thanks to the courage of a group of Catholics, Protestants, Communists, and Jews, I find the idea that defending the “Jewish state” supersedes all other human obligations both immoral and senseless. Nothing, not even the Holocaust, justifies Israel’s treatment of Palestinians or the continuing efforts of pro-Israel zealots to show Arabs and Muslims as less than human.

Annette Herskovits, a holocaust survivor and the daughter of holocaust victims, holds a PhD from Stanford University and is the author of Language and Spatial Cognition (Cambridge University Press, 1987, 2009). She has written more than a dozen published articles on Palestine/Israel and is a Palestinian rights activist.

Hasbara Handbook: How to pretend to debate while smashing your opponent

Yes Virginia, there really is a Hasbara Handbook. You can download your very own copy right now – this one, by the World Union of Jewish Students, is from 2002 and aims to help students make the case for Israel.

You could, the book suggests, try one of two methods. You could engage in real debate or you could “point score.”  As it says on page 9 under the title “How to score points whilst avoiding debate”, and no I did not make this up: “Central to point scoring is the ability to disguise point scoring by giving the impression of genuine debate. Audience members can be alienated by undisguised attacks so all point scoring needs to be disguised.” Try as I might, I could not find Alan Dershowitz’s name listed as a writer, or at least the inspiration.

Download the book. There’s lots more to help you spot “point-scoring” versus, you know, real debate.