HASBARA AND REALITY
by Bernard J. Shapiro
Jewish Herald-Voice (Houston)
THE JERUSALEM POST reported last month on plans at the Israeli Foreign Ministry to abolish its "hasbara" or information efforts. It reported, "The decision to abolish hasbara is in keeping with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres' view that 'if you have good policy, you do not need hasbara. And if you have bad policy, hasbara will not help.'" Those of us who have been in the trenches, fighting Arab propaganda for years, were stunned by this policy change. Most of all, we were stunned by this apparently incorrect perception of reality.
The propaganda battlefield, from which the Foreign Ministry seems eager to withdraw, is a surreal Kafkaesque landscape filled with the evil utterances of that unholy alliance of Arabs and anti-Semites. Their propaganda targets the Jewish community in America as well as Israel for a one simple reason: Anything that weakens the Jewish community and reduces their status in America ultimately limits the ability of Jews to aid Israel politically and financially. George Orwell would be quite at home with the "newspeak" of the "politically correct" bigots. Language, history, and religion become a twisted mass of bizarre concepts such as Zionism = racism.
CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) regularly reports on the most glaring examples of media bias to its members. Over the past few months, we have been shocked to discover that Encyclopedia Britannica has joined in the distortion of Israeli history to conform to what's "politically correct." In its description of the Six Day War of 1967 there is no mention of the Egyptian removal of UN troops, the closing of the Straits of Tiran (an act of War by international law), the movement of 100,000 troops into Sinai or the huge mobs in Cairo whipped to a frenzy by Gamal Abdul Nasser with cries of "DEATH TO THE JEWS" The Britannica account of the '67 war reads, "The Arab-Israeli War of 1967 devastated the Arab nations. In six days in June, Israel not only dispatched the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, but also overran vast tracts of Arab territory...which formally had been parts of mandated Palestine." For the average reader of the supposedly authoritative Britannica, Israel launched an aggressive war to seize land and devastated innocent Arabs. PRECISELY THE VERSION OF HISTORY THE ARABS WANT!
A quick scan of recent CAMERA literature reveals that the New York Times' correspondent for Israel, Clyde Haberman, has a decidedly ant-Israel viewpoint. Harper's Magazine has published 22 viciously anti-Israel articles in the last five years. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) shows one biased report after another on the Middle East. National Public Radio (NPR) has become a hotbed of the most anti-Israel and anti-Semitic programs in the nation. And it is taxpayer supported! The American Library Association (ALA) has begun taking official anti-Israel positions and its 18,000 members are urged to carry books on the Middle East supporting the Arab version of history. The ALA's annual meeting scheduled for June 24th in New Orleans will include a panel discussion entitled, "Israeli Censorship: There and Here." Israel has a free press and censors only for security reasons. On the other hand the Arab world is the most censored and restricted in the world, with death penalties for authors who go against the law of Islam. Why is the ALA discussing Israel and no other country? The answer: attacking Israel is politically correct.
What we are witnessing is the success of Arab propaganda in America. The following excerpt from ARAB PROPAGANDISTS JOIN FORCES WITH ANTI-SEMITES (my first published article in 1965 and still true today) should warn us of the consequence of abandoning the information field to the Arabs. "What do the Arabs hope to gain by this great effort and expense? Bluntly speaking--to bring about conditions that would facilitate the destruction of the State of Israel. They concentrate most of their propaganda in the United States, because they feel that this country was the greatest single influence that contributed to the creation of Israel and that it still is the major force standing in the way of Israel's destruction."
It is my hope that the Israel Foreign Ministry will heed this warning and reassess their policy on hasbara before any more damage is done to the reputation of Israel and the Jewish community in this country.
[This article was published in the Jewish Herald-Voice in Houston, Texas on June 17, 1993.]
Bernard J. Shapiro is Chairman of the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies and Editor of its publications.