This is part II in my discussion of the 2009 Global Language Dictionary (pdf), the secret hasbara handbook crafted by veteran Republican image-shaper Frank Luntz on behalf of The Israel Project. The Dictionary is a propaganda treasure for the pro-Israel right, suggesting ways of spinning issues that might otherwise embarrass Israel in the U.S. media.
One of Luntz’s main themes is to ram home to a U.S. audience that Israel wants peace. Of course, neither he nor Israel ever offer any concrete proof of what they will do for peace or how to achieve peace. The empty slogan seems good enough for Luntz:
For Americans to have hope regarding the Middle East conflict, they need to be reminded that:
• Israel has a long-term commitment to peace. When courageous Arab leaders, such as Egypt’s President Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein, reached out their hands to Israel, peace was achieved.
This passage neglects to mention that these leaders negotiated peace deals with Israel decades ago and that Israel has not achieved any similar agreements with any Arab leaders since. In fact, Pres. Assad of Syria has been “reaching out his hands to Israel” begging for negotiations for almost a year to no avail. Why no mention of this inconvenient fact?
Then there’s the tired old Gaza fallacy:
“Israel made painful sacrifices and took a risk to give peace a chance. They voluntarily removed over 9,000 settlers from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, abandoning homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship in the hopes of renewing the peace process.”
“Despite making an overture for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, Israel continues to face terrorist attacks…”
Ariel Sharon took no risk whatsoever in his unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. Nor did he withdraw “in hopes of renewing the peace process.” In fact, he hoped that the withdrawal would act as a pressure valve and diminish his need for a future peace process.
Those settlements were an albatross around Israel’s neck and no one except a tiny minority in the extreme settler movement saw them as having any value. Further, since Sharon withdrew without consulting or negotiating with the Palestinians, he gained nothing as he might have. So to say that Israel has the right to expect anything in return for withdrawal is foolish. If it wanted anything in return, the time to negotiate for it would’ve been BEFORE withdrawing.
Yes, hasbara can be fun and unintentionally humorous:
Americans want a team to cheer for. Let the public know GOOD things about Israel.
Once you have established that you care about both Israelis and Palestinians and that Israel wants peace, you can begin the process of establishing a strong connection between Americans and Israel based on shared values and interests, including:
— Israel’s cooperative efforts with Jewish and Muslim citizens working together to create jobs, cutting edge technology, science and research;
— Israel’s remarkable advances in alternative energy;
— The work Israel has done in Arab neighborhoods and communities to raise health and living standards, including access, as full Israeli citizens, to Israel’s world-class national health care system.
Information about the cooperation of Israeli doctors and scientists – Jews, Muslims, Christians and others alike – in solving important health and technological challenges can be helpful. So can demonstrating that Israel and America share a commitment to freedom of religion, press, speech as well as human rights, women’s issues, and the environment.
Notice Luntz provides absolutely no proof of such “cooperative efforts” between Jews and Muslims. The idea that Israel is doing anything to “create jobs” for its Muslim citizens is laughable. And the number of Israeli Arabs working in the sectors of “technology, science and research” is infinitesimal.
Also, the notion that Israel is “raising health and living standards” for its Arab population is also grotesque when the latter has the highest poverty rate, lowest life expectancy, highest rate of children living in poverty, lowest level of education, etc. of any ethnic group in the nation.
As for freedom of religion in Israel–not so fast. Religious leaders of the Muslim community are approved by the State, which can and does reject the choice of the community itself for whatever reason it chooses. Jewish rabbinic leaders are never rejected in the same way.
As for freedom of the press–except for the times when military censorship is invoked on the flimsiest of excuses. And the Israeli media NEVER challenges such censorship.
Freedom of speech? Perhaps, except for Arab Knesset members who are regularly excoriated, threatened with death, and investigated by the Israeli police again on the flimsiest of pretexts.
Human Rights? Except for those Israeli citizens who protested the Gaza war and were imprisoned for their non-violent protest. And except for those who are investigated by the police and charged with crimes for doing nothing more than exposing torture and abuse committed by the IDF.
Draw direct parallels between Israel and America—including the need to defend against terrorism.
…The more you focus on the similarities between Israel and America, the more likely you are to win…support…Indeed, Israel is an important American ally in the war against terrorism, and faces many of the same challenges as America in protecting their citizens…Imagine what we would do if more than 250 times terrorists had crossed into our land and killed our children while they were riding buses or eating pizza? What would America do? What would America do if America’s neighbors in Canada or Mexico were firing rockets into America?
Now, that’s a slightly embarrassing line of argument since the U.S. actually did wage two wars of aggression against our Canadian and Mexican neighbors. In the first (the War of 1812), our asses were whipped and we slunk home in defeat. Relations have been pretty good with Canada ever since.
In the second (the Mexican War of 1848), we whupped Mexico’s ass and stole a huge chunk of their territory to make America safe for California freeways and Texas BBQ. Relations have been a little touchy ever since.
Further, whenever dealing with the argument that asks Americans to put themselves in Israel’s shoes and imagine how they would act if New York was under attack–you have to turn the tables. Imagine today that the U.S. conquers Baja California in a war and occupies it for 42 years and shows no willingness to return it anytime soon. Would we Americans have any right to complain if Mexicans didn’t take too kindly to such unfriendly behavior?
If you don’t laugh at this passage you’ll cry it’s so ludicrous:
The language of Israel is the language of America: “democracy,” “freedom,” “security,”
These four words are at the core of the American political, economic, social, and cultural systems, and they should be repeated as often as possible because they resonate with virtually every American. This is not rhetoric. It is fact. Despite the non-stop coverage of Israel in the press, the positive news about Israel remains untold.
No, it’s not rhetoric. Just because Frank tells us so. But wait. Here are the “facts” he marshals to prove his argument:
It’s our job to “wear white hats in public”—to remind Americans that Israel is a team for whom they can feel good about cheering. After all:
• Israel, America’s ally, is a democracy in the Middle East. In Israel, Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have freedom of speech, religion, and a right to vote. Indeed, more than a million Arabs are citizens of Israel, representing almost 20% of the population.
Furthermore, 12 Arabs and 21 women serve in Israel’s 120-member Parliament, and an Arab judge sits on the Israeli Supreme Court. On a cultural level, a recent Miss Israel was an Israeli Arab and Israel is sending an Arab-Israeli and a Jewish-Israel to sing together in the upcoming Eurovision contest. As the following chart shows, female membership in the Knesset is even on the rise.
Again, not so fast. Israel is not a full-fledged democracy. It is an ethnocracy with unequal rights for majority and minority ethnic groups.
12 Arabs may sit in the Knesset but none are ministers and no Jewish party has the guts to include any Arab party in a governing coalition. In essence, this renders Arabs MKs powerless.
And as for the supposedly increasing female membership in the Knesset, what that chart indicates is that the numbers of female Knesset members has risen from 12 in the first Knesset (60 years ago) to 21 today. A 90% increase over 60 years is nothing to brag about (you do the math). And the fact that 15% of the Knesset’s members are women in a society in which at least half the citizens are female is also nothing special, I’m sorry to say.
to be continued…