Yes, there really is a Mr. Hasbara. A guy who earns his living traveling the world telling people how to be good shills for Israel. And no, it’s not Frank Luntz. Luntz earns even more than Mr. Hasbara, but he has other clients on other issues, so he doesn’t qualify.
Hasbara Guy is Neil Lazarus, originally from the UK, who made aliyah and determined he was so good at pro-Israel spiels he’d make a living out of it. In this, he’s not that different than Walid Shoebat, Tawfiq Hamid, Muntasir (“Mark”) Halawa, or Czanad Szegedi (Hungarian guy), who had an epiphany on the road to Damascus. Except their epiphany wasn’t spiritual in nature. It was political and remunerative in nature. In purely crass terms, they saw an empty niche in the market and decided to fill the need. They determined that there are enough wealthy pro-Israel Jews willing to pay top-dollar for someone to come along and reaffirm their illusions and ignorance about Israel.
Such speakers can easily earn $20,000 a pop for such appearances. If you string a few of them together every year it becomes a nice gravy train.
From Hungarian Fascist to Israeli Fascist
What tickles me especially about Szegedi is that he once was a Hungarian fascist and MP. But after finding out his supposed Jewish roots, he’s determined to make aliyah, so that he can begin spreading the Good Word about Zion:
I am acting in the arena that I am familiar with, Hungary and Europe, in order to raise awareness on the issue of antisemitism and to work for the betterment of Israel, as a sort of compensation for the past. However, I have a lot of years of experience in politics and I would be happy to contribute my experience to Zionist organizations in Israel as well.”
…”Professionally, I will immediately look for bodies and organizations with which I can coordinate in the fight against antisemitism, and I will of course seek to join the World Zionist Organization’s extensive activities in Israel and abroad. Personally, I will visit Jerusalem and the Western Wall, and of course, I will go out to eat real Israeli food, falafel and hummus.”
Oh yeah, he’ll be on the Jewish Agency payroll in no time flat. He’ll be on the Israel lobby lecture circuit along with Lazarus and others, spreading the Gospel about “Israeli food,” which is really Arab food absorbed into the Israeli culinary tradition.
So Szegedi goes from being a Hungarian fascist to being an Israeli fascist. The transformation isn’t as hard as you might think.
Mr. Hasbara Takes Seattle
I’m profiling Lazarus because we have the immense good fortune of hosting him here in Seattle next month for an “Israel Advocacy Training Program.” Standwithus, that stalwart group which always lays it on the line for Israel, has engaged Mr. Hasbara to protect our precious children from the anti-Semitism they will face in their public schools and colleges. Since our children are so vulnerable to the mind-control techniques of the pro-Palestine Lobby and their fellow de-legitimizers, it’s essential that stand-up Zio-guys like Neil gird our kids’ loins with the good stuff, pro-Israel chicken soup, better known in some circles as “Jewish penicillin.”
Neil is a cracker-jack performer who favors Monty Python skits in his talks. Among his more memorable pro-Israel memes is that he seeks to do for Israel “what McDonald’s did for hamburgers.” As for that as a marketing slogan for Lazarus’s seminars, all I can say is “I’m lovin’ it!” Regarding the burgers, I suppose he means making them ubiquitous, rather than making a notorious fast food item that’s turned America into a nation of obese fast-food guzzlers suffering from hypertension, heart disease and assorted other ailments.
If you are a parent or student who doesn’t see the sky falling on Israel or Jews, as Neil and SWU does, I suggest your kid take a good course on the subject in college. Read everything you can on the subject. Take a trip to Israel sponsored by an NGO that isn’t partisan pro-Israel. Then, as Hillel said: go and learn.
You don’t need protection. You don’t need to fear anything or anyone. They’re not coming to get you on campus. Go out and meet the world. Grapple with it. Ask questions about it. Draw your own informed conclusions. Don’t let anyone spoon-feed you anything about Israel or anything else. Tell people like Neil Lazarus to go take a hike; and that you can think for yourself, thank you.
Oh, and I exaggerated for dramatic effect above. The Times of Israel actually called Lazarus “Mr. Israel Advocacy.” But I think Mr. Hasbara is definitely catchier. So Mr. Hasbara it is.