Islamic propaganda, jihad of the tongue, especially the Palestinian jihad against Israel, has been highly successful in a world increasingly sympathetic to Palestinians and now also woke. In this vicious propaganda war, Israel, by choosing to explain herself, chose to be passive. We are paying the price for that passivity today. Within 24 hours of Palestinians perpetrating the worst massacre in the history of Israel, major Western cities, not dictatorial capitals, are overrun with Palestinian supporters, both Muslims and the kufaar they will murder, gleefully celebrating the mass-killing mass-raping and mass-capture of Jews. Even before the callous celebrations were over, and word got around that not quite all the Jews were as dead as the Muslim ecstasy suggested, and that talk was of destroying Hamas, eliminating Hamas and extirpating Hamas, all these sadistic Jew-haters went into high-gear Hamas defence.
In the following week, reminding the world that 1400 Jews had been brutally murdered (one for each year of Islam’s blood-soaked existence) elicited irritated put-downs. “Forget about last week!” barked repulsive da’wa thug Mohammed Hijab at his interview host Piers Morgan. How dare anyone harp on such trivia as 1400 Jews being grotesquely murdered, when there is the possibility of a Palestinian being hurt? Incidentally, 1400 is also the number of Palestinians purportedly killed in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead (2008-9), that led to the UN's Goldstone Report on "Israeli war crimes". It is true that many Western governments, individuals and organisations expressed their horror and revulsion at the murders, rapes and captures (incidentally, jihad is war, not mere terrorism) and came out in support of Israel and the Jewish people. It stands to their eternal credit. Yet it was swept away under the deluge that is the confluence of Jew-hatred and wokeness.
The way Muslims managed to mobilise the kufaar, the very people they will kill should they prevail, behind them will go down as one of the greatest propaganda victories of all time. Even Dr Joseph Goebbels could not have dreamt of pulling off anything like that. Hasbara, Israel and the Jews explaining themselves to the world in the deluded belief that they could prevail over Jew-hatred by presenting facts and reasoned arguments, strikes me as Israel's single greatest failure. Failure to engage in the propaganda war left the field wide open to her enemies, unopposed except by lone, and often denounced, voices in the wilderness, to employ every trick in the book and many unwritten ones besides.
Since Israelis have always insisted that they are dealing with terrorism, rather than with jihad, they met the past sixty years of joint ‘ideological subversion’-‘jihad of the tongue’ with hasbara, justifying themselves, rather than launch their own propaganda war to destroy Islam. At this point, however, it would be fair to point out that even my great hero, Ze'ev Jabotinsky, in 1917 made assumptions in favour of Islam and understated its excesses, although I would not go so far as to say that he did this deliberately. In his book Turkey and the War, Jabotinsky wrote:
Nor can they [the failures of the modernising Tanzimat Reforms in the Ottoman Empire] be fairly ascribed to the influence of Mahomet’s law. Did Islam prevent the mediaeval Arabs from becoming the leading race of western civilization? We sometimes hear travellers and journalists talk of a "negative spirit of Islam.” It is a mistake. A great religion, whatever be its minor errors, is always a positive and a constructive driving-force, unless it becomes a weapon in the hands of a Power which has negative interests. Such a Power is the Ottoman Empire. (pp137-8)
In other words, unless Islam is hijacked. It is possible that Jabotinsky's views on Islam had changed by 1923, when he, I understand, wrote an essay on Islam that I have till now been unable to track down. Be that as it may, according to my colleague, Avinoam Ben Dor, Israeli governments did not even take hasbara seriously. Ariel Beery writes in the Times of Israel, “Now is not the time for Hasbara.” I am sorry to say, but while Islam, i.e., doctrinal hatred of Jews, exists, it is never the time for hasbara.
The success of the Islamic propaganda war, jihad of the tongue, stands as a clear indictment of not only hasbara, but of the Jews’ failure to recognise who their enemy is. That there are still people in the world who stand by Israel and the Jewish people attests more to the moral clarity and courage of those supporters than to any credit due to Israel. Of course such support is good, but it is also woefully inadequate, signalling once again, weakness, the ambrosia of Muslims. In Beery’s ideal world (what he really wishes for):
We would also spend the next week communicating that our war is not on the Palestinians, but on Hamas and their supporters. We would call on the international community to support Egypt in taking in as many Gazans as it can leave, and to set them up in temporary housing across the Egyptian border or within Gazan agricultural zones (away from urban infrastructure used by Hamas) to enable them to keep their loved ones safe. We would enlist the international community to join us to protect innocent lives while preparing for the long arduous battle to come.
Even in Ariel Beery’s turbo-charged hasbara, the Jews must, once again by reasoned argument, convince the world that the war that Israel intends to wage is “not on the Palestinians,” but on “Hamas and their supporters,” as if the latter are quite distinct from the former, in the same way that those who pussy-foot around Muslims posit “Islamists” as somehow distinct from Muslims. Beery is apparently unaware that the last people that Arab countries want within their borders are Palestinians. In 1970, Jordan expelled the PLO from its territory after these “victims” tried to topple their host, followed in 2011 by the revocation of Jordanian citizenship from the remaining Palestinians.
The reality that Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s mortal domestic enemy, does not feature in the hasbara expert’s calculus. The Palestinians were also expelled from Iraq and Kuwait for their enthusiastic backing of Saddam Hussein, and are denied rights and integration in other Arab countries, in short, they are subject to apartheid. The Arabs know what the Palestinians are, even if the Israelis deny to themselves that they do. Beery imagines that someone is going to be able to differentiate between “innocents” and Hamas, and that Hamas terrorists are not going end up sheltering in Egypt or in his “protected villages”. He talks about Gazans being enabled to “keep their loved ones safe,” when they themselves keep Hamas safe by refusing to evacuate their loved ones from buildings the IDF is about to strike. These Gazans, supposedly distinct from Hamas, are the very people who eagerly “give their sons” for training in Hamas’s annual summer camps to become effective killers of Jews and die for Allah. Islam reduces hasbara to little more than respectable capitulation.
Hasbara is a double-fallacy. According to Karolina Jędrzejewska from the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies, University of Warsaw, “The Hasbara paradigm assumes that if we only ‘explain’ the situation to international publics, they will grant the government freedom to act.” The President of the United States plus the US Secretary of State, leaders of the country with an “ironclad relationship” with Israel, hastened to invite themselves to Israel in the wake of the Simchat Torah Massacre precisely to take away the Israeli government’s freedom to act. The Israeli government gave Gazans twenty-four hours to vacate the north of the territory before the IDF commences its war. Well, guess what.
Furthermore, the premise that Israel necessarily requires permission from others before she can act should be a cause for shame. A transition stage between colony and independent state involves a foreign power controlling the partial-colony's foreign policy and military actions. The notion would be unthinkable to the Jews whose hasbara was actually real propaganda, such as Ze’ev Jabotinsky, of whose hasbara Daniel Tauber, in "Jabotinsky’s Place in History", wrote in the Jerusalem Post in 2012:
...his [Jabotinsky's] propaganda (hasbara) and fund-raising work for various Zionist causes, or his inspiring thousands to come to Israel and help build the Jewish state. His Zionist propaganda for the Jewish Legion in Britain has been said by many, including Chaim Weizmann, to deserve “half the credit for the Balfour Declaration.”
The point here is that Jabotinsky's hasbara was pro-active. Maintaining the subsequent anaemic hasbara, "Public Diplomacy," effectively pre-emptive apology, at the same time as seeking to project power, sets up a contradiction that Muslims, being permanently at war, were bound to exploit to the full. “Hasbara as propaganda, it appears, is power-dependent. The less powerful you are, the more you have to explain,” says Gideon Kouts in his 2016 essay "From Sokolow to 'Explaining Israel': The Zionist 'Hasbara' First 'Campaign Strategy Paper' and Its Applications." Conversely, the more you explain, as successive Israeli governments have been doing, the less powerful you are. Ever since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has explained and explained and explained, while Muslims have attacked and attacked and attacked. Still this was not read as pointing towards the failure of hasbara, only that hasbara needed adjustment. In 2008, the Israeli establishment recognised hasbara as needing to be changed, but this was not perceived in relation to the enemy, the Palestinians and the Arab Muslims inside Israel. Jędrzejewska explains:
New strategy of online warfare was tested in 2008 during the Operation Cast Lead. IDF employed cameramen within the units to provide operational footage. One of the uploaded videos by IDF "Weapons Horde in Gazan mosque" depicted an Israeli soldier who is showing to the viewer a mosque in Gaza and the weapons held there by Hamas, explaining [to] the public why it was necessary for the IDF to bomb the mosque. Therefore, a target that would be considered unacceptable by the public became in some way justified. Another movie, “Israeli Humanitarian Aid to Gaza,” illustrated Israeli trucks loaded with humanitarian aid for Gazan people, that were going through the Kerem Shalom crossing, hence showing to the world that Israel cares about Palestinians.
The Arab Muslims, however, saw something quite different:
- The Jews worry about evidence, rather than saving their own lives
- The Jews still do not know what a mosque is
- The Jews apologise for fighting the Muslims
- What the West thinks affects what the Jews do; we must control what the West thinks
- The Jews boast of helping us kill them
One might add to this the biggest joke of all: “Knocking on the roof”, emails and phone calls in which the IDF begs the Muslims to get away because the IDF is coming to kill them. What kind of war is this? This equivocation in killing their enemy will be one of the things that Palestinian children in Gaza, all already well-able and more than willing to kill Jews, will have been taunting the captured Jewish children with: Palestinians run towards the places being bombed, while the cowardly Jews hide in bomb shelters. What people have so little self-respect that they love life more than death. They are “unworthy”, by which Muslims mean “unworthy of being spared.”
This new tactic enabled Israel to show public opinion the realities of war documented in real time to shape the latter’s views on the story. During the operation, Israel, for the first time, managed to coordinate spreading the key massages on many levels, traditional media as well as diplomatic channels, pro-Israeli non-governmental organisations and social media. The effect was an epidemic of Israeli message[s] abroad. Every media outlet was repeating Israeli message[s] while Palestinians did not have any chances against them, as they did not send [any] clear messages to the foreign audience.
Yet somehow, despite “not having any chances against them [the Israeli messages],” within twenty-four hours of the opening of the current war, thousands of Muslims and their supporters burst out onto Western streets to castigate Israel and show their support for Hamas/the Palestinians, while hasbara expert Ariel Beery fears that Israel can only hang onto international support for one week, as is indeed proving to be the case. This fiasco fits into a pattern. During the carefully media-choreographed December 2008-January 2009 Operation Cast Lead,
The main points to present to the foreign audience were that the responsibility of the conflict lies on the enemy (Hamas), Israel is responding in self-defence, Israel regrets all civilian losses, but it is the enemy side that is to blame. Nevertheless, Operation Cast Lead ended with [the] issuing [of] the Goldstone Report by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2009, accusing [Israel] of violating humanitarian law and causing deaths of innocent civilians.
It was much too late. Even if hasbara were abandoned at that point and a real propaganda war, one aimed at harming the enemy, engaged in, the Palestinians still had a century-long head-start on winning the hearts and minds of the people whose support hasbara is meant to secure by facts and reasoned argument. Still, hasbara was not abandoned. It was only tweaked, and what Ariel Beery proposes is still more tweaking. The media phenomenon of the “Palestinian Anne Frank” shows an eagerness on the part of the world’s media to show the Palestinians as morally superior to the Jews, without the Palestinians needing to do much at all. In other words, the entire world does hasbara for the Palestinians. Jędrzejewska recounts:
During the  Operation Protective Edge, a Twitter account under the name Farah Gazan, who was tweeting while giving an insight of what life in Gaza looks like, including the bombardment of her city by the IDF, got vast attention from the international journalists. Her identity and story appeared to be legitimate and was portrayed as a modern Anne Frank. Monitoring [of] Gazan’s social media by the IDF allowed [them] to collect valuable data to be used for hasbara purposes. For example, they caught complaints of Gazans about Hamas stealing humanitarian food stocks. Therefore, the IDF sent a drone to track the vehicle and recorded Hamas theft of supplies and posted it later on social media platforms. Moreover, monitoring social media collected more valuable intelligence information than interrogations or site inspections.
Portraying a Palestinian woman as “a modern Anne Frank,” of course casts the Israelis as Nazis. That was almost a decade ago. Now the Israeli establishment wants to call Hamas barbarians, etc., but it is much too late. After all this time of explaining to the world how much the Jews want peace with the Palestinians, the Palestinians turn around and perpetrate the biggest massacre in the entire history of the state, and now, suddenly, the Palestinians—no, still not even them, but a distinct group supposedly hiding amongst them—are barbarians. Is it more likely that Hamas transformed overnight, or that the Jews had been deluded all along?
We are to believe that all the preceding centuries of routine abuse of Jews under the Muslim yoke, all the pogroms, massacres and intifadas, the proud Arab Muslim collaboration with the Nazis, and so on, none of it raised alarm bells that any attempt at co-existence or peace would be a very bad idea. Yet the Jews tried to prove their goodness by insisting on what more than a millennium of evidence showed was not only impossible, but suicidal. Israeli leaders were blind in their conviction that handing over Gaza would bring them to coexist side-by-side with Singapore-on-the-Med, until the Palestinian showed, in the best way they can, that they have other ideas. Now, finally, they are barbarians.
Even though Israel is trying to influence the foreign public opinion with facts, it may not win in this battle of “hearts and minds”. Interpretation, but not facts, counts in today’s word (sic), combined with good timing and images that follow a certain story. Unpredictability is one of the major obstacles for Israel to spread [a] new, better and more attractive image of the country. Moreover, Israel has to constantly fight with the preexisting national stereotypes foreigners have. (My emphasis)
The “unpredictability” of which Karolina Jędrzejewska speaks, one can argue in large part, comes down to not recognising that Israel has been at the receiving end of a religious war, jihad, that gives effect to the Islamic imperative to kill every single Jew and to obliterate Israel. It is comparatively easy to track the activities of terrorists and hostile regimes, and to act against them. It is quite another matter to acknowledge that a problem that appears to be local is in fact global, especially when faced with the seductive appellation of “The Holy Land” that imposes a necessary blindness on Israeli Jews as to the nature of Islam and Muslims, despite their centuries as dhimmies under the Muslims. Why spoil a ready-made hasbara by drawing attention to the dark underbelly of Islam, let alone that it is antithetical to Judaism, that its votaries, Muslims, are antithetical to Jews, and that its caliphate is antithetical to Israel? Holy Land vanity drives Arab Muslims out of the field of vision of Israelis, and it is no wonder that hasbara has to constantly catch up to a reality it cannot anticipate.
By the same token, Israel having to “constantly fight with the preexisting national stereotypes foreigners have,” is the simple outcome of Palestinians and their Arab Muslim supporters having had unrestricted propaganda access to foreigners and a free hand to tell them whatever they wanted about Israel and Jews. It is Israel, armed with hasbara, that “did not have any chances”.
In the eyes of the foreigners flooding the streets of Western cities, Jews are the barbarians, and democratic Israel is the tyranny, and no amount to jihad mass murder and mass rape, no matter how barbaric, how sickening, is going to convince them otherwise. By assuming a level playing field, hasbara contributed to that unshakeable conviction. Projecting the workings of your own mind onto the minds of others has been the central weakness of hasbara. Jews are amenable to reasoned argument, so everybody else is amenable to reasoned argument, of course, what else. Ignoring the mind of her actual enemies has been the Israeli flaw that could yet prove fatal.
Unfortunately, even if Israel were to try her reasoned arguments, her clear facts and her incontrovertible evidence on Muslims, by the time those arguments, facts and evidence reach the Muslim ear, they would encounter an iron wall built when the Muslim was but six years old, and behind which hatred of Jews is inerasable. In the case of Palestinians, this is exponentially reinforced throughout the child’s life. Not only did hasbara not achieve what it was intended to achieve, it achieved the exact opposite, because its latter-day architects took no account at all of the Jews’ mortal enemy and its propaganda war, started already well before the State of Israel was even established. Jędrzejewska concludes:
[Israel] still seeks legitimisation for establishment of the state, the arguments for it, such as being [a] nation among nations, historical right and the events of [the] Holocaust, no longer persuade foreign public opinion about authorising its military activities in regard to West Bank, Gaza and the Palestinian people. Western liberal democracy (sic) states and citizens demand from Israel a moral explanation. (My emphasis)
And that moral explanation lies in the barbarism, the immorality, of Judaism's antithesis, Islam, an antithesis not even broachable in current polite discourse as ‘the i-word.’ But jihad of the tongue got there first, and even rabbis, in reference to the Islamic Resistance Movement's Simchat Torah Massacre, still associate Islam with morality. Rabbi Shmuley Boateach, interviewed on Sky News Australia, had this to say:
You're talking about a a level of demented morality the likes of which the Western world has almost never seen and which the Palestinians seem kind of okay with. Where was the disgust on the part of imams? You hate Jews, okay. You hate Jews, but they're dragging around a woman in her bra and her underwear and you claim to be religious?! You guys are sick. You're a disgrace to Islam. (My emphasis)
And just like that, George W Bush is back. One can only agree with Karolina Jędrzejewska that “Instead of using public diplomacy for its own purpose, Israel became a victim of it, especially from the Palestinian side and other Arab countries. And that is a fact.”
Unfortunately, “Hamas is ISIS,” powerful as the potential of that phrasing might be, is a form of words that the Netanyahu government and the Americans can agree on. There will be no acknowledgement that Hamas’s call of 10 October went out not to Hamas, not to Gaza, not the Palestinians, not the Arabs, but to the ummah, i.e., to all the Muslims in the world, exactly as Ayatollah Khomeini's murder contract on Salman Rushdie went out to "the proud Muslim people of the world." It is a destructive force of well over a billion persons, ready to be called on at any moment, and they will clamour to act.
“Hamas is ISIS” is a balancing act on the edge of a cliff. One slip will send Biden, Blinken and Netanyahu on a headlong plunge into the reality of Islam and Muslims. Yet the massacre was so great, so grotesque, so vile and barbaric, that the memory of ISIS, rather than the reality of Palestinians, has to be invoked to “sell” the necessary Israeli response of not only extirpating Hamas regardless of the “civilian” casualties, and sell to not only the Biden Administration, but to a Western public fed on a staple of “the poor Palestinians oppressed by the brutal Israelis.” The conception of the Palestinians as victims is a juggernaut that the Soviets and Palestinians have successfully built and set in motion in all the time that the Israelis were doing hasbara. And now the Israelis cannot escape, for “Hamas is ISIS” is nothing but yet more hasbara, that will fall apart the moment the Western public wake up to the reality that the bodies piling up in Gaza are not those of ISIS, but of their beloved Palestinians.
The day of all-out, unambiguous war between the Jews and the Palestinians, not Hamas, the Palestinians, with active support from the world’s Muslims, has just been brought that much closer. Muslims will show that Hamas is not ISIS, but is Muslims, that in the Western narrative being constructed of this war, ISIS plays the same role as “Islamism” in the previous narrative: to shield Islam so as to avoid broaching the subject of Muslims. The slaughter, by the latest figures, of 1400 Jews, one for each year of Islam’s existence, can also be blamed on this deliberate obfuscation, as Hasbara is now forced to look jihad in the face.
The Americans must avoid such an eventuality at all cost, to preserve their agenda of forcing Israel into “regional integration” under Iranian hegemony. Benjamin Netanyahu must avoid that eventuality because it would deny him his coveted legacy as the Israeli Prime Minister who made peace with Saudi Arabia and rendered the Palestinians irrelevant. Unfortunately for Netanyahu, for the Biden Administration, and for hasbara, the Palestinians show once again that they have other ideas. Denying jihad means denying Islam, which means denying Muslims, which means denying the war in which 1.6 billion are religiously obligated to exterminate 15 million. Thus did hasbara aid Soviet/Palestinian propaganda in exchanging Goliath for David.
To return to Daniel Tauber on Jabotinsky, "The leadership was cautious of international opinion to the point of being suicidal," and that is a fact. Tauber completes his essay with the following:
A Jew who is denied the opportunity to read Jabotinsky’s testimony before the Peel Commission, his article the “Iron Wall,” his warnings of “H-U-R-B-A-N,” or the plethora of other classic writings and speeches he produced is robbed of the realization that the issues we face today are essentially those we have faced for almost a century.
He is denied Jabotinsky’s eternal, prophetic and awe-inspiring message: We are not consigned to our fate. We need not concede our national interests in search of the ever-elusive moral high ground. Our cause is indeed just and if we have the courage, even in the 11th hour, we can redeem ourselves.
- The reader might reasonably object that the Abraham Accords disprove my claims. To answer that here would digress too far from the subject. Suffice it here to say that there are circumstantial forces at work within Islam, more fundamental than any Sunni-Shi'a strife, that make the Abraham Accords possible. Similarly, it might be pointed out that out of 1.6 billion Muslims, ISIS had managed to recruit only 30,000. These are topics for other essays.
Ali Esfandiari at the Persian language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12047217