Hasbara has a dictionary

I imagine each country wants to put its best foot forward on the world stage, highlighting its virtues and minimizing (hiding) its faults.  In that respect, nations are very much like people.  Some countries are better actors (“diplomats”) than others.

Power and influence come from public perception as much as the arsenal a country possesses. In the old world (pre-nuclear age), having the largest stockpiles of weapons and the newest weapons technology, guaranteed a spot on the top of the pecking order.  Slowly, that has changed. Today, countries have weapons they can’t use without risking self-annihilation.  What counts even more than the size of their defense budget is the size of their diplomacy budget.

Israeli leaders have understood this reality since the creation of the State in 1948 and are probably the world’s most experienced diplomats.  Since the beginning, the Zionist colonial project had a huge challenge on its hands — to convince the world that its goals were pure, its new state was legitimate, and its impact on the indigenous population of Palestinians was benevolently benign.  They gave this public diplomacy effort a name — hasbara.

Up until Dec. 08-Jan. 09, I think the Israeli government was pretty darn successful in its diplomatic mission.  The turning point came with Operation Cast Lead. The wool could not be pulled over the eyes of a complacent international community.  The slaughter and butchery that Israel carried out in 22 days on a defenseless civilian population was more than any decent observer could stomach.


Now I finally understand why Israel has been so successful in diverting the world’s attention from the realities of its occupation of Palestine. Israelis have a diplomacy dictionary.  The Israel Project’s 2009 — GLOBAL LANGUAGE DICTIONARY.

More than 100 pages long, the Table of Contents is revealing.

Chapter 1: 25 Rules for Effective Communication

Chapter 2: A Glossary of Words that Work

Chapter 3: How to Talk about Palestinian Self Government & Prosperity

Chapter 4: Isolating Iran-backed Hamas as an Obstacle to Peace

Chapter 5: The Language of Tackling a Nuclear Iran

Chapter 6: Gaza: Israel’s Right to Self Defense and Defensible Borders

Chapter 7: Peace: The Central Message

Chapter 8: Settlements

Chapter 9: Jerusalem

Chapter 10: Loan Guarantees & Military Aid

Chapter 11: The Security Fence & Checkpoints

Chapter 12: The Right of Return = The Right of Confiscation

Chapter 13: The United Nations

Chapter 14: Talking about Arab-Israelis

Chapter 15: Talking about Children and the Culture of Hate

Chapter 16: Lessons to Learn from President Obama’s Language

Chapter 17: Talking to the American Left

Chapter 18: Israel on Campus Communications

Appendix I: The Toughest Questions

Appendix II: The Hamas Covenant

Appendix III: Important Facts

Appendix IV: Posters that Work

Over the next 2-3 weeks, I intend to respond chapter by chapter. Stay tuned.



Filed under Israel, Uncategorized

6 responses to “Hasbara has a dictionary

  1. During Operation Cast Lead, the majority (over two-thirds) of casualties were armed members of Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Hamas officials have admitted to that. The civilian population of Gaza was deliberately put in the line of fire by Hamas and left defenceless while the Hamas leadership hid in bukers concealed under hospitals, knowing Israel would not attack hospitals.


    As to the dictionary – could you explain how this document, which appears to be composed by private American organizations, has anything to do with official Israeli representatives and diplomats?

    • “According to B’Tselem’s research, Israeli security forces killed 1,387* Palestinians during the course of the three-week operation. Of these, 773 did not take part in the hostilities, including 320 minors and 109 women over the age of 18. Of those killed, 330 took part in the hostilities, and 248 were Palestinian police officers, most of whom were killed in aerial bombings of police stations on the first day of the operation. For 36 people, B’Tselem could not determine whether they participated in the hostilities or not.

      Palestinians killed 9 Israelis during the operation: 3 civilians and one member of the security forces by rockets fired into southern Israel, and 5 soldiers in the Gaza Strip. Another 4 soldiers were killed by friendly fire.

      B’Tselem’s figures, the result of months of meticulous investigation and cross-checks with numerous sources, sharply contradict those published by the Israeli military. Israel stated that 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the operation and that 60% of them were members of Hamas and other armed groups. According to the military, a total of 295 Palestinians who were “not involved” in the fighting were killed. As the military refused to provide B’Tselem its list of fatalities, a comparison of names was not possible. However, the blatant discrepancy between the numbers is intolerable.”


      • Hamas admits 600-700 of its men were killed in Cast Lead. Hamas had previously claimed only 49 militants died during Gaza war. I call that blatant discrepancy. Both between the two numbers presented by Hamas and between the numbers of Btselem and Hamas.

        There are also equally distorted figures presented by PHCR. So, many of those listed by PCHR as civilians, including civil policemen, were in fact hailed as militant martyrs by Hamas.

        B’Tselem in its fatalities’ figures report wrote that it knew many police officers in the Gaza Strip are also members of the military wings of Palestinian armed groups, and might have taken part in hostilities against Israel.

        Hamas police chief Jamal al-Jarrah: “the police took part in the fighting alongside the resistance”.

        All this is public knowledge, covere in well-documented and referred Wikipedia articles.

      • Michael — You say it’s common knowledge but please include a link to this common knowledge. I’m not aware of Hamas admitting to 600-800 fighters being killed.

      • What, couldn’t find Wikipedia?


        “In an interview published in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al Hayat (November 1, 2010), Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad stated that around 700 of the Gaza fatalities were Hamas fighters or militants from allied groups such as Islamic Jihad. ”

  2. Excellent reporting and sharing, Lora. Kudos.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s