Hasbara and Refugees

Listening and reading mainstream US media outlets creates the illusion that the "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians revolves around "curbing the violence" and Palestinian "reforms." Devoid of any self-reflection, the pundits ignore realities on the ground and distort history in ways that try to deceive the US public to continue the massive military and economic aid to Israel at the expense of US public interests (in addition to its devastating impact on Israelis and Palestinians). Peace is lost in the so called peace process.

There is a well orchestrtated and meticulous media campaign intended to deceive the US public into continuing funding of Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleansing of the native Palestinians. This is referred to in Hebrew as Hasbara. Hasbara makes sure few learn the true history of Israeli leaders and how they sabotaged every International initiative that could have brought peace with some semblance of justice. Hasbara makes sure few know that the price of fulfilment of the dreams of Zionism was that two-thirds of the nine million native Palestinains are now refugees or displaced people. Hasbara suppresses the history of the programs to drive them out and keep them out while obfuscating reality with lies about who drove them out, why they are not being allowed to return, and why International law can be ignored in this case. Hasbara makes sure few know that Zionist leaders collaborated, funded, aided and abetted some of the worst regimes in human history from African despots to South American junta totalitarian leaders (see also Lenni Brenner’s "51 documents: history of the Nazi-Zionist Collaboration"). Hasbara makes sure few know about such scandals as the Lavon Affair (Israeli agents planting bombs at US interests and blaming them on Egyptians), the scandalous efforts to get Jews scared to leave Iraq and other countries, and the Zionist movements success in breaking the boycott on Nazi Germany. Hasbara makes sure few know about Israel’s violations of the UN charter and countless UN resolutions. Hasbara makes sure few know that Israeli laws discriminate based on religion (for example, giving a "right of citizenship" to any Jew or convert to Judaism coming from any part of the world while denying citizenship to non-Jews who are native Palestinians driven out to make space for Jewish colonial/settlers). Hasbara makes sure few know about Israel’s role in getting the US into Iraq (just read the neo-con literature of 1997 such as the writing of the Zionist Richard Perle). Hasbara makes sure few know that Amnesty International criticized the Oslo peace process for ignoring human rights (including rights of refugees to return to their homes and lands). And Hasbara makes sure few know that the latest "road map to peace" (in a long string of such documents) is 2221 words but lacks four key ones: human rights, International law.

Occasionally cracks appear in this Hasbara campaign. Dov Weisglass is Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser and one of the initiators of Sharon’s much talked about disengagement plan that entails proposed evacuation of some minor settlements; this was called by the Bush administration as a great gesture of peace. In an interview with Ha’aretz, Weisglass was quoted as stating that: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda” (Ha’aretz, 6 October 2004).

Today Hasbara is in full steam to smear the victims as terrorists and smear refugees who simply want to return to their homes and lands as evil people who want to "destroy Israel." Where else in the world one find arguments against return of refugees based on changing the religious (in this case "Jewish") character of the state.

Reconciliation/coexistance in the Land of Canaan (Israel/Palestine) is not only possible but is beneficial to all concerned. But reconciliation cannot begin when the original and ongoing injustice done to the native inhabitants is hidden. The Hasbara campaign to villify the victims must be challenged. A truth and reconciliation commission was possible in South Africa after the dismantlement of the apartheid system after intense international pressure of boycotts and divestments. Similar boycotts and divestments from Israel and companies that do business in Israel has already started and is spreading rapidly on campuses, in civic groups, and in churches. It will be a bit more difficult than in South Africa because Israeli apologists have garnered vast resources for Hasbara. And while the US government did support Apartheid South Africa for many years, it was never at the level this government supports neoApartheid Israel (now nearly $5 billion annually in direct and indirect aid). The truth ofcourse is hard to conceal (and we now have the internet to spread it). Like in other such situations the freedom given by the truth leads to grassroot action for justice and hence lights the way to peace.