The Hasbara Handbook

An American’s Library for Making Sense of the Palestine Israel Mess Part 2: This section is two manuals the Israel Lobby uses to train supporters for stifling debate: Book 1 of 2:

As Voltaire said, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” This book is the first of two remarkably candid how-to manuals detailing the Israel apologist’s offensive strategies against criticism of the Occupation and Israel’s chronic brutalities against Palestinian people.

Along with The Global Language Dictionary, this manual is damage control. Both are Public Relations guides that would find kindred spirits among public relations for the tobacco industry, climate change denial, strip mining, genetically modified food, clear cutting, oil spills and fracking. None of the above have been as successful over time as Israeli Hasbara. If you plan to debate on Israel, read these.

Hasbara Handbook: Promoting Israel on Campus World Union of Jewish Students. March, 2002. 121 pages, (not to worry, double spaced and a lot of blank spaces.)

Perhaps the Hasbara Handbook best sums itself up by these lines from page 47:

“Israel advocacy is not only about factual argument. However, it is still important to prepare strong arguments and points even if they wouldn’t really stand up to closer examination.”

Hasbara means propaganda. Or, as the Israel lobby calls it, ‘explanation.’ The ‘Hasbara Handbook,’ was written for college students who are admonished by the Handbook to get out there and support Israel. It is more intelligent and thorough than the 2009 knockoff, ‘Global Language Dictionary.’ Which is the other how-to hasbara manual.

There’s an excellent section on debate tactics including the Seven Basic Propaganda Devices, which, among other things, tells how to intimidate pro-Palestinian celebrities by organizing a protest campaign against them on the idea that threatening to smear their career will make them back off. Another strategy is to commission a poll and target pro-Israel respondents to make Israel look more popular than it is. There’s advice on how to control a debate—which may include getting organizers to rename the debate or holding a counter demonstration against it. Tells how to deflect questions by reforming them out loud and answering the question you reformed instead of what was asked. Explains the difference between point scoring and actual debate. Tells when to use which and how to disguise the former. Advises speakers to research the audience and the importance of choosing words, e.g. call kids in Palestinian demonstrations ‘youths’ instead of children.

In so many words: when in doubt; blame the Palestinian leadership.

Tells how to run a pro-Israel campaign on campus: how to prepare a speech, develop leaflets and how to hand them out. Describes how to dress and make eye contact, letters to the student newspaper, forming allies with other groups such as pro-environment groups order to set up a quid pro quo that the Israel supporter can exploit as needed.

Advice on forming strategies to get opposition Arab speakers ‘disinvited’ from speaking on campus and get opposition groups banned from campus through support of Jewish faculty, administrators, lobbying corporate and public officials, etc. Encourages students to: campaigns against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, run for student office, target off-campus groups, including children to support pro-Israel campaigns and target students who may become media or political leaders in the future. You can fool people, too. The handbook advises that Jewish student leaders can disagree with Jewish groups occasionally to present a neutral image.

In this book find out how to pressure public officials, get campaign money: one potential source mentioned is the Israeli embassy.

The most useful section of the book, debate-wise is:” Israel: Accusations and Rebuttals pages 77-114. To this day Israel apologists use the rebuttals in this section which, as has often been pointed out, don’t really stand up to closer examination.

Two more Hasbara examples, pg 101-102 handles the Hasbara on the 1975 UN vote “Zionism is Racism.” and its 1991 repeal at the UN. Doesn’t mention that United States embassies around the world muscled other countries. See: 12.17.91 UN Repeals its ’75 Resolution Equating Zionism With Racism NY Times by Paul Lewis. Says, “For the United States, the heavy vote in favor of repeal was a demonstration of its diplomatic power.” US president Bush called on the General Assembly to repeal the vote and “United States embassies around the world were instructed to put maximum pressure to repeal.”

The Hasbara Handbook also includes the often repeated, and false, claim that Dr. Martin Luther King said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.” There is zero evidence King ever said or wrote this. Seymour Lipset, a Jewish guy, claims King said it, others say King wrote it in an open letter. There is no such letter in the King archives. The first known references appeared in 1999 more than 30 years after King’s death. It was repeated by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the Anti-Defamation League to the US House of Representatives, and by others.

Some suggested elements of The Hasbara Handbook have changed remarkably in the fourteen years between 2002 and today. Targeted enemies (Yassir Arafat, the PLO, and Al-Fatah) are passé’. The Global Language Dictionary includes Israel’s more recent terror piñatas (Hamas, [we’re told to call them Iran-backed Hamas to make the contest look more like a fair fight]) Fatah, Hezbollah (call them Iran backed Hezbollah), terrorism and Iran the Boogeyman. Hasbara Handbook suggests bringing Israeli speakers to campus but in 2016 Rivka Carmi, President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, said, “The [Israeli] government should act behind the scenes and not send diplomats to (US) campuses, because except for humiliation I don’t see what they can accomplish.”