10 July 2016
Israel’s EU Challenge
Is effective hasbara possible?
Israeli hasbara has an uphill struggle. In fact, some believe it has an impossible task; that the EU and others are so far advanced in their anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian sympathies that hasbara is a waste of time, effort and money. In this view, the usual instruments of persuasion, facts, reason and logic will fail because they will be trumped by political interests. That is, regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the EU and others are happy to swear that a penny is square.
In assessing this theory, the background assumption adopted is that the Palestinians are incapable of and unwilling to accept Israel as the nation-state of Jews or the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism. This is the driving force of the conflict. To put this less rigidly, Palestinian acceptance may be possible – but only on a distant and imaginary horizon. This means that the conflict has many years to run before a decisive victory or peaceful accommodation.
Therefore, on the basis of this war of attrition, the issue of how to persuade those such as the EU to be less hostile to Israel and less supportive of the Palestinians assumes a long-term importance. However, if the reasoning of the opening paragraph is accurate, the inevitable conclusion is that placing any reliance on more or better hasbara is doomed.
If two further propositions are added to the equation, these difficulties are compounded. The first is that Israel cannot somehow outsmart the EU, USA and others towards greater support. The second is that Israel does not possess the clout to coerce them into a more favorable position, to drop their opposition to settlements or their support for the PA and the Palestinian narrative.
This amounts to a significant predicament. Because in common with all human relations, institutions and agreements, international relations operate by a combination of consent and coercion. Therefore, the above reasoning produces the conclusion that these avenues are either useless or closed to Israel. If this is the case, the position for advancing Israel’s interests would be grim. And it is no wonder that desperate attempts periodically surface for a decisive breakout by means of a demonstrative unilateral action by Israel (see, From Occupation to Annexation: a desperate miscalculation).
Even if only partially true, this hypothesis means that outside an emergency ...