Hasbara: Beyond the State of Denial – Condemning the Condemners

30 01 2013

Just a very brief post in response to some of allegations that have been going around of widespread anti-Semitism in Ireland, primarily from Sarah Honig in the Jerusalem Post, with (mais, bien sûr) Ruth Dudley Edwards throwing in her 2c in the Telegraph. Long story short, Trócaire, Kerry teachers and schoolchildren are accused of expressing anti-Semitic views, based on tenuous, quite possibly non-existent evidence. The school in question has issued a full rebuttal on their site.

There’s been an increasing aggressiveness to Israeli PR in the hasbara era, probably a product of the fact that, if you outsource your propaganda campaign to the world at large, who knows what kind of nutjobs will jump on board. Although, let’s be fair, the Israeli Embassy in Dublin aren’t exactly shy with their hasbara, either.

But this incident, in particular, has gotten right under my skin. I honestly believe that the school, the teacher, and the parents of the children pictured should sue the Jerusalem Post and Ruth Dudley Edwards for defamation.

It seems that Israel regards Ireland as such fallow territory that we’re all to be dismissed as a bunch of Jew haters,  (the most anti-Semitic country in Europe according to Ynet) and left at that. The odd thing is that I can never recall having witnessed an anti-Semitic incident in Ireland, either in person or online.

Further, I don’t recall any Irish newspaper welcoming the Israeli ambassador “with an article titled, ‘Welcome to hell.'” as Ynet claimed. Curious that they didn’t link to it or name the paper … it’s almost as if they’re just making it up.

Again and again over  the past few months, this line of argument has been put forward, with ever increasing vehemence. Which, of course, has nothing at all to do with Ireland’s recent appointment the UN Human Rights Council.

On a broader basis, when looking at hasbara, I can’t help but be reminded of the late, lamented Stanley Cohen, a former participant in the Zionist project, who became disillusioned when the reality proved more sordid than his noble aspirations. A great mind, possessed of a rare empathy and humanity, ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis (may he rest in peace).

Of particular note, I think, is Cohen’s application, in States of Denial (pdf summary), of Sykes and Matza’s “techniques of neutralisation” to the case of state crimes. States of Denial was written in 1992, and Sykes and Matza were talking about “delinquent” youth, but I think the categorisations have hasbara in 2013 down to a tee – particularly, in this instance, the fourth category:

  • Denial of injury – they exaggerate, they don’t feel it, they are used to violence, see what they do to each other.
  • Denial of victim – they started it, look at what they’ve done to us; they are the terrorists, we are just defending ourselves, we are the real victims.
  • Denial of responsibility – here, instead of the criminal versions of psychological incapacity or diminished responsibility (I didn’t know what I was doing. I blacked out, etc.) we find a denial of individual moral responsibility on the grounds of obedience: I was following orders, only doing my duty, just a cog in the machine. (For individual offenders like the ordinary soldier, this is the most pervasive and powerful of all denial systems).
  • Condemnation of the condemners – here, the politics are obviously more explicit than in the original delinquency context. Instead of condemning the police for being corrupt and biased or teachers for being hypocrites, we have the vast discourse of official denial used by the modern state to protect its public image: the whole world is picking on us; they are using double standards to judge us; it’s worse elsewhere (Syria, Iraq, Guatemala or wherever is convenient to name); they are condemning us only because of their anti-semitism (the Israeli version); their hostility to Islam (the Arab version), their racism and cultural imperialism in imposing Western values (all Third World tyrannies).
  • Appeal to higher loyalty – the original  subdued ‘ideology’ is now total and  self-righteous justification. The appeal to the army, the nation, the  volk, the sacred mission, the higher cause – whether the revolution, ‘history’, the purity of Islam, Zionism, the defence of the free world or state security. […]

Somewhat pressed for time, and really just posting to vent, so I’ll wrap up there. There’s a more comprehensive rebuttal on the facts here. More to follow.

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