Hearts and minds, and stomachs

on 3 Comments

Buried in a fawning JPost article about the recent visit of five Vibe Israel foodbloggers, including David Lebovitz, who has an enormous following, is clear evidence that the hasbara effort is failing:

In her hometown of Tallinn, [food blogger Pille Petersoo] says, people mostly think of Israel the way they see it in the news – “which is the Golan Heights, the Palestine issue and the settlements.”

“I had quite a few friends who said they wouldn’t actually take their tourist money to Israel for political reasons,” she says.

“But the whole point of the trip was to introduce Israel from different vantage points.”

There remain only a small number of ways in which the impact of Israel’s broadcasted crimes of colonisation and apartheid can be countered by hasbarists: the anti-Semitism smear, considered too crude by the professionals; crowing about the ‘start-up nation’s’ technology and medical science achievements, as if industrially advanced countries can’t be fascist; and the culture charade, where some cute girl or out-gay boy loudly sings and tapdances for the visitor in an attempt to drown out the cries coming from the torture chamber below.

The best way to deliver your hasbara is to get personal, in a nice way. From a modern master herself, Joanna Landau, the director of Kinetis, which is behind the Vibe Israel tours:

“When people talk about Israel, it’s always in the context of conflict,” says Landau. “And we don’t want to talk about conflict. We don’t want to avoid it, we don’t want to say it doesn’t exist, but we think that the conversation needs to be expanded.

“It’s not that the world is for or against Israel, the biggest groups really just don’t care,” she continues.

“They don’t care because we’re not offering anything interesting, anything they can relate to. It’s impossible to relate to this country if all you see is war. It’s not about winning a debate, it’s about winning hearts and minds. When you connect to people on an emotional level, you become their friend, and when your friend does something wrong, then you give them the benefit of the doubt.”

This is the crux of matter – and beauty of sophisticated hasbara: once Jewish Israelis have been nice to the foreign guest on a personal level, flattered her professional ego, introduced her to the sweetest local creative-types, she is more likely to forgive the state’s crimes; indeed, it would be ungracious to dwell on them… This is the deal you make with the devil: she stuffs your face, feeds your ego, kisses you on both cheeks, and the Gaza massacre is but a distant memory! Sensual satisfaction never looked so immoral.

    Leave a Reply