Addendum to “The End of Hasbara”

A reader asked me about the use of the word “sabotage” in the Reut report and what i made of that. Since I didn’t include that question in my article, here is my response to that reader.
On sabotage, I don’t think it means what Ali Abunimah at Electronic Intifada thinks it means. It is not referring to physical sabotage, web attacks and the like. In Hebrew, the word is שיבוש which means disruption. In the context of the full paragraph, it seems clear this is referring to causing a split between the “de-legitimizers” and what Reut is referring to as the “critics.” At most, this seems to mean infiltration, and that is the harshest definition that seems at all reasonable to me in the context of the full paragraph. Moreover, in Hebrew, the word for the verb “to sabotage” is לחבל. This word does not appear in the Hebrew version of the report, and if physical sabotage was the intended meaning, I don’t see how they could avoid that word, as the word for disruption would not carry the implication of physical sabotage. Occam’s Razor suggests that the intention is to direct the recommended hasbara toward splitting the various groups along the lines of critics and de-legitimizers, because they seem to feel (probably quite correctly) that without the “critics” the “de-legitimizers” would have little chance of having political impact.

The same reader also posed the following question: Second, and more importantly, although I think this is first-rate analysis (and rhetoric), in one aspect it leaves me scratching my head: you say Israel is failing because it has a strategy with no endgame. But the rump state solution seems like an obvious and even successful strategy. Israel is turning the West Bank into Gaza. Soon it will be a problem capable of being managed, like East Timor, Tibet, or any other pocket of population without national rights. It seems the Israelis have decided recently that this is the best they can hope for.

Here is my response to that:

On your more important question…
The first problem with the “rump state solution” as you put it is the same as the one we have now–the settlements. Israel can’t turn the West Bank into Gaza without removing the settlements. Their continued presence will mean that the situation cannot be managed a la Tibet or East Timor. Moreover, the comparison to Timor and Tibet fails because China and Indonesia were not stirring up a regional tinderbox with their occupations (ongoing, in China’s case). The human rights issues were just as serious (in the case of Timor, they were far graver, in fact), but the political implications did not begin to compare. No one cared about East Timor. Many care about Palestine, in the region, in Europe and, increasingly, in the USA. So it wouldn’t work.

Then the question is, whether or not it would work, is this what Israel is, in fact, planning? Much of thinking, particularly that advanced by Noam Chomsky, on this question starts with the Allon Plan. But that plan was based in the notion that Jordan would take up the parts of the West Bank that Israel left out–and, perhaps more importantly, the Allon Plan envisioned actually absorbing significant numbers of Palestinians into Israel. Both of those notions are no longer applicable. So if, and I doubt it’s the case, Israel is still pursuing the Allon Plan, the issue i raise remains the same–they no longer have an endgame.

Otherwise, i think your formulation and mine end up in the same place–no real change in the status quo for decades to come until some calamitous event, whether a disaster for the Palestinians or for Israel, changes the conditions of the game. What I see is what I’ve seen for a long time–an occupation regime that sees only as far ahead as the necessity for maintaining the occupation takes it.

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