Hasbara 2.0: Why the Israel-Haters Are Winning Today
Before 1967, Israel was viewed by the Western world as a scrappy underdog, a nation whose very creation was a testimony to justice and perseverance, an island of democratic values in a sea of hostile Arab dictatorships, a real-life David surviving and thriving despite the constant threats and attacks of Goliath.
Americans, in particular, found many similarities between the Jewish quest to build a new version of the Promised Land and American history. Both were founded as a result of religious persecution, both struggled to build a free nation against all odds, and Israel was viewed as a Jewish nation that embodied the Protestant work ethic that turned America into a superpower. The Pilgrims regarded themselves as a new type of Jew and America as the Promised Land, and one can find hundreds of towns in America today that have biblical names that reflect that thinking. This affinity with the Jewish people carried over to the idea of supporting Jewish statehood and return to the historic and spiritual home of Judaism.
This love of Israel carried over into popular culture. Exodus, Leon Uris’ blockbuster story dramatizing Israel’s rebirth, was the biggest selling American novel since Gone With the Wind. The movie version starred, improbably, Paul Newman — the ideal American — as the Sabra hero, Ari Ben-Canaan.
The Six-Day War was the high point of Western infatuation with Israel, as the tiny country astonished the world with its lightning victory over the combined armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
From a hasbara perspective, however, it was mostly downhill from there.
Now, the word “Zionist” is an insult in much of the world and on college campuses in the US. The news media automatically assumes the worst about Israel. The Jewish state is now considered, in much of the Western world, synonymous with oppression and even apartheid.
All of this flies against easily verifiable facts about Israel and her neighbors.