The Limits of Hasbara
by

As the UN Security Council once more turns to its obsession with bashing Israel, the Israelis unveil their newest medical miracle, the use of sound frequencies to control the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.

The recently appointed head of Hamas, Yahya Sinwar, had his life saved from a brain tumor in an Israeli hospital. To show his appreciation, he now threatens to kill Jews. You can save the life of a fundamentalist Muslim, but you cannot save him from his theologically-spawned hatred.

When it comes to Jews, anti-Semitism generates the absurd. If you think capitalism is evil, you can focus on the “international banking conspiracy” led by the Rothschilds. If collectivism offends you, there is always Karl Marx to be the focus of your wrath, not to mention the Soviet revolution led by such “Jews” as Lenin and Stalin.

The Arab/Israeli dispute is not about land, settlements, green lines, or roadmaps. It is about Jews.

When Jordan’s King Hussein occupied the West Bank, no one spoke of occupation or the need to create a democratic, secular state of Palestine. If the Israelis were Muslims, the world would no more care about what they did than it cares about Iran’s control of Sunni Arabs in its western provinces, China’s occupation of Mongolia, or Turkey’s partition of Cyprus.

The idea that a better hasbara campaign (positive portrayal of Jews and their history) or a more active role by Israel’s foreign office in the war of ideas will change things is questionable, especially on the campuses of Western countries where anti-Semitism is infused in the liberal arts curriculum with the same intensity as is the assault on so-called “white privilege.”

On the campus, the ideology of progressivism controls the narrative both within and outside of the classroom. Ideology, not a commitment to the unbiased search for the truth, dominates the universities. The very idea of truth is eschewed, as all thought is characterized as a product of the dominant forces in society. Only in the “socialist utopia” is truth possible.

In the classroom, the Israelis are portrayed as European colonizers, although at least half of all Israelis are descendants of Mizrachi (Middle Eastern) Jews. The Palestinians, in this narrative, are an oppressed people, and the Jews are intruders, even those who were forcibly expelled from their ancient homes in the Middle East by Muslims.

In the student government bodies, identity politics, reinforced and continually reaffirmed in the classroom and through university administrative policies, is paramount. Alliances are forged on the basis of the identities of the “oppressed,” who are suffering the anguish and difficulty of getting an education in an institution dominated by the oppressor society.

Jews are seen not only as white, but also as privileged and successful whites. As student groups are organized and funded on the basis of identity, it is possible to have a Muslim student group, an Arab student group, and a Palestinian student group. When it comes to Israel and too often to Jews, these groups are united in their hatred.

Campus politics makes for the strangest of bedfellows. Cultures that are theologically and traditionally misogynist, that treat lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people as pariahs, forge alliances with these very groups.

It is possible to see placards on campus announcing, “LGBTs for Palestine.” We cannot help but wonder how these demonstrators would fair in Ramallah or better yet in Hamas-controlled Gaza City.

No amount of hasbara will overcome the academic model of oppressed people united to fight oppression, a model that views Jews as the beneficiaries of the bourgeois, white culture and Israel as a state comprised of European colonizers. In one academic department with which I was quite familiar, Israel was portrayed as the last bastion of British imperialism, an allegation steeped in the absurd for anyone remotely familiar with British policies toward the then-nascent Jewish state.

Outside of mathematics, the sciences and engineering, the campus is turning into an intellectual wasteland, polluted by ideology, and populated by second- and third-rate minds that could not function in the real world.

It is not the place to win hearts and minds. Those battles are best fought elsewhere.

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