by Professor Paul Eidelberg

A most pervasive and pernicious error in Israel is the belief in hasbara, that is, in information campaigns to improve Israel's image abroad, especially as concerns the Arab-Jewish conflict. Not that hasbara should be ignored, but the importance attached to "marketing" Israel is grossly exaggerated and even indicative of a national flaw.

Too many Jews believe that Israel's problem in foreign affairs consists in changing the attitudes of the nations when the real problem is to change their own attitudes, including their fearful concern about Israel's image.

Politicians and intellectuals constantly boast that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. By so doing they condition their counterparts in the democratic world to expect Israel, far more than any Arab despot, to make political and territorial concessions in the so-called peace process. Only democratic Israel is expected to "take risks for peace" which no other government would dare ask of its people.

The fact that Israel is reputed as a democracy does not win the support so much as the contempt and even the hostility of many gentile politicians abroad, their statements to the contrary notwithstanding. It can be stated as an axiom: The more Israel's government seeks to win the approval of the nations, the more it will be despised by the nations.

By seeking the approval of others, Israel's political leaders must imitate others, which means they must act less like Jews and more like gentiles. Such self-abasement betrays their lack of pride in the Jewish heritage, and this is exactly why Israel is so often humiliated.

Of course, Israel's leaders attribute the negative attitude of the nations to anti-Semitism. Here they often confuse cause and effect. For the truth is that a great deal of anti-Semitism is the consequence of Israel's failure to comport itself as a Jewish nation. Indeed, anti-Semitism serves the historical function of reminding Jews that they are Jews. Not only will assimilation fail to placate the nations; it will arouse their contempt.

Especially appalling is the imitation of American culture, which is hardly a culture. How can there be a culture in a multicultural society where all "lifestyles" are morally equal, where moral relativism is rampant—the logical consequence of American democracy. Hence it is sheer folly to try to improve Israel's image abroad by extolling "Israeli democracy." It is precisely the banalities of Israeli democracy that undermines Israel's image.

I will anticipate two objections to this iconoclastic statement. One is this: "What would you have Israel become, a theocracy?" A theocracy, however, is a state ruled by a priestly caste, which is foreign to Judaism. In Judaism there is no "clergy" and no "laity." The most authentic form of Jewish leadership is that of the teacher, whose power is not political but intellectual and moral.

A second objection is this: "Israel's economic and military dependence on the U.S. prevents it from taking a more independent stand in Arab-Jewish affairs." Here I am reminded of a remark by former U.S. Undersecretary of State Joseph Sisco to Israeli author Shmuel Katz in 1989: "I want to assure you, Mr. Katz, that if we were not getting full value for our money, you would not get a cent from us."

That same year a conference on "American Aid to Israel and Its Effect on the Israeli Economy" was held at Tel Aviv University. The country's leading economists, industrialists, and banking figures concluded that American aid to Israel results in "loss of motivation, absence of will to be independent, a craving for luxuries, waste, and emphasis on immediate fulfillment rather than long-term planning... American aid corrupts the economy, inflates the public sector without justification and indirectly causes high taxation and growing deficits."

In short, the growth in American aid leads to a decline in productivity, the rapid transfer of capital from investment to consumption, and the sharp increase in government spending. From this it should be obvious that Israel's political elites have a vested interest in American aid. But this makes Israel all the more inclined to imitate American democracy and thus become all the more contemptible.

Needed is not better hasbara so much as but a better system of government, one composed of JEWS, not Hebrew-speaking gentiles.

Professor Paul Eidelberg is an American-Israeli political scientist, author and lecturer. He is the founder and president of the Jerusalem-based Foundation for Constitutional Democracy. This article is reprinted from an article by Professor Eidelberg written in 2004. Thanks are due J. Levi for sending it to Think-Israel.

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