Abba Eban’s comments on the idiocy of hasbara just as true three decades later

In August 1982, with the Israeli military wreaking massive destruction on Beirut, politician and diplomat Abba Eban wrote an op-ed in The Jerusalem Post on the “price … [Israel has] had to pay” for the attack on the Lebanese capital. Eban’s list of “items of loss in the balance sheet” included the following devastatingly frank assessment of the PR damage done to Israel. The way Eban wrote these words gives them a remarkable longevity – and is a reminder why all the millions thrown at “rebranding” and hasbara initiatives in recent times is just pouring money down the drain.

But the chief casualty for Israel, beyond the battlefield itself, lies in the transformation of what the word ‘Israel’ conveys to many of its friends as it flashes across their consciousness. The immediate association in recent weeks has been the crash of steel against buildings, the screams of bereaved and wounded, the children lining up for water denied by an Israeli ‘blockade’, the rat-infested garbage heaps, the collapse of those thin layers of civility which shelter human beings against their own human vulnerability. It is little short of idiotic to believe that this movement of opinion could have been arrested by technical means such as a transfer of responsibility for ‘hasbara’ from one Cabinet desk to another, or the enlistment of people abroad skilled in the propagation of exaggeratedly favourable publicity for tooth-paste or automobiles. The erosion has occurred among the well-informed, not the ill-informed. [Abba Eban, ‘A negative balance’, The Jerusalem Post, August 13 1982]




Yes, it's still true, but Israel still gets away with it's crimes--ever expanding them, and there are no consequences to it to speak of from world governments. There is BDs, but the world needs governments to act, in the from of sanctions like those being given to Iran. I don't see that happening, as Israeli crimes go on and on. If US policy would change to stand for human rights and following International Law, then change might come. The Zionists know this, and they fight through the media and with their money and with their hasbara to keep the US Congress under it's AIPAC thumb. We need a Lobby of our own to fight back for justice and the human rights of the Palestinian people.


Amazingly, Israel has now authorized a New Jersey drilling company to drill in the internationally recognized OCCUPIED TERRITORY in the Golan Heights. I sent the entire article to the Obama White House asking how they could possibly allow this. Something has got to give here. There is no accountability whatsoever. A big part o fthe problem is that people everywhere, most importantly in the US and Europe, are BOTH apathetic and afraid to speak out against Israel for fear of being ostracized as anti-Semitic. Weird, weird, weird.


What was the name of the New Jersey drilling company? And do you know whether it is possible for people to file a lawsuit in the US against a US company for crimes committed abroad? I know for instance that the Netherlands just heard a case against Shell for violations in Nigeria


Bitter Fruit of the Tree

by Sterling A. Brown (1901-1989)

They said to my grandmother: "Please do not be bitter,"
When they sold her first-born and let the second die,
When they drove her husband till he took to the swamplands,
And brough him home bloody and beaten at last.
They told her, "It is better you should not be bitter,
Some must work and suffer so that we, who must, can live,
Forgiving is noble, you must not be heathen bitter;
These are your orders : you are not to be bitter."
And they left her shack for their porticoed house.

They said to my father: "Please do not be bitter,"
When he ploughed and planted a crop not his.
When he weatherstripped a house that he would not enter,
They answered his questions: "It does not concern you,
It is not for you to know, it is past your understanding.
All you need to know is : you must not be bitter."



Surprising to hear that "hasbara" was mentioned in 1982 already. That is the war that cemented my opinion, so hasbara clearly didn't work for me. But I hadn't heard the term until in fact quite recently. I was very surprised to hear that something I had noticed, and indeed mapped in my mind over many years, not only had a name, but was in fact Israeli governement policy!

Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.