Israeli Cooperation: Hasbara Against Itself

One of the main reasons why the Irangate ("October surprise") scandal wasn't investigated more fully was the anxiety among Democrats, liberals and Jews that a detailed investigation might damage the military and diplomatic stature of Israel. Researchers, including Gary Sick and Barbara Honneggar (both of whom have produced books with the title October Surprise have discovered a number of uncomfortable liberal-Israeli ties to the group who ostensibly was behind the October surprise. Israeli Prime Minister Begin was apparently somewhat alienated from the Carter Administration's positions regarding the sale of weapons and supplies to the Iranians after the Iraqis invaded. Israel was concerned that an Iraqi victory in that war would bring about an eventual invasion of Israel. After all, Saddam had virtually declared that the invasion of Iran was a "dress rehearsal" for his invasion of Israel.

As if to prove Israel's case, in June 1982, Israeli planes "took out" an Iraqi nuclear reactor, complete with French technicians. The resultant nuclear mushroom cloud led many to believe that an early Iraqi victory in the Iran-Iraq War might have resulted in Saddam's use of nuclear weapons against Israel; as it was, his plans were delayed by the better-armed Iran.

In order to ensure that there were no diplomatic damages done to Israel in its efforts at good PR in the U.S., the "Hasbara Project" had been developed to train Israeli-sympathizing reporters to work in our media. Their purpose was to build public support in the US for Israel. This might involve, at various times, even playing down stories in the US that were being freely-released in Israel itself by Israel's own free press. The fear was that such stories might feed deeply-imbedded American anti-Semitism and result in a break in diplomatic and military connections between the US and Israel.

In an article that appeared in Mother Jones (February-March, 1987), Robert I. Friedman describes the way the Hasbara Project operates. Hasbara has gone so far as to try to defend such indefensible actions as the Israeli-US shelling in Lebanon, an activity that did little but kill civilians who had no connection with terrorism on either side. On balance, I would be the last to suggest that Hasbara revealed a powerful Jewish interest group. Quite the contrary, I feel that, most of the time, Israel has needed this extra help against the powerful political and financial pressures that the Arab regimes and their Western corporate allies can bring to bear.

However, I believe a case can be made that the Hasbara Project has been used against itself in at least one important area: assisting Mr. Bush in his cover-up of some of his activities in the Middle East. Hasbara has probably helped to ensure that the "October surprise" was not investigated or exposed more fully in the US media. In the process, however, this Israel-oriented effort has probably gone a long way toward assisting a President who was probably one of the worst enemies that the nation of Israel has ever had (at least, up until the Gulf War): George Bush.

In an effort to defend Israeli involvement in the "October surprise" which betrayed US President Jimmy Carter in 1980, Hasbara has endeavored to play down and discredit any stories--however recent, plausible or even probable--that have come out about the scandal. Pressuring both parties (with their effects on the GOP virtually nil), Israeli-oriented journalists have sought to keep Congress out of the investigation.

But such an investigation would have helped destroy an enemy that Israel has long feared and resented: Mr. Bush and his petrochemical business associates. Far from having the effect of stirring domestic American anti-Semitism, such an exposure would probably have led to the major investigation of Mr. Bush's World War II treason that Hasbara has seen fit to help cover up.

For his part, Mr. Bush helped keep the cover-up going past whatever point it was any longer useful to or protective of Israel. Having once got Israel to commit to the defense of its participation, however limited, in Reagan Administration activities in Central America, Bush could then extend the cover-up long enough to give him time to get rid of any potential source of an exposť of his World War II treason, including Robert Maxwell.

As Robert Friedman notes in describing one instance of Hasbara activities in this area: "Other media princes like the New Republic's Martin Peretz have beome out and out point men for Israel's Hasbara network. 'It's good to know Matin Peretz is on our side,' gushed the Jerusalem Post "Indeed, it can be said that the New Republic is the single most favorable American voice on Israel. Who can say how many divisions that is worth?'

"Not only is debate on the Middle East impossible at the New Republic say those close to the magazine, but anti-Arab racism is endemic as well. Peretz maintains that Arab nationalism, and Palestinian nationalism in particular, is illegitimate, and that Palestinians come from an intrinsically violent culture--"a failure of [their] collective imagination."

"The New Republic's support for Reagan Administration policies in Central American can also be traced in part to Peretz's single-minded devotion to Israel. 'There is a kind of syllogism that works like this," said New Republic associate editor Jefferson Morley. 'Israel is a pariah state internationally, and that's completely wrong. Therefore, other pariah states are not as bad as people say.' Also at work is the 'friend of my friend is an enemy of my enemy' syndrome, Morley explained. 'Nicaragua aligns itself with certain anti-Israel groups like the PLO. Therefore, it justifies the New Republic's support for the contras. This approach tends to underestimate important social realities on the ground in Central America." (Friedman, 5)

British publisher and British and Israeli secret agent Robert Maxwell's mysterious death, much investigated by non-mainstream US journalists, was always under-investigated by Israeli journalists. And the death of Abby Hoffman may have been as a result of the actions of the intelligence group he was most vulnerable to: the Mossad.

It is difficult to reverse a cover-up policy once it has been embarked upon. Since the efforts of the Hasbara Project are, for the most part, laudable, especially in the face of the all too real "secret war against the Jews" written about by Loftus and Aarons, such a cover-up is more easily defended.

Nevertheless, Americans must ask themselves if it is justifiable to allow Nelson Rockefeller, a World War II traitor, to go unpunished for treason that Israel allowed to be covered up for fifty years. It wasn't only Jews that were victims of Rockefeller's treason: American troops in the field, including those at Bataan and Corregidor and at Bastogne, all fell, at least in part, due to the treasonous efforts of Rockefeller, Dulles and Forrestal and their lower level assistants, including George Bush. (See "Nelson Rockefeller: A Traitor Vice-President."--go to "Rockefeller: A Traitor Vice-President">).

We must also ask if the risk to Israel is that great today. The fact is, the Right in America today is strongly committed to the Nation of Israel's continued existence. And it has been for a number of years. There is no real danger to Israel from that direction. Nor is the Far Left--the Jesse Jackson faction in the Democratic Party--powerful enough politically to realistically expect to change America's foreign policy in the Middle East.

Likewise, Mr. Bush has now been drawn into the breach, since the Gulf War. The old corporate-Arab connections are wearing thin, and, indeed, disappearing. Once he had been manipulated into the position of having to go to war with the Ba'ath Party, a World War II ally of his family, Bush had driven a probably permanent wedge between Western corporate families and the Arab regimes.

As a result of the truths I've discovered about the real nature of the October Surprise and related cover-ups, to the nation of Israel and its many friends in the United States and at the Hasbara Project, I must say this: Please face the truth: some cover-ups have done you more harm than good. This is one that has. Let the truth about the "October surprise" come out. Stop covering for George Bush's World War II treason. You are being used in this by your enemies--and this cover-up hurts only your friends in American politics. You are militarily-safe, except for whatever threat is presented by Saddam Hussein and his allies in the US. And, as you may recall, that is the group that you helped to win the election of 1980.

Besides, as Friedman notes in concluding his article:

"...[T]he Hasbara network does not have blanket control over the media. Critical stories about Israeli politics do get out--and more so since the 1982 Lebanon war disturbed the public's perceptions about who the good guys and the bad guys are in the Middle East. [My own writings in the past reveal I don't believe in "good guys" and "bad guys"--mcs]. However, the Hasbara network does have a chilling effect on the media. The net result is that the press tends to water down critical reporting from Israel, while all too readily accepting Israel's views of the world, expressed by the ubiquitous [and, might I add, self-styled--mcs] Israeli government spokesmen.

"Yet those tactics of intimidation in the service of Israel may backfire. 'It is precisely the fact that it is the job of the national press to be fair and objective that gets these superoverheated Jews foaming,' said the Washington Post's Stephen Rosenfeld. 'They want 100 percent. The don't want fairness; they want unfairness on their side, and when they don't get it they accuse the press of being unfair. Most journalists get so much uninformed, unfair whining from the organized Jews that Jewish organizations--and ultimately Israel--may lose their credibility.'...To yield to the likes of a Podhoretz or a Sharon--who would silence the media and stifle debate--is ultimately the real threat to Israel and to the prospects for Middle East peace. (Friedman 8)."

The Israeli cover-ups in behalf of Nelson Rockefeller and Standard Oil may have been necessary--but not forever. The cover-ups in behalf of George Bush have served evil masters, almost from day one. They have done Israel a great deal of harm, certainly when extended past a certain very limited period of time. They may even be helping to cover up the Gulf War Syndrome scandal. They simply have to be closely looked at, re-examined and, in some cases, ended.

Works Cited:

Friedman, Robert I. "Selling Israel In America: The Hasbara Project Targets the U.S. Media." Mother Jones, February/March, 1987. 1-9. (Reprinted in Readings In Mass Communications, 1995 . Emery/Smythe comp., eds. DuBuque, IA: Brown and Benchmark, 1995. 147-155.)

Honneggar, Barbara. October Surprise. New York: Tudor, 1989

Loftus, John and Mark Aarons. The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish PeopleM New York: St. Martin's, 1994

Sick, Gary. October Surprise.New York: Random House, 1991.

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