My Hebrew-speaking wife assures me a direct translation of Hasbara is “explaining.”
Hasbara is not the same as fighting. Hasbara is a refined approach bringing passion and logic to our argument. Hasbara is a lawyer-like making of the public case for Israel. Explain, defend, debate, educate.
Fighting is not nuanced in its objective. Fighting is direct; it is about causing the other guy pain. It means making the other guy pay a price for his actions. Fighting is about hurting your opponent.
I have great appreciation for Hasbara and I believe there is a significant role for Hasbara in our struggle. But it is not fighting. And it has failed as a strategy in Europe.
Continuing to pursue Hasbara objectives in Europe does not pass the marketplace test. Packaging and repackaging the same product in hopes that somehow, somebody in Europe will buy it is counterproductive and a waste of resources.
The shelves are stacked sky high with unpurchased Hasbara. Nobody is buying our product. And they have tuned out our sales pitch. Bashing your head against a brick wall over and over will only get you a bloody head.
This takes me to the subject of Sweden and the EU Jerusalem initiative. European Union (EU) foreign ministers have, with some modifications, rubber stamped a Swedish proposal to recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Swedish EU initiative provides the framework for international recognition of a soon to be unilaterally declared Palestinian State.
“EU Calls For Jerusalem To Be Shared Capital,” is the Boston Globe headline. Hasbara has not dissuaded Swedish Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt. Or discouraged his friends even a little.
The raw political truth behind the Swedish EU Jerusalem initiative is that Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt’s government gets away with it because there is no political price to pay in Sweden.
You will not see Reinfeldt and his Rasputin-like partner Carl Bildt skulking back to Sweden, tail between their legs, apologizing for having bargained away a few details of their EU Jerusalem initiative.
Not a bit of it. They won’t say it for publication but all Europe understands the message Reinfeldt and Bildt just delivered. . . We gave the Jews a good whack – and long overdue it was too. Yes indeed, Fredrick Reinfeldt and Carl Bildt showed Europe and the world what Swedish leadership is all about.
Not only is there no price to pay for their EU Jerusalem initiative, politically, it’s a stone winner.
Do we have the will?The Swedes hold a general election on September 19, 2010. All 349 seats in the Riksdag are up. Reinfeldt’s tenuous coalition government is in deep political trouble. Recent polling has Reinfeldt’s government at 44% and the opposition at 50%. His party risks defeat in September.
Facing defeat and a loss of power and needing to neutralize threats from Sweden’s left wing, Reinfeldt and Bildt made a calculated political decision to use Sweden’s EU Chairmanship to improve their poll numbers, neutralize the Left, and buttress their political standing in Sweden.
Politics is a copycat business. If Reinfeldt’s “hammer the Jews” gambit succeeds every politician in Europe will copy the formula. If we do not fight back, if we do not cause Reinfeldt and Bildt to suffer political consequences in Sweden, it will have a bandwagon effect all across European politics.
All Europe is watching and learning. The stakes are nothing less than Jerusalem.
We can choose to fight. We can decide to push back. We have the means, the experience and skill to cause these guys political pain in Sweden. The question is do we have the will?
Do we have the guts to take them on, to make Reinfeldt, his political party and his pompous, anti-Israel Foreign Minister Carl Bildt pay a political price? That’s the question and the September 19 elections in Sweden are the test case.
Hasbara is not fighting. Explaining is not fighting. Fighting is causing the other guy pain.
With all due respect for my friends who have passionately made the Hasbara argument to Europe over the years, I cast my vote for fighting.
September 19, 2010, that’s the target. Send the best political campaign professionals in the world into Sweden’s national elections. Make Reinfeldt and Bildt pay a price. That’s where I’d make my stand.
An independent campaign, run by Swedes, centered on the consequences for
Sweden resulting from the Reinfeldt government’s EU Jerusalem initiative, with pro-bono assistance provided by the very best political campaign professionals in the world is a rational and potentially very effective fight back strategy.
Sweden is a test case. If we make Reinfeldt and Bildt pay a political price in Sweden, the message it sends will resonate all over Europe.
Are you in?
Michael Fenenbock is a long-time American political consultant. He and his wife Daphne Weisbart are the founders of The18. They live in New York, but spend a great deal of time in Jerusalem