Hasbara is a dirty word

I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. Hasbara is a dirty word. A really, really bad word.

As a writer I am sensitive to words, the way they are used (or misused) and how they shape reality. Words describe reality but they also create it, forming a perspective or mindset which influences behavior and as a result, forms our experiences. Athletes know this, psychologists know this and so do abusive people who use words to maintain power over others.

The word “hasbara” is a problem.

Hasbara is the word often used to describe the actions of the pro-Israel advocacy movement. Hasbara is a word in Hebrew and it comes from the root word “hesber,” explanation or “lehasbeer,” to explain.

The implication is that it is necessary to “explain” Israel or Israel’s actions.

Is it necessary to explain France? Or America? Or  Russia?

Even the English term “advocacy” is problematic. An advocate is a lawyer who defends someone in court – defending the person accused of a crime.

The demand for explanations or even the feeling that advocacy is necessary is a mindset of guilt as if we have done something wrong and need to explain ourselves. The Jew, presumed guilty until proven innocent… like medieval witch trials – throw her in the river, if she floats she’s a witch (and as such must be killed), if she drowns she is “proven” innocent…

There are a number of examples of words others have deliberately chosen as part of the propaganda war, designed to delegitimize the Jewish people and undermine the future of the Nation of Israel (Palestine, West Bank, Wailing Wall….). The fact that so many have adopted this terminology, bringing it legitimacy, without thinking or through the (in my opinion, mistaken) belief that there is no other option, exacerbates an existing problem. “Hasbara,” on the other hand, is a word we chose and a mindset we are perpetuating in the supposed effort to empower our people.

Have we gotten so used to the hate that we have accepted and adopted as our own, the idea that we are guilty until proven innocent? After centuries of proof to the contrary, do we still believe that a good enough explanation will get us out of “punishment”?

After 2000 years of exile and 70 years of statehood, the Nation of Israel, Jews around the world and even many Israeli Jews, are still trapped in galut mentality. This is the thought process of the weak, of those who must suffer in silence, hoping that the “civilized” will prevent our misery from becoming too terrible.

While an understandable position for a People with no state, guests in other people’s lands, this is not an acceptable position for a free and proud nation. Even our enemies do not explain themselves. They boldly claim victimhood, even when it is not true. They scream and accuse, with no shame – but they do not explain themselves. Their “rights,” in their minds, are obvious and need no explanation. Why should ours?

My right to life is not something that needs explaining, it is obvious. My country not only has to a right to defend her citizens but has an obligation to do so. No sovereign nation needs to explain this to anyone.

Hasbara is a dirty word because it is indicative of and helps perpetuate galut mentality. We are no longer a subservient people, after 2000 years of exile it is time to behave according to who we are and what we have achieved – the miraculous, what no other nation on earth has ever done before – sovereignty in our ancestral homeland for the third time.

The strong do not explain themselves. No one respects the weak. While some might pity the victim, even pity is not empathy and we, thank God, are no longer at the mercy of the civilized.

Now it is only the prison of our own minds holding us back.

6 thoughts on “Hasbara is a dirty word

  1. I rankle especially at the term “ultra-Orthodox” used by both Jewish and non-Jewish media. It is an affront to me as an “observant” or “Torah” Jew that the wearing of a black hat, or being part of a Chassidic community, is perceived as being “more Jewish” than others. They would recognize my Torah as the same of theirs; my legitimacy would not be questioned as those of Reform or Reconstructionist — or daresay I Conservative — Jews. It’s a horrid term. Orthodox is not a verb. He’s “Orthodoxer” than me is implied by the “ultra” designation, and a slap in the face to all “dati.”


    1. Yes, that is a bad term although I think it is more a failure to translate our complexity into English. In Hebrew the terminology doesn’t judge as more religious but just describes the style of being religious.


      1. Well said. I believe that many words in Hebrew cannot be translated into English or any other language.
        It’s time that we Jews stop complaining and trying to convince people who don’t listen to us anyway.,
        My first impression when I made Aliyah in 1973 was how Israeli Jews stand up & fight. People forget our ancestors included Joshua, Devorah the Judge who also was a fighter, and of course King David. And, don’t forget the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto. They showed the world we can fight.
        My paternal grandfather went to Canada during WWI & joined Ben Tzvi & other’s in the Jewish Brigade to rid now Israel, then Palestine from the Turks. I know and studied about the NILI group of whom your mom is named after.
        My husband was once a member of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) until he was told that as a US Marine, it didn’t look right, so he had to resign. My son served proudly in the Israeli Navy commando unit during the crisis with Lebanon, the 2nd time.
        We need to stand up and show we aren’t afraid of the war of words. We have nothing to apologize for or anything to explain.. It’s time we Jews stand up & fight. No more apologies. As to calling other Jews names, that’s what led to destruction of the 2nd Temple.
        No to convince my liberal family members in the USA that voting Democrat is a vote for anti-Semitism & anti-Israel. Several Democratic candidates running for Congress have come out openly anti-Israel. We need to stand up for the only Jewish nation in the world, Israel, with no apologies or explanations. We need to stand up & be proud as Jews who have survived every ancient nation. Forest Rain, keep up the good work.


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