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While, in Hebrew, hasbara literally means “explanation,” its current usage takes on a more prapagandistic sense. Gideon Meir has said that there is no “real, precise” translation of the term in any other language, but has characterized it merely as public diplomacy,[1] an action all governments around the world undertake with the growing importance. That interpretation likens hasbara to what Harvard University political scientist Joseph Nye termed “soft power.” Gary Rosenblatt describes it as “advocacy,” while individuals and entities engaged in it on behalf of Israel have been called hasbarists.[2]

Hence, hasbara has been described as “pro-Israel propaganda,”[3] or “the new user-friendly term for Israeli propaganda.”[4] While “propaganda strives to highlight the positive aspects of one side of a conflict, hasbara seeks to explain actions, whether or not they are justified.”[5]

Historian Giora Goodman considers hasbara to mean “propaganda” in practice, while noting that The term “propaganda” acquired a pejorative sense during the first half of the twentieth century. Accordingly, British and American propagandists used “information” to describe their work and the positive-sounding word hasbara has generally been preferred in Hebrew. For Hebrew speakers, propaganda, or ta’amula in Hebrew, is mostly what opponents do, but hasbara is the term often used by the Zionist movement to portray its own efforts to influence and convince mass audiences to support the State of Israel in its practices against the Palestinian people and other external parties.[6]

[1]   Gideon Meir, “What ‘Hasbara’ Is Really All About,” The Jerusalem Post (24 May 2005), at: https://mfa.gov.il/mfa/abouttheministry/pages/what%20hasbara%20is%20really%20all%20about%20-%20may%202005.aspx.

[2] Miriyam Aouragh, “Hasbara 2.0: Israel’s Public Diplomacy in the Digital Age,” Middle East Critique, Vol. 25 (2016), pp. 271–97, at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19436149.2016.1179432.

[3] Nathan Guttman, “Dancing the Hasbara,” Moment (August 2006).

[4]   Avi Hyman, “The Hasbara Hijack,” op ed, Arutz Sheva (10 September 2004), at: https://web.archive.org/web/20140810065447/http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/4175.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Giora Goodman “‘Palestine’s Best’: The Jewish Agency’s Press Relations, 1946–1947,” Israel Studies. Vol. 16, No. 3 (fall 2011), pp. 1–27, at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236719201_Palestine’s_Best_The_Jewish_Agency’s_Press_Relations_1946-1947.