For a guy who’s as much a non-fan of Israel as I am, I have a surprising number of friends on the other side of the question — people whom I like and value and admire but who are still, for one reason or another, very committed to Fort Zion. (It isn’t always the first-guess reason, either — some of ’em are Episcopalians.)
Speaking of Episcopalians, the local Bishop recently issued a rather tepid and carefully nonjudgemental call to aid a hospital in Gaza, which had just been bombed to shit by the Light Unto The Nations.
The Zionist thought-police response was rapid and consistent. How do we know that the money would go to a hospital — and not to Hamas? How do we know that rockets wouldn’t be fired from the roof of the rebuilt hospital — by Hamas? It doesn’t matter what the question is; the answer is always Hamas.
The essence of hasbara, I think, is changing the subject. The anti-Semitism gambit, and the closely related singling-out gambit, attempt to change the subject from Israel to the interlocutor’s feelings and motivations. The Hamas gambit seeks to seduce the interlocutor into either defending Hamas or arguing about details of what’s really going on in Gaza.
Now neither the hasbarist nor the interlocutor knows anything about details on the ground in Gaza, except what they read in the papers. The same applies to Hamas. In this new argument, about Hamas, no substantial conversation is possible; only hot air expended by tendentious malice on one side and (at best) wishful thinking on the other. But the hasbarist has succeeded. The subject has been changed. Israel and its manifest and acknowledged project of conquest, apartheid, and expropriation is no longer under discussion. Instead, Hamas and its sins real or imaginary are now the topic. The prosecutor of Israel has become the Legal Aid lawyer for Hamas, who has never met his client and knows nothing about him except what the newly-appointed prosecution chooses to say.
Speaking only for myself, I’m like Mlle de Rimbaud’s dad in the Mel Brooks History of the World: I suspect Hamas ain’t so bad, and certainly, if I were a young man living in Gaza I’d join up. But really, that’s neither here nor there. Good or bad, Hamas is a consequence of Israel and its essential undertaking. If you don’t like Hamas, do something about Israel.