Frmr. Canadian Minister: ‘Mixed Messages’ Harm Hasbara

September 11, 2014  

Former Canadian Minister of Justice, Professor Irwin Cotler spoke to Arutz Sheva last week on the importance of hasbara, or explaining facts and myths about Israel. 

“I think hasbara is part of diplomacy; every government engages in it,” Cotler began, speaking to reporters at IDC Herzilya’s 14th International Conference on Counter-Terrorism. “The question is not whether you engage in it, it is how you engage in it.” 

“Israel is in a much more critical situation, because it is in a Middle East unfolding not only with uncertainty, but with its various gradations of risk and threat,” he continued. “In terms of Israel, you have kind of a critical mass in threat on the north, and a critical mass in threat on the south, and a critical mass of threat in the east.” 

The problem with the current system of hasbara, he said, is a matter of giving a clear message.

“Regrettably, the dynamics of a coalition government in Israel are such that they speak sometimes not only in different voices, but in competing voices,” he explained, “and it’s very difficult to get the message across when a government is not speaking with a coherent, cohesive voice.”

“I would hope that at least some of the foundational approaches to that message will be [. . .] a shared appreciation for the critical mass of threat,” he continued. 

According to Cotler, there are a select set of issues the current coalition government does agree upon, including the importance of demilitarizing Gaza and the Palestinian Authority (PA), and disarming Hamas and terror organizations. 

Cotler also compared Hamas to Islamic State (ISIS). 

“Hamas’s wider aspirations are a branch of [global] radical Islam,” he said, noting that the world’s approach to Hamas so far has been the same as to radical Islam in general. 

He added that the world believes “ISIS should be destroyed” and that, while Hamas may not fall into the same category, in his words, they must be disarmed. 

“I’ve always been for the two state solution,” he added, “but for a rights protected, democratic Palestinian state.” 

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