Hasbara (2009 manual)

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The 2009 Global Language Dictionary [1] is a 116 page document intended for distribution amongst opinion-forming Zionists.

It is a project of the pro-Israel lobby group known as "The Israel Project" or TIP and is based on work done for them by well-known pollster and master of focus groups, Frank Luntz. The aim of the project was to determine the best convincing language with which to project a positive view of Israel, in particular, language that would tend to justify the settlements. Or, in the words of TIP's founder, to "formulate communications strategy".

When it was leaked, critics of Israel dubbed it the "Hasbara Manual" and assumed it to be evidence that Zionist public relations is very professional and very well funded.

Genesis and exposure

The results of the study and the publication of the "dictionary" were intended to be secret, and the manual produced was marked "Not for distribution or publication". However, this did not save it from being leaked to the great amusement of critics. Perhaps as a result of copyright concerns, the text is no longer widely available on the web (as at Sept 2011).

It is believed that justifying the settlements is the primary purpose of this relatively expensive project. The study states that "public opinion is hostile to the settlements - even among supporters of Israel" so instead of dwelling on settlements one should always talk positively and focus on past peace achievement.

The Manual was released soon after "Operation Cast Lead" (or the "Gaza War" as some supporters of Israel prefer to call it) and comes with some passages apparently written to justify that bombing.



TIP's founder and president, Jennifer Laszlo-Mizrahi told Newsweek that setting people straight about settlements is particularly important: "The idea that some have in Washington that unilaterally putting pressure on Israel to make concessions on settlements is going to lead to peace is unfortunately shortsighted."[2]

The finished manual advises framing the issue as being about peace not settlements, but also proposes that propagandists go on the offensive, claiming that attacks on the settlements are anti-Semitic and amount to "ethnic cleansing".

Critics such as J Street describe the advice as "If you get a question about settlements, change the subject. If pressed, say stopping settlements is "a kind of ethnic cleansing". J Street sent a mailing to their organization asking their members to send letters to TIP asking them to "remove pro-settlement fear-mongering talking points from The Israel Project's materials".[3]

Show empathy

The manual recommends being positive and to show empathy with the Palestinians. The discussion should be "framed"


Throughout the "dictionary" (hasbara manual) are sections entitled "WORDS THAT WORK" and "WORDS THAT DON'T WORK". While much that appears is opinion, there are unsupported facts asserted and in some cases, the claims made would appear to be unsupportable.

"... day after day, Palestinian leadership pushes a culture of hate that encourages even small children to become suicide bombers. Iran-backed Hamas’s public television in Gaza uses Sesame Street-type programming to glorify suicide bombers." p.5

"Clearly differentiate between the Palestinian people and Hamas. There is an immediate and clear distinction between the empathy Americans feel for the Palestinians and the scorn they direct at Palestinian leadership. Hamas is a terrorist organization - Americans get that already. But if it sounds like you are attacking the Palestinian people (even though they elected Hamas) rather than their leadership, you will lose public support. Right now, many Americans sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians, and that sympathy will increase if you fail to differentiate the people from their leaders." p.5

"Use humility. "I know that in trying to defend its children and citizens from terrorists that Israel has accidentally hurt innocent people. I know it, and I’m sorry for it. But what can Israel do to defend itself? If America had given up land for peace - and that land had been used for launching rockets at America, what would America do? Israel was attacked with thousands of rockets from Iran-backed Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. What should Israel have done to protect her children?" p.7

"even though Americans agree that Hamas’ control of Gaza makes Israel less secure, they still expect Israel to act with regard for the Palestinian people. Achieving this balance is the key ... Israeli parents understand the fears Palestinian parents have for their children - because they have gone through the exact same thing. That’s the textbook definition of empathy. You simply must frame this whole issue in terms of mutuality of empathy. ... And we mean frame it. You have to start this argument the right way in order to maintain the credibility you need to finish it off. If you lay right into "rockets, rockets, rockets" you’ll lose the entire left and more than half of the middle. But if you start with something unexpected and genuine, they’ll hear you out for the rest of what you have to say." p.46

"Israel should not be bombing Gaza. I will repeat that. Israel should not be forced into a situation where they have to bomb Gaza. Likewise, Hamas should not be deliberately firing rockets into civilian areas of Israel. If the rockets stop, we can achieve that peace where Palestinian and Israeli children live in safety." p.47

"... here is the five-step approach to talking about civilian casualties in Gaza:
-- STEP 1 - Empathy: "All human life is precious. We understand that the loss of one innocent Palestinian life is every bit as tragic as the loss of an Israeli life."
-- STEP 2 - Admission: "We admit that Israel isn’t always successful at preventing civilian casualties..."
-- STEP 3 - Effort: "We remain committed to doing everything in our power to preventing civilian casualties."
-- STEP 4 - Examples: "Let me tell you how our armed forces are trained, tasked, and operate to ensure that Palestinian civilians remain safe."
-- STEP 5 - Turn Tables: "It is a great tragedy that Iran-backed Hamas shoots rockets at our civilians while hiding in their own. This causes tragic deaths on BOTH sides. What would you do if you were in this situation?"
We need to call specific attention to Step 2. Don’t pretend that Israel is without mistakes or fault. It’s not true and no one believes it. It will only make your listeners question the veracity of everything else you say. People do not expect Israel to be 100 percent successful in all their efforts to stop "terrorism". Admitting that Israel has and continues to make mistakes does not undermine the overall justice of Israel’s goals: peace and security and a better quality of life for everyone. Because Israel is seen as the more powerful party, you must use humility." p.50

"3 mosques in Gaza used as weapons, ammunition and explosives depots that were struck by the Israel Defense Forces during the operation in Gaza. [21] The strikes occurred only at night and never during prayer times, to avoid civilian casualties." Appendix III p.109


The document also lists arguments that don't work, in particular noting that religious, ownership and "scapegoat" arguments failed to sway the listeners in focus groups.


  1. 2009 Global Language Dictionary The updated "Hasbara Manual" from "The Israel Project" (TIP) April 2009
  2. A pollster's recommendations on how to sell Americans on the idea of Israeli settlements The Daily Beast Jul 9, 2009.
  3. Stopping settlements = "Ethnic Cleansing"? J Street, August 10, 2009.