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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Jewish leaders wake up to dangers of campaign to delegitimize Israel

"Jewish leaders concerned by trend to delegitimize Israel" reads the Haaretz headline. It is good that at last, someone is taking note of the problem.
The article states:
The trend toward delegitimizing Israel's existence as a Jewish state is growing not only in Europe, but also in the United States, according to Jewish-American academics and community leaders.
You don't say? Our fearless leaders have discovered what was under their noses, and has been growing thanks to their own neglect. Palestinians and their supporters understood that enlisting the support of outsiders:  "progressives" and especially Jews, would be a key factor in aiding the violent struggle that was contemplated in 1998. 
"Popular resistance, which is likely to bring back the intifada, will simultaneously lead to building alliances and grassroots organizations, like the ones that emerged spontaneously in the early days of the original intifada (which was snuffed out by the PLO leadership in Tunis). If this succeeds by the turn of the century, this new post-patriarchal liberation struggle will regain the human face of the first intifada and win the support of progressive forces the world over, including the support of progressive Jewish forces in Israel and the United States. "
A self-fulfilling prophecy.
The strategy of attacking "apartheid" and seeming to attack the occupation while actually attacking the existence of Israel was enunciated clearly many times. For example, this was described as the basis of the Boycott Israel campaign: 

"- The legitimacy of Israel's regime must be challenged...

- There is no chance to change Israeli society from within, we are at a dead end and Israeli society is becoming increasingly fascist.

- We are dealing with the dismantling of power, and the question is how to convince this power to voluntarily dismantle....


Targets of boycott and sanction should be the state of Israel, but also Zionist organizations and corporations:

- There is corporate responsibility related to sanctions, divestment, boycott. For example, Caterpillar and Intel (on Iraq al-Manshiyya.). Campaigns should also target the Zionist organization ('National Institutions'), such as WZO, JA, JNF, which are major perpetrators and maintain discrimination inside Israel."

Jewish groups did nothing as divestment and boycott campaigns were set up, and the Electronic Intifada and other Web sites were started, and meetings were organized on campuses, in labor unions, churches and other interest groups. The strategy of subversion was admitted and explained by ISM-PSM, which is one of the most successful efforts. They told their people to enter church groups and act like Ned Flanders.
In any case, the "Israel advocates" are swamped by hundreds of well run extremist Web sites (and corresponding campus, union and church activism) of every persuasion: Leftists, Fascist anti-Semites, pro-Palestinians, Jewish anti-Zionists. From Stormfront to Israel Shamir, from Neturei Karteh to Indymedia, from Susan Blackwell to Stephen Sizer and Ali Abunimah, from counterpunch to and radioislam, the politics and religion do not matter. They all have in common the fact that they hate Israel.
I described the situation on the Web two years ago, when the Zionism Web project was started:
Systematic delegitimization of Zionism has been "Politically Correct" since the infamous UN "Zionism is Racism" resolution of 1975, and it has not abated. This situation is mirrored on the World Wide Web. Depending on the day, five or six of the ten first links retrieved by a Google search for "Zionism" are anti-Zionist polemics, including some obnoxious racist diatribes. "True Torah Jews Against Zionism," the top-ranked Web site, represents a tiny minority of  medieval Jewish religious fanatics who insist that only their view is correct and brands every other view as heresy. Another site offers us the following enticing introduction: "What Zionism is -- and its pernicious influence upon the USA." ...Here is another: "A Crude Attempt To Equate Anti-Zionism With Anti-Semitism ... Jewish Persecution - A Primary Tool Of International Zionism." ... Many of the Web sites that insist they are not racists and that criticism of Zionism is not racist, have links to Mein Kampf, Protocols of the Elders of Zion and similar racist materials.
The situation is hardly better today, though we have managed to make a tiny difference for the keyword Zionism.
But these puny little efforts, on both sides, did not seem to merit the attention of grandiose self-important functionaries, who insisted on business as usual. "Israel advocacy" has been largely confined to organizing lectures to preach to the converted,  to taking out advertisements in mainstream media and issuing hysterical press releases at press conferences. This may flatter the egos of the advocates and enrich their organizations, but it does little for the cause.
A small group of volunteer Zionist activists, many of them right wing extremists, generally represent the cause of Israel on the Web, on campus and elsewhere. They can't possibly communicate with ordinary folk who do not share their right wing views, don't want to buy "I am a conservative" T-shirts and don't think God promised Israel to the Jews from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates. Their efforts tend to confirm the anti-Zionist slander that all Zionists are neo-con reactionaries intent on conquering the Middle East.  Extremist "Zionist advocacy" played right into the hands of the campaign to delegitimize Israel, by insisting that Zionism is identical with support for the occupation and extremist positions.  
Those who think the Web is not "real" need to understand: The Web then, in 2004, represented "reality" in the making. The people reading about "Israeli Apartheid" and the "pernicious nature" of Zionism were not virtual people, but real people. 
What we saw at the end of 2004 and in 2005, the flood of unrestrained hatred on the Web, is now being translated into a flood of Boycott Israel resolutions and initiatives. The constant repetition of the phrase "Israel Apartheid" in Web sites, in campus demonstrations and literature derived from Web sites, and at little meetings everywhere filtered its way up through the echelons of respectability, until the time was right for Jimmy Carter to take Israel-Hate Mainstream. According to this article, Abe Foxman of the ADL believes" that Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which was published last November, had a much greater impact than did other publications." That is true, of course. But Carter's book built on all the grass roots "contributions," and so, of course did Walt and Mearsheimer's, "Israel Lobby." What was once hidden is now respectable.
It will get worse, unless something is done. Evidently the people responsible for defending Israel do not understand how public opinion is nurtured, how little grass-roots efforts are pooled and maginified to culminate in a large effect. They will go on with the old model of Israel advocacy, which seems to be mostly about appearing at "functions" and collecting honors, and launching empty PR campaigns like the "Israel Branding Campaign" with maximum visibility and minimum effect.
To quote the article:
'Reinharz [Jehuda Reinharz, President of Brandeis University] said that he is worried by the lack of effective response to anti-Israel publications.
"I see no combined effort to fight this by the Jewish organizations, and in truth, I myself don't know how this could be done," he said.'
Professor Reinharz, it is not rocket science, to coin a cliche. If the other side is winning and we are losing, we must be doing something wrong. In fact, we are doing just about everything wrong.
Study what the other side has done so effectively, and do the same.
Part of what is wrong is the sociology of Jewish organizations, and the Israeli government and the way they make decisions. Campus activism, Internet, union activism and interfacing with local church groups are all "small potatoes." They aren't glamorous enough for organizations that need to have splashy annual meetings to show the Jewish lobby at work, and honor the "machers," the Jewish functionaries. They are beneath the dignity of people who are used to fixing matters in private audiences at Number 10 Downing Street and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. These people won't listen to new suggestions. "Why spend ten thousand dollars on unproven schemes, when we can spend a hundred thousand on splashy PR and speaker programs that we know certainly don't work? Where is the "kavod" (honor) in an Internet Web site or a demonstration?" "Why enlist leftist Zionists in defending Zionism? They are all traitors anyhow?"
Something can be done, but it won't be done unless Jewish leaders change their way of thinking, or unless we get different Jewish leaders. Israel advocacy has to start speaking to unconvinced people in the language that they understand, and in the places where they listen: on campus, in the internet, in unions and women's groups and church groups. We are fighting genocidal barbarians who throw people from the roofs of buildings, and yet they manage to make out that we are the "bad guys." We must be doing something wrong. We have an almost air-tight case that is based on international law and human rights, but almost nobody is making that case, because they are too busy defending the occupation and fighting "leftists."
The article from Haaretz is below.  
Ami Isseroff
By Amiram Barkat, Haaretz Correspondent

The trend toward delegitimizing Israel's existence as a Jewish state is growing not only in Europe, but also in the United States, according to Jewish-American academics and community leaders.
Anti-Israel attacks are even beginning to affect Jewish supporters of Israel, who have been accused of trying to silence public debate, they said.
This trend toward delegitimization will be one of the topics discussed at a conference on the future of the Jewish people that opens in Jerusalem on Tuesday morning.
The conference, which will be attended by researchers, heads of Jewish organizations and senior Israeli politicians, was organized by the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef, JPPPI's director general, said that anti-Israel attacks in the U.S. constitute a "long-term threat" to Israel's standing, American Jewish organizations and the pro-Israel lobby.
"Public attention is currently focused on Europe, due to initiatives like the British academic boycott," he said. "In the U.S., the problem is still under the radar. But as a planning institute, we believe that it is necessary to formulate policy on this issue now."
Brandeis University President Jehuda Reinharz told Haaretz that American academics are at the forefront of those denying Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
Veteran advocates of this position, such as Tony Judt and Noam Chomsky, were joined last year by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, both from reputable academic institutions, who charged that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) dictates American foreign policy.
Their article, which generated shock waves, is being turned into a book, which is slated to be published in September. The fact that a respected publisher paid Walt and Mearsheimer an advance that is thought to have totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars attests to how hot the publisher thinks this issue is, Reinharz said.
"My feeling and that of many people following Walt and Mearsheimer and other publications is that we are at the start of a new era with regard to attitudes toward Israel in the U.S.," he added.
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, believes that Jimmy Carter's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which was published last November, had a much greater impact than did other publications.
"In the past, people who said that Jewish supporters of Israel control the media and politics belonged to the margins," he said. "But after former president Carter said it, it gained legitimacy in the mainstream.
Today, the debate is already on questions such as to what extent the Jews dominate."
Foxman said that Jews who challenge anti-Israel attacks find themselves accused of undermining freedom of expression.
"I received letters from professors who claimed that when I accuse someone of anti-Semitism, I am trying to silence public debate," he said. "When the president of Harvard University said that the delegitimization of Israel helps anti-Semites, he was accused of silencing public debate.
No one would have dared accuse him of this had he been talking about racism or xenophobia."
Reinharz said that he is worried by the lack of effective response to anti-Israel publications.
"I see no combined effort to fight this by the Jewish organizations, and in truth, I myself don't know how this could be done," he said.

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