Thursday, February 25, 2010

Israel's strategy of "sabotage" and "attack" on global justice movements

Below see excerpts from two pieces on this issue.

Since its pre-emptive war of 1967, Israel had maintained an aura of "invincibility" and "legitimacy". The first got bitterly crushed in the Summer of 2006 and later in the 2008-9 aggression on Gaza (where Israel failed to neutralize the resistance). The crack in that aura began in 2000 when Israel was forced to withdraw from South Lebanon. As for legitimacy, for Israel it matters most of all in the US. Israel however paid a high price for its inhumane massacres in Lebanon and Gaza especially because it failed to achieve a clear and tangible victory in these military campaigns (the "birth pangs" of Condi Rice did not yield the desired outcomes which could have been used as justification for Israeli atrocities.) Especially during the Gaza massacre, Israel's image was severely damaged by graphic images and information that got disseminated over internet and through hundreds of protest gatherings in North America and Europe. Israel still had a tighter control on information flow in the corporate media. Now Israel feels further threatened by the potential popularity of a BDS movement. Due to all of these developments, the entity of Israel is in a deep crisis right now, struggling to survive with whatever means it can, and it may resort to unrealistic steps, including another military warfare. However, what's becoming clearer with every passing day is that it probably won't take too long before this racist entity is finally dismantled like the Apartheid South Africa.

Israel's new strategy: "sabotage" and "attack" the global justice movement
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 16 February 2010

An extraordinary series of articles, reports and presentations by Israel's influential Reut Institute has identified the global movement for justice, equality and peace as an "existential threat" to Israel and called on the Israeli government to direct substantial resources to "attack" and possibly engage in criminal "sabotage" of this movement in what Reut believes are its various international "hubs" in London, Madrid, Toronto, the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.

The Reut Institute's analyses hold that Israel's traditional strategic doctrine -- which views threats to the state's existence in primarily military terms, to be met with a military response -- is badly out of date. Rather, what Israel faces today is a combined threat from a "Resistance Network" and a "Delegitimization Network."

The Resistance Network is comprised of political and armed groups such as Hamas and Hizballah who "rel[y] on military means to sabotage every move directed at affecting separation between Israel and the Palestinians or securing a two-state solution" ("The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall, Reut Institute, 14 February 2010).

Furthermore, the "Resistance Network" allegedly aims to cause Israel's political "implosion" -- a la South Africa, East Germany or the Soviet Union -- rather than bring about military defeat through direct confrontation on the battlefield.

The "Delegitimization Network" -- which Reut Institute president and former Israeli government advisor Gidi Grinstein provocatively claims is in an "unholy alliance" with the Resistance Network -- is made up of the broad, decentralized and informal movement of peace and justice, human rights, and BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) activists all over the world. Its manifestations include protests against Israeli officials visiting universities, Israeli Apartheid Week, faith-based and trade union-based activism, and "lawfare" -- the use of universal jurisdiction to bring legal accountability for alleged Israeli war criminals. The Reut Institute even cited my speech to the student conference on BDS held at Hampshire College last November as a guide to how the "delegitimization" strategy supposedly works ("Eroding Israel's Legitimacy in the International Arena," Reut Institute, 28 January 2010).

The combined "attack" from "resisters" and "delegitimizers," Reut says, "possesses strategic significance, and may develop into a comprehensive existential threat within a few years." It further warns that a "harbinger of such a threat would be the collapse of the two-state solution as an agreed framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the coalescence behind a 'one-state solution' as a new alternative framework."


Reut does not recommend to the Israeli cabinet -- which recently held a special session to hear a presentation of the think tank's findings -- that Israel should actually change its behavior toward Palestinians and Lebanese. It misses the point that apartheid South Africa also once faced a global "delegitimization network" but that this has now completely disappeared. South Africa, however, still exists. Once the cause motivating the movement disappeared -- the rank injustice of formal apartheid -- people packed up their signs and their BDS campaigns and went home.

Instead, Reut recommends to the Israeli government an aggressive and possibly criminal counter-offensive. A powerpoint presentation Grinstein made to the recent Herzliya Conference on Israeli national security actually calls on Israel's "intelligence agencies to focus" on the named and unnamed "hubs" of the "delegitimization network" and to engage in "attacking catalysts" of this network. In its "The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall" document, Reut recommends that "Israel should sabotage network catalysts."

The use of the word "sabotage" is particularly striking and should draw the attention of governments, law enforcement agencies and university officials concerned about the safety and welfare of their students and citizens. The only definition of "sabotage" in United States law deems it to be an act of war on a par with treason, when carried out against the United States. In addition, in common usage, the American Heritage Dictionary defines sabotage as "Treacherous action to defeat or hinder a cause or an endeavor; deliberate subversion." It is difficult to think of a legitimate use of this term in a political or advocacy context.

At the very least, Reut seems to be calling for Israel's spy agencies to engage in covert activity to interfere with the exercise of legal free speech, association and advocacy rights in the United States, Canada and European Union countries, and possibly to cause harm to individuals and organizations. These warnings of Israel's possible intent -- especially in light of its long history of criminal activity on foreign soil -- should not be taken lightly.


Behind Brand Israel: Israel's recent propaganda efforts
Ben White, The Electronic Intifada, 23 February 2010

Delegitimizing the delegitimizers

There is also an "offensive" element to Israel's strategy, one that is currently less developed than Brand Israel tactics, yet likely to come increasingly to the fore. In a 14 December 2009 Jerusalem Post article, Shimon Samuels, the director of international relations at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, suggested that "propagators of deliberate slurs targeting Israel and, by association, world Jewry, must realize that they may incur a price." He urged that "a consortium of the best Jewish and pro-Israel legal brains should be on call," and ready, among other things, "to use the courts in ad hominem defamation."

A key strategy discussed at the Herzilya conference and the MFA's Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism is "delegitimizing the delegitimizers." In addition, the "soft warfare" working paper presented at Herzliya included the recommendation that "research to identify all the key players that initiate and generate hate (as compared to those that disseminate it), with a breakdown by country, religion and ethnicity, in order to analyze their motivations and objectives, estimate the threat and consider possible ways of handling each" ("Delegitimization of Israel: 'Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions'" (Word document)). One of the purposes of this kind of "systematic, ongoing research, of all anti-Israeli publications, including media analyses, reports, boycotts and on campus activities" is to facilitate the "identification and exposure of and levying pressure on the sponsors of the inciters." The paper also endorsed legal action "by the Israeli government and by independent entities in Israel and abroad, against media networks, publications, NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and individuals that make defamatory reports."

This aggressive dimension was also included in the Global Forum's BDS Working Group document, which included in its vision for a five year plan the proposals to "name and shame" nongovernmental organizations, and meeting "lawfare" with "lawfare." (In that regard, see "The Lawfare Project" and its upcoming conference in March, where neocon and right-wing Zionist lobbyists, academics, and diplomats, will discuss how to shield Israel from the "abuse" of human rights law: There is also the idea to form "groups of Jewish/pro-Israel professionals within various national and international professional association/organizations/unions," in order to pass "anti-discrimination bylaws within the organization that are general in nature, and that do not mention Israel per se, but rather oppose discrimination on the basis of race, religion, nationality, etc."

Students on campus

Unsurprisingly, given the increasing strength of the Palestine solidarity movement amongst students, campuses are a target of the anti-BDS battle plan. One element of this is the role played by Zionist "ambassadors" like the Jewish Agency's emissaries (or "shlichim") scheme. In a 16 December 2009 Jerusalem Post article, Natan Sharansky, head of the Jewish Agency, expressed his desire to increase "the number of young Israelis sent to communities in the US and especially the more than 100 shlichim based at universities there." He also raised the possibility of the likes of Irwin Cotler and US lawyer and Israel advocate Alan Dershowitz "teaching the shlichim before they go [to the US]."

The Herzilya "soft warfare" paper also discussed university campuses (and schools) as the subject of a suggested "proactive public relations" drive. It added that "such public relations should cover both the subject of Israel and its history, and the subject of radical Islam and the dangers it unfolds." Yet as has been evident for a while now, the anti-BDS push on campus is just as -- if not more -- likely to emphasize "dialogue" and "narrative-sharing," as opposed to openly pushing an "Israel first" line. In other words, instead of far-right former-MK Effie Eitam we'll have the dovish pro-Israel advocacy group J Street "Invest, Don't Divest" campus programming and two-state solution-peddling One Voice tours.

The reported response of campus Zionists in Canada to Israeli Apartheid Week is instructive and encouraging. Apart from promoting Israel's "global renown in science, medicine, technology, business, humanitarian aid" and culture, public talks are being scheduled ("Students get ready to counter 'apartheid lie,'" The Canadian Jewish News, 18 February 2010). There are apparently talks scheduled in Toronto by a Sudanese human rights activist, Arab reporter Khaled Abu Toameh of the The Jerusalem Post, and a self-proclaimed "ex-terrorist" whose mission is to "wake up the body of Christ" to the danger of "radical Islam" ("Students get ready to counter 'apartheid lie.'"

It is also worth noting the Global Forum's BDS Working Group's recommendation that "more money needs to be spent on the programs that already exist in countries like Canada to send non-Jewish student leaders (members of student government, campus organizations, campus newspapers etc.) to Israel to learn the facts on the ground."

A call for coordination

A common theme in the recently intensified discussion by the Zionist lobby is the perceived need for improved, and centralized, organization and coordination. The Reut Institute's "Delegitimization Challenge" report pointed to the imperative of reorganizing "the foreign policy establishment" in Israel, including "comprehensive reform within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

The "soft warfare" paper urged the creation of "a state-led, integrated capability," reflecting what they described as a "broad consensus that a sufficiently-funded government agency is required in order to manage the battle against hate incitement." The two specific options put forward were "a special unit under Israel's National Security Council" to run a public relations strategy in association with "pro-Israeli organizations and activists abroad," or "an entity within the Israeli intelligence community, which would collect, analyze and distribute information, and initiate 'operations' in areas relevant to Israel's public relations campaign." This latter "entity" could cooperate with groups like Middle East Media Research Initiative (MEMRI), as well as "direct the intelligence agencies to thwart anti-Israeli propaganda efforts."

The Global Forum's anti-BDS group talked of the "Jewish community" needing "a war room" that would be "tracking this movement, sharing best practices, coaching communities." It mentioned that "in North America, the Federation system is talking about launching a coordinating body to fight BDS." One of the group's co-chairmen, McGill professor Gil Troy, commented on his blog on The Jerusalem Post's website earlier this month that there was a new initiative "rumored to be in the works in North America and Israel to help galvanize and centralize pro-Israel sentiment."

For all those involved in some capacity in the international campaign for justice in Palestine/Israel, and the growing BDS movement, these state-backed efforts can appear rather daunting. The Israeli government and its allies in lobby groups are not short of powerful contacts and money, and there is now a concerted effort to think "strategically." However, for all the research, conferences and working papers, there is a comical ignorance shaping these responses. A great example of this is can be found in the Global Forum's BDS paper, which includes the idea to "circulate information on Muslims acting contrary to Islam." This is on the basis that "if the people of countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia knew their 'pious' leaders were really alcoholics, gamblers and perverts, they might hasten regime change." As if the people in the Middle East are not fully aware of the corruption of their autocrats and dictators -- many of whom, of course, enjoy US and Israeli support for their antidemocratic "moderation."

Moreover, all of this strategizing and energy is needed in order to avoid the manifestly unimaginable truth -- that Israel is increasingly unable to maintain a regime of ethno-religious exclusion, apartheid separation and colonial violence without paying a price. Its supporters are also unable to see that it will prove to be unsustainable.

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