Think tank: Israel faces global delegitimization campaign
Jordanian protesters burning an Israeli flag at an anti-Israel protest in Amman last year.
Israel is facing a global campaign of delegitimization, according to a report by the Reut Institute, made available to the cabinet on Thursday. The Tel Aviv-based security and socioeconomic think tank called on ministers to treat the matter as a strategic threat.
The report cites anti-Israel demonstrations on campuses, protests when Israeli athletes compete abroad, moves in Europe to boycott Israeli products, and threats of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders visiting London.
Reut says the campaign is the work of a worldwide network of private individuals and organizations. They have no hierarchy or overall commander, but work together based on a joint ideology – portraying Israel as a pariah state and denying its right to exist.
Reut lists the network’s major hubs – London, Brussels, Madrid, Toronto, San Francisco and the University of California, Berkeley. The network’s activists – “delegitimizers” the report dubs them – are relatively marginal: young people, anarchists, migrants and radical political activists. Although they are not many, they raise their profile using public campaigns and media coverage, the report says.
The “delegitimizers” cooperate with organizations engaging in legitimate criticism of Israel’s policy in the territories such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, blurring the line between legitimate censure and delegitimization. They also promote pro-Palestinian activities in Europe as “trendy,” the report says.
The network’s activists are not mostly Palestinian, Arab or Muslim. Many of them are European and North American left-wing activists. The Western left has changed its approach to Israel and now sees it as an occupation state, the report says. To those left-wing groups, if in the 1960s Israel was seen as a model for an egalitarian, socialist society, today it epitomizes Western evil.
The delegitimization network sees the fight against the former regime in South Africa as a success model. It believes that like the apartheid regime, the Zionist-Israeli model can be toppled and a one-state model can be established.
The Reut team says the network’s groups share symbols and heroes such as the Palestinian boy Mohammed al-Dura, American peace activist Rachel Corrie and joint events like the Durban Conference.
Israel’s diplomats overseas, meanwhile, must counter the attempts to delegitimize the country. “The combination of a large Muslim community, a radical left, influential, English-language media and an international university center make London fertile ground for Israel’s delegitimization,” says Ron Prosor, Israel’s ambassador in London.
Prosor gives many interviews to the British media and lectures at university campuses throughout the country. Although he says he has encountered anti-Israel demonstrations on almost every campus, Prosor has told his people to increase their campus activity.
“What is now happening in London universities will happen, at most, in five years at all the large universities in the United States,” he says.
The Reut report says Israel is not prepared at all to deal with the threat of delegitimization. The cabinet has not defined the issue as a threat and sees the diplomatic arena as marginal compared to the military one.
“The Foreign Ministry is built for the challenges of the ’60s, not the 2000s,” the report says. “There are no budgets, not enough diplomats and no appropriate diplomatic doctrine.”
Reut recommends setting up a counter-network, in which Israel’s embassies in centers of delegitimization activity would serve as “front positions.”
The report says the intelligence service should monitor the organizations’ activities and study their methods. The cabinet should also confront groups trying to delegitimize Israel but embrace those engaged in legitimate criticism.
The report adds that Israel should not boycott these groups, as Israel’s embassy in Washington does with the left-wing lobby J Street. Boycotting critics merely pushes them toward joining the delegitimizers, Reut says.