[Opinion] Strategy to combat delegitimization good, could be better
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As leaders from Jewish communities around the world gather in Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, strategies to defeat the efforts aimed at depriving Israel of legitimacy will again be examined.
For more than 10 years – since the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa – the leaders of this war have exploited human rights rhetoric and international legal claims to push their objective to eliminate Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Their strategy is to portray Israel as an “apartheid,” “racist” and “colonial” state that is so “criminal” that it is beyond rehabilitation. The message is driven by and is echoed through hundreds of NGOs, creating a very dangerous moral atmosphere.
The “vehicle of choice” to pursue this strategy is the global BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – campaign, which is being pushed in communities and on university campuses around the world. This campaign, and the overall strategy, also targets and isolates supporters of Israel.
Sabeel, a pro-BDS, anti-Semitic NGO that promotes Palestinian liberation theology, hosted a conference at which an activist admitted that “the actual goal of divestment and the broader BDS movement is to isolate Israel, and make it embarrassing to support Israel.” Often, in local Jewish communities, fringe anti-Israel groups with “Jewish” in their names provide cover for these types of extreme anti-Israel campaigners, including those that use anti-Semitic rhetoric.
In this, it is critical to engage with individuals and groups that have lent their names to this cause, sometimes without understanding the goals. The Israel Action Network has begun significant work in this regard, developing alliances with key labor unions that are targeted or co-opted by the delegitmization campaign.
Ending this passive support for BDS is an important step towards marginalizing the NGOs that promote these campaigns.
In addition, when these NGOs and the BDSers invade campuses, Jewish students and local communities have strategically organized to fight BDS resolutions in their student unions. Similarly, when the demonizers publicize calls for boycotts at local food co-ops, the community responds.
But, in this war, it is necessary to change the main tactics and strategy from reactive to proactive, in order to undermine the credibility and influence of the NGO engines that drive the attack. This strategy will expose the fringe and anti- Semitic nature of many of the BDS movement’s central actors, and expose the lie that BDS is a grassroots protest against Israeli policy.
The fact is that hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decade from both European governments and private donations have gone to hundreds of NGOs that sustain and advance this campaign.
The powerful NGO campaigns of false allegations targeting Israel creates the environment where NGO delegitimization events occur almost daily. On June 6, for example, Amnesty International published a report accusing Israel of wrongdoing regarding administrative detention of terror suspects.
Although the claims were entirely unsubstantiated, based on unverifiable information, and comprised largely of a one-sided Palestinian narrative, it was immediately highlighted in the international media.
While the Israeli government and major pro-Israel organizations were made aware of this report’s impending release, they were still unable to effectively counter the onslaught of entirely predictable negative media coverage.
Reactions, which are tactical, are becoming somewhat more effective in combating BDS, but the counterattacks remain insufficient.
To win this war, these resources need to be focused intelligently on naming and shaming the promoters of demonization that exploit human rights, as well as their funders, particularly in European governments.