Remarks on “Israel Advocacy in the Diaspora” – Expanded Version
The NGO network that uses the language of human rights, humanitarian aid, peace, and democracy plays a central role in the political warfare that denies the legitimacy of any Jewish national self-determination. This strategy was clearly stated in the final declaration of the 2001 NGO Forum of the Durban Conference in which 1,500 groups, including Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, adopted the goal of the “complete international isolation of Israel as an apartheid state.”
Unfortunately, many young Jews in the Diaspora – particularly, but not only in North America and the UK – have been infected to different degrees by this form of deadly political warfare, promoted by a wide network of political NGOs. This network includes groups such as the Jewish Voices for Peace, which has nothing to do with peace, and openly seeks to drive a wedge between the Jewish community and Israel (as documented in NGO Monitor’s report). Nevertheless, in many Diaspora frameworks, JVP and its allies, including some foreign-funded Israeli opposition organizations, are given legitimacy and a platform by Jewish community groups to promote anti-Zionism and hatred of Israel as part of a misplaced “broad tent” concept.
In addition, Jewish groups coming to Israel under various human rights and other tikkun olam banners are given ideological tours or quasi-academic internships that promote the Palestinian narrative of suffering, blame Israel for the conflict, and reinforce the Durban vocabulary of apartheid, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing. Many American and other Jews accept the highly simplistic and misleading analogy comparing the civil rights movement with Israel’s Arab minority and Bedouin issues.
In some cases, this is all that the participants hear. In others, “balance” to the narrative of groups such as Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, Yesh Din, Gisha, and many other foreign-funded NGOs is provided in the form of government officials, who often have far less impact than younger and seemingly independent voices. This is not about left-wing and right-wing ideologies, but rather reflects the degree to which the Israeli Zionist civil society consensus is erased in these programs, and to which informed constructive and proportionate criticism becomes destructive Israel-bashing.
These frameworks also perpetuate a false history that begins after the 1967 war, erasing or rewriting violent Arab rejection before, during, and after November 1947, which is responsible for generations of war and terror. Distorting these events beyond recognition and applying moral double standards, Israel and the post-1967 “occupation” is blamed for the absence of peace. In this false map of the Middle East, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the others are erased, leaving only Israel and the occupation.
With no understanding of the realities, these processes drive the alienation of many young Diaspora Jews from Israel. While Israelis have a wide and lively marketplace of ideas in the media, from Haaretz to Israel Hayom, and vote for the party of their choice from the full spectrum of views, Jews in American and European universities and other frameworks are often fed a one-sided diet by organizations and individuals invested in portraying Israel in a very negative light.
Beyond understanding this process, in which many in this meeting are involved from different perspectives, including NGO Monitor, we must also discuss responses seriously and constructively. Angry emotional attacks on the groups that attack Israel through human rights and tikkun olam does not help – this approach is often counterproductive. The same is true for proposed Knesset legislation that goes beyond transparency for foreign government funding for Israeli groups that was passed in 2011, and moves toward what many regard as blocking free speech.
Instead of negative responses, as Israeli Zionists, we need to greatly expand our engagement with the Diaspora community and to intelligently and effectively explain the centrality of Zionism for the Jewish nation, addressing their concerns seriously and intelligently. Every Israeli –including members of the Knesset – should be capable of convincingly making the moral case for Israel as a Jewish democratic state with the right to self-defense and self-determination. Zionist education and engagement in the widest sense was and is still the key to overcoming this campaign of deliberate manipulation and alienation.