Israel Finds a New Way to Play the Victim
(AntiWar.com) -- By Ira Chernus
...Right now, the hot new source of anxiety in Israel is an imagined worldwide conspiracy of anti-Semites bent on “delegitimization” – attacking the right of the Jewish state to exist. For many Israeli officials, it seems, this supposed conspiracy is all too real and all too dangerous. Soon they may be on full-scale alert, mobilizing their nation and its supporters to name this threat their “new battlefield,” make it a top priority, and fight back hard.
The idea of the “new battlefield” seems to have been born in the Reut Institute, a think-tank described by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times as “Israel’s premier policy strategy group.”
“Reut was established to serve Israeli government agencies and decisionmakers … from top-ranking politicians to government professionals,” its Web site explains – all at no charge, and no matter which party controls the government. When the current opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, was in the government as foreign minister, one of her advisers praised Reut: “They are very influential and highly respected. … Their alerts sometimes save the day.”
Now Reut is sounding the alert about the “new battlefield,” in a new report that’s been well-covered in the Israeli press. Here’s how Reut founder and president Gidi Grinstein explains it: “Turning Israel into a pariah state is central to its adversaries’ efforts. Israel is a geopolitical island. Its survival and prosperity depend on its relations with the world in trade, science, arts, and culture – all of which rely on its legitimacy. When the latter is compromised, the former may be severed, with harsh political, social, and economic consequences.”
The attack is being directed, Reut claims, from “hubs of delegitimization” – places like London, Toronto, Brussels, Madrid, and Berkeley that are hotbeds of anti-Israel criticism fueled by anti-Semitism.
One piece of this picture – and one piece only – is accurate enough. Worldwide criticism of Israel’s harsh occupation policies is growing rapidly, even among Jews, as well as millions of non-Jews whose moral credentials are spotless. That means the simplistic old charge that all critics of Israel are anti-Semitic is no longer plausible, even as a PR tactic.
So the sophisticated think-tankers at Reut have dreamed up a new way to try to make the stale charge of anti-Semitism stick. Now, it turns out, there is a crucial distinction we must all learn to make. “Soft critics” (including human rights groups like Oxfam) condemn Israeli policy but not necessarily the state’s legitimacy, and that’s apparently OK. Israel’s real enemies are the “hard-core delegitimizers,” fueled by anti-Semitic hatred, who are out to destroy the Jews.
The problem, Reut warns in good McCarthyite fashion, is that the “soft critics” are dupes of the “hard-core” anti-Semites, who want to use the “softies” to blur the difference between criticizing Israeli policy and denying Israel’s basic legitimacy. Reut calls for an all-out effort by Israel’s defenders to drive a wedge between the soft and hard-core critics.
That’s just part of the larger strategy described by Grinstein:
“In every major country, Israel and its supporters must develop and sustain personal connections with the entire elite in business, politics, arts and culture, science, and academia.”
For example, a Reut blogger recently wrote, “Promoting Israel studies on campus [in the U.S.] and ‘branding Israel’ – a strategy aimed at associating Israel with positive characteristics unrelated to the Arab-Israeli conflict – are central to improving Israel’s international standing and countering delegitimacy.”
All this might be just a tempest in a think-tank teapot. But it seems that Reut’s claim of influence on the Israeli government is well-founded, at least in this case. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon recently told a group of diplomats in Jerusalem that Israel’s foes now rely mainly on tactics like boycotts and economic and legal sanctions to delegitimize Israel.
Ayalon dubbed it “lawfare” – and apparently the name is catching on. Britain’s attorney general, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, just gave a lecture at the law school of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. The title: “Lawfare: Time for Rules of Engagement?”
But Ayalon took Reut’s intellectual fantasy one crucial step further, into the very real and violent world of the Israel-Palestine conflict, when he charged that the whole “lawfare” campaign is being directed by the Palestinian Authority. Since Palestinian violence has declined so precipitously, Ayalon would have us believe, the Palestinians are taking the struggle to a new phase, centered on the global battlefield of “delegitimizing Israel."
It all makes a neat package – much too neat, in fact. Rather than responding to the moderating trends in both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas with any concessions of their own, these Israeli leaders would rather find a new way to go on portraying Israel as the innocent victim of irrational hatreds, which can never be mollified at any negotiating table...MORE...LINK
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