25 December 2010
Israel must be losing too many battles in the war to win global public opinion. This is the conclusion to be drawn from the release of a 66-page document by the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute, which was followed quickly by a similar report from the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs (JCPA). Both documents must be analysed in the context of the media campaign engineered by Israel’s extreme right-wing Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, to improve Israel’s shattered image which plunged to an all-time low during 2010.
Both reports undertake to address what their authors claim is an urgent existential threat to Israel; they call it the threat of “de-legitimization”. What is telling about the two documents is that they address only the symptoms and not the causes of the dilemma facing the Zionist state.
The Reut Institute’s report is called Building a political firewall against the assault on Israel’s legitimacy: London as a case study; it is a modest attempt to build on an earlier document produced in January 2010, Eroding Israel’s legitimacy in the international arena. The other “new” report is anything but; written by Ehud Rosen of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, Mapping the Organizational Sources of the Global Delegitimization Campaign against Israel in the UK is far from the ‘new and authoritative’ research claimed by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator. It is, to put it mildly, a rehash of old ideas about the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
By releasing their reports on the eve of the anniversary of the Gaza War, the Reut Institute and the JCPA have only succeeded in reminding the world of the atrocities that confirmed beyond any doubt Israel’s status as a rogue state capable of committing war crimes and “possibly crimes against humanity”. Who can do anything but question Israel’s legitimacy when it
Maintains an illegal siege of Gaza, depriving its people of medical supplies, construction material and food in an act of collective punishment for daring to elect the “wrong” government in free and fair elections in 2006;
Attacked and seized ships on a humanitarian aid mission in international waters killing nine Turks in the process;
Refuses to leave the land it has occupied since 1967 in the interest of peace; the acquisition of territory by force is illegal in international law. Even so, the League of Arab States has offered peace and normalization if Israel withdraws; and
Pursues a policy of ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories, manifested in the demolition of hundreds of homes, uprooting of olive trees, evictions, and the construction of Jews-only roads across the West Bank. Such policies are replicated inside Israel against its own Palestinian Arab citizens.
Martin van Creveld, the Israeli military historian, wrote recently that one of the main threats facing Israel today is from ballistic missiles. But, he adds, holding on to the West Bank won’t help Israel to defend itself against such missiles. “Should Israeli rule over [the occupied Palestinian territories] continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.”
The point that is clearly missed by Israel’s apologists is that legitimacy is not conferred it is earned, through respect of and adherence to the rules of international law. For far too long, Israel has squandered the goodwill of nations under the pretext of the holocaust. This view is held increasingly by many Jews, Israeli and non-Israeli alike. Professor Richard Falk, the American academic and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Territories affirmed this during his recent visit to London.
Avraham Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset, wrote about this in detail: “For many years we have lived comfortably, thanks to a national hypocrisy that tries to contain two conflicting worlds; well-being and complaint, power and victimhood, success and trauma… Our state is well-established and powerful, almost without precedent since the destruction of the Second Temple.
Yet for some acquired psychological deficiency, we try to hide this splendour by constantly whining – because we had a holocaust. We always want a stronger army because of the Shoah, and more resources from other countries’ taxpayers, and an automatic forgiveness for any of our excesses. We want to be above criticism and attention, all these because of Hitler’s twelve years, which changed the face of Europe and our face beyond recognition.” [2008:209]
Neither the Reut report nor that of the JCPA has made any attempt to address substantive issues such as these. Instead, they peddle sound-bites such as London being the “Mecca of de-legitimization” and hub of the “Red-Green alliance”. Clearly built on the cheap psychology of character assassination, they rail against the Muslim Brotherhood and figures like Muhammad Sawalha, Anas Al-Tikriti and MEMO’s own Daud Abdullah. The strategy is, nonetheless, a double-edged approach; every time Israel lobbyists mention the issue of Daud Abdullah and Hazel Blears the public is reminded more of parliamentary financial scandal than the Istanbul Declaration.
That is the price they pay for using the ridiculous website Harry’s Place as a reference source for what is supposed to be serious research. The factual inaccuracies are glaring. Those who know anything about the Freedom Flotilla could confirm that the Palestinian Return Centre had nothing to do with its organization, as Reut asserts. Its report is replete with similar falsehoods, such as the claim that the 2001 UN Durban Conference on Racism was organized in London.
The release of these woeful reports and their carefully stage-managed commentaries in supposedly serious media reflect the disarray that has afflicted Zionist Israel and its apologists. They call for building broader, global relationships with like-minded people and organizations, but who in their right mind would want to share common cause with the notorious right-wing extremist Geert Wilders or neo-con Jose Maria Aznar? Both have tried and failed to gain any traction in the public relations mission they have undertaken on behalf of Israel.
Of course, it is not just the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign or Muslim organizations that have been slated by the latest offerings from Israel’s hasbara campaign. The Methodist Church was also criticised for its decision to divest from companies operating in the occupied territories. The Church took a principled stand – and why shouldn’t it? – not least because Christian seminaries and churches are also under attack by Israel’s lust for more land.
On 30 October 2010, a group of illegal Jewish settlers attacked and set fire to an old Christian church in Jerusalem. The church was more than a hundred years old and has been used by Christians for worship in the Holy City. Many of the faithful who manage to make it to the traditional site of Christ’s birthplace in Bethlehem this Christmas will see for themselves the horrible impact on the city and its inhabitants of the illegal “apartheid” wall built by Israel on yet more land stolen from the Palestinians.
The latest reports miss the central point that it is the occupation of Palestinian land that delegitimizes Israel. Peter Beinart, in an essay in the New York Review of Books, concluded that many young American Jews have become alienated by Israel’s oppressive policies against Palestinians. Some unfurled a banner before Benyamin Netanyahu at the General Assembly of North American Jews in New Orleans in November, with messages as clear as they were resounding: “The loyalty oath delegitimizes Israel”; “The siege of Gaza delegitimizes Israel”; “Silencing dissent delegitimizes Israel”.
Despite committing thousands of words to paper (no doubt at a cost of thousands of dollars) it still remains for the Reut Institute and the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs to counter arguments such as these instead of throwing mud at British Muslims and London. Zionists, however, know full well that they cannot argue logically and legitimately in support of illegal, discriminatory and oppressive practices as carried out by the state of Israel, hence the resort to cheap character assassination.
To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, this is “the extreme form of censorship”. Shout “anti-Semite” or “racist” and the world will turn on the alleged perpetrator and not the issue at hand; it is a classic way to stifle open debate used by Zionists for decades. The Reut Institute and JCPA reports are continuing that discredited tradition. In return, the message from those who prefer the path of justice over playground bully tactics should be loud and clear: shoot as many messengers as you want, but truth, honesty and decency will overcome Zionist falsehood in the end.
THANK YOU SAHIDA