Anti-BDS in Canada
This message was passed to the executives of the Canadian student movement Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights by Laith Marouf. It in turn has been passed onto SPHR’s affiliates, which includes the University of Waterloo based Students for Palestinian Rights, which is how it was then passed onto me (I am an active member of SFPR and one of the administrators of the group’s website).
The document details efforts going on at the moment by pro-Zionist organizations in Canada, including McGill Professor Gil Troy, to undermine the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, which was the major focus of last week and this week’s world wide Israeli Apartheid Week events. It also details the desire by the apologists of Zionism to criminalize perhaps the most potent description of the Israeli regime, the apartheid analogy. These latest moves show just how desperate the Zionist movement in Canada has become as they feel that they can no longer simply argue over the facts and must now move to criminalizing the opposition.
Most importantly the document deals with plans to undermine the BDS and Palestinian Solidarity movements by re-branding them, especially by framing them as the tools of a kind of primordial antisemitism (a common tactic of the Zionist movement, which seeks to distract serious discussion away from meaningful criticism of Israel and its policies by accusing all critics, from soft ones to hard ones, of being Naziesque antisemites) and Islamist’s, who according to the document have a “strategy to undermine the West.”
Those of us in Canada whose hearts beat for the people of Palestine must organize to defeat this latest, especially the continuing efforts to paint us as enemies of the Jewish people, or the new efforts to portray as a beachhead for radical Islamist forces. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
*Delegitimization of Israel: “Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions”*
*Co-Chairs: Dr. Mitchell Bard and Professor Gil Troy*
This position paper summarizes the discussions of the Working Group on Delegitimization at the 2009 Global Forum against Anti-Semitism. Our task was to generate specific action plans to respond to the BDS “boycott, divestment, sanctions” movement, to reframe the issues in our favor and to set a new proactive agenda. If there was one clear conclusion that emerged from the two-day session in December, it was THERE MUST BE FOLLOW UP. There is a need in the Jewish world today for more coordination, for more sharing of best practices, for more LEADERSHIP in the fight against anti-Semitism. Activists in the field feel alone. Those who succeed are not sharing their successful tactics and strategies; those who are less experienced flounder, wasting precious time, resources, goodwill. Everyone was honored and excited to participate in the Global Forum; no one wanted it to be limited to a two-day meeting, and many volunteered to keep the global conversation growing.
Beyond that, this paper will spend less time on definitions and narratives, and instead serve as an initial brainstorming document. Through the use of a Wiki set up with the assistance of Dr.Andre Oboler, task force members helped edit these two papers. The first was initially authored by Gil Troy, the second on taking offense, by Mitchell Bard. We thank all the participants for all their time, passion and expertise and look at this as the start of an ongoing process, which we hope will continue.
*BDS AS A CLEAR TARGET:*
There is a clarity in fighting against BDS that could provide traction in the Jewish world and beyond. In the current climate, Israel advocates are always going to lose a fight over settlements and occupation, or at best get mired in stalemate. BDS shifts the terrain, making the battle one over Israel’s right to exist, over the legitimacy of Zionism, over the anti-Semitic tropes shaping the anti-Israel movement, and the rank anti-Semitism behind the disproportionate, obsessive focus on Israel. It is also a battle about freedom of speech and of open discourses, given the BDS attempt to shut down normal flows of learning and commerce with Israel. This is a battle we can win and (shhh, don’t tell anyone) have been winning so far, in many ways, in many communities.
We also should recognize that BDS is a part of a broader campaign to delegitimize Israel. This campaign of delegitimization, Dr. Joel Fishman writes, has been “a central motif of Palestinian propaganda in international bodies” and reflects a strategy of a “People’s War,” as full blown political, economic, cultural, ideological struggle against the very existence of Israel.
The Foreign Ministry can help centralize the fight against BDS and delegitimization, coordinate responses to what is a coordinated attack, share information, take a moral stand against the human rights hypocrites, engage diplomats in a fight for Israel’s basic rights, and train Israeli diplomats about the BDS movement. But the fight also has to be local not international, rooted in particular community norms, and necessarily somewhat distanced from the Foreign Ministry which is, naturally, perceived as a biased party, and whose involvement in all facets would help our enemies argue that we are fighting for Israel using the fight against anti-Semitism as camouflage.
*PUT BDS IN CONTEXT:*
Part of the fight against BDS is an educational one. And central to that is explaining that
1. (as mentioned before) BDS crosses the line into traditional bigotry, both by resurrecting traditional anti-Semitic tropes, and by following the traditional ways of all bigots in attacking the essence of Israel and the Jewish people rather than constructively seeking to change particular policies or actions.
2. BDS is part of the Durban Strategy adopted by NGOs during the infamous Durban Conference that was supposed to be against racism in late August, early September 2001. Good liberals on campus and elsewhere who think they are just fighting for justice need to be confronted with the fact that they are advancing a particular agenda with a particular and quite problematic pedigree.
3. BDS is also part of the broader Islamist strategy to undermine the West. Especially in North America, activists need to understand how positions they are taking are aiding the same people who support shooting up Fort Hood, trying to down commercial jets on Christmas, and succeeded in killing nearly three thousand people on September 11, 2001.
*Strategy / Vision A 5 Year Plan*
All too often, we get mired in the tactics of the day-to-day battle and are too reactive. The group decided that before plunging into a more detailed discussion of some dimensions of the problem, we should step back and think about our vision, about our strategy and about what tactics will achieve our broader goals, five years from now.
*Our Vision: *
Includes: Israel being a cause to celebrate
Humanization of Israel (using a vibrant proactive approach making the Zionist case while emphasizing Israel’s many positive accomplishments and appealing characteristics)
Driving a Wedge between Soft Critics and Hard Delegitimizers
To have in place legislative prohibitions vs. BDS which can then be applied in different communities, acknowledging the different legal traditions
Creating “Best Practices” which can be modeled and taught
To have in place institutions (centralized, or ‘hub within network’ institutions) that can share information. (Committee members disagreed whether the bulk of the work should be from the government or from the community/civil society).
Institutions: To have in place Affinity Groups: lawyers, accountants, academics etc who can help fight BDS from within
Israeli intellectual ‘buy in’ mobilizing Israeli academics and other professional who understand the seriousness of the threat and fight it
Encouraging more Israel Studies on campus as part of a broader rebranding and reversing of the current wherein enemies of Israel on campus are rewarded and friends are punished
Debranding the NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) naming and shaming
Pursuing a strategy of ridicule and satire especially on the internet
Here are some steps we should follow to achieve those goals:
1. Let’s Reframe to Name and Shame:
BDS means very little to most people and sounds like a communicable disease (which in some ways, like anti-Semitism itself, it is) The awkwardness of the language, and the venom behind the sentiments, together provide a double opportunity. We can rename and reframe their movement. We need to point out how BDS crosses the line from legitimate criticism to historically-laden, anti-Semitic messaging. We should note that BDS fails the “Sharansky Test” of Demonization, Double Standards and Delegitimization, because it singles out Israel for special condemnation, speaking for example about the “apartheid nature of the state” rather than specific policies. We could reinforce this by adding a 2-E Test (“exceptionalism” and “essentialism”) which again focuses on singling out Israel and, in the nature of traditional bigotry, condemning the actor not the act.
In that spirit, in Toronto, the Jewish Federation re-christened the movement the Blacklist, Demonize and Slander movement. In addition to exposing the animus of the movement, the label cleverly filtered the BDS movement through the correct cultural framework when the BDSers targeted the Toronto Film Festival. Jane Fonda, initially, was happy to sign a petition bashing Israel. When she found out that she supported a “blacklist” – a major no-no in post 1950s Hollywood culture, she felt ashamed and retracted. Similarly, the leading academics fighting boycotts have been scientists, because free exchange is the lifeblood of the scientific community and the thought of risking that for mere politics is appalling to many. At the same time, there are (some, not enough) voices in the gay community denouncing groups such as “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid,” because they know how much more liberal Israel is than any other Middle Eastern country (the major international association of gay travel agents held its annual meeting in Israel in 2009).
These examples suggest we need to think, case by case, about how to frame the BDSers in the way that most emphasizes the gap between their actions and the democratic ideals they pretend to espouse. Recasting the campaign as a blacklist is a powerful way to demonstrate what the movement is really about. We should think of other strategies that help delegitimize the delegitimizers.
More broadly, we need to think about what the right messaging for an anti-BDS campaign could be “Let Israel Live,” for example, may make Israel sound pathetic and may sound too 1940s, kind of begging the world’s permission for Jewish survival. But, given the culture of crisis in the Jewish world, that is the kind of slogan that just might work. We invite other suggestions.
It is also important to determine the need for a response on a case by case basis. Some people argue that every BDS initiative must be fought out of fear of a domino effect; however, it may not be to our advantage to do so. Sometimes, we may give a trivial exercise greater meaning.
1.1 Ensuring tactics don’t defeat strategy
The campaign against the University and College Lecturers’ Union’s boycott attempt in the UK was a signal success, mainly due to a classic job of re-framing. The BDS crowd wants the debate to be about Israel and the pro-Israel crowd made it about academic freedom. Although this is an exquisite tactic it runs the risk of leading to a strategic defeat.
What happened was that the “bad guys” talked about how bad Israel is and the “good guys” talked about how bad boycotts are. In the end the only messages that anyone heard about Israel were how bad she is. The boycott motion was handily defeated, but such a triumph contains the seeds of a Pyrrhic victory. Perhaps it’s natural to glory in any kind of victory we can obtain in this fight, however, “Israeli policy makes me sick, but boycotts make me sicker” (as stated as a typical progressive view in the BDS fight) is hardly the ringing endorsement of Israel we would all seek!
To quote Charles Jacobs (late of the David Project), students are often reduced to arguing that “Israel doesn’t suck.” This is only a slight exaggeration. Unless we can come up with a way to produce a new meta-frame for discussing the Middle-East the BDSs will keep us on the run until we are worn out.
Wes Streeting President of the UK’s National Union of Students argued that this concern was somewhat ill-founded. In the working group session he stressed that the argument against boycotts in general had opened the way to substantive discourse on why a boycott was particularly unjust when focused on Israel. If that’s an accurate depiction of what happened, then it’s a good example of what we need to do to ensure that strategy is not eclipsed by tactics.)
2. Dig Deep to Undermine
When the Student Society of Concordia University in Montreal was overtaken by Palestinians and anarchists in the late 1990s, early 2000s, rumors were rife about activists just enrolled in one course per semester to keep their eligibility for the Student Society, about money from outside the university being pumped into the pro-Palestinian activities and about money from the Student Society being diverted both for personal gain and for unauthorized political use. Surprisingly, neither the Jewish community nor the journalistic community undertook the kind of Edwin-Black-style investigation the whole mess deserved, for various cultural and political reasons. Investigative journalism is an underutilized tool in the fight against coordinated movements like the BDS movement.
Similarly, we need to do more historical research, showing the polluted origins of the Zionism is racism, Israel apartheid, and BDS movements. In October 1976, just under a year after the 1975 Zionism is Racism resolution passed the UN General Assembly, Professor Bernard Lewis published an article “The Anti-Zionist Resolution,” in Foreign Affairs (Vol. 55, No. 1 (Oct., 1976), pp. 54-64), uncovering the Soviet and Nazi roots of the resolution. Lewis’s research remains relevant today – as does his example.
3. We Need a War Room
The BDS movement is well-coordinated (and well-financed). The Jewish community needs a war room, tracking this movement, sharing best practices, coaching communities. All too often (and most especially on campus), when an anti-Israel initiative is launched the few who care act as if such a thing never occurred elsewhere and start working on their own strategy – rather than relying on a broad network and a collective memory that should be helping them.
The War Room could also provide the necessary intelligence and background that could be useful in the kinds of grassroots fights necessary to defeat BDS. Whether this War Room should be linked to the Ministry, or to the Global Forum, or to another Jewish organization, or stand on its own, is an important subject we should debate.
In describing this much-needed body of activists and academics we debated the nomenclature – some call it a clearinghouse, others a hub – but we need to share information, coordinate strategy, learn from each other, and push certain lines, taking offense, not just playing defense. In North America, the Federation system is talking about launching a coordinating body to fight BDS. England has “Fair play” functioning as a hub. In France the CRIEF coordinates. All these initiatives should be coordinated globally through Israel, the target of the attack and the center of the Jewish people.
To be specific:
Our guiding principle is that the first people to fight are the people on the ground – this is added value not a command center
The mission is to be informational and tactical – a clearinghouse of information and like the town crier of old – a spur to action with weekly updates, particular tactics
Like an iceberg, partially submerged we need to make some public points to shape the narrative against BDS, delegitimizing the delegitimizers, but we also need some private initiatives. We should not share all our strategies and tactics for the enemy to see
Broadcast and narrowcast – having some messages that work globally, but also customizing our messages for campus, unions, civil society
Professor Irwin Cotler spoke at the Global Forum about “the globalization of the indictment” and our need to take back the narrative, to become the plaintiff. How can we do this is we don’t coordinate strategies, if there isn’t a central body for information sharing, with a great website, but also engaged experts, representing the different countries, helping to shape this battle, sending out weekly updates, helping people who want to get involved, and, as one of our participants suggested targeting the bad guys, using the blogosphere to mock them, to embarrass them, to name and shame?
Each community should of course have its own structures but this war room should act as a hub. It should start simply by coordinating a proactive, integrated structure against BDS and delegitimization – if it works, it could be a crucial resource when crises develop, and it truly could be a global forum against anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and delegitimization, but for now let’s keep it focused.
4. BDS Draws a Line in the Sand
BDS Draws a Line in the Sand – Either testing or recruiting progressives. By implicitly shifting the debate from Israeli policy to Israel’s right to exist, BDSers have provided what we could call the J-Street Test (or the test for J-Street). Progressives, no matter how critical of Israel, who condemn the BDS movement, prove their “pro-Israel bona fides.” (And Tal Shechter of J Street U recently sent out this message: “We should be investing ‘ not divesting ‘ in our campus debate, in our communities and in the people who will bring about change in the region. That’s why J Street U is launching an ‘Invest, Don’t Divest’ campaign today to raise money for two’organizations ‘ LendforPeace.org, a Palestinian microfinance organization set up by students like us, and The Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development, which promotes Jewish-Arab Economic Cooperation in Israel.”)
Critics of Israeli policy can in fact be particularly useful in this fight – note how much of the British academic boycott was repudiated by people who were from the left but recognized the boycott threat as a great threat to academic freedom. So fighting BDS can help heal some of the rifts in the Jewish community, assert a big-tent Zionism, and invite left-wing critics of Israel who nevertheless believe in Israel’s existence to stand up for Israel on this defining issue.
The argument should be made (and this is true, not a mere tactic) that BDS harms the peace process. Whatever one thinks of Oslo, it is not coincidental that Israel entered into the Oslo Peace Accords only after the UN lifted its odious Zionism is Racism resolution in 1991 and that Israel made peace with Egypt only after Sadat came to Jerusalem. A nation under threat of boycott, a nation that feels its very existence and international legitimacy are threatened, is less likely to make peace, which makes the Palestinian strategy particularly self-defeating at this point (not to mention the fact that Israeli academics are among the most outspoken peace advocates).
5. BDS merits a double ju jitsu move
BDS merits a double ju jitsu move: First, the BDS response to Israel is so over the top, it should be an opportunity to delegitimize the delegitimizers. Second, the Toronto community has been particularly effective in turning the lemons of BDS into lemonade ” going from ‘Boycott’ to Buycott” with the results being sold-out Israeli movie nights at the Toronto Film Festival, record-ticket sales for the targeted Dead Sea Scrolls, and a run on kosher wine when BDSers attacked Israeli wine. More broadly, the second paper offers many interesting ideas for getting off the defensive, becoming pro-active and taking the fight to the BDSers.
6. Make this the New Soviet Jewry Movement
A “Let Israel Live” anti-BDS campaign, if done right, could provide the kind of community-wide unity, continuing passion, and identity-building activism, last seen during the Soviet Jewish movement. The threat is intense enough, the moral issue is clear enough, all we need is the motivation, leadership, and organizational sophistication to make it happen.
7. Make the fight Horizontal, Hip, and Hysterical! *
While we do need some central coordination via a “war room,” we must not forget the importance of the netroots in combating BDS. The fight needs to be horizontal not hierarchical – what we use to call “grassroots” empowering college students to get involved using their skills, their media, their networks to push back. In the same spirit, the fight should be “hip,” rooted in the language and mores of the 21st century, presenting an updated, exciting, relevant celebration of modern Israel. And, as already mentioned, the fight should be hysterical – we forget just how powerful a tool ridicule can be as a weapon in politics, especially in our “Jon Stewart” culture.
8. Speak to Israelis about their roles as ambassadors and dangerous role as enablers
The fight against anti-Semitism, against BDS, and for Israel begins at home, in the homeland. Israelis can be the most effective ambassadors and activists in the fight against BDS – this should be the kind of fight for survival that transcends most political divisions and harnesses the kind of ingenuity and passion Israelis bring to more conventional battlefields. Israelis need to understand that, for all their much vaunted, “Start-up Nation” Hi Tech inventiveness, if the European Union decides to boycott Israel, the economic impact would be devastating. The threat is real – but not well known, and usually seen, unfortunately, through a left-right prism.
At the same time, Israeli critics of Israeli policy need to understand that in an age of instant communication, what they say “within the family,” echoes throughout the world. The Norman Finkelsteins and Noam Chomskys of the world quote Israelis incessantly. No Israeli should feel compelled to change their politics, no matter what Chomsky and Finkelstein would choose to do. But ALL Israelis should watch their language, understanding that false Nazi/Apartheid/Racism analogies feed Israel’s harshest enemies, who wish to wipe out the state. There is a rich bank of historical analogies and words Israeli critics can use to criticize Israel. There must be an awareness of how harmful the Nazi and Apartheid analogies are, and how they are used – the slogan “Never Again” should apply to false, offensive, analogizing, not just the mass murder itself
Note the analysis of Uri Avnery of the BDS. Avnery has a long record of harshly criticizing Israel, but distinguishes between his ultimately loving criticism and the exterminationist agenda underlying much of the BDS Campaign. He writes: “Reading some of the messages sent to me and trying to analyze their contents, I get the feeling they are not so much about a boycott on Israel as about the very existence of Israel. Some of the writers obviously believe that the creation of the State of Israel was a terrible mistake to start with, and therefore should be reversed. Turn the wheel of history back some 62 years and start anew.
“What really disturbs me about this is that almost nobody in the West comes out and says clearly: Israel must be abolished. Some of the proposals, like those for a ‘One State’ solution, sound like euphemisms. If one believes that the State of Israel should be abolished and replaced by a State of Palestine or a State of Happiness why not say so openly?
“Of course, that does not mean peace. Peace between Israel and Palestine presupposes that Israel is there. Peace between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people presupposes that both peoples have a right to self-determination and agree to the peace. Does anyone really believe that racist monsters like us would agree to give up our state because of a boycott? “Other Israelis” and other critics outside of Israel should be appealed to on these terms, understanding that the BDS-Apartheid-Nazi-language is anti-Israel and anti-peace. See [http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Quote/Avneri1.html]
9. Ally, Fraternize, and Build Coalitions
Far too much of the fight against anti-Semitism and for Israel occurs within a Jewish community bubble. The Foreign Ministry can be a particularly useful force here in helping build alliances with academics, business people, politicians, anti-terror/national security types, Christian Zionists, civil libertarians – creating a broad coalition that is against demonization. Moreover, we learn from the anti-academic-boycott movement in England, whose guiding principle is that the first people to fight BDS should be the people in the sector, self defense is the best defense.
9.1 Labor unions
Universities (or other institutions) that invest in Israel seldom do so for reasons of Zionist sympathy. If they have put money into Israel or Israeli companies it’s because their investment advisers have told them that it’s the right thing to do in order to grow their endowment. Hence, divestment would be financially inadvisable.
If, in the midst of a divestment campaign, campus unions that represent technical, administrative and janitorial staff were convincingly informed that the divestment campaign might well lead to job cuts (and not amongst the tenured academics pushing for BDS) they might easily be persuaded to condemn such a campaign. How embarrassing for the “progressive” academics pushing BDS to be opposed by the representatives of the lowest paid workers on campus?
We need to do a better job of empowering and educating Jewish and pro-Israel students. Specifically through advocacy training programs, like hasbara fellowships and many others, which bring students to Israel and give them the knowledge, skills and confidence to advocate on campus. Too many students are too intimidated to express their views. They need quick and easy answers to the most common criticisms thrown at them, and the confidence to deliver those messages. Jewish community organizations need to invest in these programs, and send their students to Israel to learn. Setting up one hour seminars on campus don’t work, students need to go to Israel, learn the situation, and practice the responses.
We also need a major push to educate non-Jewish student leaders. Specifically, more money needs to be spent on the programs that already exist in countries like Canada to send non-Jewish student leaders (members of student government, campus organizations, campus newspapers etc). to Israel to learn the facts on the ground. They are the future leaders off-campus and in the media, and we are losing this battle.
We need to adopt a radically different approach to media relations: “embracing the journalist,” building relationships to go beyond the two traditional approaches of giving information to the press and monitoring/criticizing the media for “getting the story wrong” – and instead helping them to “get the story right in the first place,” as MediaCentral does here in Israel. Reaching out to all levels of the media – local and national – to engage rather than criticize, without the “Hasbara” agenda but instead promoting accuracy as Israel’s best ally, widening the lens and helping to reframe the MidEast situation and to affect the tone and terminology used . Working to win the “battle for hearts and minds” through the heart rather than the head, using Dale Carnegie’s approach to “win friends and influence people” or to put it another way, “rather than fighting your enemy, make the enemy your friend.”
We need a creative, edgy, systematic outreach to pro-Israel bloggers, who are willing to target BDSers and delegitimizers, exposing their tactics, ridiculing them as necessary, and, as much as possible putting them on the defensive.
9.5* *Professional Organizations and Communities*
Dr. Jonathan Rynhold, who was involved in combating the proposed British academic boycott of Israel, suggests applying some of the lessons from that experience more broadly. He proposes forming and informing groups of Jewish/pro-Israel professionals within various national and international professional association/organizations/unions. Their first order of business should be passing *anti-discrimination by-laws within the organization* that are general in nature, and that do not mention Israel per se, but rather oppose discrimination on the basis of race, religion, nationality etc. This would put the onus on the boycotters to prove they are NOT discriminating, instead of pro-Israel forces having to prove Israel’s innocence. He also suggests offering a positive alternative to the boycott, such as engaging Israelis and Palestinians through the particular professional framework of the organization. Israeli organizations should take the lead in seeking international partners and preparing the groundwork for these general denunciations of boycott resolutions. All too often we wait until the crisis is upon us, rather than laying the foundation before trouble erupts. And considering that the specter of boycott already has arisen in various academic contexts, it is particularly important to re-establish and fund an organization of Israeli academics to work with the Israeli Academy of Science against the boycott, where Bob Lapidot has been the contact person.
10. Zero in on a moment to raise awareness of the BDS threat and start delegitimizing the delegitimizers
Beyond Israel (and the communities of Israelis abroad), even many ardently pro-Israel activists do not quite know what to do with Yom Hazikaron, Israeli Memorial Day. Perhaps this year is the time for a mass, international, cross-community teach-in about BDS on Yom Hazikaron, remembering the fallen soldiers and victims of terror by learning that words can kill (or heal), that demonization has facilitated violence and undermines peace. An added bonus is that after this sobering, somewhat defensive day of learning, one can simply celebrate Israel’s birthday, with Yom Ha’atzmaut immediately afterwards.
11. Meet “lawfare” with “lawfare.”
Professor Irwin Cotler has termed the variety of ways in which BDSers have hijacked international human rights laws to hound Israelis as “lawfare.” Many of the French delegates explained that there had been some success in applying the new French penal code outlawing discrimination based on religious or ethnic characteristics against BDSers – who sometimes have very violently ruined Israeli fruit in supermarkets. We should explore this more fully, being sensitive to the different legal traditions in the particular countries involved.
12. Let’s Push More Broadly for a Citizenship 2.0 Campaign
One way of not just wallowing or being defensive, but to take the offensive, is to push a broader, Citizenship 2.0 campaign, deputizing the next generation to fight hate on the Web in general, and anti-Israel material in particular. Part of fighting anti-Semitism should entail enlisting educators, parents and community leaders to envision Citizenship 2.0, teaching students to avoid polluting on line-discourse themselves, to combat on-line hate, to assess on-line information critically, and to use the net’s grassroots power to defend democratic values against the haters. The Internet works democratically, let’s mobilize and deputize young people in Israel, and the world over to fight hate wherever they see it (and, of course, never indulge in it). For parents, instead of grumbling about their kids being on “the computer” all the time, perhaps they could start boasting about their kids as modern Judah (and Judith) Maccabees, striding across the blogosphere, defending the Jewish people, fighting the BDS-ers and standing for truth, justice, civility and democracy.
GOING ON OFFENSE
The time has come to explore ways to put the boycotters on the defensive and to initiate our own campaigns to highlight issues of concern. For example:
1. Seek to have boycotters expelled from international organizations. One condition of Saudi Arabia�’ admission to the WTO was that it cease its boycott of Israel. It promised to do so and then, after admission, declared it would not end the boycott. Organizations such as WTO should be pressured to adhere to its rules and other groups (e.g., sports federations) should be lobbied to adopt anti-boycott provisions.
2. Lobby academic journals to adopt policies barring submissions from anyone who advocates an academic boycott. Journals are supposed to promote academic freedom and intellectual exchange and should not collaborate in efforts to stifle such exchanges. If academic boycotters cannot get published, they will perish.
3. Circulate information on Muslims acting contrary to Islam. If the people of countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia knew their “pious” leaders were really alcoholics, gamblers and perverts, they might hasten regime change.
4. Create a “Student Rights Watch” organization that would seek to counterbalance certain NGOs that have become Israel-bashing specialists. SRW could go in at least two different directions – one would be to make a human rights organization that monitored activities around the world with the emphasis on non-democratic states (as HRW once did) – another approach would be to have the students focus on rights as students on college campuses with an emphasis on how Israel and Jews are treated, but also monitor other abuses inside and outside the classroom.
5. Launch a Saudi apartheid campaign. It is galling that Israel is tarred with comparisons to South Africa when there is a country that really does merit this comparison. Progressive and women’s groups should be natural allies in such a campaign, which might have a goal of adopting Sullivan-like principles for Western companies doing business in the kingdom.
6. “Buy Israel” campaign. This is already being done is some areas, but it might be adopted as an international program.
7. Buy Israel Bonds. It has been done quietly, but a more aggressive effort might be made to sell Israel Bonds to corporations and other entities (there is a danger to raising attention to it as it might create a new target for BDS). It may be a tougher sell given current interest rates at the moment, but one of the best responses to BDS is multimillion dollar bonds purchases made by banks, unions, pension plans, and others.
8. Outreach to mainline Christians. We have spent too little time on educating non-Jews and reacting only at the last minute when some of their leaders try to adopt BDS proposals at their national conventions. These churches bring in a parade of anti-Israel speakers who are rarely countered. Rather than focus so much attention preaching to the choir, greater efforts should be made to speak directly to non-evangelical Christians. The MFA could be especially helpful in this area.
9. Outreach to key minorities. In the United States, Hispanics will become an increasingly influential factor in American politics and, therefore, the U.S.-Israel relationship. Too little effort has been given to educating this community about Israel.
10. Developing Israel Studies as an academic discipline. Most universities have few if any courses about modern Israel and many of those that are taught are usually taught badly. A variety of steps can be taken to enhance the field across the globe. In the U.S., for example, the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), has brought 65 visiting Israeli scholars to teach for an academic year at more than 40 universities over the last 5 years. AICE also supports graduate students pursuing Ph.D.s in Israel-related fields and postdoctoral fellows. Chairs and centers of Israel studies are being created in the U.S. and, more recently, the U.K. Providing the next generation with a good education about Israel is vital for the future as well as critical to countering present campus-based efforts to delegitimize Israel.
11. Try to make inroads at the UN and its associated agencies by targeting small nations. Many of these countries do not give a lot of thought to the Middle East and go with the herd. In fact, we know the UN reps sometimes act with little or no instruction from their governments. It may not be possible to overcome the Arab/Islamic bloc and its allies, but it may be possible to chip away at its majorities so votes are not one-sided and resolutions so biased (a small effort along these lines is underway in the U.S.).
12. A priority should be placed on defunding anti-Israel UN agencies, such as the Committee on the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Efforts should be made to focus the UN on a positive agenda of economic development, health and environmental protection and lobby that funds be directed away from attacking a UN member and toward the mutual interests of all members.
These are just a few ideas that we hope will serve as the basis for discussion and stimulate additional suggestions for proactive measures to improve Israel’s image, delegitimize the detractors and energize everyone committed to fighting anti-Semitism.
AGENDA FOR THE WORKING GROUP MEETING
These were some of the questions we addressed – although it was difficult to cover them all, let alone answer them adequately in two short sessions. Still, we include them as food for thought for future conferences.
I. Should this “working group” evolve into an ongoing task force – if so, what is its mandate, what are its goals, who will participate, what can it hope to achieve?
II. Have we effectively explained why BDS crosses the line from legitimate criticism to historically-laden, anti-Semitic messaging (failing both the 3-D, Demonization, Double Standards, and Delegitimization, and 2-E, Essentialism and Exceptionalism, tests?)
III. If there is to be a “war room,” who should run it? where should it be? who should participate? who will pay for it? what are its goals?
IV. How can we best harness the comparative strengths of different institutions/communities in order to achieve the most effective response? Where specifically do the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Global Forum fit in?
V. In strategizing regarding the BDS movement, how do we keep the messaging positive, while motivating normally apathetic students, etc?
VI. Who can make the case to Israelis that some of the discourse in Israel is harmful, and how can it be done in an effective manner?
VII. If the idea of a broader anti-BDS/pro-Israel movement makes sense – who will run with it, how do we make that happen? Can we work in some cooperative fashion or will multiple organizations insist on doing it their way with little or no coordination?
VIII. What other ideas do we have for “Going on Offense”: and which ones do we wish to make priorities?