Our ‘Egyptian’ revolution against the assault on Israel

If the attack on the Jewish state’s right to exist is a threat, it is also an important opportunity to close ranks and launch our own offensive.

April 25, 2011 22:22
3 minute read.
Protesters fill Egypt's Tahrir Square

Protesters fill Egypt's Tahrir Square Cairo 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

The recent uprisings in the Arab world have demonstrated the ability of the ‘Facebook generation’ to mobilize civilians in an unprecedented way toward a common challenge. Now it is time for our own movers and shakers to rise up as well. In Israel, in the Jewish World, and among our allies we must turn the tables on the brutal assault on Israel’s legitimacy. To this aim, the Reut Institute together with the AJC’s young leadership program ACCESS, is organizing a first-of-its-kind event in Washington at the end of this month.

The delegitimization campaign has encountered a significant pushback recently. Until a few months ago, Jewish communities around the world interpreted the activities of our adversaries as local, spontaneous challenges, and thus adopted defensive approaches. But recently there seems to be more understanding of the global and systemic nature of this attack, and a greater awareness of the need to proactively counter it with our own offensive approach. These changes have resulted in increasing collaboration between different initiatives and organizations all over the world, which has led to the formation of an effective network. We are now at the next stage, in which the focus of the debate within the Jewish community has shifted to the question of who can or should be part of this network. Answering this question requires understanding the threat.

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Our work at Reut has revealed that there are very few organizations and individuals that actively promote the assault on Israel’s right to exist with an ideological zeal for Israel’s destruction. Such organizations are usually a peripheral force wherever they operate. But sometimes, they succeed by creating a spirit of hostility toward Israel, especially among progressive circles. Because this spirit results from the activity of a small number of radicals, it is likely that if the Jewish people stand together, we will be able to change it.

Standing together, however, does not mean uniformity; it means unity. Our biggest asset in this struggle could be the diversity of the Jewish people. Many within our communities disapprove of the Israeli government’s actions and policies yet clearly have an unequivocal position against the delegitimization of Israel. In fact, paradoxically, the more critical an organization is of Israeli policies, the more effective its voice could be against delegitimization. Therefore, we need to have a broader “Jewish tent,” which includes all those who are willing to stand against delegitimization, in order to drive a wedge between the extremists and those who have legitimate criticism of Israeli policies.

A broad tent is not an open tent. Jewish progressive organizations should delineate boundaries between legitimate criticism and acts of delegitimization. Such boundaries are necessary as many organizations have been unknowingly fueling the delegitimization campaign. Thus, we need to grapple with the question of what the red lines of delegitimization are. These discussions should be contextual and addressed in a bottom-up communitywide deliberation in synagogues, Jewish communal organizations and other grassroot groups, in order to create a legitimate code-of-conduct.

To win this war we need all instruments in the orchestra to play. That is the logic of the Reut-AJC conference. We are planning to bring together dozens of activists from around the world with experience in different areas such as campus activity, media, trade unions, NGO work and so on. Most importantly, they will be from across the political spectrum. Our goal is to discuss the best practices, gather key insights, share opportunities and challenges, and create a global network of individuals who can catalyze change at home. If the assault on Israel’s right to exist is an obvious threat, it also constitutes a great opportunity to close ranks.

The writer is the director of the National-Security Sphere at the Reut Institute.

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