LONDON – A report published by an Israeli research and strategy organization this week identifies London as a major center in a delegitimization campaign against Israel and advises the players in the public diplomacy sphere, both in Israel and the UK, to reassess their strategy and work together, on a local and global scale.
Referring to London as the “Mecca of delegitimization,” the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute says that through a coordinated and ideological campaign, Israel is subject to a “global systemic and systematic assault” on its political and economic model that aims to “precipitate its implosion.”
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Reut says that this assault, an attack on Israel’s legitimacy and right to exist, is led by two forces acting working in harmony.
First there is the “Resistance Network,” characterized by the rejection of Israel’s right to exist , based on Arab and Islamist nationalist-religious ideology and including Iran, Hamas and Hizbullah.
The second is the “Delegitimization Network,” composed of nongovernmental organizations.
Inspired by the collapse of apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union, the campaign is led by marginal and radical political forces from the far-left and extremist Islamism – Israel’s delegitimizers in the West and its traditional enemies in the Middle East.
Both strands, the report says, have learned how to mainstream a sinister agenda against Israel with the aim of deletimizing the Jewish state and turning it into a pariah.
Reut says that while they are a distinct minority, the anti- Israel campaigners yield a disproportionate influence. This has been done by harnessing support from within the liberal progressive elite and by focusing on arenas in which they enjoy structural advantages, such as trade unions, academia and churches.
The report warns that while their influence seems marginal today, it may quickly accelerate to become a national security concern with potential existential implications. Hence it recommends both a global and local strategy to thwart the coordinated, ideological attack on Israel, as was seen with the Gaza flotilla incident last May.
“Israel and pro-Israeli groups must develop a strategy to counter delegitimization as if there is was no political process, and strive for a progress in the political process as if there was no delegitimization,” said Eran Shayshon, from Reut.
Based on the premise that “it takes a network to fight a network,” one of the recommendations laid out in the report suggests that establishment organizations should work with other groups and strive for a loosely coordinated response rather than seek to centralize their messages, activities and efforts. It also calls to widen the net and include those who may generally not be thought of as partners such as the Left, who the report says has an important role to play in influencing liberal-progressive circles.
“Meeting the challenge of Israel’s delegitimization requires a loosely coordinated and orchestrated response,” Reut’s founder and president Gidi Grinstein told The Jerusalem Post.
“All parties will have to come to terms with the idea that it takes ‘all instruments in the orchestra’ to win this fight. Importantly, critics from the political Left, because they represent liberal values, are also an invaluable voice in delegitimizing Israel’s delegitimization, notwithstanding their common criticism of the Jewish community’s traditional institutions and the policies of the State of Israel.”
The Foreign Ministry said that the call on the government is being taken very seriously and that London is a priority.
The response should also be global and systemic, the report suggests. London cannot see itself as fighting a local, British problem.
“Those delegitimizing Israel are global and systemic in their attack. Therefore, the response must be equally global and systemic. London must speak to other hubs such as San Francisco, Toronto and Brussels to exchange best practices and develop a shared discourse and common logic towards cultivating a global pro-Israel network,” the report recommends.
The report is not only a warning call but offers operational principles on how to fight this campaigning against Israel. Grinstein told the Post
that it has focused on London because an effective response in the English capital would have global implications.
Grinstein said that it was also crucial to drive a wedge between criticism of Israeli government policies and an assault on Israel’s legitimacy.
The report has been welcomed by British Jewish community. Israel’s
ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, said it highlights well the hostility
against Israel in certain areas of British society and vowed to fight
it, working closely with all groups.
“The Reut Institute vividly
portrays the growing hostility we face in the UK, amongst certain
sectors of society,” Prosor said. “This is where our battle must be
fought, and it is a battle we at the embassy will continue to lead from
the front, side-by-side with our many friends.”
“This is an
important piece of work that captures much of what we have been saying
for a long time,” said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of
Deputies of British Jews. “If we are to raise our game to address these
challenges, we need to be better resourced and supported by the
community and not simply expected to fight and win every battle with the
assets we currently have.”
“Reut's recommendations are very well
taken. This is not about defending Israeli policies or the settlements;
it's about pointing out the absurdity of having to even defend Israel's
right to exist in the first place. This isn't left or right, it's a
united front against nonsense,” Michael Weiss from Just Journalism, a
London based research and media monitor organization.
Andrew White, who heads a group called Beyond Images that trains Israel-advocates, said implementing the findings in the report would require a mindset change among community organizations.
“Implementing its findings will require a transformation in how Israel advocacy is led, organized and resourced in the UK. We urgently need a serious grassroots strategy.
“I have e-mails from community leaders saying that they have ‘other
priorities.’ I don’t think that response works any more, and neither
does Reut. The central organizations in our community need to facilitate
rather than lead, and create a culture in which talented and committed
community members can make a meaningful contribution.”
Adam Levick, managing editor of CiF Watch, a media watchdog which
monitors The Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ blog, said community
institutions had so far failed to stem the tide of hate against Israel
in the UK.
“It is critical that the Jewish community in the UK understand the
network-based response that is necessary to defeat the delegitimization
network,” Levick said. “It is equally clear that most communal
institutions vested with the money and resources have failed miserably
in responding to delegitimization.”