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.
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
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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