When oppression is successful, the oppressor gains control over his victim’s borders, erases them, and redraws them according to his whims. The victim’s narrative no longer exists, and as such, just telling their own story is an act of liberation. When Palestinians chose Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a form of telling their story (not just a form of action), they changed a continual paradigm of abuse which made their story insignificant, and were finally able to cut the cycle of abuse and silence. No longer do Palestinians need to react to Israel’s Hasbara line. They have reclaimed their narrative, and now the state of Israel is forced to react in accordance to it.
Reactionary Reut Institute
I’ve written much about the Reut Institute, over the past few years. I see its importance not in their “genius of analysis”, but in the fact that they are embedded deep in the government of the state of Israel, and are responsible for its recognition of the “threat” BDS poses, and the colorful catchy phrases it uses to describe it.
Indeed BDS has been so successful that the Reut Institute has advised the state to consider it top “security” priority. The latest out of the institute is a report exposing the massive resources the state of Israel has been exerting, in order to deal with the massive international civil resistance against its colonial apartheid.
The report, just by its title, falls back into old Hasbara patterns, again staging oppressor as victim: “2011: The Year We Punched Back on the Assault on Israel’s legitimacy” (and yet, note the sophomoric image illustrating the report). Though I have no doubt that Israel is now “fighting back” (in that sick, twisted blaming the victim kind of way), actually reading the report reveals the massive mechanism we have to deal with, and specifically makes the BDS movement’s work much easier, by outlining the connections between state and academic and so-called “civil institutions”. (bolds by me)
- The Government of Israel established dedicated units across the political and security establishment with the aim of monitoring and assessing the different aspects of the political assault against Israel. The GOI thus recognized the assault on the country’s legitimacy as a key national security threat, and made the fight against it a priority. Examples of this prioritization include the establishment of a new dedicated unit in military intelligence, as reported in the Israeli press.
- In the Jewish world, organizations reassessed strategies, allocated resources, and created new organs for this cause. The most prominent example is the establishment of the Israel Action Network (IAN), a result of the collaboration between the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). In addition, Jewish communities around the world reassessed their approach to their unique local characteristics of the assault on Israel primarily in London, San Francisco, Toronto, Orange County, and South Africa.
- In the realm of activism, pro-Israel civil society and non-governmental organizations realized that given delegitimization’s roots in civil society, a response from the same arena would be the most effective. A variety of pro-Israel civil society actors subsequently volunteered their resources and expertise to the cause. Examples include the ongoing activity of ‘veteran’ organizations’ such as NGO Monitor, StandWithUs, the Zionist Federation, The Israel Project, the David Project, The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), and BICOM – and several new coalitions and partnerships like the Cookbook to fight BDS on Campus.
- In policy realms, several Jewish and Israeli think tanks allocated resources to tackling delegitimization. Examples include the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS); the Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI), which launched a policy-oriented project to study this issue; and the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS), which included this topic in its annual Herzliya Conference series.
The “Jewish world”, as usual, has been co-opted by the Zionist voice: The Jewish Federations of North America is the networking arm of the Jewish Agency, working on Judaization of the land formerly known as Palestine. The Jewish Council for Public Affairs is basically the propaganda arm, waging war on the international front, and whitewashing Israel’s crime via acts of charity, on the domestic front.
What Reut terms “civil society” and “non-governmental” organizations, are in fact groups such as:
- NGO Monitor – A settler organization hounding human rights organizations for transparent funding that fails to reveal its own funding. The funders that are revealed are: The Wechsler Family Foundation, which has a clear alliance to the military occupation of Palestinian land and the continuation of colonization; The aforementioned Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America and United Jewish Appeal; The Center for Jewish Community Studies, which looks innocent enough, if it wasn’t for its title-banner-affiliation with the Islamophobic Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (who host NGO Monitor reports on their website); Something called the Orion Foundation, which could be any or none of the following 1,2,3,4,5,6 (I’m putting my money on the kitties); Matan, which seems like a perfectly innocent women’s biblical studies program, except for the fact they hold courses in the Hashmonaim settlement; Something called “The American Friends of NGO Monitor” (the connection to our next subject, StandWithUs, is documented in this Electronic Intifada article); And some guy called Peter Simpson.
- StandWithUs – The ever-growing Israeli propaganda machine in your campus, that took an ironic turn to the antisemitic, StandWithUs chapters are funded by many unmentioned donors, but their unabashed connection to the Jewish Agency, the Israeli Government and IDF is what makes this group stand out from the rest.
- The Zionist Federation – I’m not sure which branch of the Federation Reut is referring to, but the British branch, for example, is committed to “Israel Expos”, wine tastings and other such activities that result of plunder and employee abuse. The Federation, of course, keeps with the oppressor’s narrative (double-time, if you include the historical British hold on Palestine), and in their about page, you can read all about Palestine, that “was a distant and neglected province of the Turkish Empire.” For more on the fascinating history of the Federation and its fearless leader, Baron Rothschild, just check out Wikipedia [1,2].
- The Israel Project – Once again, no information on donors, but the amount of U.S. senators on the board of advisors makes this humble web-surfer open the dictionary once again on the phrase “non-governmental organization”. T.I.P. doesn’t hide its objectives:
By providing journalists with the facts, context and visuals they need, TIP causes hundreds of millions of people around the world to see a more positive public face of Israel. This helps protect Israel, reduce anti-Semitism and increase pride in Israel.
Nor the fact that it confuses journalism (that last guard dog of something or other) with state advocacy:
2012 Summer Fellowships in Journalism, Strategic Communications and Israel Advocacy
- The David Project – Is the child abuse in your “high schools and middle schools, laying a foundation for pro-Israel attitudes and advocacy in college and beyond.” The one thing that can be said in favor of the project is that they practice considerable transparency, and their annual report, available for download on their website, includes an almost complete list of their donors, states their collaborations with the Jewish Agency and Hillel (=the Jewish Agency) (p.7), and their support for the 22-day Cast Lead massacres (p.9).
- The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) – Speaking of Hillel, it’s also in partnership with the AICE. But what is the AICE?
One of AICE’s principal objectives is to enhance Israel’s image by publicizing novel Israeli approaches to problems common to both our nations and illustrating how Americans can learn from these innovations. AICE also works with individual states that are establishing and expanding their ties with Israel. In particular, we produce reports documenting how these states can and do benefit from cooperation, trade and academic and cultural exchanges with Israel.
In short, the AICE is all about the whitewashing concept of Brand Israel, helping us further specify our academic boycott targets (bolds by me):
ISRAEL SCHOLAR DEVELOPMENT FUND
To address the critical need to develop new scholars and place established Israel scholars on campus, AICE has created the Israel Scholar Development Fund (ISDF). This fund will:
- Identify U.S. and Israeli scholars who could be placed in visiting professorships.
- Offer universities matching funds to hire a visiting scholar.
- Brief scholars on issues, provide them media training, and encourage them to educate the public through public lectures and media appearances.
- Identify students who want to become Israel/Middle East scholars and offer them scholarships for graduate study.
- Develop a strategic plan for promoting Israel studies that would involve identifying institutions that could and should have pro-Israel scholars.
- Advise philanthropists on where positions should be created to have the greatest impact, and how to do it so their intentions are not frustrated.
- BICOM– The Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre also doesn’t give up its funding information, but it claims to be “an independent British organisation dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain.” They also “support a close relationship between Britain and Israel, based on shared values and interests.” Speaking of Britain’s “shared values and interests”, while BICOM is a “tamer” proponent of Israel’s expansion policies in the occupied territories, it must be said that that is exactly what it is, as illustrated by the articles in its “Britain’s Role Analysis” page. Indeed, Britain’s role in the region has always been that of paternalistic control over the status quo.
- Cookbook to fight BDS on Campus – This “civil society” initiative is fully supported, sponsored and funded by the Jewish National Fund and Media Watch International (“an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to presenting a positive image of Israel and promoting accurate and impartial media coverage of the Middle East conflict”), under the title of yet another child abuser, “Caravan For Democracy: Israel and America, Sharing Hopes, Sharing Values”; the “grassroots community of scholars” Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (my thoughts on them); the aforementioned AICE; and the Israel on Campus Coalition (more on them and their connection to the Jewish Agency here).
Last, but not least, when it comes to the academy, Reut pulls no stops, and points out exactly who’s prime candidate for academic boycott:
- Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in the Tel Aviv University.
- Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI) in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
- Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) in Interdiciplanary Center (IDC) Herzliya.
Reut- Master of Non-Hierarchy
I’ve already congratulated the Reut Institute on their arrival into the understanding of the mechanics of grassroots organizing. However, much like the definition of “non-governmental”, Reut is stuck on the mechanics, and has yet to understand the political context in witch grassroots networks evolve. As a result, we find Reut congratulating the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Strategic Affairs for creating “meeting points” for all of the above “non-governmental” “grassroots” activism. (bolds by me)
- The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Strategic Affairs partnered with civil society
organizations to conduct a strategic consultation titled “Building Partnerships and
Synergies in Countering the Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy.” This event brought together
115 professional Jewish executives from more than 30 countries and resulted in the
formation of a number of taskforces, some of which are still actively working to tackle
different aspects of the assault on Israel’s legitimacy (see World Jewish Congress,
12/19/2011). The event took place in Jerusalem in December 2010.
- Reut itself partnered with the American Jewish Committee’s young leadership
program, ACCESS, to launch a Global Network event that brought together anti-5
November 25h, 2011 delegitimization activists from around the globe. This gathering saw the participation of 275 leader-activists from twenty countries, representing dozens of organizations from across the political spectrum and from all the major theaters of confrontation – including labor unions, academia, and the media (AJC-ACCESS website.) The gathering took place in Washington, D.C. in May 2011.
- The General Assembly (GA) of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), held in Denver, CO (6-8/11/11), dedicated several sessions to numerous aspects of the assault on Israel’s legitimacy, under the leadership of the IAN. The IAN also held a post- GA event titled “Hotspots” of the Delegitimization Movement, which saw the participation of selected groups of people from a number of ‘hubs’ of delegitimization, NGOs and the Israeli government.
- Jewish organizations in London partnered with the British-Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) to organize the “We Believe in Israel” conference. Drawing 1500 participants, the pro-Israel conference was the largest ever to take place in the UK. The event took place in London in May 2011.
- This event was recently followed by the Big Tent for Israel conference that was held in Manchester. Organized by the local Jewish community and endorsed by the British Jewry communal organizations, the event was based on Reut’s document on London as a hub of delegitimization.
- “Helping the People of the Book become the People of Web”4 – several efforts were made to connect pro-Israel activists in order to educate them on the use of new media and social networks. Prominent examples include the Like For Israel – an online social media initiative and the Hackathon – an intensive practical workshop that brought 50 developers who created several useful smartphone applications. The IAN and the new- media department at the Prime Minister’s Office also conducted sessions and workshops on utilizing the internet, new media and social media.
First on Reut’s list is the “civil society organization” is The World Jewish Congress, brought to you in affiliation with Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, Conference of European Rabbis, Hillel, International Council of Jewish Women, International Jewish Committee on Inter-Religious Consultations, Women’s International Zionist Organization, World Union of Jewish Students, World Zionist Organization/Jewish Agency for Israel. The above mentioned “strategic consultation” event was complete with 7 Israeli government ministry senior officials, as reported by a participant (bolds by me):
The consultation was the result of cooperation and collaboration by the government of Israel and the top Jewish organizations in the world and was sponsored by the WJC… [It] was opened at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with addresses by Vice Prime Minister Moshe “Bogey” Yaalon, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and keynote speech by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… Participants agreed to promote a global and coordinated campaign to counter the current assault on Israel’s legitimacy. Other speakers included Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman, Natan Sharansky; former Canadian Justice Minister and current member of parliament, Irwin Cotler; Italian member of parliament, Fiamma Nirenstein, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs [yup, them again…] President and former Israel Ambassador to UN, Amb. Dore Gold, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris; and Executive Vice President of B’nai B’rith International, Dan Mariaschin.”
The next “non-governmental” organization is Reut itself, which doesn’t reveal its donors other than “American Friends of the Reut Institute” (am I the only one seeing a pattern here?), which collaborated with AJC-ACCESS. Together, the two had a very [upper middle-class, white, ashkenazi] civilizing effect on public discourse:
ACCESS hosted major interethnic Passover seders in four major cities and the ACCESS 20/20 Conference, which brought 450 activists from 27 countries to Washington, D.C. , in an historic collaborative effort to counter the delegitimization of Israel and to restore civility to public discourse.
We’ll skip the Jewish Federations of North America with its pet project, the Israel Action Network, harassing civil society, since we’ve already covered that, and we’ll just quickly point out its collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office on social media.
Moving on to BICOM’s rapidly cracking “tamer” image with its involvement in huge government related events, such as We Believe in Israel (which hosted the likes of Minister of Education Gideon Sa’ar, Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sheransky, Matthew Doyle, Political Director, the Office of Tony Blair, Dr Tal Becker, Chas Newkey-Burden, StandWithUs Advisory Board Member, Former Israeli Negotiator and Ex-Chief Advisor to Tzipi Livni, BICOM Senior Visiting Fellow and many more telling speakers) and Big Tent for Israel in Manchester, which is apparently “the cradle of Zionism in the UK”. As the brochure will tell us, Big Tent is a Reut inspired event, with talks such as “Every Jew is an Ambassador for Israel, why don’t we use them?”, “Alternative Perspectives on Support for Israel” and “Changing the Muslim Narrative in the UK”. Representatives from BICOM, the New Israel Fund, The Israel Project and many more. The event was sponsored by- among others- the JNF, StandWithUs, UK Lawyers for Israel, El-Al, and the Zionist Federation.
Looking at all of the above, I’d say Reut isn’t only mapping out the realities on the ground, but also fully participating with quite a conspicuous political agenda. So much for “non-partisan” (or “non-governmental”, or “grassroots”, or “civil society”…)
The Reut Institute Narrative of Liberation
The Reut Institute is nevertheless an “analysis think tank” and as such it constructs its narrative through reaction. Much of this short report focuses on “failures of the delegitimization networks”, such as Freedom Waves to Gaza and the Flytilla, which were blocked by Israel in collaboration with the Greek authorities and the Mossad, to much media fanfare [1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15 and 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10], or Israel Apartheid Week, which was apparently “slowed down” [1,2,3,4,5,6] by the aforementioned Hillel, ICC and other Jewish Agency funded endeavors, in collaboration with body-snatched Jewish student unions. In fact, Reut and its friends in the “grassroots network” are so not worried about Israel Apartheid Week, that they didn’t even bother to issue full reports and campaigns on the matter [1,2,3,4,5]. And although its true that the Russel Tribunal and Durban III are less “media-sexy”, Reut seems to be loosing its touch for analysis, when it doesn’t understand the long-term implications of such institutes on international law protocol.
Additionally, it tellingly declares the UK amendment to its universal jurisdiction law in order to reduce the ability to prosecute war criminals, the international-law-contradicting Palmer report, and Goldstone’s “repent” as victories, specifically citing the “civil society” “Non-governmental organization”, Meir Amit Terrorism and Intelligence Information Center and the Lawfare Project as the possible reasons. Are we to understand that they are part of the network?
It is in this section that Reut has become much less inhibited in its use of Zionist phrasing in crafting its narrative. From putting the Right of Return in quotes, to the “ever-so-playful” settler jargon “price tag”, when referring to the repression of free speech, such as the Dutch Foreign Minister conducting an inquiry over his government’s indirect funding of Electronic Intifada, Israel’s Ministry of Defense outlawing the London-based Palestinian Return Centre because it’s a “Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood base of operations”, The 11 Irvine muslim students convicted for “conspiring to plan disruption” of Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren’s speech, and The Berkley Daily Planet being forced to cease print for being the “mouthpiece for the BDS Movement in the Bay Area”.
Just like Palestinians have reclaimed their narrative of liberation and have drawn the red lines of cooperation with oppression through BDS, so does the Reut Institute attempt to “fight back” against “delegitimizers”. Unfortunately, though Reut does mention that “There are boundaries between legitimate criticism and acts of delegitimization. For this reason, becoming part of the tent should require a commitment to an acceptable code of conduct regarding discourse on Israel, delineated by ‘red lines’”, it has yet to outline these borders of consent. I’m still waiting to see what form their narrative will take, when it comes to “civil disobedience”. What will constitute the Reut Institute picket line?