By Asa Winstanley
Image of the anti-BDS meeting at the UN headquarters on 30 March 2017 [WorldJewishCong/Twitter]
A leaked report last month revealed the lengths to which Israel is going to undermine and sabotage the Palestine solidarity movement. The report, a copy of which has been obtained by The Electronic Intifada, was authored jointly by influential Israeli think tank the Reut Institute and US pro-Israel group the Anti-Defamation League.
Reut was founded by Gidi Grinstein, once an advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The new report begins with an endorsement from the director of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, the government department in charge of Israel’s war against the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. “The correlation between the ministry’s mode of operation” and the report, she writes, “is very high.”
The document was not intended for public consumption. Its existence was first revealed in February when the Jewish Daily Forward reported some of its contents. The US paper said that Reut and the ADL were “only circulating print copies of the report” among selected pro-Israel operatives, and that the newspaper had received it on condition that it not be published in its entirety.
Nonetheless we are now able to read it in full. Its contents are revealing.
It is titled “The Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy” and subtitled “The Frustrating 20x Question: Why is it Still Growing?” Dive into the report itself and the jargon-like “20x question” is explained. Why, it asks, is the BDS movement still growing and winning “significant successes” despite Israel and its supporters spending 20 times as much in fighting it in terms of money and resources than in 2010?
The “20x question” is only one of many such vacuous jargon phrases which blight the report. Indeed, the description “report” is not actually used by the authors; they go instead with “joint Strategic Framework”. The pro-Israel network needs to “improve its own adaptive capacity.” Israel is perceived negatively due to an “unfavourable Zeitgeist.” The anti-Israel network is understood through a “Long-Tail Model.” The list of gibberish goes on.
Why do such anti-Palestinian groups rely so much on such corporate-speak? First of all, it is simple self-interest. They want to improve their own image and guarantee their own jobs. There are tens of millions of dollars of anti-BDS money sloshing about. The anti-BDS ministry, overseen by Gilad Erdan, had a budget of $45 million in 2016. And that’s not even accounting for privately-donated anti-BDS money from anti-Palestinian billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban. Dazzling dim-witted anti-BDS funders and civil servants with hackneyed jargon seems to be a lucrative niche, as Reut and the ADL have discovered.
Furthermore, they do it simply because the reality is that they have no positive suggestions for combating BDS effectively, not least because they have neither moral nor legal right on their side. As the report itself admits, “results remain elusive”, despite the millions spent fighting the movement. Grinstein himself, at an anti-BDS conference held by Israel in New York last month, admitted that it is winning.
“The BDS movement is still active and still strong,” conceded Israeli ambassador to the UN Danny Danon at the same event. “Every day, academic and religious groups, student unions and investment firms are all falling prey to boycott calls.” And these successes keep coming, despite Israel’s attempt to have legislatures and courts in the western world ban BDS through the back door.
Erdan’s ministry is also involved in a campaign of dirty tricks and “black ops”. Back in 2010, Grinstein and Reut advocated that Israeli government agencies and spy services should be “attacking” BDS and aiming to “sabotage” the Palestine solidarity movement. Years later, we can see anti-Palestinian strategies in place such as a campaign of death threats and harassment against Palestinian lawyers in The Hague; cyberattacks on Palestine news and activist websites; and Israel-funded “infiltrators” being sent onto British university campuses to provoke unrest. The new report — sorry, “Strategic Framework” — again calls for hard core “deligitimisers” to be handled “uncompromisingly” and “covertly”. In many other circumstances such threatening language would be grounds for the police to take action against those using it, but these are pro-Israel lobbyists, so they get away with it.
With Israel’s war against BDS getting ever more desperate, we can expect it to get more and more extreme. As long as Israel faces no consequences from Western governments for its human rights violations and war crimes, such dirty tricks campaigns will only intensify.
The Reut-ADL report shows us that while Israel’s global anti-Palestinian war is still dangerous, it has nothing new to propose. However, the lobbyists can’t see the wood for the trees; their loyalty to the rogue Zionist state blinds them to the reality that the only way to bring BDS to an end is for Israel to halt its abuses against Palestinians; end its brutal military occupation; allow refugees to return to their land; and grant full equality to all citizens. All of these are required by international laws and conventions; BDS activists are not asking for anything unsavoury or illegal, unlike their opponents in Reut, the ADL and their ilk, which tells us a lot about the people involved on both sides.