The Assault on Israel's Legitimacy: London as a Case Study

This document focuses on London as case study for the assault on Israel's legitimacy and provides conceptual principles for an effective response.

The assault on the legitimacy of Israel in London

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1. In recent years, Israel has been subjected to a systematic and systemic assault on its political and economic model, which aims to bring about its implosion and is inspired by the fate of the Soviet Union, East Germany, and apartheid South Africa.

2. This assault is increasingly perceived to be a strategic concern for Israel, with potentially existential implications. This understanding underlies the recent mobilization by the Government of Israel (GOI) to offer a systemic response to this challenge.

3. Two forces promote Israel's delegitimization: The Middle East-based Resistance Network that is driven by Islamic and Arab ideology and nationalism, and the primarily Europe-based Delegitimization Network that is driven by political and philosophical ideologies.

4. A network of individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) drive the delegitimization campaign against Israel. These few dozen 'catalysts' operate out of a handful of metropolitan areas that are the networks' 'hubs.'

5. Delegitimizers represent marginal political forces but are increasingly able to mainstream and achieve disproportionate influence. They do so by harnessing support from within the liberal progressive elite, and by focusing on a few arenas in which they enjoy structural advantages, such as the judiciary, academia, churches, and trade unions.

6. In this context, London stands out as a hub of delegitimization, even relative to other geographical locations. London's influence emanates from the city's centrality in several major arenas - including media, diplomacy, academia, non-governmental organization, and judicial - which propel its significant global weight. (See Chapter 1.)

7. The main drivers of delegitimization in the UK are leaders within what is commonly known as the Red-Green Alliance, a reference to the increasing connection between UK-based Islamists and radical-left elements. Due to several societal dynamics, these forces - the 'Reds' on the radical left and the Islamist 'Greens' - are particularly powerful in London (See Chapter 2).

8. This document focuses on the examples of two main catalysts: The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), whose agenda reflects a goal of advancing Israel's fundamental delegitimization, and the network of organizations that are pro-Hamas in London, which has been playing a central and growing role in this campaign (see Chapter 5).

9. London's influence on the global assault against Israel's legitimacy makes it central to this struggle. In order to win, success must be achieved there.

Overarching principles for response

10. Caveat: This document focuses on the structural response to the challenge of Israel's delegitimization. Its scope does not cover a discussion of closely related issues such as the battle of narratives, i.e. the substantive response to delegitimizers' arguments, or the relation between Israel's delegitimization and anti-Semitism.

11. The logic of delegitimization stems from a rejection of Israel's existence, and therefore cannot be made to disappear by policy or public relations (PR). Hence, our working assumption is that neither changing Israel's policies nor improving PR will suffice in the battle against delegitimization, although both can have a significant impact in this context. In fact, credible and consistent commitment by Israel to ending the control over the Palestinian population and to integration and equality of Israel's Arabs citizens is essential for success among liberal and progressive circles.

12. Hence, the campaign against Israel's delegitimization must represent a systemic and structural approach. The following is a set of principles for such a response:

13. Narrow the definition of delegitimization and expand the definition of 'pro-Israel' in order to shrink the base of delegitimizers and expand ours:

  • Delegitimization should be narrowly defined, for example as negating Israel's right to exist and the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

  • Open tent 1: The threshold for membership in the pro-Israel community should be giving Israel the benefit of doubt and possessing the ability to provide a single conceivable context that could make Israel's actions understandable. No prima facie support of any specific policy should be expected.

14. It takes a network to fight a network - The power and resilience of human networks is determined by their 'hubs' and 'catalysts.' Hence, effectively contending with the Delegitimization Network requires embracing a network-based logic and response that focuses on hubs, and undermines the catalysts by mobilizing our network.

  • Open tent 2: GOI and Jewish institutions must get comfortable with a flat, loosely coordinated response.

  • Open tent 3: It takes 'all instruments of the orchestra' to win this fight - from the political right and left. This principle requires embracing the paradox in which the more critical a left-wing voice against Israeli politics, the more credible its stance against delegitimization. Simply put, the most effective voices against Israel's delegitimization come from the far liberal and progressive left.

  • Open tent 4: Encourage experimentation - An effective response will require continuous learning and adaptation based on extensive experimentation, which usually takes place at the edges of the system outside of the traditional institutions.

  • Any organization that embraces network logic and is able to inspire and mobilize can be its catalyst, including synagogues, community centers, and formal institutions, as well as other NGOs and individuals.

  • Mobilize Israeli Diaspora communities, particularly on campuses or in multinational corporations.

  • Be a part of the global network of anti-delegitimization, whose hubs should include the San Francisco Bay Area, Madrid, Paris, Toronto, Brussels, and Johannesburg.

  • Work behind-the-scenes, for example by hiring outside 'movers-and-shakers' to coordinate mobilization work on campuses.

15. Develop public relations and branding practices, as well as the negative branding of the other side.

16. Substantively engage liberal and progressive circles - These represent the battleground between Israel and its allies, and the delegitimizers. Mobilizing this constituency to stand against delegitimization requires substantively responding to their concerns and building personal relationships. Special emphasis should be given to Jewish liberals.

17. Establish a policy and practice of engaging with NGOs focused on Israel on a substantive level, by addressing their concerns, queries, and questions, and by building relations with their boards, management, and professionals.

18. In this context, our task is far simpler than that of the delegitimizers: While they must demonstrate that Israel's actions prove its illegitimacy, we only have to show that there is a single context through which these actions can be understood and justified.

19. Out, name, and shame the delegitimizers. This means systematically exposing information about them, their activities, and the organizations that they operate out of. The goal is to eventually frame them, depending on context, as anti-peace, anti-Semitic, or dishonest purveyors of double standards.

20. The relationship and division of roles between Israeli diplomatic missions and local leadership are critically important to fighting delegitimization. The main attributes of this cooperation are based on the unique values of each side:

  • The local Israeli diplomatic mission should focus on communicating the voice of Jerusalem to the local community and vice versa; serving as a formal front of Israel that draws 'fire.' It should be tasked with 'smoking the enemy out of their caves' by exposing their arguments, mobilization methods, and structure; introducing new and innovative information and analysis; and engaging in the labor-intensive work of relationship-based diplomacy.

  • The local pro-Israel community should take responsibility for: Providing people, funding, resources, and platforms for response; nurturing key relationships across liberal and progressive circles; driving local media campaigns; and mobilizing the loosely orchestrated pro-Israel network.

    In general, the local Jewish community is likely to possess greater sensitivity to local contexts and nuances, enabling it to operate with greater effectiveness against delegitimization.

Guidelines for operational strategy in London

21. As mentioned, London is home to a loosely coordinated local network of delegitimizers and serves as the leading hub of the global Delegitimization Network.

22. Hence, the network that emerges in London to combat delegitimization will not only be tested locally, but must also be an integral part of the global anti-delegitimization network, whose other hubs should include the San Francisco Bay Area, Madrid, Paris, Toronto, Brussels, and Johannesburg.

23. Laying the foundations for a systemic response:

  • Engage in a community-wide deliberation on the meaning of 'delegitimization,' with the aim of narrowing it; and on the meaning of 'pro-Israel,' with the aim of expanding it.

  • Based on these definitions, attempt to establish a code-of-conduct for the community with regards to Israel, which applies to both the left and right, enhances community cohesion, and widens the anti-delegitimization tent.

  • Establish a round table to discuss initiatives for fighting Israel's delegitimization. Encourage synergies without promoting conformity.

  • Prepare an annual calendar of delegitimization events that require mobilization, such as the Israel Apartheid Week and the Global Peace and Unity Conference, and plan accordingly.

  • Prepare an outreach program for synagogues and community centers describing the delegitimization challenge and its perpetrators.

  • Mobilize key Israeli activists, particularly in academic institutions.

  • Assign coordinators for each major arena - such as academia, labor unions, churches, and legal spheres - in order to catalyze the network.

  • Be a part of the global network by connecting with other hubs of the global anti-delegitimization network.

  • How to answer: Provide activists and organizations accessible information to prepare them to address central points of the delegitimization campaign's focus.

  • Orchestrate the outing-naming-shaming campaign against key delegitimizers, based on detailed information.

  • Engage with the leading NGOs personally and substantively.

  • Focus on building a network of relationships with the elite of the liberal and progressive circles, assign organizational and individual responsibilities, and engage them personally and substantively.

  • Establish taskforces for each central arena, including campus and academia, judiciary, trade unions, and churches.

24. Additional action items - Many of the guidelines are self-explanatory, deriving from the effectuation of the infrastructure described above. Additional issues for consideration include actions plan to:

  • Convene an annual event that brings the network together, including the diversity of voices that stand against Israel's delegitimization.

  • Plug into the global anti-delegitimization network by connecting with other hubs through key contact people and meeting them if possible, beginning with the JFNA Israel Action Network and with the JCRC of the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • Initiate alternative constructive venues that promote human rights or peace in order to break the perception of BDS as the only option to protest, impact, and engage. Examples for such venues may include humanitarian projects, bridge-building efforts, or dialogue forums.

  • Focus on compromising the presence of organizations politically sympathetic to Hamas in London and on delegitimizing the BDS Movement.

  • Promote and expose joint projects in fields in which Israel excels - such as humanitarian activity in the developing world, biological and medical technology, emergency response, and science and the arts - involving British and Israelis NGOs and/or government agencies.

  • Initiate or encourage twinning projects that emphasize a non-conflict-oriented Israeli brand and bring value to the local community, such as in medical areas, emergency response, education, etc.

  • Consider establishing an Israeli cultural center (Israel House), especially within Jewish communal infrastructures.

Reut's role

25. Reut is committed to supporting the implementation of these principles in London by offering strategic support and consultation, and by making connections to global communities and relevant Israeli government