A week after his visit to AIPAC, I am left wondering if it is possible for anyone other than Bibi Netanyahu to so beautifully embody the notion of “strutting victimization”. And yet, it’s not just Bibi who can taunt Israel’s primary sponsor, the United States, with plans for endless settlement expansion while simultaneously playing the powerless victim. (I’m sure my Israeli friends have much to say on this phenomenon.) The people at Israel’s Reut Institute have also mastered this unpleasant juxtaposition of aggression and powerlessness.
As Carol Sanders put it so beautifully in The Only Democracy?:
Reut Institute, a leading Israeli national security and socioeconomic policy think tank, has released its preliminary report on “The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall” In an extraordinary exercise in doublethink, Reut scratches its head over Israel’s declining diplomatic status in the aftermath of its assault on Gaza and the Goldstone Report, and concludes that, yet again, it is the victim.
Among its key victimizers, and therefore targets? Human rights and peace organizations.
One of the Reut Institute report co-authors, a man named Eran Shayshon, probably had his dream come true when he picked a fight with journalist and activist Naomi Klein which we covered here on Muzzlewatch. Shayshon demonstrated one of the paper’s recommended attack techniques by going on Canada’s top radio show to make claims about what he’s certain Klein wants, in spite of her actual record of statements. But she fought back.
Now he’s taking it to the pages of Ha’aretz. It’s hard to know if Shayshon believes what he says, or if his lines are being fed to him by a Hasbara-Message-Scrambler which randomly spits out favorite Hasbara attack cliches. Keep in mind these fun tidbits about the report itself before we get into Shayshon’s attempt to regain his dignity by first dismissing Klein but then going on to write about her in-depth, and even attempting to introduce a new word into the lexicon, “Kleinism.” The Reut Report:
- Carol Sanders again: “The Report’s analysis is drenched in the language of victimization: the Resistance Network is “rooted in, and nourished by, Israel’s entrapment in the Palestinian arena.” (The Occupier is entrapped!) …The Delegitimization Network “tarnishes Israel’s reputation, ties Israel’s hands in defending itself against military assaults, and advances the ‘one-state solution’.”
- The Reut report actually uses the words occupation and discrimination in quotes. In the case of occupation, repeatedly. There is only ‘occupation’ and “‘discrimination’ against Arabs”. (Let’s just put ‘international law’ and heck, ‘phosphorus’ and ‘Palestinians’ in quotes while we’re at it.)
- The report portrays Israel as trying desperately to achieve a two state solution, blocked only by Palestinians and Arabs. There are no illegal settlements making a one state solution more likely each day. Occupation is just a word. The wall isn’t built on Palestinian land. Gaza, well…. Naturally, the report regards the by now well-documented charges that successive Israeli governments have largely been interested in settlement expansion, as hate-mongering and demonization.
- The report insists that most criticism of Israel from a human rights perspective is not delegitimization, yet then goes on to promote “sabotaging” what it calls delegitimization networks, using as its only example highly public personal attacks on Human Rights Watch workers which it approvingly calls making them pay a “price tag.”
In today’s “price tag” attack piece from Ha’aretz, What Naomi Klein really wants, the essence of Shayson’s charge is this:
In my response to Klein, I argued that despite never explicitly rejecting Israel’s right to exist, the fact that in her work, she singles Israel out, demonizes it, calls it a perpetrator of apartheid, and suggests it was born in sin, leaves little room for doubt regarding her intentions.
He is obsessed with what he is sure is Klein’s belief that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist, but why does he care? The famous Israeli statesman Abba Eban famously said “Nobody does Israel any service by proclaiming its ‘right to exist.’ …Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement….(New York Times, November 18, 1981).
And the cliche argument?
a) The “Singling out” argument. I love this tautological argument because the minute you open your mouth to mention Israel, you have committed the sin of singling it out. (Apparently you can complain about N. Korea, Monsanto, health care reform and Sudan without actually unfairly singling them out.)
Of course, being accused of “singling out” only counts if you are critical. If Israel is one of the few top human rights violators that is not sanctioned by the United States; if there is “no space” between US and Israeli policy unlike any other country in the world; if Israel is the top recipient of US aid; if it is the only human rights violator that repeatedly enjoys diplomatic protection from the world’s only superpower–those things are NOT singling out. That’s just as it should be. And if you take on Israel’s occupation precisely because of the aforementioned ways that it is singled out (in addition to the fact that the conflict, by virtue of sheer location, involves most of the world’s population), why, you’re picking on Israel!
In Klein’s case, the idiocy of such a charge is even more apparent since she has spent an entire career documenting structural inequality all over the world. These days, she’s writing mostly about Haiti. Sometimes about Chile. There’s the IMF, the WTO, the climate change Copenhagen summit . Israel’s occupation, the attack on Gaza… talking about these issues is all in a day’s work. But in the funhouse Hasbara mirror, Israel is apparently all Klein writes about.
b) “The Demonizing/Use of Apartheid” charge. This is also a classic because, once again, the second you call out Israel on human rights violations and neglect to mention 5 other countries (which begs the question, why would you want to be mentioned on a longer list of violators), you’re apparently demonizing the country.
As to using Israel and apartheid in the same sentence- you’re free to disagree with the usage of the term, but we are simply past the point of no return on the acceptability of the comparison. The term is used regularly in the pages of Ha’aretz, and has been used by former Israeli cabinet ministers Shulamit Aloni and Yossi Paritzky, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Israel’s attorney-general Michael Ben-Yair, Henry Siegman- an ordained Orthodox rabbi and former national director of the American Jewish Congress– and so on and so forth.
Are all of these people to be banned from the public square too? Are they all committed to the erasure of Israel, or could it be that Israel’s only true friends these days are those committed to a reality-based conversation about the problem and its solution. Is it possible that Klein and others talk about Israel precisely because they actually care about what happens there? And worse, what if? what if they are right? Doesn’t that morally obligate one to pursue any nonviolent means at one’s disposal to end such systematic discrimination?
c) The “Born in Sin/do not touch 1948″ argument
Former Ha’aretz editor David Landau has a sobering op-ed today, Israel is sliding toward McCarthyism, in which he recounts the story of a conversation on Israeli Army radio about a proposed bill that would give a three year jail sentence to anyone “mourning the Nakba ["the catastrophe," as the Palestinians see 1948 and after] on Independence Day”. The respected jurist being intervieewd on the show said a better solution to the “problem” is a bill, which is working its way through the Knesset now, which would cut off state funding “from any local authority marking the Nakba on Independence Day.” Landau remarks at the casual nature of the conversation, the total disinterest in the fact that they were talking about banning free speech and thought in a democracy.
It shouldn’t be a controversial proposition that knowing, rather than erasing, the whole historical narrative of 1948, is absolutely necessary for peace and reconciliation. Especially for we history-obsessed Jews. But in Israel, there are those who think such an assertion should get one put in jail. I can hold the fact that the greatest day in my grandparents’ lives was simultaneously the worst day in my Palestinian friends’ grandparents’ lives? I also can hold the fact that the promised land, the U.S., for my family was a place of genocide for my Native American friends. Does that mean I really want to see Israel or the United States destroyed? Come on!
What Reut Institute and Shayson really want.
What Shayshon says they are fighting against is a one-state solution, which would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Of course he has every right to oppose a one-state solution, but not to engage Israel’s security forces in fighting legitimate nonviolent resistance to occupation, which is exactly what Reut does.
But the most telling part of the report, which Shayshon repeats in his oped, is the near panic at the idea of the BDS/boycott, divestment and sanctions movement:
According to this logic, what worked in bringing down white South Africa in 1994 can also work in Israel’s case: Building a global grassroots movement for boycotts, sanctions and divestments that will eventually impact official policies in the leading nations of the world so that the political and economic model of Israel collapses under pressure, and surrenders to the principle
of ‘one person, one vote.’
That’s right, they think the push for one-person-one vote is WRONG. It’s something you “surrender” to only under pressure. And they’re completely open about it. And they state it over and over again, which is why they fear the South Africa analogy.
Call me old-fashioned, but I fully support one-person – one vote. Anything less than that is wrong. And Palestinians living under occupation have much less than that. (Under full Israeli control, they live with some trappings, but none of the substance of a democracy.)
Whether Palestinians exercise their one person/one vote right in a Palestinian state or a bi-national state is at this point up to the Israeli government. But from a moral and now political perspective, this 43-year occupation with 3.5 Palestinians living under Israeli control can not continue.