Category Archives: Reut Institute

Breaking: Israeli Knesset plenum votes to investigate human rights groups

The folks over at the Reut Institute are either really proud of themselves just about now, or are beginning to be just a little bit alarmed by the openly anti-democratic lengths Israeli legislators are willing to go to shut down what Reut inelegantly calls the “delegitimizers.” (First it’s human rights groups, and then?)

In an almost perfect display of Rumsfeldian logic, the influential Israeli policy institute has been urging and working with the Israeli government and diplomatic corps to crack down on human and civil rights, student and peace groups it insists are delegitimizing Israel. Their crime? Pointing out the government’s self-delegitimizing behavior, such as violating basic human rights standards when it comes to occupied Palestinians, providing limited civil rights to Palestinians inside the green line, or increasingly, throwing the whole concept of Western-style democracy out the window, even when it comes to Jewish Israelis.

If the latest news marks how Reut, the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and their many quasi-proxy organizations in the US plan on rescuing Israel from ever increasing global isolation, may [your higher power of choice here] help us all.

The latest today from Haaretz in Leftist groups: ‘Witch hunt’ against us will destroy democracy in Israel:

Israeli left-wing organizations decried Wednesday a Knesset plenum decision to support a panel of inquiry to investigate certain groups suspected of “delegitimizing” the Israel Defense Forces.

The plenum’s approval means that the initiative will now be taken to the Knesset House Committee for debate. The initiative proposes investigating the sources of funding for these left-wing groups, and to determine whether money is being funneled from foreign states or organizations linked to terror activities.

Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer deemed the move “another step on the path toward wiping out democracy in Israel” and as a blatant attempt to persecute critics of Israeli policy.

The New Israel Fund said the Knesset’s approval “proved how much the status of democracy has deteriorated in Israel – even in the house of legislators.”

“Democracy cannot function properly without freedom of expression, freedom to be heard, criticism of the system and active human rights groups,” said the funds.

“The political persecution of human rights group will cause great damage to Israel and across the world, and will lead to the delegitimization [of Israel] and the representation of it as a McCarthyite state in which a witch hunt is taking place,” added the NIF.

Forty-seven legislators voted in favor of the motion on Wednesday while 16 voted against.

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What the Reut Institute really wants: NOT one person-one vote

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:

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Reut Institute report author lies about Naomi Klein

Let’s review shall we?

Reporters questioned the Reut Institute about their use of the terms “sabotage” and “attack” in a set of recommendations for how the Israeli government should respond to human rights group who said things they consider a threat. In response, Reut didn’t say, “We were misunderstood and we reject violence of any kind.” But they did suggest that what they mostly meant was sabotage and digging campaigns against individuals who work for human rights organizations- nasty work pioneered by NGO Monitor. (Which may be why one acquaintance at a human rights group that does work in Palestine said that the director sent an email to staff suggesting they come forward now with any personal information that could be used against them. Sad days indeed.)

Reut Institute’s Eran Shayshon got a chance to explain the report on The Current, Canada’s flagship radio morning program : CBC Listen here.

It’s interesting that out of the 92-page report (download it all here), Naomi Klein isn’t mentioned once. Yet Shayshon confidently says that Klein, and her opposition to “Israel’s right to exist”, is one of the main reasons that Toronto is considered a hub of delegitimacy. Only problem? Klein has never been opposed to Israel’s right to exist.

(Another problem? My guess is that there’s a second report or database somewhere that is full of names of people like Klein and specific organizations conspicuously missing from the published report. They knew issuing a list of enemies of the state would cause more of a firestorm, but it’s the obvious next step when you’re fighting a war. And it works in Israel and Palestine, why not the rest of the world?)

The report also says “there was an attempt to boycott the Toronto Film Festival because it thematically spotlighted Tel Aviv”. That’s a lie too. The Toronto Declaration explicitly did not call for a boycott of the festival. It opposed showing films under a celebratory spotlight on Tel Aviv.

What Shayshon says about me is a flat out lie. I have made a personal choice not to advocate any particular political outcome in Israel-Palestine. He can search all my writing and public statements, he won’t find anything. What I do advocate, and what the BDS campaign advocates, is for Israel to abide by all applicable international laws. Any political outcome — whether one state, two state or more — must abide by these universal non-discriminatory principles. Though I do have personal preferences, I have no secret agenda and would support any outcome that conformed to these principles.
Shayshon’s other big lie is his claim that I oppose “Israel’s right to exist”; indeed that I “have stated it out[right].” Once again, I challenge him to find one single example in anything I have said or written that would in any way support this claim. He won’t find it.
This lie could just be slander, and attempt to inflict more “shame” on BDS advocates, as the leaked internal document explained to all of us recently. But I suspect that if challenged, Shayshon would simply claim that to support BDS is to oppose Israel’s existence, a claim I have heard before. This is interesting. Since the unequivocal goal of BDS is to force Israel to abide by international law, what Shayshon seems to be saying by implication is that Israel cannot exist within the confines of international law. I would never make such an argument but it does explain the recent aggressive “lawfare” campaign taking aim at the very existence of these laws.
One last point: if supporting boycotts against a place means supporting its annihilation (the claim being made here and elsewhere), what precisely are we to make of the Gaza seige, infinitely more brutal than anything BDS advocates? Does that mean Israel is denying the right of Gaza to exist?
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Think tank tells Israeli government to declare war on peace groups

They’re baaaaack – Israel’s “most influential” think tank tells Israeli government to “attack” and “sabotage” global peace and human rights groups (as opposed to domestic groups which are already under attack.)

I wrote last month about the Reut (pronounced Ray-OOT) Institute’s report on what they see as the new existential threat to Israel. No longer military, the report said, the primary threat to Israel is political. Israel must fight a “delegitimization network” of peace and human rights groups based largely in four international “hubs”: Toronto, Madrid, London and the San Francisco Bay Area (where Jewish Voice for Peace is located.)

(Now, more of the report is available on-line, including a cool animated PowerPoint! Read terrific in-depth pieces on the new material by Ali Abunimah and Richard Silverstein.)

There are many astonishing elements of the report. One is the blame it places on others including the global left for the increasing political viability of a one-state solution. In fact it is Israel’s never-ending expansion of settlements that has made a two-state solution seem more and more unlikely by the day, not the global human rights movement. What groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) seek to delegitimize is the occupation and massive inequality and human rights violations committed against Palestinians, not Israel itself. Even most Palestinians, polls show, want their own viable state over a one-state solution. (JVP is neutral on the issue of one state or two or three for that matter, supporting any resolution consistent with international law which is largely supported by both parties.)

If the Israelis really wanted the Palestinians to have a state of their own, they could have made it happen years ago and the entire world would have cheered, and since 2002, they would have had full relations with all their Arab neighbors. But instead, the Israeli government has used endless peace negotiations as a way to expand settlements while keeping the international community at bay.  If the one-state solution marks the greatest existential threat to Israel, as the Reut report suggests, the Israeli government has no one to blame
but itself. The global peace and justice movement is the symptom, not the cause.

Secondly, the report actually dares to suggest “sabotage” of groups like Jewish Voice for Peace who are part of an international peace and justice  human rights network and who actively support Israeli and Palestinian activists on the ground (our sites include: www.December18th.org, www.FreeEzra.org, www.TheOnlyDemocracy.org etc..). We take this very seriously. Perhaps this is the way NGOs are
increasingly handled in Israel, especially under Netanyahu. But it’s certainly not how the government, and especially a foreign government, is expected to respond to law- abiding NGOs here in the United States (Ahem, Cointelpro and other efforts notwithstanding). And frankly, we won’t stand for it.

Plus it’s just a stupid idea.

How a report that says in one breath that Israel’s future lies in branding itself as a high-tech, eco-conscious and cultured democracy while simultaneously suggesting “sabotage” and “attacks” on law-abiding peace groups is stunning.  Instead of driving a wedge between “soft” and “hard” critics of Israel, as the report suggests, promoting these kinds of war-like responses against human rights groups will backfire and turn the most casual critics of Israeli policies into supporters of much harsher measures. This, after all, is
the primary legacy of Cast Lead, Israel’s massive attack on Gaza’s entrapped population.

If the Reut Institute really wanted to offer some helpful advice on how Israel might stop the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, they might start by advising the Israeli government to end the
occupation.

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