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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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Popcorn effect: the world is changing

For those of you old enough to remember making popcorn in a pot over the fire or stove, you know you have to wait a long time as the heat builds up slowly. Finally, just one lonely kernel pops. Then, an eternity later, another one pops on the other side of the pot. Wait awhile, and another one pops. When you’re really hungry, it can feel like forever. But then something happens- the frequency starts to change and you get 2 or 3 kernels popping at a time, first here and then there. And then, the unthinkable happens- it’s as though all the kernels start popping simultaneously in a big cacophony until there’s no room left in the pot.

Well, it’s hard not to feel like we’re finally getting the popcorn we’ve been waiting for,  a sudden acceleration of open speaking and thinking, after years of more solitary popping of voices here and there. The war on Gaza has gone a long way in making that happen. The most recent example? After Jon Stewart and  Bill Moyers on Gaza, or the NYT’s Roger Cohen’s amazing columns, we have The Los Angeles Times, which on the same day, in a spirit of real openness to debate, printed Ben (son of Barbara) Ehrenreich’s Zionism is the problem. who wrote:

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

and Judea (father of Daniel) Pearl’s Is anti-Zionism hate? who lays out why he thinks “anti-Zionism is in many ways more dangerous than anti-Semitism.”

… modern society has developed antibodies against anti-Semitism but not against anti-Zionism. Today, anti-Semitic stereotypes evoke revulsion in most people of conscience, while anti-Zionist rhetoric has become a mark of academic sophistication and social acceptance in certain extreme yet vocal circles of U.S. academia and media elite. Anti-Zionism disguises itself in the cloak of political debate, exempt from sensitivities and rules of civility that govern inter-religious discourse, to attack the most cherished symbol of Jewish identity.

Three cheers for the Los Angeles Times who will certainly be targeted by right-wing groups for daring to actually allow a real debate. A colleague of mine who suggested to me that while the rest of the pundit (and academic class) is shifting, quite dramatically, the dominant institutional Jewish world (of which my colleague is a part), not knowing what to do, is becoming even more closed and rigid. IMHO, Judea Pearl’s essay, which focuses endlessly on we Jews as victims but fails to even once acknowledge the undeniable price paid by Palestinians for the founding of Israel, is an example of this deeply emotional but thoroughly corrosive phenomenon.

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