The Israeli government has been out of the game,
deliberately and wrongly, in fighting BDS and delegitimization. They fail to
appreciate the enormous harm that this phenomenon could cause to Israel, and
when they did, or didn’t, take action the results were damaging to Israel.
Two prime examples of
the international harm caused to Israel, by its own wrong decisions, were the Goldstone
and the Mavi Marmara
With Goldstone, the Israeli Government decided, rather truculently,
not to cooperate with Goldstone, thereby handing the Palestinians a huge PR
With the Mavi Marmara they decided not to give the Gaza
Flotilla sufficient advance intelligence and gravitas and simply send soldiers
onto the ships with paintball guns until their lives were in danger. The result
was fatal and, again, a PR disaster for Israel.
It is only when Israel’s delegitimization is treated with
the same seriousness by our government as it does for terrorism that the tide
will begin to turn.
A past government created a Ministry of Public Diplomacy
and Diaspora Affairs
. One of the things it produced was a tiny booklet called
On the front page is a picture of a man with
a camel. He is saying “Camels are a popular form of transportation in
You couldn’t make this
up! Is this the best our government can do? The booklet gave the ministry’s website. I
went to this website recently. It was closed down for updating.
, a Jewish intellectual and historian,
described the official Israeli public diplomacy approach as one of “sheer
found the government public diplomacy
apparatus as being “fundamentally flawed.”
He recommended the
government to enlist NGO bodies to work alongside governmental ones. In my
opinion, the government should follow President Obama’s foreign policy
principle and lead from behind, letting the effective advocacy groups lead the
way receiving material support from the government with transparency,
cooperation, but no interference.
Those who are involved in the battle, those who are getting
down and dirty on the campuses and other battlefields, when they have attempted
to make headway with Israeli ministries are being treated with contempt, or
ignored, by officials and politicians as if the topic of Israel’s delegitimization,
demonization, BDS, and the growth and global spread of anti-Israel activity was
a minor irritant.
My observation is that the bulk of anti-Israel activism takes
place abroad, far away from the Knesset and the ministries. It had no influence
or resonance on our politicians. It gets in the way of the daily workload of
government officials. It did not resonate on their radar screen, or, if it does,
they bleep it out, until the noise becomes too deafening to ignore.
Only recently have we heard public comments by some of our
ministers, and then only in the context of very public political scuffs between
political rivals with Yair Lapid
saying boycotts will cause serious
economic damage if peace talks fail, while Naftali Bennett
contrary view saying that Israel should not abandon its land due to economic
threats. John Kerry
talked about the boycott threat and Bibi
devoted seven minutes of his 2014 AIPAC address to BDS in response thereby
giving propaganda capital to the BDS Movement.
There are too many conflicting panic noises coming from our
high officials publicly. This is highly damaging. This noise constitutes a major victory for the
who broadcast this as a sure sign of their progress into
mainstream. They announce how Israel is becoming destabilized and they are on
the way to victory. Anything said publicly by Israeli politicians and ministers
act as a megaphone and added publicity in the social media outlets of BDS, and
other anti-Israel action groups. It is
way out of proportion to the economic harm done to Israel by BDS - so far.
We are about to feel the actions of the EU Horizon 2020
with the promised sanctions of anything over the Green Line. They will show their displeasure with Israeli
policies by offering funding and cooperation for Israeli research and
development within the Green Line even as they will pull the plug on any
cooperation with Israel over the Green Line. Is this action anti-Occupation, or
is it actively forcing a European delegitimization policy on Israel? It seems that way as European parliaments
fall like dominos to the support a Palestinian state wave that is sweeping the
continent. Either way, it will certainly feed into the BDS frenzy of hitting on
Israel, giving them the added gravitas and success of EU policy.
Added to this will be the effect of the Palestinian
’s thrust for an affirmative vote in the UN Security Council where
the American veto is, for the first time, in the balance.
The delegitimization campaign against Israel must be treated
with the same seriousness as terrorism because, at its deep heart, it is a form
of economic, diplomatic, and political terrorism designed to isolate Israel in the
way they claim they succeeded in doing to the white apartheid regime of South
Africa. That’s as serious as it can get - turning Israel into a pariah state.
Israel is nothing like the white apartheid regime of
Pretoria but, increasingly, the international community, including public
opinion abroad, have surrendered to the thought control that positions Israel
as the party at fault, as they look on us with jaundiced eyes.
Increasingly it is becoming acceptable to inflict punishment
on Israel deriving from a false narrative put out by the Palestinians and their
hyper-active and well-funded supporters.
We need to look on it as a form of warfare. We are not
officially on the battlefield. We don’t have a central command and control
center to fight this battle. We don’t even have the budget to create the
essential foundation and infrastructure to wage this war. Those fighting the battles
that are taking place abroad in various forums are groups of dedicated local
Israel supporters acting independently.
They are desperately trying to put out a raging inferno
with broomsticks and water pistols. Their efforts are brave and commendable,
but they need the full support of the main fire station in Israel.
Whether on the campus, challenging a biased media, or
applying lawfare, those who have understood the enemy, who they are, where they
operate, what weapons and messages they use, have achieved notable successes. I
can give many examples of how they have achieved these victories. Let me give you
one prime example of volunteer public diplomacy over government intervention.
I mentioned the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010 when Israeli
soldiers rappelling down to this Gaza-bound ship were attacked and activists
were killed in the ensuing fighting. The following year, IDC Herzlia
offered offices and computers to a bunch of social media activists. We set up
what we called the Situation Room
to counter the 2011 Gaza Flotilla
by using the social media as a platform for global public diplomacy. We brought
in a bunch of young computer nerds created a huge social media presence in many
languages using Facebook, Twitter, and other accounts. We led a social media
campaign to name and shame the participants attempting to sail from Greece to
Credit to IDC, Jonathan Davis, and the amazing kids who
manned the computer and laptops, but let me share with you one anecdote that
has been a secret until now.
None of the ships in the 2011 Gaza flotilla managed to leave
the Greek port of Pireaus? How did that happen, do you think?
Let me reveal that it was due to a simple act by a pro-Israel
action group in London called UK Lawyers for Israel.
A member of their
NGO called a colleague in Athens and asked him if there was anything he could
do to help. This man happened to have contacts in the Greek coastguard. After a
thorough, slow, inspection of the ships many defects were found. One tried to
make a run for it and was dragged back to Pireaus and compounded for defying
In the meantime, here in Israel, Shurat HaDin
Lloyds of London and informed them that the flotilla ships were about to defy
the international law by defying the internationally recognized Gaza blockade
and would, therefore, be acting in a criminal manner. Lloyds withdrew their
insurance from the ships. None of the ships sailed to Gaza and the Gaza
Flotilla of 2011 ended in a whimper.
It was a hugely expensive and public failure for the
activists. The success of the anti-flotilla campaign did not come about by the
actions of the Israeli government, nor the Mossad, nor the IDF, but by a bunch
of hasbara volunteers.
As an added bonus, the work of our computer activists uncovered the plan of European anti-Israel activists to launch what they called a "Flightilla" by sending hundreds of activists on various flights to Israel, create demonstrations on arrival into Ben Gurion Airport, and be met by pro-Palestinians to be taken for further disruptions around Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories. Fortunately, we were able to discover the groups, the organisers, and names of demonstrators who had booked their flights to Israel. This information was passed over to the authorities and almost all were prevented from getting on to their flights at the points of departure.
This is how pro-Israel activists, with coordination with Israel, can act as intelligence gathering to offset disruptions that target Israel.
This should be a valuable lesson for our government going
If they intend to get involved, and it’s a big ‘if’
, they must motivate
and materially support the independent groups who are effectively fighting for
Israel with too little resources in the various hubs of delegitimization. These
hubs are located in London, South Africa, Holland, Ireland, Scandinavian
countries, and increasingly in America. They are up against an enemy that
doesn't sleep, that are highly motivated and organized. They are well funded by
the Palestinian Authority and other wealthy donors, as well as by organizations
and charities with money given by European governments.
Currently the Israeli government spends as much on public
diplomacy as a medium sized company spends on marketing Bamba. This is
A warning! The Israel government should not channel their
resources through the major Jewish organizations in the countries where the
battles are being fought. This would be a fatal mistake. These organizations, this year, have failed the domestic Jewish communities they were supposed to represent. They did little to rally people to rallies in support of Israel or even to protest rallies against the rising anti-Semitism in their countries. In the main, this was left to new grassroots groups that have sprung up in the absence of their elected representative.
Israel must read the political map correctly, and they will see that, in some cases, these countries
are headed by wealthy Jews who have an agenda that is not affirmatively
pro-Israel, and who have actively supported fringe groups that are strongly critical of
Israel and act against us. These activist groups have been harmful to Israel by
amplifying the propaganda that leads to boycotts and divestments. Instead, the Israeli government must be
persuaded to channel their resources directly to the affirmative action groups
with transparent records of affirmative pro-Israel action and success.
Our government needs to empower those who are fighting for
us. These people stood up when our government fell down.
The Israeli government should ally with groups and experts
who have conducted intelligence gathering and apply that knowledge where it
will do the most damage to those who are slandering us and acting against us.
These activists in their various countries speak the language, know the terrain
in which Israel’s enemies are active, and are our forward troops in the battle
for Israel’s legitimacy. We need to set up a Command and Control center and
support the troops in areas where victory can be achieved. The enemy is not
invincible. Their message is corrupt, and we can beat them.
You can't win the battle against our delegitimizers until
you identify the enemy and employ the right soldiers against them. I call them
our hasbara warriors. Groups like UK
Lawyers for Israel
, who have won many notable victories for Israel in their
short life, and the newly formed South African Lawyers for Israel
use their knowledge of local, national and regulatory law to prevent boycotts
and other anti-Israel actions. We call this the application of ‘lawfare’
against those who wish to harm us. Similar groups must be encouraged in other
Another great example
was displayed by IDC Herzlia in 2014. A group of six students were
trained in advocacy skills and deployed to South Africa, into the lion’s den,
during the infamous ‘Israel Apartheid Week.’ This was, yet again, a huge success.
The choice of students was our secret weapon. They were six attractive,
eloquent, well-trained Ethiopian students who stood up to the organizers of
IAW. How could these bigoted enemies of Israel possibly respond when an
attractive Ethiopian Israeli girl stands up in the Cape Town campus auditorium
at question time and says, “My name is Israela. I am an Israeli. I am a
student at IDC Herzlia, and served in the IDF, and I am here to tell the
students that I am living proof of the true face of Israel, and that the organizers
of IAW are lying when they call Israel a ‘racist state’”
There is no way the anti-Israel bigots can win when we place
the right people in the right battles.
These are the people who win us the battles against BDS.
Its Stand With Us, not Israeli ministers. It’s NGO-Monitor, not
Israeli officials. It’s Honest Reporting and CAMERA, not Israeli
politicians. It is groups like Sussex Friends of Israel, NW Friends
of Israel, CUFI, CFI, not the national leaders of Jewish
It’s the thousands of individuals, the groups, the NGOs and the
affirmative pro-Israel organizations who are fighting our fight. They must be
supported by our government, by our economic base in industry and commerce,
because every battle they win protects our legitimacy, our good name, and the
economy of our nation.
Barry Shaw is the Special Consultant on Delegitimization Issues
with the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College.