By Ben White, Electronic Intifada – 1 June 2013
This week in Jerusalem, the Israeli foreign ministry hosted the fourth international conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.
As I previously blogged, this is “a gathering that has served as an important focus for efforts to fight Palestine solidarity activism and boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns.” The pre-conference agenda and working group mission statements made it clear that hasbara — propaganda — was once again going to be high on the agenda.
Reproduced below is the “Action Plan” presented to delegates by the working group tasked with examining “delegitimization” and BDS. This is transcribed from slides shown to the conference, and the video can be viewed above.
This document needs to be read, shared, and taken into account by activists when planning campaigns and strategies.
BDS and Delegitimization Task Force
Divide Responsibilities – Rather than everyone trying to do everything, identify the comparative advantage of each organization to maximize their effectiveness in proactively and reactively addressing delegitimization threats. The British approach could be a model. For example, encourage groups with ties to labor to focus on working with unions, those with expertise in international relations to devote their attention to members of UN agencies, those involved in media and PR to concentrate on journalists and messaging, those with legal expertise to explore legal avenues for fighting BDS and those active on campus with students, faculty and other stakeholders.
Enhance Intelligence Capabilities – We need to have more information about the organizations promoting delegitimization, including their membership, funding and planned activities. Nations, foundations and other funders supporting BDS should be named and shamed. Map connections between BDS organizations and their supporters, such as the PA [Palestinian Authority]. Also investigate the BDS efforts toward multinational corporations.
Improve Rapid Response Capabilities – this is one area that has improved since the last Global Forum. By making better use f LAN, the Dream Team and other organized responders, we can provide advice, resources and anything else that local stakeholders may need or want to determine how to respond to BDS campaigns in communities and on campus.
Using Legal Measures – Identify laws that can be used in different countries or states to fight discriminatory practices such as BDS. French law is a model that should be strengthened and replicated where possible.
Lobbying – Political organizations should lobby elected officials to adopt and strengthen anti-discrimination laws. They should also educate officials about the connections between delegitimization and anti-Semitism. Attention should also be given to the positive aspects of Israel and, especially, illustrate how Israeli innovations in education, agriculture, science and other areas can benefit their constituents [see, for example, Israel and the States]. Officials should be brought to Israel and encouraged to sign formal agreements [e.g. States to State Agreements with Israel] to enhance cooperation at the local, state and federal level. Push back against hostile diplomats and recruit high-profile former officials who will speak out against delegitimization (e.g. Friends of Israel). Take pre-emptive action to encourage officials to make positive statements about Israel and denounce delegitimization (e.g. Canada’s statement on Iran).
Educating the Media – the media too often parrots whatever anti-Israel spokespeople and organizations tell them. The media must also be educated about the distinctions between the legitimate criticism of Israel and delegitimization and how certain types of attacks on Israel have become the anti-Semitism of this century. Create a code of conduct for Middle East journalists and encourage them to use it. Help friendly media to increase their visibility (e.g. GOI [Government of Israel] giving exclusives).
Include Anti-Discrimination Programs in Education – Students should be sensitized to the distinctions between criticism and bigotry and the historical implications of allowing discriminatory acts to go unchecked.
Establish Strategic Guidelines – Some individuals and groups believe in responding or trying to prevent any delegitimization activity, sometimes in direct opposition to the wishes of local stakeholders who must live with the consequence. We have learned that overreaction can exacerbate a situation and give the delegitimizers publicity and credibility that they would not otherwise receive if they were ignored or a more tactical approach adopted. Ideally, we will develop guidelines to evaluate a threat and determine the appropriate response (ignoring, quiet diplomacy, public campaigns, or all-out opposition).
There is a further “Action Plan” viewable online, produced by the conference’s working group on “Antisemitism on Campuses.” The recommendations are presented by Charles Asher Small, who previously headed the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism – until it was axed for being not very good. Small says that “one of the recommendations was to name and shame” and that “scholars attacking Israel” should “pay a price.”
Scholars should critically examine their scholarship and look for discrepancies – footnotes that don’t work, arguments that may have been plagiarized, and the like – and if one or two of these scholars are discovered, the message would be sent very clearly that if anyone wants to attack Jews that they may run the risk of professional humiliation.
Small also references Prof. Manfred Gerstenfeld, who last year wrote an op-ed calling for the Israeli government to combat delegitimization “as military and cyber wars are fought,” with Mossad the “logical candidate” to be assigned as “the focal point to fight this war.”