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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Liveblog - De-legitimization: Who is at Fault? Us or Them?

This is a liveblog of a panel discussion called De-legitimization: Who is at Fault? Us or Them? You can find details of the panelists here.

Abe Foxman will give the first opening remarks. Why us? Why are we treated differently from all other peoples and nations? Dwelling on question of who is to blame does not serve us well. Trying to find someone to blame distracts us from the true nature of the dilemma. He proposes to focus on what Israel has been dealing with since its creation as a Jewish state: Arab rejection. 1947, 1948, Arab boycott, 1967, and then three more subtle versions: two-state solution without end of conflict, keeping alive demand for right of return (which scuttles chance for successful negotiations) and unilateral declaration of Palestinian state, one sure outcome of which would be continued conflict. Cites Abu Mazen's recent NY Times op-ed. Until Palestinians give signs that they are ready to accept Israel and end conflict, we should view delegitimization as the same sheep in old clothing. It's a rejection of the basic Jewish existence in its own homeland. They don't deserve all the attention we are giving them.

Irwin Cotler says that what's new here is not the delegitimization but the laundering of delegitimization such as the rubrics of human rights, and anti-racism, which make delegitimization seem like it represents all that is good. They have reframed the Arab-Israeli conflict as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that paints us as the villain for denying the Palestinians self-determination. If you posit Israel as the violator of human rights it becomes the anti-Christ of our times. Palestinianism has become a poster child for human rights. The delegitimization has been mainstreamed by the elites. And then there's the juxtaposition of the end of the Cold War and the movement into Durban I.

At every given moment there is a resolution or similar emanating from the United Nations or one of its forums. These forums are attended by diplomats, media, etc. which creates a critical mass of exposure to delegitimization. These decisions read like legal judgments. The focus is to say that Israel is doing something illegal, which is why they focus on the settlements.

They use international law as cover - known as lawfare. This is the war of delegitimization under international law. Example: universal jurisdiction.

Delegitimization under human rights rubric. E.g Goldstone.

Delegitimization under anti-racism rubric - call Israel an apartheid or Nazi state.

He says we have to turn this paradigm around and make it clear that its radical Islam and tyrannies like Syria that are the real source of apartheid.

Malcolm Hoenlein starts out "I agree." He wonders whether at the other side's conferences they also ask whether they are at fault or whether we are at fault. He says we have to stop thinking about ourselves as grasshoppers (quotes last week's Torah portion). The threat is because Israel is and not because Israel has done something wrong. What Israel represents and the values of the Jewish people are what threaten the delegitimizers. This issue and how we counter this will affect us for generations.

He does not believe this is like the 1930's but there are a lot of signs that raise questions about us. This is like a tumor that grows quietly - it's a cancerous process. What matters is what we do and not what our enemies do. We should not tolerate this. The attack is against the Jewish people and not just against the Jewish state. It's time for us to step back and not question whether it's our responsibility. This is a modern blood libel and Hitler's lies spread much more quickly today than they did in the 1930's. We saw the blueprint for this at Durban I. You can trace this back and see everything from there. Globalization has made this far more complex. There is no place you can go to get justice. This involves every sector of our society.

They're trying to deny us our roots and our right to be in the Jewish state. They take away our past to take away our future. They want to intimidate us and we see kids on campus afraid to let anyone know they're Jews. Incitement cannot be ignored. There's nothing worse than Jews who don't get it, who put their heads in the sands and deny reality. 70 years ago they knew but did not want to know. We can't pretend not to know.

It's time for Jews and supporters of Israel to go on the offense. You can't win a game by just playing defense.

We won't be judged by acts of our enemies but by silence of our friends.

Miri Eisin wants to talk about 40 and under crowd and what they've seen for the last 25 years. She wants to talk about the words because the images they have seen of Israel for the last 25 years is what gives the delegitimizers their strongest point. An image is worth 1,000 words. For 25 years IDF has been shown negatively. From mid-May to mid-June Israel has been framed via the delegitimizer's eyes. Does Israel have right to open fire against those who breach its borders? The framing of the debate here is only negative for the last 25 years and it's always about the military and whether they have the right to defend Israel. Whenever Israel is in the news in the world, it's only through the conflict (please don't tell me she's going toward the rebranding Israel thing).

Media image of Israel is part of delegtimizers' strength.

The debate is happening on social media for all the young people. You have to get Israel into your comfort zone. That's where people want to be - numbers count. How many of us are in that world? For the 25-year olds you have to be on one side or the other. We can't afford to have people who don't care. When we open our eyes and start working, we have to step into the 40-and-unders' social media. The last six months have impacted the exact world that we're talking about now and have to talk about it on their terms. The images and words will define us 5-10 years from now.

Peter Goldsmith says we have to look at this from the question of what to do about it. But it's up to us Jews and not Israel's supporters. Two main points: Ability and willingness of Israelis and Jews to engage is important. For example, Goldstone's retraction. What if the report would have been different? Was there sufficient reason not to engage. Goldsmith says that we have to be prepared to engage with those issues. We need to go out and confront the people who are attacking us. It's not just Israel's supporters - it's right-minded people more generally. So Goldsmith thinks it's good that Israel investigated the flotilla and didn't just close the fortress walls.

Michael Herzog says that we are not and should not be asking whether we are at fault. He distinguishes between delegitimization and legitimate criticism. Second, Israeli government sending lawyers to international forums to engage.

I went off this for a while - partly to conserve my battery. At the moment, they're talking about changing the words with which we frame the issues. Miri Eisin says we shouldn't call it delegitimization. Malcolm Hoenlein says to call settlements communities (and Eisin gives him a funny look - why?). Foxman says to stop giving them all the attention.

Someone in the audience (Ken Bialkin - could not see him from here but I've been on business deals with him) suggests we should fight the resolution for a 'Palestinian state' just like Foxman's father tore up the Zionism is racism resolution in the UN (I think it was Foxman's father - not sure on that).

Another person in the audience says we're looking for victim status and accuses panel of evading issue (yes, she's Israeli). Surreal. Audience murmuring.

Foxman says we're not spooked by prospect of UN vote. Cotler says that heart of BDS movement is academia and that's where it has to be targeted.

Battery ran out so must close this. Will tweet via cell phone if anything big comes up.

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At 3:10 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

There is a double standard.

Jews get judged harshly for things that's routine with other peoples.

The answer to that is Jews should stop trying to devise policies that please the rest of the world. They should take care of themselves and not worry about what others think about them.

That's only common sense.

At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah. The notion that Israel's fate rests in changing what's behind the ears of "youth" visiting social networks internationally is a big stretch. Does China try to convince the world it has the right to colonize Tibet? No. Nu?

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

I'm looking for a session back the other way... what can U.S. Jews (who may or may not meet specified bloodline/rabbi-following criteria) do to make friends with the Israeli govt Rabbis. It mainly matters because these Rabbis represent the Israeli govt. These kids probably don't pay much attention, but their parents do. All through the '90s, parlor meetings, etc. directed communal funds and individual donations toward programs for immigration, education, etc. for Ethiopian Jews. It was a fabulous undertaking, but left some U.S. Jews wondering how Israel could be so welcoming to the Ethiopians (possibly without certified lineage) and so hostile to U.S. Jewish communities. We always say, "Oh, the Israelis have so much else to deal with... we can't bring this up now." It's an innocuous and long-running trend that now has traversed an entire generation (probably more). Two possible ways to solve this... Israeli govt Rabbis sending messages of friendship to U.S. Jews, even if they are in conflict with U.S. Rabbis (of all streams, by the way). This could include leadership on long=distance learning, etc. And/or secondly, the Israeli public speaking up to counter any negative sliming that is directed at the U.S. Jews by the Israeli govt Rabbis.

At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sunlight: "Rabbis. Rabbis. Rabbis."

Repeat ad nauseum.

At 9:38 PM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Shy Guy: You got it, dude. You've got the "Rabbis. Rabbis. Rabbis." in the govt of the Jewish State of Israel and they are going to pick, choose, block, slime, and discredit... you can be sure to stand with them! Or maybe you've developed a useful distance learning module that will help lead the outlanders inward...

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why don't you spit it out, Sunlight? I live in Israel and as much as some rabbis cause some problems, our biggest problem is almost all of the politicians are causing almost all of the problems.

So what is it? You leave little choice, so I can only guess. You're not halachically Jewish, perhaps? You belong to sects of Jews who have no historical validity according to Torah law?

Cough it up, already. You'll feel better.


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