Maybe you remember the Israeli thinktank that came up with a semi-deluded battleplan to
counter the "delegitimizers" of Israel? In a sign that the boycott movement is having a real effect, and catching on among people of conscience in the west, the Reut Institute has called for mobilizing elites
in western societies to counter the grassroots efforts to make Israel accountable for its behavior.
Now the battleplan is being put into effect; and just who is Reut taking on? Well, here is a Reut expert, Eran Shayshon, speaking on the CBC’s
morning radio show last month about the danger posed by two Canadians, Naomi Klein and John Greyson, the filmmaker who initiated the Toronto Declaration of last year. As Klein herself has pointed out in a different context,
what Shayshon is doing is all about trying to "extremize" reasonable criticisms of Israel.
First I will summarize Shayshon’s ideas. (To get ‘em from the horse’s mouth, go 2/3 of the way into Part 3
on the link.) And after that I publish a response from Klein.
Shayshon says that there is an "emerging threat" to Israel in the "political arena" that Israeli leaders are not aware of, because it is in their "blindspot." "We call it the forces of delegitimacy, which are combined of basically two arenas. One is the Middle East base… an axis stretching from Iran to Hamas and Hizbullah." And this base is not "talking any more about storming Tel Aviv with tanks. They’re talking about the implosion of Israel from within," through the pressure of delegitimzing the state and using "asymmetric warfare."
"Parallel to that there is an evolution in what we call the network of delegitimacy in the west. In this regard, we understood that it only takes a very few places to carry the burden of delegitimacy of Israel– cosmopolitan cities mainly within which political institutions, media, NGOs, converge and create a kind of special global influence. Now a few of those– if you call hubs– carry an anti-Israel sentiment which stretches far beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, and we call them anti-Israel hubs…
"Now the evolution of these two arenas are creating a detrimental feedback loop to Israel…"
Shayshon goes on to say that in the Middle East arena, the actors are "doing everything they can to bring down the paradigm of the two state solution." While, in the "west hub," they are trying to bring on the one-state solution. Toronto is on his list because of the Toronto International Film Festival protest, and because there are "significant individuals that reside in Toronto and that promote delegitimacy like Naomi Klein, John Greyson."
(Note that the Toronto Declaration
didn’t even call for boycott, it objected strongly to the Toronto film festival’s official connection with the Israeli gov’t
as part of the country’s rebranding in the wake of Gaza.)
Under questioning by CBC’s Anna Maria Tremonti, Shayshon concedes that "these arenas [west and east] are not connected one to the other… however, we do see a linkage… [It is] not a headquarters based conspiracy against Israel [but] delegitimacy is basically the argument or trying to undermine Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state… Naomi Klein have stated it out. That is I think a fair accusation."
This is interesting too: Shayshon said that "Those who promote delegitimacy in the west are on the edges of the margin of local politics, [presumably a reference to blogs like this one] however we do think they pose a very great threat to Israel because of a few dynamics… First of all they manage to harness soft critics of Israeli policy…
They manage to influence softer politics thru BDS. And [by] deploying the lexicon of human rights."
Tremonti objects that Shayshon is trying to muzzle criticism of Israel. He responds that it "is very important to have… criticism against Israeli policies which are wrong," but there are some criticisms that stretch far beyond the legitimate. I.e., you cannot use the word apartheid, or talk about BDS. But as Klein herself has pointed out, many reasonable people have reached just those conclusions…
Naomi Klein responds:
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, an 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?