The Jewish Chronicle in England has a report on a “secret” conference last week in London that wasn’t all that secret, aimed at the greatest threat to Israel these days, the movement to delegitimize the idea of an ethnocracy. Israel’s intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz was there, joining “dozens of leading politicians, campaigners and grass-roots activists… for a secret conference on tackling delegitimisation of Israel.”
I’m not sure how you have a “gala” dinner at a “secret” conference, but Ron Lauder, the American billionaire/philanthropist who heads the World Jewish Congress, spoke and described the “lawfare” methods for taking on this existential challenge:
Ronald Lauder told the 140 guests that countering the boycott movement might be the most important work they ever do.
He said: “…We will send the message that a campaign against Israel is a double-edged sword. We are not powerless — far from it. We have the resources. We have the intelligence. Most important, we have unbounded determination.”
Mr Lauder promised greater use of legal means to challenge boycotts.
“We will draft and lobby for legislation that will withhold government funding from academic institutions that boycott Israel,” he said.
“We will draft and lobby for federal anti-discrimination statutes in the United States against banks, businesses and governments that target only Israel. We will follow the money to find out just who is funding these attacks on Israel and if there is any connection to terrorism.”
Nancy Kricorian of Code Pink said that this is a refrain on the anti-BDS front: that somehow Palestinian solidarity folks are getting a lot of money to protest occupation.
My favorite moment was at a big Ahava demo outside a Ricky’s in Brooklyn, a reporter for Israel Channel Ten waved her hand at the assembled and asked me, “Who pays for all this?” I laughed and said, “For what? The poster board and felt-tipped markers? Everyone here is a volunteer, except for two part-time employees for local organizations.”They really think there is money being funneled to us via, I don’t know, Saudi Arabia or Iran or something.
For a relatively small, underfunded, mostly volunteer movement, we seem to be having a big impact. Working with the Stop SodaStream media/social media team, I am struck by how smart and strategic our partners are. Ron Lauder may have the millions to throw at this problem, and the lawfare thing is going to be rough because it will suck up our resources, but we have the brains and courage.
Speaking of lawfare–if you know people who want to give money to support the BDS movement–we should be throwing checks at Palestine Solidarity Legal Support. It’s run by Dima Khalidi, and my friend Radhika Sainath is one of the staff attorneys.
Asa Winstanley at Middle East Monitor offers this analysis of the London conference, pointing out the weakness of its position:
Although that last reported quote from Lauder was probably meant to sound intimidating (especially with the article’s multiple references to Israeli “intelligence”) it actually reads more like preaching to the choir: the die-hard anti-Palestinian faithful are still trying to convince themselves.
Israeli lawfare represents at its heart, a movement that has so thoroughly lost the debate it has to increasingly resort to bullying tactics…
In those circles, there is a perception that Israel’s case is so self-evidently correct that the only problem is explaining it in the correct way – an image problem. Hence the failed “Brand Israel” strategy of a few years ago.
If Israel has an image problem, it’s only because it ultimately has a morality problem. As long as it tortures Palestinian fathers to death, and leaves millions of people whose lives it controls without some of the most fundamental human rights, Israel will continue to have an “image problem”.
As long as millions of Palestinian refugees are refused their inherent right to return to their homes in current-day Israel, for the crime of simply not being Jewish, the Palestinian struggle will continue. “Lawfare” is just a finger in the dam.