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Inside the ‘secret’ public-private partnership Israel is using to fight BDS

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When journalist Marcus Dysch reported on an April 2014 gathering at London’s Hilton Metropole hotel, involving the leaders of pro-Israel organizations from 25 different countries, he called it a “secret” conference. Evidently not a very well-kept secret.

Yet given that the “Global Coalition for Israel” (GC4I) initiative began in late 2010 (p.11), little is known about this project – which Dysch described as “part of the Israeli government’s efforts to co-ordinate international responses to delegitimization and boycott campaigns”.

Despite the semi-covert nature of the GC4I project, which is now entering its seventh year, it is possible to piece together an understanding of its structure and aims from scraps of information online.

Via the Internet Archive, a description of the very first meeting in December 2010 can be read. We learn that approximately 115 pro-Israel activists from about 60 different organizations in over different 30 countries attended the event in Jerusalem. The project involves them in direct collaboration with no less than 7 Israeli government ministries.

These appear to include the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to evidence given to a Knesset committee meeting on international hasbara in July 2013.

Speakers at the inaugural 2010 meeting included an array of the most senior figures from both the Israeli government and the pro-Israel establishment, especially in the US, notably Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Malcolm Hoenlein, head of the umbrella group the Conference of Presidents.

Maram Stern, Deputy Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, which co-facilitates GC4I with the Israeli government and sponsored that first gathering, described it as “a very big deal”. The aim was to end the perceived lack of co-ordination within the pro-Israel movement, a concern frequently voiced by Israel-advocates.

Yosef “Yossi” Kuperwasser, ex-director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs (MSA) – which leads Israel’s work against the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement – briefly alluded to the GC4I project in February 2015, describing it as a “loose structure to better synthesize and coordinate our efforts”.

The Israeli government appears to be trying to get pro-Israel groups around the world singing from a similar hymn sheet. GC4I’s PR strategy is reportedly to emphasis “shared values” and is non-coincidentally the same as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office. The belief that it is the most successful messaging approach is “rooted in extensive public opinion research”.

According to one source, GC4I meetings are held annually. Another supposedly “top-secretclosed conference as part of the initiative took place in Jerusalem in February 2016, organized by the MSA and intended to “consolidate and refine the efforts of pro-Israel groups combatting BDS”. There, US Republican pollster Frank Luntz advised pro-Israel leaders to claim that Israel wants dialogue, and argue that BDS advocates are obstructing it.

Minister for Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan – dubbed “Israel’s answer to the BDS movement” – told the leaders of 150 pro-Israel organizations: “In this battle, cooperation between Israel and the pro-Israel community is not just a good idea but a necessity. I can’t do it alone. We are all on the front line together.”

Militaristic analogies like this are well-established among supporters of Israel’s apartheid regime. But the GC4I project also infuses the fight against BDS with the language of neoliberalism.

According to a biography of Dan Diker which appears in a report called BDS Unmasked: Radical Roots, Extremist Ends, GC4I is a “a public-private partnership”. Diker co-founded GC4I when he worked at the World Jewish Congress.

So-called “PPPs” – long-term collaborations between governments and the private sector – exploded with the rise of privatisation, especially since the 1990s. In the case of GC4I, the phrase suggests that the Israeli government sees itself as contracting out its fight against BDS.

We already knew that the MSA’s anti-boycott budget included money “earmarked for Israeli tech companies” to carry out digital surveillance and propaganda work for the government. But GC4I shows that Israel is also seeking to instrumentalise, co-opt and “operate” civil society organizations in the service of state power.

What explains this urge to outsource?

In May 2016, Gilad Erdan declared. “It’s not necessarily good that the government is at the front of this battle…BDS brings in civil society, labor organizations, student organizations, private businesses, so it’s better that the response comes from civil society.”

In other words, direct Israeli government interference in trade unions or on university campuses would not be viewed as legitimate. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), on the other hand, are usually seen as benign civil society actors – and can gain access in areas the state cannot.

The idea that pro-Israel NGOs – rather than the Israeli government itself – should contend with civil society actors seen to be “delegitimizing” Israel, was emphasised in an influential 2010 report by the Reut Institute. Erdan was quoting directly from this report when he told pro-Israel groups “it takes a network to fight a network”.

As well as the World Jewish Congress and the Conference of Presidents, a number of other large groups are partnered with the Israeli government through the GC4I project.

Senior figures from the Jewish Agency, B’nai B’rith, American Jewish Committee and Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs President were present at the first meeting in 2010.

In February 2013, GC4I and the World Zionist Organization (WZO) co-organised a conference on Israel Education. (Giving evidence to the Knesset a few months later, WZO’s David Breakstone explained that “Zionist education” is an integral part of hasbara and Israel’s battle against “delegitimisation”.)

Meanwhile, the accounts of the UK’s Jewish Leadership Council – an umbrella group akin to the Conference of Presidents – show it contributed over £57,000 ($72,000) towards organising the 2014 London event. This was reportedly the first GC4I meeting held outside Israel. Other UK pro-Israel groups there included BICOM and the Board of Deputies.

Meanwhile, a campus-focused sub-committee within GC4I – one of ten working groups – was chaired by Stephen Kupperberg (now an AIPAC staffer), when he worked as director of the US group Israel on Campus Coalition. William Daroff, Jewish Federations of North America Vice President, co-chaired another GC4I group on social media.

Like the Brand Israel strategy in which the Israeli government treats the public as consumers and attempts to sell Israel like a product, the ‘public-private partnership’ model of GC4I shows how closely Israel and the Zionist movement are aligned with corporate power and economic injustice as well as the racial oppression of Palestinians.

The semi-secret nature of the project is apparently vital to “ensure success” of the MSA’s anti-boycott activities. But covertly countered or not, the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement will keep growing at the grassroots while Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid remains.

Thanks to Ofer Neiman for Hebrew translation during research for this article.

Hilary Aked

Hilary Aked (@hilary_aked) is a London-based writer, researcher and activist whose first book, on the UK Israel lobby - based on their PhD thesis - will be published by Verso.

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9 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on February 1, 2017, 2:48 pm

    RE: “[T]he ‘public-private partnership’ model of GC4I shows how closely Israel and the Zionist movement are aligned with corporate power and economic injustice as well as the racial oppression of Palestinians.” ~ Aked

    MY SNARKCASM: I guess I’m to blame for not having taken the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” more seriously. Where can I get a copy?

    P.S. SEE: “Israel Announces Another Massive West Bank Settlement Expansion”
    3,000 More Homes to Be Built, DM Describes It as ‘Return to Normal Life’
    by Jason Ditz, January 31, 2017

    Following 566 settler units announced in occupied East Jerusalem and another 2,500 announced in the occupied West Bank just last week, Israel has doubled down with another 3,000 settler units across the West Bank today [some outside of the ‘settlement blocs’ – J.L.D.], with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman saying it amounts to a “return to normal life.”

    The announcement reflects both the Netanyahu government’s belief that they can make such expansions with impunity since the Trump inauguration, and a desire by the government to keep the politically important settler movement placated ahead of a planned relocation of the Amona outpost.

    The tactic of using big settlement growth announcements to keep the settlers on their side has been routine for Netanyahu in recent years, with announcements following almost any move seen as politically unpopular on the far-right. The expectation among settlers, however, is that they get even bigger over time.

    This was underscored last week, when settler leaders criticized the 2,500 unit expansion as insultingly small. This may mean Netanyahu is facing diminishing returns on the expansions, and will be under pressure to make even more dramatic gestures toward the settlers to keep them satisfied.


    • JLewisDickerson on February 1, 2017, 4:33 pm

      P.P.S. AND SEE: “Statement by the HRVP Federica Mogherini on the most recent announcement of 3,000 new settlements in the West Bank”

      Bruxelles, 01/02/2017 – 15:51 – UNIQUE ID: 170201_11

      Statements by the HR/VP

      ■ Statement by the High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini on the most recent announcement of 3,000 new settlements in the West Bank

      The announcement by the Israeli government on 1 February to build an additional 3,000 settlement units, including units deep inside the West Bank, following the announcement on 24 January of the construction of 2,500 units and the approval of building permits for 566 settlement units in East Jerusalem on 22 January, marks a very worrying trend, posing a direct challenge to the prospects of a viable two-state solution, which is increasingly difficult and risks becoming impossible.

      The European Union is strongly opposed to this policy and deeply regrets that Israel is proceeding with this, despite the continuous serious international concern and objections, which have been constantly raised at all levels.

      Continued settlement expansion, illegal under international law as reaffirmed by UN Security Council Resolution 2334, goes directly against long-standing EU policy and the recommendations of the Quartet Report. A negotiated two-state solution is the only way to fulfil the legitimate aspirations of both parties and to achieve enduring peace.

      SOURCE –

  2. JWalters on February 1, 2017, 9:12 pm

    How to lie more effectively.

    • Citizen on February 2, 2017, 11:35 am

      Frank Luntz should get an award for being the best thing for PR since Goebbels-Bernays! I can’t stomach that guy; don’t know why Dick and Jane can’t see right through him. He reminds me of a snake oil seller in an old cowboy movie.

      • echinococcus on February 2, 2017, 1:29 pm

        But Dick and Jane don’t know Luntz; everything is done to keep him unknown to them. Of course. That’s the only condition for Luntz to be as effective as Goebbels.

  3. eljay on February 2, 2017, 1:22 pm

    Peace is paved with diplomacy and discussion, not isolation.

    Cooperation, not continued conflict.

    Solutions come from engagement not silence.

    Peace is not paved with and solutions do not come from the Zionist belief that Jews are entitled:
    – to a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine; and
    – to do unto others acts of injustice and immorality they would not have others do unto them.

    Funny, too, how these statements are ignored when it comes to Iran, Syria, Islamic State, etc. (Why is Israel being singled out for special treatment?)

    Zionist hypocrisy is alive and well…

  4. Ossinev on February 2, 2017, 2:08 pm

    This is so so ThirdReichish but ultimately I think that these pathetic panicking Zionists are urinating into the wind. BDS has taken off and can only grow in size and strength as the arrogant Israelis continue to blatantly urinate all over their own “commitments to peace based on a two state solution” by expanding and creating new settlements. I watched the recent Al Jazeera exposure programme on the UK Israeli Lobby featuring the Labour “Friend of Israel ” MP Joan Ryan where a fellow Labour member asked her repeatedly to describe the 2 states which she claimed to support. She simply refused to answer and as per the article above kept on using the tired worn out “dialogue” and”peace” script.To make matters worse she subsequently made an official complaint to the Party Organisation that the member had made anti – Semitic remarks. I have been a Labour supporter all my life and I will admit to naivety in this area – I had not realised that we had allowed such loathsome creatures into our ranks. Include in these for information the boy wonder Chuka Umunna seen in the broadcast consoling the poor traumatised Zionist creeps who had been subjected to this “Anti – Semitic” abuse. Totally cringeworthy. What I think is needed with these so called “Labour” people is for rational true Labour members to corner them , show them a map illustrating the cheesecake which the Israelis have made of the West Bank and ask them to describe what the second state would consist of given the details on the map. Like Ryan they would probably panic , obfuscate, back off and subsequently claim “Anti-Semitism” but it will have exposed them as the hypocritical liars they are. I am truly disgusted that these reptiles are part of the Labour movement.They are a total disgrace.

  5. Maghlawatan on February 3, 2017, 9:35 am

    What country does this remind you of?

    “Sir, Xavier Van Hove, in “Allow Europe’s parliament to defend the four freedoms” (February 2), writes that the enemy defeated in the second world war was the idea “that some men are better than others born elsewhere”.

    Nazism was worse than that; an ideology that enshrined the concept that some men were better than others, even those born in the same place, simply on account of their race. Bloodlines and racial purity were everything to the Nazis. In their 25-point programme dated February 25 1920, the leaders of the Nazi party wrote that “None but those of German blood, whatever their creed, may be members of the nation. No Jew, therefore, may be a member of the nation.” In 1935 all Jews were stripped of their German citizenship and became “state subjects” instead. There are fine lines between nativism, proud nationalism and outright racism”

  6. Talkback on February 6, 2017, 8:26 am

    Frank Luntz’s still selling outdated phrases and desperate Israel is still buying.

    But there’s nothing to discuss or cooperate with Israel. It either is going to abide to human rights and international law and equality or it will be force to do so by any means. Every option beyond the US corrupted Security Council is on the table.

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