ADL-Reut Re­port Finds BDS Is Surg­ing While Suc­cess­ful Ef­forts To Com­bat It ‘Re­main Elu­sive’

Forward Magazine - - News - By Josh Nathan-Kazis has­bara, Con­tact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis@for­ or on Twit­ter, @josh­nathankazis

In a new re­port cir­cu­lat­ing pri­vately in Jewish pol­icy cir­cles this month, two lead­ing pro-Is­rael groups charge that Jewish com­mu­nal ef­forts against the BDS move­ment have largely failed.

The re­port, is­sued by the Anti-Defama­tion League and the Is­rael-based Reut In­sti­tute, claims that Jewish groups’ in­vest­ments in fight­ing what they call “the as­sault on Is­rael’s le­git­i­macy” has grown twen­ty­fold since 2010, but that “re­sults re­main elu­sive.”

In 2015 and 2016, a long list of Jewish groups, in ad­di­tion to the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment it­self, an­nounced their own pro­grams to counter the move­ment to boy­cott, di­vest from and sanc­tion Is­rael. Or­ga­ni­za­tions and donors pledged tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to the ef­fort. The re­port claims that it’s not work­ing. “The chal­lenge to the fun­da­men­tal le­git­i­macy of Is­rael…[is] grow­ing around the world,” the re­port says.

The re­port comes as Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu’s gov­ern­ment adopts an in­creas­ingly hard-line ap­proach on set­tle­ments.

But while the re­port’s au­thors ac­knowl­edge that the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment’s own ac­tions play a role in the world­wide growth of anti-Is­rael sen­ti­ment, they pro­pose their own ac­tion plan for what they call the “pro-Is­rael net­work.”

The pre­scrip­tion seems to con­tain a con­tra­dic­tion. On the one hand, it calls for a big-tent ap­proach that ac­cepts pro­gres­sive crit­ics of Is­rael. And on the other, it de­mands an all-out as­sault on lead­ing crit­ics of Is­rael, some­times us­ing covert means.

“The in­sti­ga­tors must be sin­gled out from the other groups, and han­dled un­com­pro­mis­ingly, pub­licly or covertly,” the re­port reads.

The re­port is the prod­uct of an un­likely part­ner­ship be­tween the ADL, a his­toric Jewish civil rights group, and the na­tional se­cu­rity-fo­cused Reut In­sti­tute. News of the part­ner­ship was first re­ported by the For­ward last Fe­bru­ary.

At 30 pages, the doc­u­ment of­fers a “strate­gic frame­work” for op­pos­ing the boy­cott, di­vest­ment and sanc­tions move­ment, among other ef­forts that the au­thors char­ac­ter­ize as at­tacks on Is­rael’s le­git­i­macy.

The re­port op­poses new spend­ing on pro-Is­rael ef­forts. In­stead, it ad­vo­cates for the bet­ter tar­get­ing of pre­ex­ist­ing pro­grams; the use of “le­gal mea­sures” to take on “in­cite­ment against Jews and Is­rael” on so­cial me­dia; and ad­di­tional in­vest­ment in “in­tel­li­gence and strat­egy.”

ADL and Reut are cir­cu­lat­ing only print copies of the re­port. The For­ward was given copies on the con­di­tion that they not be posted on­line in their en­tirety.

In an in­ter­view at the For­ward’s of­fices in early Fe­bru­ary, ADL na­tional pres­i­dent Jonathan Green­blatt ac­knowl­edged that Is­rael’s ac­tions play a role in what the re­port char­ac­ter­izes as the growth of world­wide anti-Is­rael sen­ti­ment.

“The gov­ern­ment of Is­rael can do a lot to change this dy­namic,” Green­blatt said. “So can the Pales­tinian lead­er­ship.”

Yet the re­port it­self ap­pears care­ful not to make spe­cific de­mands of the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment. In­stead, it ac­knowl­edges that the lack of progress on po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tions is di­rectly em­pow­er­ing the so-called “dele­git­imiza­tion move­ment.”

Its rec­om­men­da­tions are tar­geted mostly at Jewish com­mu­nal groups, and the broader or pro-Is­rael public re­la­tions, ap­pa­ra­tus.

In places, the re­port ap­pears to call for a broad­en­ing of the pro-Is­rael tent, and an end to the ex­clu­sion of pro­gres­sive groups from Jewish spa­ces.

It calls for a nar­rower def­i­ni­tion of “dele­git­imiza­tion” that will al­low left-wing groups to be wel­come in Jewish spa­ces. It also calls for “au­then­tic sol­i­dar­ity” with other mi­nor­ity groups on is­sues of im­mi­grant rights and racism. It cau­tions against nar­row ex­pec­ta­tions of trans­ac­tional ben­e­fits, ar­gu­ing that such work can gen­er­ally help the Jewish com­mu­nity “re-ac­quire cred­i­bil­ity” among other mi­nori­ties.

“We in­vented in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity,” Green­blatt told the For­ward, re­fer­ring to the ADL’s his­tory of find­ing com­mon cause on civil rights is­sues across eth­nic and re­li­gious lines.

Yet at times, the re­port’s calls for a big tent seem strained.

The re­port sug­gests that “red lines” for in­clu­sion in the broad pro-Is­rael net­work should be drawn at those who ex­press crit­i­cism that is con­sis­tently one-sided, “not nu­anced and with­out con­text.” That lan­guage has the po­ten­tial to ex­clude many groups on the Jewish left that op­pose Is­rael’s 50-year oc­cu­pa­tion of the West Bank.

The re­port also refers to tar­geted boy­cotts of West Bank set­tle­ments, a tac­tic sup­ported by many pro­gres­sive Jews in Is­rael and the U.S., as a “chal­lenge.”

It calls for “al­ter­na­tives” to tar­geted boy­cotts, but its rec­om­men­da­tions can be dif­fi­cult to parse: “The po­lar­iza­tion around the is­sue of tar­geted boy­cott is an in­di­ca­tion of the lack of eth­i­cal clar­ity nec­es­sary in or­der to stand united against dele­git­imiza­tion by fos­ter­ing di­verse coali­tions.”

Fi­nally, al­though the re­port ad­vo­cates ef­forts to en­gage and win over most crit­ics of Is­rael, it ad­vo­cates a hard-line ap­proach to what it calls “the in­sti­ga­tors.”

Gidi Grin­stein, pres­i­dent of Reut, de­fended the call for act­ing “un­com­pro­mis­ingly,” in “covert” and public ways, against these crit­ics.

“We have to be very, very strate­gic,” Grin­stein said.

The re­port’s au­thors ar­gued that these “in­sti­ga­tors” are “mod­ern day anti-Semites.”


On the March: Pro-Pales­tinian demon­stra­tors protest on be­half of the boy­cott, di­vest and sanc­tion move­ment against Is­rael in Bev­erly Hills, Cal­i­for­nia, out­side the home of Haim Sa­ban, a ma­jor pro-Is­rael Demo­cratic donor, last Au­gust.

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