In 2010, the Reut Institute issued a series of articles and reports identifying the Palestinian BDS campaign as an "existential threat" to Israel. Reut called on the Israeli government to "attack" the BDS campaign/supporters and carry to out "sabotage" against the movement (see Electronic Intifada's full coverage here). In particular, Reut called for a “price tag” on to be placed on BDS activisim (ie. publicly outing/shaming Palestine solidarity activists) and for Israeli spy agencies to collect information on groups supportive of BDS.
Last year, Reut partnered with the USA based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to combat BDS. However, one year later, the two groups have issued a report stating that their and the Israeli government's efforts to fight BDS have largely failed.
This will not come as as surprise to anyone involved the Palestinian BDS campaign. While Israel and its supporters have tried to use lawfare (legal methods) to stop BDS, they have only had minor success. Similarly, the attempt to intimidate and shame Palestine solidarity activists has also failed, as has Israel's "hasbara" (propaganda) efforts.
The primary reason for this being: Palestine solidarity activists have nothing to a shamed off - BDS is a non-violent campaign which draws inspiration from the South African anti-apartheid struggle and is squarely based on international law. Attempts to "shame" and "out" Palestine BDS campaigners have also largely failed because most of us are already very public about our activism. In addition, as Reut and ADL's latest report notes, Israel's hasbara efforts have largely failed because Israel is by far the best legitimiser of Israel - by continuing to engage in apartheid and occupation, carry out human rights abuses, war crimes and ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, Israel continued to undermine its own legitimacy.
The problem for the Israeli state is the the same problem faced by all oppressors, neither time or truth is on their side. As Malcolm X noted in regard to this: “Time is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor".
I have included below two articles from the Forward discussing the partnership between Reut and the ADL and their latest report about the failure of their efforts to counter BDS
In solidarity, Kim
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’s 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 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. 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 only circulating 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 the actions of the Israelis plays 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 are directly empowering the so-called “delegitimization movement.”
Its recommendations are targeted mostly at Jewish communal groups, and the broader hasbarah, 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 are fed up with 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, while the report advocates efforts to engage and win over most critics of Israel, it advocates a hardline 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 this narrow group of “instigators” are “modern day anti-Semites.”
Calling efforts to boycott, divestment from and sanction Israel an “attack on Israel and the Jewish people,” the ADL said on February 29 that it would partner with the Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank, to produce a study of the BDS movement, as it is commonly known.
In the past, Reut has called for the use of aggressive tactics against those it views as denying Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state. In a 2010 report, the group called for putting a “price tag” on criticism of Israel and for Israeli spy agencies to collect information on groups working to delegitimize Israel.
The ADL’s initiative is the latest in a string of new multimillion dollar efforts against the BDS movement. A long list of Jewish groups, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish National Fund, the Sheldon Adelson-backed Maccabee Task Force and StandWithUs, along with the Israeli government itself, have announced their own anti-BDS programs in recent months.
“There are many excellent efforts out there aimed at combating BDS and other delegitimization,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s national director, in an emailed statement about the new effort. “We hope our work will complement and reinforce these existing initiatives.”
The ADL would not say how much its new initiative would cost. The group also could not say whether its effort would target groups and individuals promoting a boycott restricted to Israeli companies based on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, whose Jewish-only settlements are considered illegal by the international community. “We’re studying it,” said a spokesman via email.
Greenblatt, who succeeded longtime ADL national director Abraham Foxman in 2015, worked in the White House as a Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Social Innovation & Civic Participation from 2011 to 2014.
The new ADL-Reut Institute joint program will result in a study, to be published later this year, that will outline a new strategy for opposing BDS.
Reut, a not-for-profit organization, has done similar work before. Its 2010 report on “delegitimization,” the last Jewish defense buzzword before the current focus on BDS, was influential in setting policy for Israeli and Jewish groups in recent years as they’ve opposed anti-Israel activists.
In that report, Reut called for a “re-branding” of Israel and “undermining” the “catalysts” of delegitimization. It also called for using Israel’s spy agencies to make delegitimization a priority.
The group also suggested what it called a “price tag” for people who are harshly critical of Israel to make “attacking Israel” a “more risky enterprise.” The report cited press attacks on two Human Rights Watch employees who had criticized Israel during the course of their work. (In recent years the term “price tag” has come to refer to violence carried out against Palestinians by settlers; Reut was not calling for violence.)
In a statement provided by the ADL, Reut president Gidi Grinstein called BDS a “new form of anti-Semitism.”
“We will work to offer a visionary and strategic approach – and to effectuate it,” Grinstein said.
Greenblatt defended his group’s decision to launch its own anti-BDS effort, despite the large number of groups already running their own programs. “I think the ADL has unique capabilities,” Greenblatt said. “We’ve been working with authorities, law enforcement, public officials and others, literally for generations since we were founded in 1913, which makes us very different.”
Asked whether he was suggesting that BDS was a law enforcement matter, Greenblatt said no. He said that ADL “literally for generations” had done research and analysis to aid public officials.
“We have a center for extremism that has been looking at these kinds of issues for a very long period of time,” Greenblatt said.