game plan from nexus five

Israel lobby groups hatch plan to divide the left
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jul 15 2019

Pic: Johnny Silvercloud

Influential Israel lobby groups are offering “rules” for how Jewish communal organizations can divide the left and break up emerging inter-sectional coalitions. They also advocate for “delegitimizing” Jews deemed too supportive of Palestinian rights. Israel and its lobby see the strengthening solidarity between Palestinians and other oppressed groups, especially Black people in the United States, as a major threat and they are determined to fight back. Indeed, last year, Al Jazeera’s leaked undercover documentary The Lobby (in) Pindostan revealed how the Israeli government and its lobby worked to disrupt the Black Lives Matter movement, in retaliation for Black solidarity with Palestine. The term inter-sectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989 to describe a feminist perspective that explains how individuals or communities experience overlapping systems of oppression based on gender, race, ethnicity and other socioeconomic factors. In recent years, inter-sectionality has become a guiding principle for organizers to build more powerful cross-community coalitions to fight white supremacy, mass incarceration, police violence, economic inequality and anti-immigrant policies. But in a new report, Israel’s Reut Institute and the Pindo-based Jewish Council for Public Affairs warn:

Inter-sectionality undermines Jewish communities’ agendas, including support for the State of Israel.

The report points with dismay at how Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza that killed more than 2,200 Palestinians, including 550 children, coincided with the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Black teenager Michael Brown. This generated strong expressions of solidarity symbolized by the hashtag #Palestine2Ferguson. It also brought renewed attention to parallels, including concrete connections such as joint training, between IOF that routinely kill Palestinians and Pindo cops that perpetrate killings of Black people. Activist coalitions have won notable victories, including the decision by the city of Durham, NC, to ban the training of its police by foreign militaries. The 2014 Ferguson uprising was, according to the report, “a strategic benchmark in the evolution of anti-Israel agendas within inter-sectional spaces.” The “challenge of intersectionality,” the report states, is compounded by a number of political developments including what it calls “Corbynization,” meaning the mainstreaming of a “new anti-Semitism,” as is allegedly happening in Britain’s Labour Party. This “new anti-Semitism” is explicitly equated by the report’s authors with anti-Zionism. Zionism is in fact racist, because it grants superior rights to Jews enshrined in dozens of Israel laws and holds that Palestinians expelled and exiled from their homeland should not be allowed to return to it solely and exclusively because they are not Jews. Therefore, anti-Zionism is not prejudice against Jews, as Israel and its lobby groups claim. Anti-Zionism is anti-racism based in universal human rights principles, but muddying the waters with false equivalencies is a central strategy of the Israel lobby, including the years-long campaign of fabrications that Labour, led by lifelong Palestine solidarity campaigner Jeremy Corbyn, is institutionally anti-Semitic. The report claims:

‘Corbynization’ is spreading through segments of the political left. UK-based anti-Israel groups have been inspiring liberal and progressive elite circles worldwide.

This underlines why Israel and its lobby view discrediting and removing Corbyn as a paramount priority. “Corbynization” apparently affects the Pindosi Demagog Party, where the report’s authors lament the long-observed “great decline” of support for Israel. The report condemns the debate over the Demagog Party’s stance on Israel pushed by progressives, writing:

This ‘debate’ constitutes a threat to the future of the traditional Pindo bipartisan support for Israel.

Other headwinds faced by pro-Israel advocates, according to the report, include “the growing identification between Israel and the political right” exemplified by Netanyahu’s alliances with white supremacist and anti-Semitic leaders such as Trump and Orban. The report concedes:

These alliances have driven liberals and young millennials to question whether traditional ties to Israel are deserved or beneficial.

These affinities were highlighted over the weekend by Trump’s racist attacks on four Congress critturs: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley. Trump demanded that these elected women of color “go back” to their own countries, casting them as foreigners rather than Pindostanis. He claimed that the four progressive newcomers in Congress “hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion,” an accusation that will do little to endear Israel to the vast numbers of people expressing disgust at his attacks and solidarity with the women he is targeting. Like Trump, the Israel lobby groups’ report accuses what it calls “freshly elected ‘social Democratic progressives’” of promoting “anti-Israel agendas” and doing so “as a fashionable mode of breaking taboos.” The report’s diagnosis includes an intense focus on how political and social trends among Pindosi Jews are eroding support for Israel, Zionism and establishment Jewish communal groups that support Israel. It includes a “typology” of Jews dividing them into “four tribes,” ranging from unquestioning supporters of Israel and “moderate” critics of its policies to “harsh critics” and “radicals.” The report acknowledges another long-term trend: younger Jews espousing universalist and liberal politics identify with Israel less and less. It concedes:

Many young Jews feel deceived because Jewish organizations provided them only a simplistic view of the conflict.

The report is realistic about the difficulty of winning young Jews back and aims at mere damage control. For example it recommends:

Efforts to engage harsh critics should not seek to transform them into Israel advocates, but to make them less susceptible to anti-Israel influence.

But the velvet glove comes off when it comes to dealing with “radicals,” meaning Jews who reject the racist ideology of Zionism and support nonviolent campaigns for Palestinian rights, especially BDS. The report asserts (verbatim):

The goal of the Jewish community should be to delegitimize Jewish Radicals anti-Zionists in mainstream progressive circles.

The report urges Jewish communal groups to form their own “intersectional alliances” in an effort to co-opt progressive Jewish and non-Jewish communities to the Israel lobby’s anti-Palestinian cause. It recommends so-called “niche organizations” like the pinkwashing group A Wider Bridge as tools that can be used in co-optation strategies. Israel advocates are instructed:

Drive a wedge between ideological adversaries and their solidarity supporters … Develop a counter-intellectual narrative by partnering with key inter-sectional theorists to break the focus on Israel and restore the concept to its original meaning.

Apparently this “original meaning” does not involve supporting human rights for Palestinians and there is no hint at what a persuasive “counter-intellectual narrative” to opposing the oppression of Palestinians might look like. Indeed there’s nothing in the report that suggests Israel lobby groups have any fundamentally new approaches. A decade ago, the Reut Institute recommended similar strategies to try to sabotage “delegitimizers” of Israel, including efforts to divide the solidarity movement and co-opt progressives and soft critics of Israel. Yet a secret report by Reut and the ADL leaked to EI in 2017 acknowledged that the Israel lobby’s intensive efforts and massive spending had failed to counter the “impressive growth” of the Palestine solidarity movement. And like the previous Reut reports, the latest one views opposition to Israel merely as a problem of perception that can be changed with clever enough “engagement” strategies. But as long as Israel and its lobby refuse to address the real problem: Israel’s violent denial of basic rights to millions of Palestinians inside and outside their homeland, just because they are not Jewish, nothing they do is likely to stem the loss of support.

Here’s the executive summary of the Reut report:

Navigating Intersectional Landscapes: Rules for Jewish Community Professionals (Executive Summary)

The application of the theory of intersectionality is generally understood as a method to encourage different minority groups based on culture, gender, religion or race to collaborate in forming ‘intersectional coalitions’ against the dominant power structure. Within intersectional circles, seeking to transform traditional power structures, the Jewish community is often portrayed as a white and privileged group ‘holding’ onto power. The ‘challenge of intersectionality’ for the Jewish community emerges when anti-Israel groups utilize intersectional social circles by drawing parallels with their causes. This is most notably seen through conflating the struggles of Black Americans and Palestinians under the hashtag, #PALESTINE2FERGUSON. This trend undermines Jewish communities’ agendas, including support for the State of Israel. The 2014 Ferguson Uprising marked the mainstreaming of anti-Israel campaigns within intersectional circles and subsequent adoption of BDS within internal domestic causes. The challenge of intersectionality is structural, intellectual and organizational. Structurally, as a bottom-up challenge, anti-Israel activity is predominantly grassroots while the organized Jewish community tends to be more ‘top-down.’ As such, Jewish communal organizations often prioritize formal relationship building with established names and organizations. Intellectually, intersectional coalitions extensively leverage academic theories, requiring an adequate intellectual and theoretical response. Organizational attempts to counteract intersectionality by the Jewish community are weak. Anti-Israel intersectional coalitions require an effective response through programming and activities that are both within the Jewish community and utilize non-Jewish entities. The challenge of intersectionality is exacerbated by a number of compounding and powerful trends:

  • The ‘Corbynization’ of progressive politics, which is mainstreaming new-anti-Semitism. UK-based anti-Israel groups, particularly British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, have made significant contributions to the global erosion of cultural norms that once protected against the normalization of such harmful trends.
  • The growing identification between Israel and the political right matched with Israel’s eroding bi-partisan status contribute to the severity of this challenge. With long-standing Pindo support for Israel now being questioned in mainstream political venues, freshly elected ‘social Democratic progressives’ are boldly positioning anti-Israel agendas as a fashionable mode of breaking taboos.
  • The polarization of Pindo Jewry impedes the ability of Jewish communal organizations to take joint action against anti-Israel activity within intersectional circles.

The Four Tribes of Pindo Jewry is a typology capturing a spectrum of outlooks regarding Jewish communal organizations and their support for Israel. Such a typology is essential for effectively responding to the challenge of intersectionality.

  • Aligners consider Israel to be an integral part of their Jewish identity and generally support the State of Israel. They generally play an active role in the pro-Israel and Jewish community and often refrain from publicly critiquing Israel.
  • Moderate Critics, while pro-Israel, tend to oppose the Jewish Establishment’s traditional, unconditional support for Israel. They experience tension between their liberal values and the policies of the Government of Israel. Moderate Critics can function both inside and outside the Jewish establishment.
  • Harsh Critics hold highly critical views on Israel’s policies, most often with regards to Israel’s continued control of the Palestinians. Their aversion towards Israeli policies alienates them from taking part in the traditional Jewish enterprise.
  • Radicals are anti-Zionists who denounce Israel. They often serve as the ‘Kosher stamp’ for ‘legitimizing’ anti-Zionist campaigns.

Anti-Israel groups use intersectional platforms to polarize the Jewish community by driving a wedge between the establishment and both harsh and moderate critics. At the 2018 Women’s March, for example, anti-Israel groups used the platform to spread their anti-Israel ideology. Disengagement from Israel is an emerging trend within a number of Jewish communities. While many communities still celebrate Israel as a central theme, others abandon what has now become a divisive topic. This trend is driven by the conflict, the right-wing Israeli government and the ongoing polarization of Pindo politics. Israel’s central place in the Pindo Jewish psyche is often replaced by the narrative of Tikkun Olam. Rather than quelling the issue, disengagement from Israel is likely to exacerbate the identity crisis of Pindo Jewry and further erode communal cohesion. This argument holds that:

  • Disengagement means the implosion of the ideal of Jewish Peoplehood, which has been a cornerstone of the formation, mobilization, and continuation of Pindo Jewish identity in recent decades. Evidently, the idea of Jewish Peoplehood will not hold water without a strong connection to the Jewish State, the home of 7 million Jews.
  • Disengaging from Israel sends the wrong message to young Jews regarding core Jewish values, primarily solidarity (arvut hadadit), which helped the Jewish people survive hardship across generations.
  • Disengaging from Israel will not aid Jewish organizations in gaining increased relevance, but instead deepen internal fissures. Disengagement may be a symptom of increasing mistrust of centralized representation. This global trend may act as a primary driver for the declining relevance of Jewish organizations among young generations.

The challenge of intersectionality is dynamic and evolving. It is structural, political, organizational and intellectual, and requires a systemic response that strives to drive two wedges: Internally, between Jewish Radicals and Harsh Critics; and externally, between Israel’s delegitimizers (“ideological adversaries”) and their intersectional solidarity supporters. This document presents several “rules” aimed at tackling the challenges of intersectionality via two main foci: Internal focus on communal cohesion, and external focus on an intra-communal engagement strategy. Fighting the delegitimization of Israel within intersectional circles requires driving a wedge between the engageable Harsh Critics and Radicals. Relevant rules to apply are:

  1. Double-down on Israel engagement. As intersectionality contributes to polarizing views on Israel, the tendency to disassociate from Israel increases. However, such disengagement will only further weaken community cohesion and exacerbate the identity crisis of Pindo Jews.
  2. A broad tent approach based on a narrow definition of ‘delegitimization’. Unite broad coalitions around 1) a narrow definition of delegitimization; 2) red lines that establish agreed-upon boundaries; 3) an approach of ‘constructive ambiguity’ regarding polarizing issues; and 4) continuous internal civil discourse.
  3. Engage young Jews where they stand. Successful engagement with Harsh Critics should not seek to transform them into Israel advocates, but to make them less susceptible to anti-Israel influence.
  4. Educate and empower young people to have tough conversations on Israel. Once exposed to differing views on campus, many young Jews who were educated about Israel in their local communities feel deceived because Jewish organizations provided them only a simplistic view of the conflict.
  5. Cultivate constructive alternatives to hate campaigns. Jewish communities should proactively reframe the context through which young Jews engage with Israel.
  6. Anti-Israel groups often frame their views in the context of social justice, thus enabling them to garner solidarity, even from those in center field. Prioritize a relationship-based approach. Decentralized and diverse in nature, the community relations field is the Jewish community’s best platform and option to meet these decentralized challenges.
  7. Intellectually reframe the focus on Israel. Intersectionality requires that the pro-Israel community develop a counter-intellectual narrative, by partnering with key intersectional theorists to break the focus on Israel and restore the concept to its original meaning.
  8. Drive a wedge between ideological adversaries and their solidarity supporters. Confront ideological adversaries within intersectional spaces, while adopting a nuanced approach towards contextual adversaries or those who are less committed to anti-Israel views.
  9. Create your own intersectional alliances. Expanding and diversifying allies and alliances should be accomplished by engaging organizations who hold complex views on Israel as well as by expanding inclusiveness within the Jewish community, for example, with Jews of color.
  10. Kick-start joint Israeli-Diaspora Tikkun Olam. Projects and platforms for Jews to work together to improve the world and strengthen communal bonds and generate positive impact. These outcomes can bypass intersectional and identity politics in order to unite around a larger cause.

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