Overcoming Israel’s attempts to discredit protest

Instead of addressing human rights concerns, Israel seeks to delegitimize those leveling the charges. (ActiveStills)


In recent months, Israel’s tactics to discredit legitimate protestors have become increasingly Orwellian as it steps up its campaign against human rights activists within the country and abroad, especially in the United Kingdom.

Human rights groups in Israel will now face scrutiny following the formation of a government-approved parliamentary committee to investigate Israeli organizations which criticize Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thus, instead of tackling legitimate human rights concerns, Israel seeks to delegitimize those leveling the charges, despite the masses of evidence to support their claims.

Israel is also promoting and consolidating the Zionist narrative in the UK, using intimidation and guilt against those challenging Israel’s occupation, human rights abuses and its expansionist aspirations.

Two leading Israeli organizations with close links to the government, the Reut Institute and the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs, both warned recently that London was becoming a center for anti-Israel activity culminating, they claim, in a rise of anti-Semitism because British Muslim-led organizations are being given free rein.

Reut boasts on its website that is seeks “to provide real-time, long-term strategic decision-support to Israeli leaders and decision-makers,” hardly making it an independent observer. It published a report on London in November titled “Building a Political Firewall against the Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy,” which claimed that London is the “Mecca of Delegitimization” and a key player in all major recent “delegitimization” campaigns concerning Israel (download the full report [PDF]).

“Delegitimization” is the term coined by the Reut Institute last year to describe a whole variety of activities by Palestinian and solidarity activists who call for Israel to end its occupation, abide by international law and respect the human rights of all Palestinians wherever they are.

Reut’s report on London was followed by another from the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs which spared virtually no organization in London connected to the anti-war movement from the accusation of being “delegitimizers.”

Common to both of these reports was the labeling of British Muslim organizations as “Islamist,” drawing on their ancestral and religious links to imply they had ties with Iran, Hizballah and Hamas, and thus present an existential threat to the democratic West. By drawing such spurious links, Israel and its apologists hope to demonize British citizens, shore up political support for Israel and score easy political gains by appealing to Islamophobia and fear.

This spin has been quickly picked up by Israel’s acolytes in the UK media. On 29 December 2010, The Times reported the ludicrous and baseless accusations by the Israeli defense ministry that the London-based Palestine Return Centre was involved in “terror-related activities” and served as a front for Hamas (James Hider, “City condemned as ‘hub of hubs’”).

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph a few days earlier,
Andrew Gilligan bemoaned that the Charity Commission, the UK’s charity watchdog, has lost its bite when it concluded that it “found no evidence of irregular or improper use of the Charity’s funds” in reference to separate accusations made in the Telegraph against another British Charity — Muslim Aid.

Thus, by failing to follow Israel’s lead and implicate innocent charities like Muslim Aid in supporting terrorist networks in Palestine, Gilligan, rather like Israel, chose to demonize those who fail to toe the line. We should take pride in the fact that the Charities Commission acts independently, rather than succumbing to political pressure to withdraw charitable status.

While the fear of “Islamism” is being pumped in the veins of one arm of the nation, the other arm is being injected with the false idea that anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. That is a point contested by, among others, many British Jewish individuals and organizations who stand in solidarity with Palestinians in calling for an end to Israel’s occupation and other human rights abuses.

Resorting to accusing Israel’s critics of “anti-Semitism” is an old tactic that is being revived with new zeal in an attempt to intimidate into silence those calling for an end to Israel’s impunity and exceptionalism.

What Zionists fail to understand is that the Free Palestine movement has permeated across all sections of British society and religious affiliation is incidental. Israel’s divide-and-rule tactics have not succeeded in breaking the will of a brutalized Palestinian population, and they will not work against the solidarity movement in the UK either.

While continuing to build illegal colonies on Palestinian land; evicting Palestinians from Jerusalem; subjugating millions through routine, brutal violence and killing; and corraling Palestinians in elaborate systems of movement control, such as the illegal West Bank wall and the blockade of Gaza, Israel insists that it always be presented as peaceful, reasonable, humane, compassionate and magnanimous. These virtues are extolled and celebrated in Judaism, as in many other religions, but they are not ones that have ever been practiced by Israel toward Palestinians.

There is no doubt that at present Israel has the sympathy of the UK government. But the public is more and more aware of the realities and it is doubtful that the Zionist offensive can silence British people’s sense of justice and intimidate and blackmail us into thinking that by criticizing Israel’s practices and calling for justice for all, we are attacking Judaism.

The British sense of justice will overcome attempts by the Zionist lobby of equating anti-Semitism with illegal Zionist occupation and practices in West Bank and Gaza Strip. These tactics are intended to divide people from each other and to sow sectarianism and fear. We mustn’t allow them to succeed.

Ismail Patel is Chair of UK based NGO Friends of Al-Aqsa, and author of several books including Palestine: Beginner’s Guide and Medina to Jerusalem: Encounters with the Byzantine Empire.

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