Plan fraught with danger

By Robin Shepherd, December 2, 2010
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The notion that London has become a "hub of hubs" in a global campaign of delegitimisation against Israel will not come as a surprise to astute observers of the movement to undermine and destroy the Jewish state.

Nor will it be seen as a shocking revelation that it is being driven from below by an "unholy alliance" between the far Left and radical Islamism and then spread through mainstream society by a liberal-left establishment exercising near hegemonic control over NGOs, establishment think tanks, leading newspapers and, of course, the BBC.

But there are at least two points which are novel, interesting and significant about the latest report on the subject from Reut.

The first is that it recommends a course of action that is long overdue - a multi-tiered but essentially grass-roots movement to counter the delegitimisation campaign as sedulously as it is being prosecuted. As long as it is understood that such a counter-attack can only succeed if the battle is taken into the public domain as vocally and as robustly as the delegitimisation campaign itself, this would be a major step forward.

The second noteworthy recommendation is to target liberal-left opinion by effectively finding a common language with it in order to turn the tables on the delegitimisers. If the liberal-left holds such sway over mainstream opinion, Reut argues, it surely makes sense to engage with it and try to bring it back on side.

This is indeed a sensible idea, but it is fraught with dangers and will need to be carefully calibrated to avoid backfiring. The liberal-left in Britain (and western Europe), in stark contrast to most of its counterparts in the US and central and eastern Europe, is deeply anti-Israeli.

True, it does not, usually, adopt the kind of openly annihilationist posture vis-à-vis the Jewish state espoused by the far-left and the Islamists. Nonetheless, it is to a great extent in thrall to a Palestinian narrative, which sees Zionism as a racially exclusivist ideology and the Palestinians themselves as an oppressed third world minority, while simultaneously blaming Israel for the absence of a two-state solution rather than Palestinian rejectionism.

In the attempt to engage with the liberal-left, it will require great skill to deal with such an edifice of distortion and deception without unwittingly conceding ground to it, and thus giving valuable ammunition to Israel's enemies.

The Reut report looks like a great start. But the task ahead remains daunting.

Robin Shepherd is director, international affairs, at the Henry Jackson Society. 'A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's problem with Israel' is now out in paperback

Last updated: 5:02pm, December 2 2010