Thursday, February 9th | 18 Shevat 5783

February 7, 2014 1:27 pm

Opinion: How to Fight the War to Delegitimize Israel

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avatar by Erez Weiner

A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protest against Israel. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A new war has broken out in the Middle East.

But this war is not making headlines across the world. Instead, it is slowly expanding beyond the borders of the Middle East and creeping into schools, businesses, and communities – often without anyone noticing.

This new war is just as serious as previous wars fought in the region, since its aim is the delegitimization of Israel – the same aim that brought about the Independence Day War, the Six Day War, The Yom Kippur War, the War in Lebanon, and many others.

Prime Minister Netanyahu described the three greatest threats to the State of Israel as the missile and rocket fire directed at Israel, Iran’s nuclear program, and the systematic campaign to delegitimize Israel.

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But this war (the war to delegitimize Israel’s existence) is difficult to discern from the other threats because it is not carried out on recognized battlefields, and shots are not fired – at least not ones that are seen. But the dangers from this war are no less than from more conventional ones.

There is a systematic attack being carried out against the State of Israel with the intent of destroying the Jewish state. Unlike previous attacks on Israel, these activities are not being carried out by governments or internationally recognized terrorist groups, but by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) throughout the world, including in Israel and Europe.

Many times this new battlefield goes completely unnoticed. But the reality of the threat pops up from time to time when there is an attempt to prevent an Israeli diplomat or representative from visiting various countries in Europe, when an embargo is declared on Israeli products or industrial ties, or when academic or cultural institutions boycott Israel and its citizens.

While some might view this as a preferred battlefield compared to the traditional ones, it actually poses a greater threat to Israel’s existence than those battles waged in uniform.

An army’s job is to protect its citizens. However, there is a wide effort being carried out that attempts to create a situation where commanders and decision-makers in Israel, and the IDF in particular, will be declared war criminals for their actions, resulting in limitations imposed on the operations of the IDF.

One might ask, “What does the State of Israel do in order to contest and respond to these threats?”

The answer: Not much.

While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has recently announced the creation of a branch that will try to tackle the growing delegitimization of Israel trend, it is not financed well enough to make a real impact. The budget for this new branch is smaller than some popular children’s food products’ marketing budgets.

I will concur that there are many private organizations in Israel and abroad that are dealing with these issues and carrying out various campaigns in response to them – but they are small and isolated.

For these efforts to be effective, the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s new branch must have the authority to coordinate all of Israel’s efforts in the field and there must also be close cooperation with private groups.

Over the past few years, there has been a strong effort to disclose the identities of those behind the Israel delegitimization campaign, and then to fight back against them.

But these activities are far from enough and suffer from great structural weakness: the efforts are divided and come in response to isolated events (i.e. the Goldstone Report and the Turkish flotilla), and are not part of a continuous effort. In addition, there is a lack of coordination and cooperation between private organizations and governmental efforts.

As such, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ new branch must work to coordinate all of the responses to threats, and receive a budget that is adequate to do so.

In addition, the response must include a number of initiatives. For example: continued research, creating an operational plan (yearly, monthly, and during crisis), and distributing communications materials.

Such a response is affordable and possible.

This threat must be taken just as seriously as the decades of Palestinian terror that were rampant in the streets of Israel, and the response must be as severe. Cooperation between organizations is possible, and will be the only way to for the Ministry’s new branch to be effective in their mission of countering the delegitimization of Israel.

Col (res) Erez Weiner served as Assistant to the former Chief of the General Staff (Gabi Ashkenazi), was an Infantry Brigade Commander, and the Deputy Chief of Staff ADC.

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