Anybody who is engaged with Israel advocacy has shuddered at headlines. Israel has been accused of deliberately targeting civilians, of excessive use of force, of being child killers and is sometimes treated as if it were the nation state of the devil. The Israel/Hamas conflict in 2014 saw an unprecedented wave of anti-Israel rhetoric driven by horrific images of dead children.
As someone who is intimately acquainted with the entire spectrum of the anti-Israel narrative, I am aware of what works and what does not. There will be little traction outside of campus in suggesting Israel is a settler colonial state. People just aren’t that interested. Our neighbours will never get out of their houses and onto the street because of some alleged injustice 70 years ago. Soldiers murdering children in 2016 is an entirely different matter. These accusations present a real danger.
For this reason, an event held yesterday, 06/11/2016, by grassroots organisation Campaign4truth that discussed the ethics of war was particularly ‘nail on head’. This organisation, headed by Sharon Klaff and Ambrosine Shitrit, have a way of pulling together first class events that cut straight to the chase in the fight against the anti-Israel narrative.
As other Zionist groups with heavy funding and plush offices, compete over who can produce yet another glossy anti BDS leaflet with Israeli hi tech goods too useful to boycott, Campaign4Truth use informative dialogue as the best way to provide activists with effective arguments to fight the delegitimisation.
(note to Zionist groups: Advertising that you cannot boycott Israel because ‘Jews are powerful, clever and invent everything in the world’ plays directly into the global antisemitic mindset and feeds the European settler colonial paradigm. Please stop doing it).
The evening discussion dealt with the very basis of the delegitimisation issue.
Professor Asa Kasher was the first to speak. The professor wrote the IDF’s code of conduct. He began with the much-needed context, the understanding of the importance of human life within liberal democracies; using this position to explain the difference between the right of self defence and the duty of the state to protect its citizens.
Asa dealt with the fundamental questions of legitimacy and proportionality. How democratic armies think, and the rigorous checks and balance systems in place. I had the pleasure of speaking to Asa the day before; friendly, warm, highly intelligent. I could listen to him talk all day.
Col Tim Collins OBE addressed modern warfare, concentrating on subversive groups and the new global threats. This of course extremely relevant to Israel, who today faces threats, not from the modern armies of nation states, but terror groups who use civilians as expendable pawns.
Major-General (res) Gershon HaCohen delivered a fascinating talk that was almost philosophical in nature. A point of view, built through decades of experience, that will need to be watched again to fully digest. HaCohen’s discussion reached its conclusion through the description of a global existential threat striking at the central pillars of our liberal democratic society.
Ben-Dror Yemini is a well known Israeli journalist who penned a book, The Industry of Lies, that deals with the lack of accountable reporting in contemporary media. Yemini’s narrative was most familiar to me, as he dealt directly with the lies and delegitimisation issue.
Also present, and part of the event organisation was Amit Deri, executive director of Reservists On Duty. A NGO dedicated to fighting BDS and the delegitimisation of Israel. Based in Israel, Amit focuses on fighting the feeders of the false narrative within, such as Breaking the Silence (BtS) and Haaretz. He has only just returned from a tour of US campuses. Deri spoke briefly about BtS, giving some examples of how they create their narrative and protect themselves through anonymity.
Ben-Dror Yemini gave voice to my own opinion on Breaking the Silence by pointing out that whilst they are damaging, and tell lies about the IDF, they are a price we must pay for our freedoms. We need to be proud of a nation that allows such falsehoods to be openly distributed, just as much as we need to be willing to fight for the minds of those that they tempt.
After each speaker delivered an individual position, there was a panel session led by Sohrab Ahmari from the Wall Street Journal. Following this a short Q&A with audience participation, and the evening was over. It was lengthy and still overran. There was simply so much to talk about and so much experience and intelligence in the panel.
There were three main ‘take-homes’ for me. The first was to take pride in the humanity in the room. As someone who mainly attends anti-Israel events, I am used to a process that dehumanises the ‘enemy’. BDS brainwashes people to emotionally invest in the idea of the Zionist monster. They design their narrative to create hate.
This evening was the opposite. Constant reminders that the main victims of radical Islam are Muslims. We had discussion about killing, war, targeted assassinations and terrorism. Yet not a single participant displayed anything other than a deep respect for all human life. This sentiment lay at the heart of the entire discussion. It was inspiring to watch.
Then, there were those notable through their absence. This was a rare opportunity to listen first hand to Israel’s ethical case. Presented and delivered by those that literally ‘wrote the book’. And yet for all the presence of the grassroots activists, there was a lack of the established local Zionist leadership. Troubling. Perhaps they were all too busy elsewhere designing another poster about Israeli inventions.
The final take home was to firmly underwrite my belief that Israel is not in this alone. There is a global battle taking place. It is a straightforward light v’s darkness battle. Unlike the wars of yesteryear, this is not taking place on our borders. It is fighting against us from within. Subversive movements that seek to destroy the central pillars of our freedoms.
As Tim Collins stressed, behind closed doors, new alliances are being formed. Old enemies are reaching out to Israel, because we all face a similar threat.
They go by different names, the unite under different flags, they change to suit the environment they seek to challenge. Over here, some speak in false tongues of human rights and equality. The attacks in Paris, Belgium, here in the UK, merely fore-runners of what is to come.
We are all Israel now; we are just waiting for others to wake up to the new reality.