The Diplomacy of Delegitimization
Date: Friday, February 19, 2010 @ 15:43:07 EST
Topic: Socialism

Dore Gold

Anyone analyzing what Israel's adversaries are planning should read the writing of Professor Richard Falk carefully. A former professor of international law at Princeton, where he defended the use of violence by Vietnam War protesters and supported the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, he was recently appointed by the UN Human Rights Council (MOATZA) as a special envoy. The Olmert government rightfully refused to cooperate with him in light of his extremist views and even denied him entry into Israel in 2008. Yet he is extremely knowledgeable about the details of how the UN system operates. After the Goldstone report was issued, Falk tried to understand its true significance. He wrote in September 2009 that Israel now faced "the legitimacy war," adding, "increasingly, the Palestinians have been winning this second non-military war". He explained that a "legitimacy war" which is fought on a "global political battlefield" is what was used against South Africa, and today poses a greater threat to Israel than what the Palestinians can do militarily.

Only a few senior ministers in the Israeli government understand that this war for legitimacy has already begun and must be fought. Moreover, it is generally not understood what a "legitimacy war" is and how it is different from Israel's past efforts in the field of hasbara.  For if a state has the best hasbara, its points will get no traction if its very legitimacy is eroded. In 1972, did anyone care about the Vietcong torturing South Vietnamese soldiers? America just wanted to get out of Vietnam. The atrocities of the Bosnian Serb army in the 1990's made it impossible for the international community to have sympathy for the bombing of civilians in Belgrade. The legitimacy of Uganda was weakened by the criminal activity of Iddi Amin to such an extent that the UN did not care when Tanzania invaded and deposed him. Israel is not in any of these categories, but those waging the war to delegitimize Israel would like to criminalize Israel as a pariah state, because pariah states have no rights, including the right of self defense.

Who is orchestrating this campaign? In London, there is the red-green alliance, the partnership between the far-left and the Islamist organizations, like the Muslim Brotherhood, that are working feverishly to delegitimize Israel in universities, trade unions, and in the media. Having lost much of their traditional political base in the British working class, the far-left movements are now looking to the Muslim immigrant population in order to win electoral support. There is also the role of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, based in Saudi Arabia, whose UN representatives have taken credit for the Goldstone Commission in the UN Human Rights Council.

The delegitimization of Israel serves a number of different political movements. Certainly there are Palestinians who want to advance "the one state solution." For Hamas, delegitimization can effectively tie the hands of the IDF as it continues to wage war against Israel through the use of terrorism. The Palestinian Authority interest is more sophisticated. During his speech at the Herzliya Conference on  February 2, 2010, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad laid out his political plan: to build on the ground the yesodot of a Palestinian state, so that by 2011, if the negotiations with Israel are going nowhere, the international community will intervene and "exert so much pressure on the political process." Fayyad wants to force Israel to "end the occupation that began in 1967." If the IDF is depicted as the same as the Serbian Army, then the international community is more likely to politically intervene as it did in Kosovo, when it sought to break away from what remained of Yugoslavia. It is no coincidence that ,in early 2009, Fayyad's Justice Minister made a formal complaint against Israel for "war crimes" in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

How should Israeli diplomacy deal with delegitimization? First, Israel must no longer accept that the Palestinians can negotiate with Israel, on the one hand, and seek its condemnation on the other hand. Even during the euphoria of the Oslo years, the PLO was initiating about 20 anti-Israel resolutions in the UN, and Israeli governments accepted this situation. Second, Israel must assert its own rights. Many Israeli governments did not want to talk in public about Israel's rights, especially its territorial claims, because they did want to upset the US or ruin the atmosphere before negotiations. But if Fayyad is laying out the borders of a Palestinian state, Israel better lay out its map more clearly.

The delegitimization war is being waged by powerful fringe groups in both Britain and the US who have great organizational skills and strong inner convictions. Israel's greatest problem is that its friends in the world community have not always heard the same inner conviction on the Israeli side, giving the forces of delegitimization a great advantage. Israel has strong legal and historical arguments that it stopped making years ago. And uniquely, the rights of the Jewish people to their national homeland were recognized by both the League of Nations and the United Nations, making Israel more legitimate than most of the states in the international community. Today, Israel still has a strong case, and given the type of conflict that is being imposed on it, it is time for Israel to speak up and defend itself.

This article originally appeared in hebrew in Yisrael Hayom.


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