Pro-Palestinian Academics Pressure U of Glasgow to Withdraw Apology on biased anti-Israel Article

28.10.21

Editorial Note

IAM reported in July 2021 that the editors of a University of Glasgow journal, eSharp, apologized for an article by Jane Jackman, a Ph.D. student of Ilan Pappe at the University of Exeter, for not being “rigorous, well-balanced, and supported by evidence,” thus failing to meet standards of scholarship. In particular, the editors wrote, “this article employs some discursive strategies, including a biased selection of sources as well as the misrepresentation of data, which promote an unfounded antisemitic theory regarding the State of Israel and its activity in the United Kingdom.” 

Some 500 well-known academics and public figures have signed a petition addressed to the University of Glasgow, rejecting the apology. They oppose the fact the university issued a statement against “hate speech”, which is an “extraordinary description of a properly reviewed academic article without any racist intent.” As for the university’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism, the definition has been widely criticized, the petition claims, adding that the University demonstrates how damaging the IHRA definition can be to academic freedom. The “making of false claims is entirely counterproductive.” We, therefore, “call on the university to withdraw both its apology and its statement linking the article to hate speech, and to assert its commitment to free speech and the right to critical commentary in scholarship.” 

The long list of names includes Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA; Brian Eno, Musician; Professor Emeritus Richard Falk, Princeton University, USA; Professor Sari Hanafi, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; Ronnie Kasrils, South African Government Minister (1994-2008) and author, South Africa; Ken Loach, filmmaker; Professor Jacqueline Rose, Birkbeck, University of London; Professor Emerita Hilary Rose, Bradford University; Emeritus Professor Steven Rose, The Open University; Emeritus Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, LSE; Professor Emeritus George Smith, Nobelist, University of Missouri, USA; Dr Derek Summerfield, King’s College London.

These are well-known supporters of the Palestinians. Chomsky, for example, has visited Hizballah’s leader in Lebanon in 2006 to show his strong support. 

The long list of Israeli academics includes those who received academic positions in Western Universities based on their anti-Israel activities. 

A thorough examination of Jackman’s article is in order. The article deals with Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s undercover documentary programs titled “The Lobby.” The documentary is said to shatter “any illusions about Israel’s capacity to influence British democratic processes.” The film exposed Shai Masot, an Israeli Embassy official, suggesting to a senior civil servant to “take down” a British politician Sir Alan Duncan, then Deputy Foreign Minister, and a supporter of the Palestinians. Masot’s interlocutor, Maria Strizzolo, a former ministerial aide in the British Education Department, agreed: “If you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they are trying to hide.”  Embarrassing as it were for Israel, whether related or not, the US Justice Department ordered the Al Jazeera online news in the US, in the coming months, to register as a foreign agent, as “an agent of the Government of Qatar.” Something Jackman fails to mention. 

Jackman’s principal contention is that the Israeli state-sponsored strategy focuses on “controlling public opinion in the UK” and that Israel harnesses the “resources of grassroots Zionist supporters in order to buttress from below the British government.” In particular, Jackman noted, “to combat increasing public antipathy to Israel, specifically in its military interventions in Gaza, known colloquially to IDF soldiers as ‘mowing the lawn’.” She quotes Mouin Rabbani, a Dutch-Palestinian analyst specializing in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Palestinian affairs, based in Amman, who wrote “the Israeli military called ‘mowing the lawn’: weakening Hamas and enhancing Israel’s powers of deterrence.” 

Jackman’s paper is interested in how “the British government appears to favor Israel… In light of growing public unrest over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza.”

In essence, according to Jackman, “British Zionists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are being mobilized to wage a proxy war for Israel via the digital realm. It may be clichéd to think of it as the Clausewitzian ‘war by other means’ but that is precisely what it appears to be.” 

The article moves on to discuss the new anti-Semitism, going through the fact that in December 2016, Theresa May, then UK Prime Minister, announced that Britain was to become one of the first countries to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, “prior to relations with Israel turning sour over Resolution 2334.”  According to Jackman, the IHRA definition “sets limits on free speech where Israel is concerned, entrenching its current immunity to international censure. Secondly, debates over the new definition distract attention from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.” 

Jackman then states that “During the years leading up to the new formulation of anti-Semitism, Israel’s international image had already been in steady decline. This was partly due to the failure of the Oslo Peace Process to deliver on its promises, specifically to the Palestinians.” Jackman is wrong again; Israel’s international image is on a steady rise, and the Palestinians themselves caused the failure of the Oslo peace process. She repeats time and again how Israel is unpopular – an assertion without any basis. 

She mentions the Durban 2001 “Zionism as Racism” conference, which “the spectacle tarnished Israel’s image and served to further polarize debate over its policies, now gaining widespread publicity due to the Palestinian uprising.” and the 2002 “Jenin massacre” as two cases that weakened Israel’s international standing. However, Jackman is wrong. The two events harmed the Palestinians: The Durban conference that Iran embraced, the Palestinian greatest ally, severed the Palestinian’s ties with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. The media reported the unfounded charges of a Massacre in Jenin on Aug. 2, 2002, announcing that “Jenin; U.N. Report Rejects Claims Of a Massacre Of Refugees.” Adding that the Israeli Defense Forces attacked Jenin as part of “a West Bank offensive that began on March 29, after a suicide bomber from the Islamist group Hamas killed 29 people at a Passover seder in the seaside Israeli town of Netanya.”  

Jackman describes how pro-Israel bloggers “exemplify the discursive categories typical of an extreme ideological perspective. These include outright denials of Israel’s human rights violations beginning with the displacement in 1948 of the indigenous Palestinian population (Pappe 2006); the shifting of blame for the conflict through discourses that claim (for Israel) the right to self-defense, and which imply that Palestinian violence is a random expression of Arab anti-Semitism rather than resistance to decades of dispossession, discrimination and humiliation; dehumanization of Palestinians as a people who routinely sacrifice their children in order to kill Jews; a strong antipathy for anyone supporting Palestinian human rights; and frequent resort to ridicule.” 

Jackman goes even further;  “The dissident journalist Chris Hedges highlights this well when he draws on George Orwell (and Adolf Hitler) to observe that states wielding ‘the Big Lie’ – as he claims Israel does to maintain its hold on Palestine.” Using Adolf Hitler to discuss Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is anti-Semitic, for this, possibly, Jackman was accused of using anti-Semitic overtones. 

Jackman complains that Israel has “One law bans married couples from living together where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a resident of the occupied territories.” The truth is, they can live together in the Palestinian Territories.

Jackman’s article is replete with errors, untruths, and bias against Israel.

Clearly, Western universities are being used by Palestinians and pro-Palestinians to recruit anti-Israel propagandists. Such a practice is unacademic. Academics should be recruited for their excellence in research and teaching and nothing else. A thorough examination of such a failed practice would be recommended.

References:


https://www.scotsman.com/education/glasgow-university-accused-of-undermining-academic-freedom-in-antisemitic-ruling-3431124

Education

Glasgow University accused of undermining academic freedom in ‘antisemitic’ ruling

A group of distinguished scholars has accused Glasgow University of undermining academic freedom after the institution apologised for the publication of an article it claimed was antisemitic.

By Alison Campsie
Monday, 25th October 2021, 8:49 am

A 500-strong petition against the university’s handling of an academic paper was sent to the office of the university chancellor on Sunday.

Signatories include internationally renowned philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, Nobel Prize winning chemist George Smith and film director Ken Loach, with supporters coming from 28 different countries.

The petition follows the publication of a peer-reviewed paper in the university’s scholarly journal eSharp in 2017, which examined methods used by Israel to form public opinion and support from the UK Government.

The University of Glasgow has received a 500-strong petition which demands it withdraws an apology for the publication of an article which it judged to be antisemitic. PIC:

Following complaints over the content of the article, the journal issued an apology and said it recognised the paper had caused considerable offence while not meeting standards of scholarship.

It added the article promoted an “unfounded antisemitic theory” – a claim strongly rejected by the scholars who support the petition, who say criticism of Israel and its supporters cannot be conflated with antisemitism.

The petition calls for the apology to be withdrawn, along with an associated university statement that outlined its zero-tolerance to hate speech.

Professor Chomsky, institute professor and professor of linguistics emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “The capitulation by the University of Glasgow is a serious blow to academic freedom that should not be allowed to stand.”

Glasgow University said last night that freedom of expression, the right to disagree and academic freedom was “at the heart of our mission” and the petition was being considered.

The article, which was written by Jane Jackman, a former postgraduate student at Exeter University, remains on the eSharp website and now includes a preface from the editorial board, including the apology, which was added in May.

A number of complaints followed the apology, including one from Ms Jackman’s supervisor, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, with the petition launched thereafter.

Other signatories include historian Sheila Rowbotham and Ronnie Kasrils, the former South African government minister and key figure in the African National Congress during the apartheid era. Musician Brian Eno and Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC have also signed.

Jonathan Rosenhead, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics and chair of the British Committee for Universities of Palestine, is one of the founders of the petition.

He said: “Academic freedom is very crucial to the whole standing of the academic enterprise.

“For Glasgow, it is not a good look to be the university which crosses a new frontier in undermining research which is complained about by outside forces.

“The article was an examination of the mechanics of how Israel and its allies influence and inform public opinion with the aim of maintaining British Government support.

“It’s an established area of academic research. People write similar articles about China and about Russia, but they are not accused of being anti-China or anti-Russia. But if you write an article like this on Israel, you are antisemitic.”

The making of false claims weakened the struggle against actual racism, the petition added.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow, said: “The University of Glasgow is committed to supporting academic freedom and promoting equality and diversity across campus. Freedom of expression, the right to disagree, the protection of all staff and students in their right to hold views and of academic freedom are at the heart of our mission.

“We have received the petition today [Sunday] and are considering it fully. We will respond to the signatories in due course.”

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http://www.bricup.org.uk/

International Academics Accuse Glasgow University of Undermining Scholarship

Five hundred and fifty academics and prominent intellectuals from round the world have called out the University of Glasgow for making a public apology for an article published in its eSharp journal four years ago. The author was not informed that this apology was being made. The article is critical of lobbying and information techniques used by Israel and its supporters.

Four years after the article was published, and after a complaint by a pro-Israel activist and other attacks, a preface was added this summer to the article, accusing it of promoting ‘an antisemitic theory’; and the university issued a statement on their action saying they are against ‘hate speech’. The University went on to justify their statement by reference to the much-criticised IHRA definition of antisemitism (which links criticism of Israel to antisemitism).

The signatories insist that criticism of Israel and its supporters cannot be conflated with antisemitism. The serious consequence of that for academic research, they say, would be that

“other groups, states and corporations can all be the subject of critical academic analysis, but commentary on pro-Israel advocacy must be limited.”

The academics also object to the overturning of the peer review process which had approved the article in 2017. They are especially concerned about the impact on future scholarship, since this university journal is aimed at early career researchers. It is potentially extremely damaging to have research labelled in this way; the university’s action, if not retracted, will act as a deterrent to researchers entering this field.

The criticism by academics is shared by prominent public figures who have added their names to the petition including Ronnie Kasrils the veteran anti-apartheid statesman from South Africa, the film maker Ken Loach, musician Brian Eno, the author Ahdaf Soeuif, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and international legal experts including John Dugard and Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC.

Issues of academic freedom and free speech on campus have recently attracted national coverage with several high-profile cases. But it is unusual for a case to attract so much international attention from academics across such a wide range of disciplines. The signatories range from Malcolm Levitt in physical chemistry and the mathematician David Epstein, both fellows of the Royal Society, to the acclaimed historian Sheila Rowbotham.

They include two former presidents of the British Sociological Association, John Brewer and also John Eldridge, whose work has been listed as one of the top 100 achievements of Glasgow University. The current president of the International Sociological Association , Sari Hanafi has also signed, along with Gerardo Otero, president of the Latin American Studies Association. There are 20 signatories from major Universities in Israel as well as Palestinian scholars including Salman Abu Sitta, President of the Palestine Land Society. Professor Hagit Borer has signed on behalf of Israel Academics UK along with Jacqueline Rose of Independent Jewish Voices.

The signatories state that they stand absolutely against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination. But they believe that the making of false claims is entirely counterproductive since it spreads confusion and weakens the struggle against actual racism.

They are calling on the University to withdraw both its apology and its comments linking the article to hate speech, and to assert its commitment to the right to critical commentary in scholarship.

Signatory George P Smith, Nobel laureate in Chemistry, has commented as follows:

“I ask my fellow academics: Is campaigning to discredit scholarship we strongly disagree with as ‘hate speech’ an honorable or effective way to rebut it?”

And Noam Chomsky says:

“The capitulation by the University of Glasgow is a serious blow to academic freedom that should not be allowed to stand.”

You can see the petition and signatories here.

http://www.bricup.org.uk/documents/eSharp_petition.pdf
Glasgow University must stop undermining scholarship
by deferring to false claims of antisemitism
We wish to publicly express our rejection of the decision by Glasgow University in May 2021 to apologise for an article on pro-Israel advocacy originally published in its eSharp journal in 2017. This followed complaints, amplified in a news report, that its content was antisemitic.
The paper was accepted for publication following the standard process of double-blind peer-review. The article is an academic account of public relations, lobbying, advocacy and information management, which is a well-established area of academic study. However the editorial board of the journal and Glasgow University have since endorsed the view that because the subject is advocacy for Israel, then the article promotes ‘an unfounded antisemitic theory’.
This untenable position implies that other groups, states and corporations can all be the subject of critical academic analysis, but commentary on pro-Israel advocacy must be limited. Others may be described as organising, planning or seeking influence, and even disseminating propaganda or misleading accounts. But it is falsely asserted that description of such behaviour by Israel or its advocates cannot be neutral observation or analysis; a racist meaning and intent is imputed and assumed without evidence.
Academic research must be guided by the validity and reliability of evidence. The evaluation of academic work has to be based on established protocols including crucially peer review. In this case, the original peer review process has been overturned by the university and editorial board. Their apology includes a peremptory comment on ‘bias’ in sources and use of data without any detail at all on what they believe is wrong in the article. The author was not contacted, and only heard of the complaints when approached by a newspaper.
The university has even issued a statement on the affair saying it is against ‘hate speech’, an extraordinary description of a properly reviewed academic article without any racist intent. The statement goes on to claim that its action is consistent with the university’s recent adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism. That definition has been widely criticised, and this action by the University of Glasgow demonstrates how damaging it can be to academic freedom.
We stand absolutely against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination; but the making of false claims is entirely counterproductive since it spreads confusion and weakens the struggle against actual racism.
We call on the university to withdraw both its apology and its statement linking the article to hate speech, and to assert its commitment to free speech and the right to critical commentary in scholarship.

Signed

Professor Ahmed Abbes, Director of Research, Paris, France Professor Nahla Abdo, Carleton University, Canada Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University, USA Dr Salman Abu Sitta, Independent researcher, UK Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University, USA Dr Bashir Abu-Manneh, University of Kent Professor Mohammad Abusara, University of Exeter Professor Gilbert Achcar, SOAS, University of London Dr Howard Adelman, Queen’s University, Canada Professor Laurie Adkin, University of Alberta, Canada Professor Khaled Al Hroub, Northwestern University in Qatar, Qatar Professor Najm Al-Din Yousefi, California State University, Chico, USA Dr Dina Al-Kassim, University of British Columbia, Canada Professor Greg Albo, York University, Canada Dr Anne Alexander, University of Cambridge Professor Ece Algan, California State University, San Bernadino, USA Sharib Ali, University of Bern, Switzerland Dr Diana Allan, McGill University, Canada Dr Jamie Allinson, University of Edinburgh Dr Merav Amir, Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Ibrahim Aoudé, University of Hawaii, USA Emeritus Professor Gautamkumar Appa, LSE, Dr Sima Aprahamian, Concordia University, Canada Dr Yigal Arens, University of Southern California, USA Professor Emeritus Talal Asad, City University New York, USA Oreet Ashery, University of Oxford Dr Iain Atack, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Professor Emerita Elsa Auerbach, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA Dr Robert Austin Henry, University of Sydney, Australia Dr Mark Ayyash, Mount Royal University, Canada Professor Sylvat Aziz, Queen’s University, Canada Professor Ariella Azoulay, Brown University, USA Dr Emile Badarin, College of Europe, Natolin, Poland Professor Saleem Badat, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa David Baker, UCL Insitute of Education, Professor Mona Baker, University of Manchester Dr Viviane Baladi, CNRS, France Professor Jared Ball, Morgan State University, USA Neil Ballantyne, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, New Zealand Professor Lisa Baraitser, Birkbeck, University of London Professor Leon Barkho, Jönköping University, Sweden Professor Josep Barona-Vilar, University of València, Spain Umesh Bawa, University of the Western Cape, South Africa Dr Hatem Bazian, UC Berkeley, USA Dr Moshe Behar, University of Manchester Professor Avner Ben-Amos, Tel-Aviv University, Israel Dr Yael Ben-Zvi, Ben Gurion University, Israel Professor Jody Berland, York University, Canada Dr Anna Bernard, King’s College London Professor Bernard Bernier, Université de Montréal, Canada Dr Mike Berry, Cardiff University, Professor Emeritus Huw Beynon, Cardiff University Professor Chetan Bhatt, LSE Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, University College London Dr Greg Bird, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Emeritus Professor George Bisharat, UC Hastings College of Law, USA Dr Susan Blackwell, Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands Professor Patrick Bond, University of Johannesburg, South Africa Professor Hagit Borer, Queen Mary University of London Dr Michiel Bot, Tilburg University, Netherlands Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck, University of London Dr Robert Boyce, LSE Professor Emeritus Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Bowling Green State University, USA Dr Lara Braitstein, McGill University, Canada Professor Craig Brandist, University of Sheffield Professor Emeritus Bob Brecher, University of Brighton Professor Eva Brems, Ghent University, Belgium Professor Haim Bresheeth, SOAS, University of London Professor John Brewer FRSE, Queens University Belfast Professor Jean Bricmont, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium Terry Brotherstone, University of Aberdeen Dr Janet Bujra, University of Bradford Dr Mike Burke, Ryerson University, Canada Professor Erica Burman, University of Manchester Professor Ray Bush, University of Leeds Emeritus Professor David Byrne, University of Durham Dr Alan Campbell, University of Liverpool Marián Carty, Goldsmiths, University of London Professor John Chalcraft, LSE Dr Douglas Chalmers, Caledonian University Sir Iain Chalmers, University of Oxford Dr Sutapa Chattopadhyay, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada Dr Claudia Chaufan, York University, Canada Dr Yves Chilliard, INRAE, France Dr Riley Chisholm, St Francis Xavier University, Canada Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA Dr Tanzil Chowdhury, Queen Mary University of London Professor Ian Christie, Birkbeck, University of London Professor Linda Clarke, University of Westminster Dr Frances Clarke, University of Sydney, Australia Dr Rosemary Collard, Simon Fraser University, Canada Professor Ellen Corin, McGill University, Canada Professor Bert Cornillie, KU Leuven, Belgium Dr Eddie Cottle, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa Professor Deborah Cowen, University of Toronto, Canada Dr John Cowley, City University of London Professor Stef Craps, Ghent University, Belgium Dr Don Crewe, Leeds Beckett University Dr Hannah Cross, University of Westminster Dr Ned Curthoys, University of Western Australia, Australia Mike Cushman, LSE Professor Frans Daems, University of Antwerp, Belgium Dr Gareth Dale, Brunel University Dr Marwan Darweish, Coventry University Professor Éric David, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium Professor Emeritus Marc David, University of Antwerp, Belgium Professor Emeritus Lawrence Davidson, West Chester University, USA Professor Chandler Davis, University of Toronto, Canada Dr Dror Dayan, Liverpool John Moores University Emerita Professor Sonia Dayan-Herzbrun, Université de Paris, France Professor Lieven de Cauter, KU Leuven, Belgium Dr Chiara de Cesari, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands Emeritus Professor Herman De Ley, Ghent University, Belgium Professor Patrick Deboosere, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium Professor Carine Defoort, KU Leuven, Belgium Dr Martin Deleixhe, University Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium Professor Radhika Desai, University of Manitoba, Canada Professor Emeritus Uday Desai, University of New Mexico, USA Professor Eoin Devereux, University of Limerick, Ireland Dr Rita Dhamoon, University of Victoria, Canada Dr Bruno Di Biase, Western Sydney University, Australia Professor James Dickins, University of Leeds Professor Bill Dixon, University of Nottingham Dr Gord Doctorow, Nova Southerastern University, USA Emeritus Professor Rudy Doom, Ghent University, Belgium Sean Doyle, UCL Institute of Education Dr Deepa Driver, University of Reading Dr Judit Druks, UCL Paul Duffill, Rikkyo University, Japan Professor Emeritus John Dugard, University of Leiden, Netherlands Professor Jane Duncan, University of Johannesburg, South Africa Professor Emeritus Michael Dunford, University of Sussex Professor Francis Dupuis-Déri, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada Dr Sam Durrant, University of Leeds Dr Dennis Eady, Cardiff University Professor Rebecca Earle, University of Warwick Dr Nadia Edmond, University of Brighton Professor Michael Edwards, University College London, Professor Emeritus Peter Eglin, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Professor Haidar Eid, Al-Aqsa University, Palestine Professor Barry Eidlin, McGill University, Canada Professor Emeritus Ivar Ekeland, Université de Paris-Dauphine, France Professor Emeritus John Eldridge, University of Glasgow Professor Ziad Elmarsafy, King’s College London Professor Emeritus David Elworthy, University of Warwick Dr Sai Englert, Leiden University, Netherlands Brian Eno, Musician Professor David Enoch, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel Professor David Epstein FRS, University of Warwick Professor Bryan Evans, Ryerson University, Canada Dr Simin Fadaee, University of Manchester Professor Khaled Fahmy, University of Cambridge Professor Emeritus Richard Falk, Princeton University, USA Professor Jean-Sébastien Fallu, Université de Montréal, Canada Professor Randa Farah, Western University, Canada Professor Emeritus Emmanuel Farjoun, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel Professor Gene Feder, University of Bristol Professor Natalie Fenton, Goldsmiths, University of London Dr Toby Fitch, University of Sydney, Australia Emeritus Professor Bridget Fowler, University of Glasgow Dr Naomi Foyle, University of Chichester Professor Cynthia Franklin, University of Hawai’i, USA Professor Pier Frassinelli, University of Johannesburg, South Africa Professor Desmond Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London Professor Emeritus Gideon Freudenthal, Tel Aviv University, Israel Professor Gavin Fridell, Saint Mary’s University, Canada Dr Khaled Furani, Tel Aviv University, Israel Pierre Galand, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium Professor William Gallois, University of Exeter Dr Ophira Gamliel, University of Glasgow Professor Emeritus Chaim Gans, Tel Aviv University, Israel Dr Ernest Garcia, University of València, Spain Professor Conor Gearty, LSE Dr Roni Gechtman, Mount Saint University, Canada Dr Julie Gervais, Paris 1 University, France Dr Mollie Gerver, University of Essex Dr Maayan Geva, University of Roehampton Emeritus Professor Michel Gevers, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium Dr Wassim Ghantous, Columbia University, USA Dr Kelly Gillespie, University of the Western Cape, South Africa Dr Jay Ginn, University of Surrey Professor Terri Ginsberg, Concordia University, Canada Dr Mairi Gkikaki, University of Warwick Dr Donny Gluckstein, Edinburgh College Professor Amos Goldberg, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel Professor Catherine Goldstein, CNRS, Paris, France Professor Luz Gómez, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain Professor Neve Gordon, Queen Mary University of London Dr Anthony Gorman, University of Edinburgh Dr Rachel Gorman, York University, Canada Professor Emeritus Peter Gose, Carleton University, Canada Professor Peter Gøtzsche, Newcastle University Dr Kevin Gould, Concordia University, Canada Professor Rebecca Gould, University of Birmingham Professor Nir Gov, Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel Professor Greg Grandin, Yale University, USA Professor Penny Green, Queen Mary University of London Emeritus Professor Colin Green, University College London Dr Althea Greenan, Goldsmiths, University of London Professor Allan Greer, McGill University, Canada Emeritus Professor Dorothy Griffiths, Imperial College London Professor Nacira Guenif, University Paris 8, France Professor Niloofar Haeri, John Hopkins University, USA Professor Emeritus Larry Haiven, Saint Mary’s University, Canada Dr Yohai Hakak, Brunel University London Professor Dyala Hamzah, Université de Montréal, Canada Professor Sari Hanafi, American University of Beirut, Lebanon Dr Jeff Handmaker, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands Dr Larry Hannant, University of Victoria, Canada Professor Emeritus Lauri Hannikainen, Helsinki University, Finland Dr Zahera Harb, City University of London Professor Michael Harris, Columbia University, USA Dr Jason Hart, University of Bath Professor Michelle Hartman, McGill University, Canada Dr Rumy Hasan, University of Sussex Professor Kamel Hawwash, University of Birmingham Dr Rand Hazou, Massey University, New Zealand Dr Naomi Head, University of Glasgow Dr Jesse Hearns-Branaman, United International College, China Professor Judith Hellman, York University, Canada Emeritus Professor Fred Hendricks, Rhodes University, South Africa Dr Tom Hickey, University of Brighton Emeritus Professor Susan Himmelweit, The Open University Dr Nimi Hoffmann, University of Sussex Dr Christian Høgsbjerg, University of Brighton Professor Jacob Høigilt, University of Oslo, Norway Dr David Hookes, University of Liverpool Dr Uri Horesh, Achva Academic College, Israel Professor Julia Horvath, Tel Aviv University, Israel Dr Muir Houston, University of Glasgow Professor Philip Howard, McGill University, Canada Emeritus Professor Ray Hudson, Durham University Professor Anna Hultgreen, The Open University Professor Perrine Humblet, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium Emeritus Professor Maggie Humm, University of East London Professor Nicholas Humphrey, Darwin College, Cambridge Dr Omar Jabary Salamanca, Free University of Brussels, Belgium Jane Jackman, University of Exeter Professor Richard Jackson, University of Otago, New Zealand Professor Marc Jacquemain, Université de Liège, Belgium Professor Mohamed Jeebhay, University of Cape Town, South Africa Na’eem Jeenah, Afro-Middle East Centre, South Africa Professor David Johnson, The Open University Professor Daniele Joly, University of Warwick Dr Peter Jones, Sheffield Hallam University Dr Evan Jones, University of Sydney, Australia Dr Rula Jurdi, McGill University, Canada Professor Jon Jureidini, University of Adelaide, Australia Professor Ashraf Kagee, Stellenbosch University, South Africa Professor Ahuvia Kahane, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Dr Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, University of Toronto, Canada Dr Katy Kalemkerian, Champlain College, Canada Dr Barak Kalir, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands Professor Ivan Kalmar, University of Toronto, Canada Professor Ilan Kapoor, York University, Canada Professor Karim Karim, Carleton University, Canada Ronnie Kasrils, South African Government Minister (1994-2008) and author, South Africa Professor Daniel Katz, University of Warwick Dr Jalal Kawash, University of Calgary, Canada Dr Paul Kelemen, University of Manchester Dr Abby Kendrick, University of Warwick Professor Seán Kennedy, St Mary’s University, Canada Dr Arang Keshavarzian, New York University, USA Professor Assaf Kfoury, Boston University, USA Professor Muhammad Ali Khalidi, City University of New York, USA Professor Laleh Khalili, Queen Mary University of London Dr Pasha Khan, McGill University, Canada Dr Gholam Khiabany, Goldsmiths, University of London Professor John King, New York University, USA Miyuki Kinjo, Ritsumeikan University, Japan Professor Emeritus Ann Louise Kinmonth, University of Cambridge Dr Gill Kirkup, The Open University Dr Chris Klassen, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Professor Chris Knight, University College London Professor Jair Koiller, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil Dr Adam Kossoff, University of Wolverhampton Dr Natalie Kouri-Towe, Concordia University, Canada Dr Tor Krever, University of Warwick Professor Deepa Kumar, Rutgers University, USA Dr Arun Kundnani, Independent researcher, USA Richard Kuper, Univ of Hertfordshire Professor Emeritus Ron Kuzar, University of Haifa, Israel Dr David Laibman, City University of New York, USA Emeritus Professor Frank Land, LSE Dr David Landy, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Dr Claudia Lapping, UCL Institute of Education Professor Robert Latham, York University, Canada Dr Alex Latta, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Professor Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University Dr Nicholas Lawrence, University of Warwick Professor John Leavitt, Université de Montréal, Canada Dr Catherine Leclerc, McGill University, Canada Emeritus Professor Dennis Leech, University of Warwick Dr Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Antony Lerman, University of Southampton Dr Ruby-Ann Levendal, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa Dr Mark Levene, University of Southampton Dr Les Levidow, The Open University Professor Joseph Levine, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA Professor Malcolm Levitt FRS, University of Southampton Professor Erez Levon, University of Bern Sian Lewis-Anthony, University of Kent Professor Stephen Little, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa Ken Loach, filmmaker Professor Yosefa Loshitzky, SOAS, University of London Professor Emeritus Fred Loucx, Free University of Brussels, Belgium Dr Toby Lovat, University of Brighton Professor Emeritus Madeline Lutjeharms, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium Dr Jake Lynch, University of Sydney, Australia Professor Emerita Harriet Lyons, University of Waterloo, Canada Emeritus Professor Andrew Lyons, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Dr Rhys Machold, University of Glasgow Professor Emeritus Moshé Machover, King’s College London Dr Ken Macnab, University of Sydney, Australia Revital Madar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel Dr Rasigan Maharajh, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa Professor Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis, USA Dr Nivi Manchanda, Queen Mary University of London Professor Firoze Manji, Carleton University, Canada Dr Shuaib Manjra, University of Cape Town, South Africa Former Professor Mokong Mapadimeng, North-West University, South Africa Professor Stephen Marmura, St Francis Xavier University, Canada Professor Emeritus Albert Martens, KU Leuven, Belgium Dr Olivia Mason, University of Glasgow Dr Mazen Masri, City University of London Dr Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University, Israel Emeritus Professor Marjorie Mayo, Goldsmiths, University of London Professor David McCoy, Queen Mary, University of London Dr Ian McDonald, Newcastle University Professor John McIlroy, Middlesex University Dr Peter McMylor, University of Manchester Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Unversity College London, Professor Emeritus Paul 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https://www.gla.ac.uk/media/Media_792691_smxx.pdf

Advocating Occupation:
Outsourcing Zionist Propaganda in the UK
Jane Jackman (University of Exeter)
This essay explores the rise of grassroots Zionist advocacy since 2000, when the second Palestinian
intifada (lit: uprising) effectively signalled the failure of the Oslo Peace Process to deliver on its
promise of Palestinian self-determination. In response, rather than working to end its military
occupation of Palestinian territory, Israel set about attempting to reverse the subsequent sharp decline
in its international standing, and revised its global communications strategy. Whilst initially
strengthening ties with the Jewish diaspora, Israel’s longer-term objective was to conscript and
resource a cohort of grassroots Zionist supporters to carry the Israeli narrative into the broader sphere
of society. This paper focuses on Israel’s strategy as it affects the UK, now widely construed by Zionists
as a centre for anti-Semitic activity and therefore a key battleground over discursive hegemony. More
specifically, the paper highlights the efforts of two prominent grassroots advocacy organizations to
recruit and coach volunteers in the art of Israeli hasbara (lit: explaining). Their mission is to counter
the rising tide of pro-Palestinian sympathy in the UK as embodied by Israel’s nemesis, the Boycott
Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the grassroots pro-Palestinian movement that gained
momentum from Israel’s series of military incursions into Gaza (2008-2009, 2012, 2014). The paper
argues that by outsourcing Zionist propaganda to grassroots activists, and exploiting their social
networks to circulate biased information, Israel is buttressing from below the British government’s
customary support for Israel, and perpetuating its inertia over Israeli occupation of land allocated
under international law for a future Palestinian state.
Key words: Israel, Palestinian, new anti-Semitism, grassroots advocacy, networks
A half-truth is the worst of all lies
(Solon 550 B.C.)
For Israel’s ambassador to the Court of St. James, Mark Regev, 2017 could hardly have begun
on a more discordant note. Centenary celebrations marking the Balfour Declaration, the 1917
document legitimizing Zionist immigration to Palestine, had been launched just two months
earlier, with the British government endorsing plans for a year of special events. But by the
end of 2016, relations between Britain and Israel were in crisis. On the eve of the Jewish feast
of Hanukah, two days before Christmas, the UN Security Council had adopted a resolution
(2334) condemning Israel’s unabated expansion of Jewish settlements on land that international
law identifies as Palestinian. Without warning, America had withheld its customary veto of UN
censure of Israel, and abstained; Britain, together with the 13 other states on the Council, voted
in favour. Worse still (in diplomatic terms) it was discovered that the British Foreign Office
had played a leading role in scripting the offending resolution (Sanchez 2016).
Then, with the ink scarcely dry on Resolution 2334, and amid Israeli threats of
retaliation, coupled with fear over what might transpire at the Paris Peace Conference in mideSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
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January, the Qatari based network, Al Jazeera English broadcast a four-part series of
undercover documentaries entitled The Lobby (Al Jazeera 2017). The series was to shatter any
illusions about Israel’s capacity to influence British democratic processes. Most
controversially, the films exposed an Israeli Embassy official in the act of suggesting to a senior
civil servant the ‘take down’ of British politicians, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sir Alan
Duncan, a known supporter of Palestinian rights, at the top of the list.
The embassy official was Shai Masot, a former intelligence officer for the Israel Defence
Forces (IDF). To Ambassador Regev’s further embarrassment, Masot’s interlocutor, Maria
Strizzolo, a former ministerial aide employed in the Education Department, was filmed
agreeing: ‘If you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they are trying to hide’
(Al Jazeera 2017). The scandal mongering attempts of the pair were hard to deny in the face
of the filmed evidence.
Further footage showed Masot boasting about his recent success in influencing British
government policy over local council boycotts of Israeli goods and services
(Conservative Friends of Israel). Equally damaging, he was seen mobilizing behind-the-scenes
support for Israel through his close involvement with Zionist lobbyists amongst the political
elite, and covertly fostering the spread of pro-Israel advocacy groups at the grassroots level of
British society.
By the time the films aired, both Masot and Strizzolo had resigned. Ambassador Regev
– well known as the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman during Israel’s 51-day military assault
on Gaza in 2014, codenamed Operation Defensive Edge ̶ insisted Masot had acted alone and
that his behaviour did not reflect Israeli policy. He apologized to Sir Alan personally, and
released a photograph of the two shaking hands.
Nevertheless, the documentaries caused outrage on all sides of the Israel-Palestinian
debate in Britain. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded an inquiry on grounds of national
security. Conservative MP Crispin Blunt told the Independent that Masot’s conduct was an
‘interference in another country’s politics of the murkiest and most discreditable kind’ (Merrick
2017). As they and others argued – with good reason – had Russia, Iran or indeed any other
state been caught behaving in a like manner, there would have been a thorough investigation.
On the other hand, the Jewish press tended to minimize the importance of the series,
scorning them as trivial and out-of-touch with the reality of everyday parliamentary lobbying.
Others accused Al Jazeera of importing Middle Eastern anti-Semitism to Britain, or berated
the deceitfulness of undercover reporting and complained to the communications regulator
Ofcom.1
However, the furore was short-lived. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow made
short shrift of MPs’ demands for an inquiry, telling them it would not be ‘helpful to discuss it
further’ (Middle East Eye 2017). A public petition collected more than 12,000 signatories
demanding an investigation into the embassy’s conduct but it too drew a terse response from
the Foreign Office. Stressing Britain’s strong ties with Israel, the response concluded: ‘We
consider the matter closed’ (UK Government & Parliament 2017).
This paper is less concerned with why the British government appears to favour Israel
in this way ̶ bilateral trading figures of £4 billion are undoubtedly a factor ̶ as it is with how
1 At the time of writing the outcome is still pending.
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
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this position is maintained. In light of growing public unrest over Israel’s policies towards the
Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza, this question is particularly imperative. According
to the UN, Operation Defensive Edge killed more than 2,250 Palestinians, including 1,462
civilians ̶ a third of them children (OCHA 2015). In the UK, as elsewhere in Europe,
protestors took to the streets in an attempt to press the government to intervene. One of these
protests, in central London, attracted 150,000 marchers (Culzac 2014). In Manchester, there
were clashes with police as pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated outside city centre shops
selling Israeli products (Cox 2014). In Birmingham, the Stop the War Coalition organized a
2000-strong march demanding an end to the bloodshed (Cartledge 2014). Meanwhile, the
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a forerunner of BDS, gathered more than 38,000
signatures on an open letter to then prime minister David Cameron, protesting at Israel’s
‘collective punishment of the Palestinian people’ (PSC [Letter] 2014).
Since the role of the media and political elites in promoting support for Israel has
already been explored and documented (Mearsheimer & Walt 2007; Oborne & Jones 2009;
Philo & Berry 2011), these elements of the public debate are not the focus here. Grassroots
advocacy, however, is by its nature diffuse and harder to track, and with the exception of a
report sponsored by Spinwatch (Mills et al 2013) on one of the newest and most sophisticated
organizations, few efforts have been made to map its mechanisms or its effects. While one
short paper is unlikely to go far in redressing the balance, its author hopes to encourage further
research in this field.
The principal contention of this paper is that an Israeli state-sponsored strategy is
focused on controlling public opinion in the UK. Israel’s objective is to harness the resources
of grassroots Zionist supporters in order to buttress from below the British government’s
traditionally staunch support for Israel and to combat increasing public antipathy to Israel,
specifically in its military interventions in Gaza, known colloquially to IDF soldiers as
‘mowing the lawn’ (Rabbani 2014).
For its conceptual framework, the paper draws on the Foucauldian correlation between
knowledge, discourse and power (Foucault 1980). Further, it resonates with the notion that
discourse is a contested site of power, and whoever controls the discourse also controls what
Teun van Dijk (2008) conceptualizes as ‘the public mind’, and in turn is able to exercise a level
of control over people’s actions (Dijk 2008: viii). Dijk claims that such high levels of control
equate to an abuse of power that critical discourse scholars have an obligation to expose.
Before proceeding, it should be noted that since 1948 when the Israeli state was
founded, scholars have fallen roughly into two camps: one engaged in presenting a carefully
managed justification for Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the other (after 1967) drawing on
revisionist scholarship that continues to challenge the Israeli narrative and its resulting social
inequalities. Also, whereas the new anti-Semitism has fomented a great deal of scholarly
debate, not least over the conflation of terms such as pro-Israel and pro-Zionist, there is
insufficient space here to examine the distinctions. Therefore for the purpose of this essay the
terms pro-Israel and pro-Zionist are used interchangeably.
Therefore, in the spirit of critical inquiry, and focusing on pro-Israel advocacy in the
UK, the paper provides a brief insight into recent developments in Zionist advocacy in the UK,
focusing on the activities of one of the newest and most proactive grassroots organizations, We
Believe in Israel (WBII). Then, highlighting the expanding network of Friends of Israel (FoI)
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
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groups, it touches on the kinds of discourse supporters typically use to promote Israel to the
UK public. It concludes that the Israeli narrative of events is being robustly outsourced to
grassroots activists for the purpose of circulating Israel’s chosen narratives through the
Foucauldian ‘capillaries’ of the social body, through which discourse – and therefore
knowledge and power – flows (Foucault 1980: p.96). The aim is to discredit and neutralize pro-
Palestinian discourses. In essence this means that British Zionists, both Jewish and non-Jewish,
are being mobilized to wage a proxy war for Israel via the digital realm. It may be clichéd to
think of it as the Clausewitzian ‘war by other means’ but that is precisely what it appears to be.
The New Anti-Semitism
In September 2007, British politician Denis MacShane wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post
in which he warned against a new and virulent form of anti-Semitism; one that he claimed
threatened not only Jews and the state of Israel but also ‘all of humanity’ (MacShane 2007).
This new type of prejudice, MacShane declared, had emerged to become an ‘officially
sanctioned state ideology’, which he said was rife in British institutions, and even more
pernicious than the racist version of anti-Semitism that infected Europe in the nineteenth
century and paved the way for genocide in the twentieth. Moreover, a ‘crusade’ against Israel
had been launched with the avowed intent of eradicating all traces of Jewishness from the
Middle East. Unless confronted and contained this crusade would weaken the core values,
rights and freedoms of the entire world.
As chair of the newly commissioned All-Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, MacShane
was reiterating its first findings, published in 2006. Hyperbolic though his language was, he
was not speaking alone or without warrant. Whereas the term new anti-Semitism is hardly new
– a booklet bearing the title was published in 1921 – rising levels of anti-Semitic incidents across
Europe since 2000 were giving the concept of a new manifestation of ‘the longest hatred’
(Wistrich 1994) greater political traction. With Israel’s construal by Zionists as the world’s
‘collective Jew’ (Klug 2003), and the gradual conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
over the first decade of the twenty-first century, virtually any censure of Israeli policy became
open to a racist interpretation; as a result, critics of Israeli policy expose themselves to the
possibility, indeed the probability, of being smeared as anti-Semites. As Butler (2004) observes
in an essay debating the concept of a new anti-Semitism, fear of stigma has the potential to
cause some people to self-silence their views on Israel, whether on policy or conduct,
effectively distorting free and open debate (Butler 2004: p.101-127). Others, who refuse to be
silenced, including many prominent Jews, risk seeing their characters publicly maligned and
their views discredited.
Since the inception of Israel as the Jewish State, successive international governments
and institutions have struggled to establish a workable definition of anti-Semitism. The most
problematic aspect of defining contemporary anti-Semitism is the conflation of anti-Semitism
with anti-Zionism. In 2013, the European agency responsible for protecting fundamental
human rights (FRA) cited this difficulty when it abandoned attempts to formulate its own
working definition. Nevertheless, in December 2016 – prior to relations with Israel turning sour
over Resolution 2334 – UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain was to become
one of the first countries to adopt a similar formulation as put forward by the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (Walker 2016).
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
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This matters for three main reasons. Firstly, the new interpretation of anti-Semitism sets
limits on free speech where Israel is concerned, entrenching its current immunity to
international censure. Secondly, debates over the new definition distract attention from Israel’s
treatment of the Palestinians, either as Israeli citizens or under occupation in the West Bank,
or under sanctions in Gaza. And thirdly, there is a real danger of the new definition resulting
in unintended consequences for Jewish communities, not just in Britain but also around the
world. This is because over-zealous use of the charge of anti-Semitism ‘radically dilute[s]’ it
(Butler 2004: p.109-110), making genuine cases of anti-Semitism harder to identify and
challenge. By this logic, and contrary to MacShane’s warnings, prohibition on criticizing Israel
renders Jews more, rather than less, vulnerable to racist abuse.
Pro-Israel Advocacy: A Changing Landscape
During the years leading up to the new formulation of anti-Semitism, Israel’s international
image had already been in steady decline. This was partly due to the failure of the Oslo Peace
Process to deliver on its promises, specifically to the Palestinians. For example, despite Israel
agreeing to withdraw from 90% of the occupied Palestinian territories, by 2000 it had only
withdrawn from 18% (Mills et al 2013: p.24). At the same time, other events were being
broadcast around the globe. These included the onset of a second Palestinian intifada in
September 2000, one that was to last for five years – the first having ended in 1993 with the
signing of the Oslo Accords – and secondly, a highly publicized fiasco involving the Israeli
delegation at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001. The conference ended
in turmoil after the Israeli and their American counterparts staged a walkout in protest of a draft
proposal equating Zionism with racism. Despite the offending motion being rejected, the
spectacle tarnished Israel’s image and served to further polarize debate over its policies, now
gaining widespread publicity due to the Palestinian uprising (Swarns 2001).
Meanwhile, rather than fixing the main cause of its unpopularity – the military
occupation of territory assigned to the Palestinians under international law – Israeli policy
makers blamed ‘viral anti-Semitism’ together with an ineffectual communications strategy
(Schleifer & Snapper 2015). All Israel required, or so they thought, was a radical overhauling
of its hasbara (lit: explanation), and a more proactive approach to communicating with the
international community.
The Institute of Jewish Policy Research (IJPR) had already commissioned a report
recommending how best to serve the interests of the Jewish diaspora in Britain, and how to
communicate Jewish issues to the wider public. Published in March 2000 the report, A
Community of Communities (IJPR 2000), was to become a blueprint for the eventual formation
of an Israeli-sponsored network of advocacy groups aimed at combatting perceived attempts
to delegitimize the Jewish state overseas. The report recommended the development of a coordinated
network of key agencies to lead quickly on issues affecting the Jewish community in
the UK, feeding information into a network of ‘targeted coalitions of Jewish organizations and
agencies in order to formulate a strategic response’ (IJPR 2000). Basically, the idea was to
form a series of interconnected hubs tasked with the coordination and dissemination of facts,
not only to political and media elites but also to smaller, satellite groups and then on through
grassroots volunteer networks to a wider public – in the Foucauldian analogy, to ‘the point
where power reaches into the very grain of individuals’ (Foucault 1980: p.39).
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
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It was out of this broader initiative that the ad hoc Cross Community Emergency Coordinating
Group (CCECG) emerged in 2002, instigated by then Israeli Ambassador Dror
Zeigerman in association with a group of leading UK businessmen. One of the group’s first
initiatives was to commission top public relations experts Frank Luntz and Stan Greenberg to
research public attitudes to Israel in the UK (Mills et al 2013). On their advice, the CCECG
began sponsoring trips to Israel for British journalists, the first led by then Chief Rabbi
Jonathan Sacks. Its information centre was referred to as the war room. A rebuttal desk was set
up to combat negative media reports and brief opinion-formers, framing the ties between the
UK Jewish community and Israel as more solid than in reality they were.
Having emerged as a contingency measure, the group was soon able to establish a more
permanent footing as the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) whose
objective was (and still is) ‘to cultivate a policymaking environment in Britain that is
favourable to Israel’ (Mills et al: p.40).
From Israel’s perspective, any investment in these efforts – both from the Israeli state
and private individuals – was well spent, as subsequent events proved. The infamous Jenin
massacre of 2002 was followed in 2003 by the death of a young American activist, Rachel
Corrie, who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer as she resisted house demolitions at Rafah, on
the Gaza border. In 2006, Israel’s devastating invasion of Lebanon coincided with the
publication of former American President Jimmy Carter’s book, Peace Not Apartheid, for
which he was ostracized by much of the American political establishment. The publicity
surrounding both events – the tragedy of one, and the furore over the other – attracted public
attention to the Palestinian plight and cast doubt on Israel’s true intentions in the peace process.
Meanwhile, the so-called separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank, justified
on grounds of Palestinian terrorism during the second intifada, was taking shape largely on
Palestinian land, in defiance of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion in 2004 that it
was illegal. Elsewhere, the transnational BDS movement – established in 2005 on the
anniversary of the ICJ opinion – was making advances in further galvanizing British public
opinion (Hitchcock 2016). The task for Zionist strategists was now one of explaining and
justifying Israel’s actions, not just to the political and media elites, but also to the public at
large.
Outsourcing To The Grassroots
In December 2009 the Global Forum for Combatting Anti-Semitism, convened by Israel’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called for the fight against BDS to be taken to the grassroots of
Jewish diaspora host countries (Innovative Minds 2010). The Working Group on
Delegitimization, co-chaired by Canadian Professor Gil Troy, listed 12 steps in a five-year plan
to combat BDS. The first step is headed Let’s Reframe to Name and Shame, while the second
is Dig Deep to Undermine. Further steps included engaging bloggers ‘to target BDSers and
delegitimizers, exposing their tactics’, and ‘pursuing a strategy of ridicule and satire –
especially on the internet’ (Innovative Minds 2010). Troy later claimed the document was ‘the
start of a conversation’ and the launch of ‘a grassroots movement against a well-organized but
ultimately failing and marginalized effort’ (Jerusalem Post 11 March 2010).
Then in January 2010, a major theme at the 10th Herzliya Conference, Israel’s main
policy-making forum, was Winning the Battle of the Narrative. The emphasis was on the same
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
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networking model recommended a decade earlier in the Community of Communities report.
Policy advisors presented papers in Herzliya listing ways to outsource political messages via
NGOs, academic institutions, and advocacy organizations, as well as ways to coach grassroots
activists in the use of digital platforms to ‘get the message out’. For example, one Working
Paper urged advocates to develop ‘an online personality’ to create a ‘positive resonance’ with
western audiences, and to use only language that works culturally and politically with them
(Michlin 2010). Further emphasis was on strengthening diaspora identity with Israel, and
outsourcing its messages to grassroots activists whereby Israel would gain maximum spread of
pro-Israel discourse at minimum cost.
A document issued by the Reut Institute, Building a Political Firewall Against Israel’s
Delegitimization (Reut 2010), set out a detailed strategy of grassroots engagement in the
diaspora to mobilize support from the bottom up, as a supplement to Israel’s top down pressure
on political and business elites (Reut 2010: p.14). It then offered extensive advice on ways to
‘delegitimize the delegitimizing networks’.
Besides formulating a coordinated response to events in Israel, the larger hub
organizations would be tasked with marshaling background information for feeding to the
smaller, satellite groups. These would recruit and train volunteer advocates to disseminate
selective messages, using both traditional methods – street stalls, letters to MPs, complaints to
the media – as well as digital, with an emphasis on social media networking. The idea was to
achieve a united front at the grassroots of British society, based on discourse originating in
Israel itself.
The following year (2011), BICOM launched its satellite organization, We Believe in
Israel (WBII) with the explicit purpose of mobilizing and resourcing an army of loyalists to
challenge detractors, promote Israel and defend its actions. Its purpose according to its website
is to foster a ‘broad-based and inclusive coalition’ and to: ‘create a fair and balanced political
environment for Israel in the UK’, as well as to ‘broaden active support for Israel beyond
existing advocates to include a wide range of Jewish and non-Jewish voices’; and to ‘ensure
support for Israel is heard in debates whether online, in the traditional media or at public events’
(WBII website). By operating largely in the virtual realm as a resource centre and capacitybuilding
network, the WBII brand benefits from the kind of fluidity that is unavailable to the
longer-established organizations representing Jews in Britain like The Board of Deputies, and
the Zionist Federation.
Proving that WBII has become a significant force in building Zionist support, the
organization staged its second major conference in 2015 under the banner, Winning the
Communications Battle for Israel. Opening the event, WBII’s director Luke Akehurst told
more than 1,000 delegates there were more than 7,500 people on the organization’s mailing
list, 45% of them non-Jews, and that the support of 450 councillors had been secured in 200
local authorities across the UK (WBII [Online Video] 2015). He warned, ‘We’re up against a
new scale of anti-Israel activity, and at the edges of that activity we’re seeing a merging
between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, a kind of new anti-Semitism dressed up as anti-
Zionism’. WBII would equip those willing to counter this movement with the knowledge and
skills to become ‘allies in the battle for Israel’s reputation’ (WBII [Online Video] 2015).
Part of the organization’s success is due to Akehurst himself. He runs regular pro-Israel
workshops for trade unions, church groups, schools, and FoI groups – the kind of groups that
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
52
Shai Masot had a covert hand in spreading, and at which a representative of the Israeli Embassy
is normally present. In addition, WBII regularly promotes campaigns and petitions on
Facebook and Twitter. These include calls for the banning of Hezbollah flags on British streets;
an end to British aid ‘being used to educate children to hate’; and for government legislation
against local council boycotts of Israeli goods and services – the policy issue Shai Masot
claimed he influenced (Al Jazeera 2017). Supporters are encouraged to write to their MPs as
issues arise, for which templates are provided. As a result of these efforts, Akehurst was able
to announce in March 2017 that WBII’s list of activists had doubled to 15,000 (WBII
[website]). These now include 650 local councilors from all parties. It was an important
milestone, he said, ‘sealing [WBII’s] reputation as the UK’s fastest growing pro-Israel
campaign’ (WBII [website]).
Singing From The Same Hymn Sheet
Since the emergence of WBII, small local FoI groups have been springing up in an ad hoc
manner across the UK, affiliated to a web of other campaigning groups such as Stand With Us,
Christians United for Israel, and the Israel-Britain Alliance. Two of the most active, the North
West FoI and Sussex FoI were launched in 2014, the former in response to boycotts of Israeli
goods, the latter responding to clashes outside during the protests against Operation Defensive
Edge. In Scotland, 12 groups have emerged in the last two years, together forming the
Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (COFIS). Others are planned. Their shared
approach is to challenge criticism of Israel both online and in conversation on the streets.
Advice on how best to do this, using the most effective discourses, is readily available on the
WBII website.
Whilst the various FoI groups are free to establish their own constitutions and act
accordingly, their common enemy – according to social media posts – is the BDS movement,
which they claim is a broad anti-Semitic alliance comprised of left and right wing extremists
in coalition with Islamic fundamentalists (APPIA 2006). The groups are open to all regardless
of religious beliefs though some, like the one based in Manchester, attract members from local
Jewish communities, whereas others like the Morecambe Bay FoI are largely Christian in
character. However, they all share the same corporate image and express similar viewpoints,
recycling a high proportion of the same information from the same sources in the form of video
clips, articles and blogposts. These include messages from Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin
Netanyahu, Ambassador Regev, and former Chief Rabbi Sacks, all of whom make claims that
distort the pro-Palestinian narrative, or omit it altogether.
Rabbi Sacks demonstrates this well in his voiceover of an animated clip discrediting
the BDS movement, posted on the COFIS Facebook page and widely circulated elsewhere. He
begins by stating that the BDS campaign is ‘dangerously wrong because beneath its surface is
an attempt to delegitimize Israel, as a prelude to its elimination’ (Sacks [Online Video] 2017).
This is problematic in two key ways: firstly in its assumption that to oppose Israeli policy is
tantamount to seeking Israel’s destruction. Secondly, and equally important, is the normative
value with which he, as an authority figure, imbues his assertion. As Butler (2004) argues in a
different but related case, such utterances carry weight by virtue of the speakers’ status, thereby
influencing how their hearers understand issues and potentially ‘setting a norm for legitimate
interpretation’ (Butler 2004: p.108). Moreover, where charges of anti-Semitism are leveled
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
53
against critics of Israel, authority figures have the power to ‘exercise a chilling effect on
political discourse, stoking the fear that to criticize Israel […] is to expose oneself to the charge
of anti-Semitism’ (Butler 2004: p.102). They affect the conditions of audibility and set limits
on what one is willing to say out loud’ (Butler 2004: p.127). The omission of alternative
narratives and possibilities further serves to foreclose debate (Butler 2004: p.110).
To advance the FoI mission, the Israeli Embassy annually invites representatives of the
newest groups to London for a day’s advocacy training. In November 2016, there were more
than 100 representatives from new groups across the UK, the highest number to date. Besides
Ambassador Regev, speakers included Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, and
David Collier, a blogger under the banner heading Beyond the Great Divide. Given that his
posts are frequently recycled and applauded on Facebook and Twitter, he is highly regarded
among grassroots Zionist supporters. His writing, however, is peppered with inflammatory
language. For example in January 2017 he referred to UNSC Resolution 2334 as ‘[f]odder for
the anti-Israel lynch mob’ and the UN itself as ‘a rabid Jew-hating forum’ (Collier 2017).
Collier’s self-appointed mission is to attend and report on pro-Palestinian events and
academic conferences. He refers to these as ‘hate-fests’. He told his embassy audience in
November that ‘BDS is an umbrella group under which all Israel haters unite’ to ‘smear
Zionists as bullies and Nazis’. 2 His posts frequently single out prominent supporters of
Palestinian rights such as Ilan Pappe and Ghada Karmi to name-and-shame. Overall, Collier’s
blogposts exemplify the discursive categories typical of an extreme ideological perspective.
These include outright denials of Israel’s human rights violations beginning with the
displacement in 1948 of the indigenous Palestinian population (Pappe 2006); the shifting of
blame for the conflict through discourses that claim (for Israel) the right to self-defense, and
which imply that Palestinian violence is a random expression of Arab anti-Semitism rather than
resistance to decades of dispossession, discrimination and humiliation; dehumanization of
Palestinians as a people who routinely sacrifice their children in order to kill Jews; a strong
antipathy for anyone supporting Palestinian human rights; and frequent resort to ridicule.
When the Al Jazeera documentaries aired, Collier was quick to deride the series,
downplaying the seriousness of Israel’s tampering with British public opinion, and citing
Marcus Dysch, Political Editor at the Jewish Chronicle, who on 12 January attacked the series
as ‘harassment of Jews dressed up as entertainment’ (Collier 2017b). Similarly, Collier
reproduced the remarks of fellow blogger Jonathan Hoffman, whose piece on the Zionist
website Harry’s Place summed the films as ‘voyeurism for anti-Semites’ (Collier 2017b).
It would be easy to dismiss such social media exchanges as inconsequential hot air. But
propaganda thrives on the repetition of catchy slogans such as these, and the constant exchange
and recirculation of misleading information – Collier’s comments reappear across a range of
social media – arguably spreads and entrenches already strongly held Zionist beliefs, inflaming
antagonism towards pro-Palestinian supporters and muting their messages. The possibility of
free and fair debate is severely limited.
The dissident journalist Chris Hedges highlights this well when he draws on George
Orwell (and Adolf Hitler) to observe that states wielding ‘the Big Lie’ – as he claims Israel
does to maintain its hold on Palestine – do so not just at the expense of the truth, but also of
2 Excerpted from notes made by a Morecambe Bay FoI attendee, supplied with permission for research purposes.
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
54
reality (Hedges 2014). Hedges offers a striking example from his own experience of how
language can be made to promulgate the Big Lie. More than once, he writes, whilst reporting
from Khan Younis during the bombing of Gaza, he witnessed Israeli soldiers baiting small
boys, swearing at them through loudspeakers mounted on armored vehicles; then, when the
boys responded by throwing stones at the jeeps, the soldiers opened fire, with devastating
results. ‘Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire’ (Hedges
2014 (emphasis in original)). Similarly, the carnage following the bombing by F16 jets of
‘overcrowded hovels in Gaza city’ becomes ‘a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory’; and
the demolition of Palestinian homes to create a buffer zone around Gaza becomes ‘the
demolition of the homes of terrorists’. Meanwhile, he adds, Israel lays claim to being ‘the most
moral army in the world’ that never attacks civilians (Hedges 2014).
Be that as it may, it is by means of language that binary terms are forced on events, thus
disallowing ‘the nuances and contradictions that plague the conscience’, which is why, Hedges
suggests, Israelis and supporters of Israel are able to maintain their cognitive dissonance over
the occupation and its consequences. ‘And when facts no longer matter’, he says, and there is
‘no shared history grounded in truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be
no useful exchange of information’ (Hedges 2014).
Capitalizing On Celebrity
Finally, in addition to grassroots social media interventions, there are a number of well-known
public figures willing to use their celebrity to repeat selective discourses in order to reinforce
the Israeli narrative. One such celebrity is the British comedienne Maureen Lipman, who won
widespread affection in the 1980s for her portrayal of a Jewish mother in a series of British
Telecom advertisements. In 2014 she publicly tore up her Labour Party membership card in
protest at the then party leader Ed Miliband’s backing of a Commons motion to recognize a
future Palestinian state. In a syndicated newspaper interview she railed colourfully at
supporters of the motion, characterizing them as ‘footling backbenchers in this ludicrous piece
of [anti-Israel] propaganda’ (Press Association 2014). Many followed her example, deserting
Labour in droves (Hodges 2014).
Lipman came to the fore again in February 2017 when the Israel Britain Alliance
scripted an appeal in protest of the annual Israel Apartheid Week events on university campuses
(Lipman [Online Video] 2017). According to Lipman, Apartheid Week ‘creates an atmosphere
of intimidation and prejudice’ that contravenes the 2010 Equality Act under which universities
are legally bound to foster good relations between students regardless of nationality, ethnicity
or religious beliefs. Universities allowing their premises to be used for Apartheid Week events
were failing in their duty of care, specifically to Jewish students.
However, Lipman’s script contains a number of half-truths and red herrings. For
example, within the first 20 seconds of speaking to the camera, she claims that, ‘All people in
Israel have equal rights and 1.6 million Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as 6.8 million
Jewish Israelis’. This is only half the truth. While Israel’s Declaration of Independence
affirmed social and political equality for all its citizens, in reality there are now more than 50
laws discriminating against Palestinians, ranging from legislation barring their return after
1948, to laws restricting land and planning rights. One law bans married couples from living
together where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a resident of the occupied territories
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
55
(Adalah). Yet Lipman closes her video by demanding (without irony) that ‘universities must
refuse to allow university property to display false and inflammatory propaganda, including
the phrase Israel Apartheid Week’. The video quickly went viral across Zionist social
platforms.
At the same time, FoI groups were running a letter-writing campaign to UK university
chancellors, urging them to ban the event. One such letter, to the vice-Chancellor of the
University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), was posted on Facebook as an exemplar. Its
writer, Nigel Goodrich on behalf of COFIS, decried ‘this shameful and discredited hate-fest’
and focused, as had Lipman, on the university’s legal duty of care for all students regardless of
race, nationality or ethnicity. Its core demand appears in bold type: ‘To comply with this
important duty, universities must refuse to allow university property to display false and
inflammatory (emphases in original) propaganda that includes the phrase Israel “Apartheid
Week” ’. The writer goes on to argue that to allow the event would make the university
‘complicit in encouraging racist propaganda’ and ‘[t]he hostile, aggressive and untruthful
rhetoric likely to be inflicted upon your students will, in our view, cross the line into hate
incidents, hate crimes or even anti-Semitism’ (Goodrich 2017).
It took UCLAN just 24 hours to consider the warning and ban Apartheid Week on
campus (Doherty 2017). Emboldened by the outcome, campaigners went on to flood other
institutions with similar messages. As a result, a number of other universities, including Exeter
and Central London, outlawed a number of student demonstrations on campus, including the
setting up of mock checkpoints, citing the racist nature of the events and security concerns.
Summary
In 1983, the year before his death, Foucault wrote that his life’s work had been ‘to create a
history of the different modes by which […] human beings are made subjects […] of power’
(Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982: p.208-209). His strategy was to seek out the practices and micropractices
that constitute and pervade everyday life and within which knowledge accrues.
Despite Foucault’s flaws – and there are many – perhaps his greatest legacy was to show how
the discourse-knowledge paradigm is intrinsic to what is deemed to be true. Therefore,
discourse constitutes an important weapon in the struggle for power.
The issues raised in this paper concern discursive practices aimed at spreading the state
of Israel’s preferred meta-discourses beyond its own borders as means of gaining hegemony in
the public sphere, and power to influence the political and media elite. Grassroots Zionist
advocacy organizations have been identified as increasingly vital conduits for selective pro-
Israel discourses with the aim of combatting criticism of Israel over the Israeli occupation of
Palestinian territory – which Israel disputes – and justifying its treatment of the Palestinians.
This paper has demonstrated the outworking of Israel’s policy since 2000 to sponsor
and resource the growth of grassroots advocacy in the UK, and to coordinate a hegemonic
discourse across a range of social platforms. It has endeavoured to show how Zionist
organizations in the UK are engaged in a determined strategy to reinforce from below the
British government’s long-standing support for Israel, dating back to the Balfour Declaration
of 1917.
These contentions are based on three key observations: firstly, that the definition of
anti-Semitism has been extended in such a way as to make critics of Israeli policy and
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
56
behaviour susceptible to spurious charges of anti-Semitic racism and the stigma to which that
charge exposes them.
Secondly, it has been observed that since the start of the Palestinian intifada in 2000,
and particularly following public demonstrations over Israel’s series of military interventions
in Gaza, Israeli efforts to strengthen diaspora ties to the Jewish homeland have intensified. The
discourse of existential threats to Israel, including regular reminders of the Nazi Holocaust,
have further energized efforts to recruit grassroots advocates to discredit pro-Palestinian
activists, particularly those promoting boycotts of Israel.
Thirdly, the disconnection between public outrage and UK policy on Israel has never
been starker. Notwithstanding the street protests of 2014 – and the raft of official reports
condemning Israel’s human rights violations – the British government’s allegiance to Israel
remains staunch. Even the debacle over Resolution 2334 caused no more than a brief pause in
the relationship, and the Al Jazeera exposé scarcely even that.
In conclusion, it should not be forgotten that the Israel-Palestinian conflict involves
complex issues and strongly held beliefs. This paper has merely highlighted one aspect of
Britain’s part in perpetuating what continues to be an intractable and bloody conflict in the
Middle East. As yet, these processes and mechanisms are under-researched but if human rights
mean anything at all – and even Rabbi Sacks admits that ‘human rights are universal or they
are nothing’ (Sacks [Online Video] 2017) – they surely demand scrutiny. Equally, the negative
consequences for free speech in the UK of applying the concept of a new anti-Semitism have
yet to be fully comprehended. To understand these processes more fully, and to expose the
hidden power structures underpinning them – as Foucault urged – there is a need for further
scholarly attention and empirical studies, not least as prerequisite to a more meaningful
international response to ending the conflict. The alternative to such a response is bleak indeed.

*See original article for bibliography.

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