Toronto Braces for White Phosphorus Attack

February 20, 2010

In News

Global campaign; Film festival furor cited in report

By PETER O’NEIL, Canwest News serviceFebruary 19, 2010

The Israeli government should take action against its critics in Toronto and four other “hubs” who are engaged in a global campaign to “delegitimize” Israel, according to a report by a Tel Aviv-based think tank.

The Reut Institute said the international effort, dominated by left-wing activists and non-governmental organizations in London, Toronto, Brussels, Madrid and the San Francisco-Oakland area, seeks to “turn Israel into a pariah state by undermining its moral legitimacy and ultimately aspiring towards eliminating the ‘Zionist entity,’ ” according to a summary of the report.

“This attack on Israel’s political and economic model is effective, possesses strategic significance, and may develop into a comprehensive existential threat within a few years.”

The campaign, involving boycotts, protests and calls for divestment, requires an aggressive and co-ordinated response by Israeli diplomats and sympathetic Jewish opinion-leaders who can blunt the attacks – particularly in these hubs, the report contends.

“Working within identified hubs, Israel should aspire to maintain thousands of personal relationships with political, financial, cultural, media and security-related elites,” argues Reut, a privately funded body that provides advice to Israeli politicians and public officials, in its report, made public this month.

The full report, which still hasn’t been translated into English, focuses on the growing anti-Israeli activity in London.

Toronto was included primarily because of the furor over the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival, said Eran Shayshon, the report’s lead analyst.

The TIFF dispute was sparked by Canadian filmmaker John Greyson’s withdrawal of his documentary to protest against the festival’s celebration of Israeli cinema, a promotional campaign seen by critics as an attempt to improve Israel’s image after the 2008-09 invasion of Gaza.

His boycott prompted a letter of support signed by international and Canadian actors, writers, academics and filmmakers including Jane Fonda, Noam Chomsky, Danny Glover, Naomi Klein and Alice Walker.

“Hubs of delegitimization … are places that combine an internal dynamic of strong fundamental anti-Israeli activity that stretches far beyond legitimate criticism of Israeli policies, with a strong global impact,” Shayshon said in an email.

“These hubs are usually global metropolises that concentrate international media, leading judicial institutions, major academic centres, international NGOs and human rights organizations.”

Toronto will be the subject of further research, Shayshon said, but added he assumes the anti-Israeli activists in the city are “on the edges of the margins of local politics.”

Klein, an outspoken critic of Israel’s attack on Gaza during the TIFF controversy, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Cecilie Surasky, in a criticism of the Reut report on behalf of the Oakland-based group Jewish Voice for Peace, argues it is wrong to equate movements advocating Palestinian rights with any plot to delegitimize Israel.

“While, of course, there are genuine anti-Semites who have insinuated themselves into the movement for Palestinian rights – and they should be stopped and expelled, which I have seen Palestinian advocates do with my own eyes on repeated occasions – most people simply seek basic equality and an end to occupation,” she wrote on the group’s MuzzleWatch blog.

Reut said there is a “coalescence” between “two parallel processes” – the so-called delegitimization forces, like NGOs and leftist organizations, and the militant Islamist efforts led by such groups as Hamas and Hezbollah.

The report acknowledges there is no single co-ordinated effort to challenge Israel’s existence.

“However, the Reut Institute does identify a system of ideas that, to a significant extent, have evolved, ripened and gained clarity and internal consistency.”
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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